Friday, December 05, 2014

Musical Instrument Characteristics As They Relate To Mic Placement

Instruments and other sound sources are characterized by their frequency output, by their directional output, and by their dynamic range.

Frequency Output
Frequency output is the span of fundamental and harmonic frequencies produced by an instrument, and the balance or relative level of those frequencies.

Musical instruments have overall frequency ranges as found in the chart below. The dark section of each line indicates the range of fundamental frequencies and the shaded section represents the range of the highest harmonics or overtones of the instrument. The fundamental frequency establishes the basic pitch of a note played by an instrument while the harmonics produce the timbre or characteristic tone.

It is this timbre that distinguishes the sound of one instrument from another. In this manner, we can tell whether a piano or a trumpet just played that C note. The following graphs show the levels of the fundamental and harmonics associated with a trumpet and an oboe each playing the same note.

Instrument frequency ranges.

The number of harmonics along with the relative level of the harmonics is noticeably different between these two instruments and provides each instrument with its own unique sound.

A microphone which responds evenly to the full range of an instrument will reproduce the most natural sound from an instrument. A microphone which responds unevenly or to less than the full range will alter the sound of the instrument, though this effect may be desirable in some cases.

Directional Output
Directional output is the three-dimensional pattern of sound waves radiated by an instrument.

A musical instrument radiates a different tone quality (timbre) in every direction, and each part of the instrument produces a different timbre. Most musical instruments are designed to sound best at a distance, typically two or more feet away. At this distance, the sounds of the various parts of the instrument combine into a pleasing composite. In addition, many instruments produce this balanced sound only in a particular direction. A microphone placed at such distance and direction tends to pick up a natural or well-balanced tone quality.

Instrument spectra comparison.

On the other hand, a microphone placed close to the instrument tends to emphasize the part of the instrument that the microphone is near. The resulting sound may not be representative of the instrument as a whole. Thus, the reinforced tonal balance of an instrument is strongly affected by the microphone position relative to the instrument.

Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible, to place a microphone at the “natural sounding” distance from an instrument in a sound reinforcement situation without picking up other (undesired) sounds and/or acoustic feedback. Close microphone placement is usually the only practical way to achieve sufficient isolation and gain-before-feedback.

But since the sound picked up close to a source can vary significantly with small changes in microphone position, it is very useful to experiment with microphone location and orientation. In some cases more than one microphone may be required to get a good sound from a large instrument such as a piano.

Dynamic Range
Dynamic range is the range of volume of an instrument from its softest to its loudest level.

The dynamic range of an instrument determines the specifications for sensitivity and maximum input capability of the intended microphone. Loud instruments such as drums, brass and amplified guitars are handled well by dynamic microphones which can withstand high sound levels and have moderate sensitivity. Softer instruments such as flutes and harpsichords can benefit from the higher sensitivity of condensers.

Of course, the farther the microphone is placed from the instrument the lower the level of sound reaching the microphone.

In the context of a live performance, the relative dynamic range of each instrument determines how much sound reinforcement may be required. If all of the instruments are fairly loud, and the venue is of moderate size with good acoustics, no reinforcement may be necessary.

On the other hand, if the performance is in a very large hall or outdoors, even amplified instruments may need to be further reinforced. Finally, if there is a substantial difference in dynamic range among the instruments, such as an acoustic guitar in a loud rock band, the microphone techniques (and the sound system) must accommodate those differences. Often, the maximum volume of the overall sound system is limited by the maximum gain-before- feedback of the softest instrument.

Intensity level in decibels (at distance of 10 feet).

An understanding of the frequency output, directional output, and dynamic range characteristics of musical instruments can help significantly in choosing suitable microphones, placing them for best pickup of the desired sound and minimizing feedback or other undesired sounds.

Instrument Loudspeakers
Another instrument with a wide range of characteristics is the loudspeaker. Anytime you are placing microphones to pick up the sound of a guitar or bass cabinet you are confronted with the acoustic nature of loudspeakers.

Each individual loudspeaker type is directional and displays different frequency characteristics at different angles and distances. The sound from a loudspeaker tends to be almost omnidirectional at low frequencies but becomes very directional at high frequencies.

Thus, the sound on-axis at the center of a speaker usually has the most “bite” or high-end, while the sound produced off-axis or at the edge of the speaker is more “mellow” or bassy. A cabinet with multiple loudspeakers has an even more complex output, especially if it has different speakers for bass and treble. As with most acoustic instruments the desired sound only develops at some distance from the speaker.

Sound reinforcement situations typically require a close-mic approach. A unidirectional dynamic microphone is a good first choice here: it can handle the high level and provide good sound and isolation. Keep in mind the proximity effect when using a uni close to the speaker: some bass boost will be likely.

If the cabinet has only one speaker a single microphone should pick up a suitable sound with a little experimentation. If the cabinet has multiple speakers of the same type it is typically easiest to place the microphone to pick up just one speaker. Placing the microphone between speakers can result in strong phase effects though this may be desirable to achieve a particular tone. However, if the cabinet is stereo or has separate bass and treble speakers multiple microphones may be required.

Placement of loudspeaker cabinets can also have a significant effect on their sound. Putting cabinets on carpets can reduce brightness, while raising them off the floor can reduce low end. Open-back cabinets can be miked from behind as well as from the front. The distance from the cabinet to walls or other objects can also vary the sound. Again, experiment with the microphone(s) and placement until you have the sound that you like!

Supplied by Shure. For more information visit www.shure.com.


Posted by Keith Clark on 12/05 at 02:18 PM
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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Lectrosonics Plays Key Role In Capturing Audio For Documentary On Lions

Four-part series focuses on animal behaviorist's up close work with lions, requiring electronics to be robust

Location sound recordist Sebastian Dunn utilized Digital Hybrid Wireless technology from Lectrosonics for his work on a 4-part series with a working title of “The Origin of Cats,” scheduled to be shown on British Sky Broadcasting’s Sky 1 TV.

The documentary, which took Dunn to Namibia and South Africa, focuses on animal behaviorist Kevin Richardson’s work with lions. A requirement is that the electronics used to capture audio have to be robust.

“I’ve been using Lectrosonics gear for over 20 years,” Dunn reports. “I started with the company’s M185 transmitters and CR185 receivers, later upgraded to the UM and SM transmitters, UCR411 receivers and, from there, I acquired SMQV super miniature transmitters and SRb dual slot ENG receivers.”

Dunn has been working in location sound since 1993. The first milestone in his career occurred when he covered the post-apartheid elections in South Africa for Sky News. In 2013, he was nominated in the Sound Factual category for the illustrious BAFTA Television Craft Awards. The nomination was received for his work on “Brazil” with Michael Palin.

“My contribution to the show took place in Namibia and South Africa,” he continues, “and for this, I used two SMQVs and the SRb—both on block 26. I also used a Lectrosonics SNA600 dipole antenna.” The production company is Bristol-based Offspring Films in the UK, slated for release mid-2015.

“Throughout most of my career,” he explains, “I’ve been traveling and, for the most part, working in technically challenging environments. Having used almost every wireless system on the market, there is none more robust and durable than Lectrosonics. I’ve successfully used them in extreme 130 degree heat as well as sub-zero environments.

“As my locations are always so varied and unpredictable, I can’t always check frequency compatibility but, for the most part, have not encountered problems severe enough to rule out the use of wireless mics. The SNA600 antenna is also a valuable part of my kit—particularly when the RF range is questionable. The addition of the LectroRM app for my iPhone has also been extremely useful so that I can make hasty changes on the fly.”

Dunn describes what the equipment typically encountered with Richardson” “The fully grown lions can be very rough and physically jump on him and push him around. When I asked to wire Kevin up, he said it was a huge risk. Having worked with many film crews in the past, Kevin said that most transmitters got damaged by his lions. When I mentioned that I only use Lectrosonics transmitters, his eyebrows lifted. ‘They’ll handle the punishment’ he said. Reluctantly, I clipped my SMQV onto the inside of his belt.”

“Once the crew was safely on the vehicles,” Dunn adds, “the female lioness Olivia was released and immediately launched herself onto Kevin—knocking him right off his feet. For 5 minutes, they ‘played’—with the 300 pound lioness rolling onto him and knocking him about like a ragdoll. The audio was solid throughout the interaction. Then Kevin said that the vehicles were too much of a distraction for the lions. He wanted to go further into the bush to get away from us. We mounted a few GoPro camera’s onto him and off he went. I estimate he went a third of a mile away but, with the use of the SNA600 antenna, my signal was rock solid.”

Sebastian Dunn

Posted by Keith Clark on 12/04 at 06:53 PM
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Monday, December 01, 2014

Countryman Assists International Storydancer Zuleikha Bethami

Ability to communicate with audience while dancing to live music enhanced by a E6i earset mic

International storydancer Zuleikha Bethami—known professionally as Zuleikha—inspires dynamic creativity and rejuvenation through movement, with the ability to communicate with her audience while dancing to live music enhanced by a Countryman Associates E6i earset microphone.

Zuleikha’s performances take place in a wide range of venues, including theaters, schools, auditoriums, conference rooms, and other gathering places. In addition to her dance performances, she also conducts a core wellness program called TAKE A MINUTE for young people and adults in group settings.

“My use of the Countryman E6i has made performing a lot more fun,” Zuleikha reports. “Since I don’t have to try to make my voice ‘louder,’ I can concentrate on the quality of dance and movement, as well as working with the rhythm of my ankle bells. The combination of speech and movement is now a joyful, seamless experience.

“I’ve been using the Countryman E6i for about four years and I find it makes my presentations more effortless. I use the mic with a Shure wireless microphone system and, together, they make a great setup.”

Zuleikha cites the E6i’s audio characteristics and fit. “I love the fact that my Countryman mic is so easy to work with,” she says. “I never experience any difficulty getting enough level for the audience to hear clearly. Speech intelligibility with this microphone is clear and very natural sounding.”

“I also love the way the microphone fits,” she continues. “The E6i has a very flexible boom that can be bent and reshaped repeatedly, making it very easy to position the mic’s capsule exactly as you want. The E6i is both comfortable and it stays securely in place. This is very important because the last thing any performer needs is a distraction.

“With the E6i, I can forget about the sound reinforcement aspects of my work and focus on the creative. This microphone enhances the performance without ever requiring me to focus on the technical aspects of operating it.”

She’s also happy with the level of service the company provides in support of its product: “Rosa Pimentel, the company’s General Manager, is a joy to work with. The help that Rosa gave me enabled me to learn how to properly position the microphone in order to ensure a secure and comfortable fit. Recently, when I took delivery of a new earpiece and different neck gear, she took the time to help me get really comfortable using them.

“It’s wonderful to be able to move and work with others without having to strain my voice to be heard. I appreciate the kind technical support provided by Countryman. It seems this is a company that enjoys working with its customers. The Countryman staff actually takes the time to speak with us. In these times of automated customer support, this is a very welcome change.”

Zuleikha Bethami
Countryman Associates

Posted by Keith Clark on 12/01 at 05:36 AM
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Friday, November 28, 2014

Leading UK Tech Service Supplier Hawthorn Names DPA As Microphones Of Choice

Adds wide range of DPA mics to inventory, including d:fine headset, d:screet 4060 lavalier and d:vote 4099 instrument models

Hawthorn, a leading UK-based independent supplier of technical production services, has named DPA Microphones as its primary mic brand.

Established in 1987, Hawthorn employs over 120 staff from offices several offices in the UK, handling more than 1,000 events each year, including gala dinners, product launches, conferences and parties.

The company’s product portfolio has seen a substantial investment over the last two years and now includes a selection of top sound, AV, lighting, rigging, and staging gear. Among this inventory is a wide range of DPA mics, including d:fine headset, d:screet 4060 lavalier and d:vote 4099 instrument models.

“It all started a few years ago when we were looking for headset microphones to replace the brand we had previously been using,” says Jon Curnew, head of sound at Hawthorn. “We discovered the DPA d:fine headset microphone range and were immediately taken with the fact that they came with single- and dual-ear attachments. That versatility really appealed to us. We now have a stock of about 35 d:fine mics and we use them all the time. They are much easier to position than any other headset mic we have tried, and our customers love them.”

Although Hawthorn also offers DPA d:screet 4060 lavalier mics, most of its customers prefer a headset so they don’t have to worry about accidentally knocking the mic or forgetting to take it off when they go off stage. “Headsets are also better at picking up weaker voices because the microphone is positioned so close to the mouth and doesn’t have to compete with background noise,” Curnew says. “Once the mics are in place, they tend to stay in place. We even had a guy wear one while he was doing aerobics and the mic managed to survive.”

For musicians, Hawthorn has 17 DPA d:vote 4099 instrument mics in stock, and recently added six d:facto vocal mics, which were purchased from Sound Network, DPA’s UK distributor. “We use the d:vote with a variety of clips and they are great because they deliver such a clean, transparent sound,” Curnew adds. “We saw the d:facto at PLASA two years ago, but we needed the right event to inspire us to buy some. That turned out to be SunWalk in London’s Battersea Park, a charity event raising money for breast cancer research, for which we delivered full technical production.”

Four wired and two wireless d:factos were immediately put to use on the SunWalk live music stage. “Everyone loved the d:facto,” Curnew continues. “They sounded amazing and we had no issues with feedback or rejection. The mics worked well across a range of artists and really brought out the subtlety in the vocalists’ voices. We have since used them on other events, including an opera. It’s interesting to note how often they are cropping up on artists’ riders. That’s another reason we felt the time was right to invest in some of our own.”

DPA Microphones

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/28 at 02:34 PM
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dante Card & New Firmware For Sennheiser Digital 9000 Series Wireless Now Available

Card provides 16 audio inputs to send digital audio and command signals over Dante network

Sennheiser has announced the availability of a Dante card for the EM 9046 receiver, enabling the flagship Digital 9000 wireless microphone system to be integrated into Dante audio-over-IP networks.

Also available – as free downloads – are the associated new Digital 9000 firmware version 3.0.3, and the new Wireless Systems Manager 4.2 with a set of optimized monitoring functions.

“With the EM 9046 DAN extension card, broadcast and live audio engineers can now easily integrate Sennheiser’s top-of-the-range wireless microphone system into a Dante network,” states Claus Menke, head of portfolio management pro for Sennheiser. “They benefit from the system’s exceptional sound with the incredible convenience of routing high-definition audio data via Audinate’s Dante Controller.”

The EM 9046 DAN extension card is simply inserted into the expansion slot of the EM 9046 8-channel receiver. Internally, the card provides 16 audio inputs to send the digital audio and command signals over the Dante network.

Connection is via two Gbit RJ45 sockets that serve to either establish two redundant network circuits or daisy-chain the signals. The card works with sampling rates of 44.1/48/88.2 and 96 kHz at a resolution of 24 bits.

Front and back views of the Sennheiser EM 9046 receiver.

The new firmware version 3.0.3 for Digital 9000 can be downloaded free of charge here. With this firmware update, the receiver’s clock menu will be expanded to include a “MAN” (multichannel audio network) option, enabling the receiver to synchronize to the word clock of the Dante network.

Additional features of the new firmware version include the monitoring of up to four daisy-chained receivers via any of the receivers’ monitoring outputs and the automatic assignment of frequencies after a scan. Engineers are now also able to scan just a 24 MHz portion of the spectrum instead of the entire booster range of 168 MHz. This increases speed in critical frequency situations.

The new firmware also includes the highly sophisticated refinements made by Sennheiser to address the highly difficult conditions experienced during the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. The event took place in a very reflective venue with a near all-metal construction, but the capabilities of the Digital 9000 system were enhanced still further to be able to detect and cope with this extremely reflective environment. In addition to this advance, version 3.0.3 also ensures improved network capability with managed enterprise environments.

In addition, Sennheiser has adapted Wireless Systems Manager software to include a monitoring function for the Dante card. The new version 4.2 allows users to monitor the EM 9046’s Dante audio streams from any point in the network, and to listen to the headphone monitor audio stream of connected EM 9046 receivers without any additional hardware.

WSM (Sennheiser Wireless Systems Manager) Software Version 4.2 is available from the same download address as the Digital 9000 firmware or here.


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/25 at 02:41 PM
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Church Sound: Getting Microphone Positioning In Order

Correct mic positioning. Sometimes it’s just a matter of personal taste, but sometimes there are tried and true ways of most effectively positioning your microphones.

Microphone positioning and technique is largely a matter or personal tastes—usually whatever “sounds right” probably is right. Nevertheless it’s a good idea to remind ourselves of some of the basics for getting there.

Following are a few tips that you might consider following when miking musical instruments for sound reinforcement.

• Try first to get the instrument to sound good acoustically before miking it.

• Use a mic with a frequency response that is limited to the frequency range of the instrument.

• To determine a good starting mic position, try closing one ear with your finger. Listen to the sound source with the other ear and move around until you find a spot that sounds good—put the mic there. However, this may not be practical (or healthy) for extremely close placement near loud sources.

• Remember that the closer a mic is to a sound source, the louder the source is compared to reverberation or ambient noise.

• Place the mic only as close as necessary, keeping in mind proximity effect.

• When possible, use as few microphones as possible due to the Potential Acoustic Gain rule which tells us (among other things) that the volume level of a system must be turned down for every mic added in order to prevent feedback.

• If the sound from your loudspeakers is distorted even though you did not exceed a normal mixer level, the mic signal may be overloading your mixer’s input.

To correct this situation, use an in-line attenuator or pad to reduce the signal level from the microphone, or just back it away from the source some.

• More than anything, experiment and listen!

(Thanks to Shure for these tips.)

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/25 at 09:03 AM
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Radio Active Designs Now Shipping New UV-1G Wireless Intercom System

Proprietary Enhanced Narrow Band technology overcomes ongoing overcrowding of RF spectrum while delivering high audio quality and operational flexibility

The new Radio Active Designs (RAD) UV-1G wireless intercom system, featuring proprietary Enhanced Narrow Band technology to overcome the ongoing overcrowding of the RF spectrum while delivering exceptionally high audio quality and operational flexibility, is now shipping.

Enhanced Narrow Band technology, a unique modulation scheme, is 10 times more spectrally efficient than the current FM (Frequency Modulation) technology currently on the market. This proprietary approach is a form of Amplitude Modulation (AM), and it makes the transmitter’s occupied bandwidth—a critical figure in wireless frequency coordination—more predictable.

As a result, the UV-1G offers RF channels possessing an occupied bandwidth of a mere 25 kHz with the audio characteristics one would expect from a traditional FM system. In addition, the system utilizes the relatively unused VHF range for all belt pack portable devices, leading more room for operation of other wireless devices, such as wireless microphones and in-ear monitors.

James Stoffo, a principal of Radio Active Designs, explains: “A typical FM wireless intercom system requires 300 kHz of radio band to function properly. By implementing Enhanced Narrow Band, the UV-1G requires less than 30 kHz, and even if it performed in the UHF band, it would still be about 10 times more spectrally efficient.

“Thus by moving to the VHF band for the belt pack to base station frequencies, we can fit more than 30 base stations and 200 belt packs into less UHF spectrum than one FM wireless intercom system. From an RF coordinator’s perspective, this makes the UV-1G system more than 30 times more spectrally efficient than current UHF FM technology.”

Further, with the application of contemporary engineering techniques, the UV-1G   implement a host of digital processing technologies that help produce sound quality with the warmth and intelligibility of an FM system.

Rather than pre-assign modes of operation for the user interface buttons, UV-1G belt packs include two programmable buttons that offer users a choice of multiple independent functions that can be quickly programmed. This can be done locally at the belt pack or via the system’s accompanying software program, and it means that a single technician can program an entire event’s worth of packs in a matter of minutes rather the hours it takes to manually program current technology for the same number of packs.

The headset connector on both the belt packs and the base station is field changeable between 5-pin female and 4-pin male to accommodate a variety of systems based mostly on the industry served. This is a solder-less connection that only requires a mini Philips screwdriver.

The belt packs also implement internal antennas to alleviate the problem of bending, breaking, or completely losing the antenna. In addition, they include a 1/8-inch stereo audio input so that monitor technicians may connect IEM receivers directly to their belt packs. This input can be used for any audio source, and there’s only one band split so that every belt pack works with every base station on the event.

To minimize rack space and maximize ISO channel operation, UV-1G systems allow for up to six belt packs per base station, and up to six base station links, for a total of 36 ISO channels between packs.

The UV-1G base station comes with two transmitter RF connectors so that it may immediately be connected to a combiner, such as the RAD TX-8, without any modification of hardware. The base station can also be connected to all standard wired communications systems, including Clear-Com, RTS and 4-wire systems.

“And it should be noted that the UV-1G can operate completely out of the portable white spaces device band, maximizing chances for success in even the most hostile RF environments,” Stoffo concludes.


Radio Active Designs

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/24 at 02:24 PM
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Everything Changes…Or Does It?

Technology in professional audio (and technology in general) has changed so much and so quickly that it’s become difficult to get up to speed and stay up to date. The learning curve for some aspects of what we do is quite steep and appears to be accelerating.

Analog consoles are challenging enough, but the number-crunching digital beasts are even more complex. We hardly used wireless 20 years ago, now it’s everywhere.

Outboard effects have become plug-ins, and what were once knobs and buttons have become virtual knobs and buttons on tablet computers. And so on.

Yet other things haven’t changed. The laws of physics, for example (and despite the advertising claims of many), remain a constant, as do many of the truly fundamental concepts and skills.

Let’s add some context by focusing on specific aspects and situations.

Power & Grounding
“No power, no anything. That’s not exactly how my electronics teacher put it, but you get the idea.”

“Expertise in electrical power is important, but when I started touring, I had very little knowledge about it.”

Fortunately, some veterans helped me make it my business to learn, in particular Joe Dougherty, who had experience with these things from a very practical background of “doing it.” (Joe has gone on to work with Clair Brothers.)

One thing that I did bring to the table, even then, was an understanding of power supplies and how they work. The combination of this “book” knowledge, combined with OJT (on the job training) and people willing to teach resulted in my having just enough knowledge about power systems to know to get experts involved with anything critical.

It doesn’t matter if it’s an analog, digital, or quantum sound system—power matters, and clean power is really important for good sound.

Grounding is related to power, but is another specialization, really. You can be doing everything right in supplying adequate, clean power to a system, but if the grounding’s not right, audio quality is in peril (usually from hum and buzz).

Stage Monitoring
The transition from wedges to “ears” has been a major shift in the way we do sound. IEM has radically improved things on stage, from less cable to lower stage volume.

At the same time, it’s introduced new challenges. Monitor engineers and techs must have solid knowledge of wireless and everything that goes with it. They also need to be able to satisfy artists who can’t hear the audience or other musicians clearly.

Regardless, though, monitor engineers still have to have the right personality and temperament to deal with what can be such a high-pressure situation. Basically, if the artist isn’t happy, the engineer isn’t doing the job well enough, but if the artist doesn’t say anything, then the engineer is probably doing quite well, thank you.

Many monitor mixers end up doing front of house once the artist realizes that “this person gets it.” So get your head around wireless systems and high-end earbuds, but don’t forget who the boss is and where your paycheck comes from.

Digital Desks
With digital consoles, we finally have perfect sound forever! Right.

There are still many who prefer analog desks. The reasons don’t really matter—only that there are good sounding desks and those that aren’t.

Nevertheless, the way we interact with consoles has changed quite a bit. No longer is there a knob for every function. Menus, layers, presets and so on have to be understood. Digital technology gives us incredible flexibility and in many cases, greater speed.

The downside, to me, is that no longer can you figure out a new console just because it is 92.6 percent the same as the last one you were using. (That’s just a rough estimate.) Yamaha, DiGiCo, Midas, Avid, et al, use different labels, different menu structures, etc.

So the learning curve for each is fairly steep, and in many cases, requires specific training to be proficient. That said, what consoles ultimately do is still exactly the same as before! Signals come in, signals get processed, signals get mixed, signals go out. In other words, understanding signal routing in general still allows you to know the basics of using anything from a 12-channel analog board all the way up to the latest digital space shuttle console.

In my humble opinion, it’s far better to learn on an analog console (or two), and then begin to get an understanding of what a digital desk can do.

Further, it’s a good career move to move on to learning how each of the major digital consoles is different. This way, when the next big product comes along, you’ll be at least 78 percent there (another rough estimate), and that’s a lot in today’s world.

Human Factors
One thing that has absolutely not changed is “how things are done” on the road and at the gig.

Despite the increased technical comprehension required of us, overall aspects such as solid, fundamental knowledge of craft, competence, attitude, respect, and teamwork remain exactly the same. These are things I’ve covered several times in past articles, and for good reason. Most employers in our field would much rather hire and work with people that have initiative, a good attitude, are conscientious, and just flat-out “get ‘er done.” What is not appreciated are divas, know-it-alls, and those lacking discipline.

As professionals, it’s our responsibility to at least keep up with current technology to the point where we can discuss things and make decisions from an informed point of view.

Technology will clearly continue to change at an ever-faster rate. But the bottom line is that good, basic skills still matter, and the laws of physics haven’t changed at all. That is, until April 1 of next year.

Karl Winkler is director of business development at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/20 at 03:17 PM
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shure Wireless Systems Spark Success At 2014 CMA Awards

PSM 1000 personal monitors were exclusive choice for all performances for IEM

At the recent 48th Annual CMA Awards from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, featuring 21 performances that were telecast live on ABC, Shure PSM 1000 personal monitors were the exclusive choice for all performances as in-ear monitors.

To ensure quick transitions between acts, the production team employs as much wireless technology as possible, and as is customary, a mix of major wireless microphone brands was available to the performers. Production mixer Mark King, a Los Angeles-based freelancer, has been providing the final broadcast mix for the past six CMA telecasts.

“We want the performers to be comfortable on stage, so the choice of vocal microphones for live performance is largely decided by the artists themselves,” he notes. “Year in and year out, the vast majority of those performers turn out to be Shure users, which is really great. From a product standpoint, Shure wireless is my preference in general. It really is a great product.”

Shure users took home a lot of major awards this year, including Entertainer of the Year for Luke Bryan, Song of the Year for Kacey Musgraves, Vocal Group of the Year for Little Big Town, and Vocal Duo of the Year for Florida Georgia Line. All performed live during the show.

Audio producers Tom Davis and Paul Sandweiss lead a top production team for this year’s CMA Awards. The systems provider was ATK Audiotek (Valencia, CA), which brought in the PA system, wireless mics and in-ear systems, and backline gear, with wireless frequency coordination and system design handled by James Stoffo.

The broadcast music mix in 5.1 surround was again provided by M3 (Music Mix Mobile), with Jay Vicari and John Harris at the controls. Inside the arena, the music was mixed by Rick Shimer, while Pat Baltzell handled the production mix.

Monitors for all music performances were mixed by the team of Jason Spence of Nashville’s J Sound Services and independent engineer Tom Pesa. “We had 100 percent Shure PSM 1000 in-ears again this year,” says Spence. “Tom and I had 20 channels available, and we used upwards of 60 wireless beltpacks during the show. We also had four hardwired in-ear systems, mainly for drummers. Those were powered by the Shure P6HW bodypack.”

With the diversity design of the Shure PSM 1000 bodypacks, Spence reports no interference problems in the in-ear mixes. “The PSM 1000 provides the RF performance required on hostile events such as award shows. And it doesn’t hurt that they have the cleanest sound and the widest stereo image of any IEM system. I received numerous compliments on the ear mixes again this year, and I attribute a lot of that to the sound quality and performance of the Shure PSM 1000.”

House sound mixer Rick Shimer is also a big fan of Shure wireless. “Whether they are using a classic SM58 head or the KSM9 condenser, I know I’m going to get that signature Shure sound. And RF-wise, they are solid as a rock,” he says. “It’s amazing how far we’ve come with wireless systems. They are so reliable, we don’t think twice about using them everywhere, even backing vocals, which is a huge help in terms of production and staging. We moved 21 music performances on and off of two stages during a three-hour show, and there was never a glitch.”

While Shimer loves the way advanced technology helps him as a sound engineer, it was actually a new take on an old school product that impressed at the 2014 CMAs. “This was the first year I used Shure headphones at front of house – the SRH440 –and it was a refreshing change for me. They were provided by ATK, along with the console, and they were really comfortable and sounded great.”

ATK Audiotek

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/19 at 03:07 PM
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

AKG Microphones The Choice Of Edwin McCain 300-Plus Nights A Year

WMS4500 wireless system for acoustic and electric guitars, and another with C535 mic capsule for vocals

Noted singer-songwriter Edwin McCain plays a concert schedule of more than 300 nights a year backed by the Edwin McCain Band, utilizing a Harman’s AKG WMS4500 wireless system for his acoustic and electric guitars and another WMS4500 system with an HT4500 wireless transmitter and C535 capsule for his vocals.

“The C535 is the perfect complement to the sound of my voice,” McCain notes, citing the condenser microphone’s ability to reproduce all the nuances of his voice from rough-edged to smooth and soaring, while being able to ‘rock ‘out at any volume. He finds the transient response and smooth frequency balance of the C535 to be well suited to intimate acoustic shows yet adds, “no matter what setting we’re playing in, the equipment works great.

“Reliability is all-important, and the durability of the C535 has been great,” he continues. “We are rough on gear because of the amount of shows we play, the constant traveling, setting up and tearing down and all the varying conditions we encounter. We play all over the country and when we play for the military we’re all over the world. Not many people bring their microphones onto the landing strip of an aircraft carrier, but we do.”

McCain always has a backup wired microphone onstage, but in all his time using the C535 and HT4500, he states, “I’ve never had to use that backup microphone, ever. The same with my wireless guitar pack—we have a backup cable just in case but I’ve never had to plug it in. We are talking a decade at least without a failure. I find that remarkable.”

McCain adds that he can’t think of any other band that has the real-world experience of the Edwin McCain Band, who plays “every kind of gig you can think of from playing with a symphony orchestra to rocking a bar joint.”

“It’s nice to never have to worry about the microphones and wireless I use,” he concludes. “I’m much more concerned about our tour bus making it to the next town than my AKG microphones failing.”

Edwin McCain
Harman Professional

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/18 at 02:31 PM
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Nashville’s New City Winery Outfitted With An Abundance Of Shure Gear

Shure wireless systems and microphones enhance high-end cultural experience

Michael Dorf, founder of the iconic Knitting Factory, came to Nashville with to create a space that embodies the city’s shared passions for wine and music, with the resulting City Winery combining a functioning winery with intimate concerts supported by Shure wireless systems and microphones.

City Winery partnered with Tour Supply, its audio partner for the existing City Winery locations, to integrate the gear in Nashville. The challenge was to identify cost-effective yet reliable products to serve a variety of different functions. Also, while the City Winery music venue is supported by a house production manager, the restaurant, winery, and private rooms required frequency agile systems that could be operated seamlessly by restaurant staff who have very little technical audio experience.

Tour Supply selected four channels of ULX-S wireless systems and PSM 900 personal monitoring systems for the facility’s 570-seat music venue. The team installed three channels of Shure’s entry-level BLX wireless systems for the restaurant and winery areas, MX412 gooseneck Mmcrophones to support corporate presentations and a dash of Shure wired and wireless microphones, including Beta 58, Beta 91A, Beta 98A, SM58, and SM57.

“City Winery has been an amazing project for our team. The combination of wine, music, and culinary arts is something that appeals to the senses, but when under one roof, it makes for a challenging audio installation,” says Lance Wascom, Tour Supply CEO. “We’ve had close to a 20-year relationship with Shure. Using Shure equipment was a no-brainer for us, as it was for Mr. Dorf and his team. Not only is the sound quality superior, but the gear comes with great support from the Shure customer service team and our local reps over at HWPco Inc.”

A month into operations, the ULX-S wireless system has proven effective in delivering premium sound quality for music acts. In regard to PSM 900, Wascom notes, “it’s the best dollar for dollar investment. We trust PSM for our touring artists and the PSM 900 delivers superb audio quality for the professional musicians performing at City Winery.”

Tour Supply

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/17 at 07:11 AM
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Empire PRO Hosting QSC, Shure, and Yamaha Commercial Audio Training Day In Early December

Will cover how line arrays, digital consoles, monitors, amplifiers, wireless and digital microphones, and in-ear monitors operate

QSC, Shure, and Yamaha Commercial Audio will present a day of live sound training at Empire PRO, a leading pro audio, video and lighting distribution partner located in Bell, CA, on Thursday, December 4 (2014).

The training session, titled “Modern Technology For Today’s Production,” will cover how line arrays, digital consoles, monitors, amplifiers, wireless and digital microphones, and in-ear monitors operate, along with how they can optimally work together for small- to mid-size productions. 

Presenters will focus on system design, networking, and the RF landscape—frequency coordination, antenna setup and best practices, special tools, and tips. A professional production of the training will also be streamed live at www.mldistrict.com/empirepro, courtesy of DataVideo.

“Our goal is to provide the pro AV community with support and resources that empower them to grow their business,” explains Edmond Khanian, vice president of sales at Empire PRO. “We’re more than a great place to get the products you need, when you need them, and at the prices you expect; we are a partner whose top priority is the success of our dealers’ business. We are proud and grateful to have strong relationships with industry leaders like QSC, Shure, and Yamaha Commercial Audio, who share and support our vision.” 

Presentation Schedule

• 9:40 am—10 am: Introduction

• 10 am—11:15 am: Shure, RF spectrum update/incentive auction

• 11:15 am—12:30 pm: Shure – RF coordination using Shure gear (highlighting BLX, QLXD, ULXD, AXT600 and WWB6), and how to choose the right antenna

• 12:30 pm—1:30 pm: QSC – line array specification and deployment, and amplifier technology

• 1:30 pm—2:30 pm: Lunch

• 2:30 pm—3:30 pm: QSC – Touchmix (for production)

• 3:30 pm—4:45 pm: Yamaha – CL consoles (who, what, where, when, why and how)

• 4:45 pm—6 pm: Yamaha – QL consoles (who, what, where, when, why and how)

Empire PRO is located at 5675 Mansfield Way, Bell, CA. Space is limited, so attendees should RSVP as soon as possible at www.empirepro.com/qsc-yamaha-shuretraining.php. Or tune into the live stream of the session at www.mldistrict.com/empirepro.

For information on how to become an Empire PRO dealer, contact Omer Saar at o.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Yamaha Commercial Audio
Empire PRO

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/13 at 06:43 PM
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless For Grammy-Nominated African A Cappella Ensemble

Beltpack and handheld transmitters with Venue receiver for all-female African American group celebrating 40th anniversary

Audio mixer Art Steele employs Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless microphone systems for his work with Sweet Honey in the Rock (SHIR), an all-female, Grammy Award–nominated African American a cappella ensemble currently celebrating its 40th anniversary.

In addition to his involvement with SHIR, which goes back 35 years, Sunderland, MA-based Steele is the owner, manager, and sound designer for Audio Promedia, an audio services company involved the live sound, pro touring, and special events markets.

Steele, who also serves as SHIR’s technical director, utilizes a combination of Lectrosonics SMDa super-miniature beltpack transmitters along with UT400 and HH handheld transmitters. On the receiving end, he uses a fully loaded Lectrosonics Venue receiver.

“Clear, natural sounding audio quality is, of course, the first priority with any audio setup,” Steele says. “With Lectrosonics, I get absolutely pure, clean tone, free from the audible in/out gating sounds of some RF systems out there or the false, muddy bass ‘ghost’ notes commonly associated with companding. Combined with the equipment’s extremely low self-noise floor, the performance of these wireless systems is firmly competitive with a hard wired mike to any objective listener. The Lectrosonics RF platform actually offers a more accurate, more extended low frequency performance than a wired vocal mic.”

SHIR expresses their history as African-American women through song, dance, and sign language. Originally a four-person ensemble, they have featured five-part harmonies for many years, and since 1981 they have included an American sign-language interpreter as a sixth member for all their live performances.

In that context, Steele elaborates on Lectrosonics performance attributes. “I’ve been very impressed. The 100 milliwatt power of the SMDs transmitter provides great dropout-free range, enabling me to sound check the headsets from dressing rooms hundreds of feet away, even on other floors and through building architecture. This aspect of the equipment leaves me free to monitor the RF system transmission details via the Venue rack at front of house.”

The ensemble’s audience and community comes from diverse backgrounds and cultures throughout the United States and around the world, with performances that range from an Arts Envoy program in Belize for the U.S. Embassy to those at venues such as the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati.

“Sweet Honey’s full bore gospel performances could easily stress most systems,” Steele notes. “The choices Lectrosonics made for the parameters of the ‘over the top last resort limiting’ within the platform are excellent. I also applaud the company for not rolling off low frequency performance as many manufacturers do. Lectrosonics’ no compromise approach to audio works for me.”

His receiver setup consists of the one-rack-space Lectrosonics Venue Wideband receiver operating on Block 20 and 25 with Lectrosonics SNA600 dipole antennas. “The SNA600 antennas fold nicely into a mic pouch along the rear of my soft zipper closure rack bag,” he explains. This bag packs into a standard piece of luggage with 2 inches of foam on all sides. This is an extremely compact setup that travels well.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/11 at 05:23 PM
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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Audio-Technica Provides Microphone Solutions At CMA Awards For 21st Straight Year

Extensive selection of A-T vocal, instrument and wireless mics utilized in numerous applications

Audio-Technica supported the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards for the 21st year in a row by providing an extensive selection of vocal and instrument microphones for the show which aired live earlier this week on ABC from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

The 48th Annual CMA Awards utilized more than 150 Audio-Technica microphones, including hard-wired models and Artist Elite 5000 Series UHF wireless systems with AEW-T6100a hypercardioid dynamic handheld microphones/transmitters.

The team of industry veterans responsible for the audio at this year’s CMA’s again included co-audio producers Tom Davis and Paul Sandweiss, front-of-house mixers Patrick Baltzell (production) and Rick Shimer (music) utilizing a system provided by ATK/Audiotek (Valencia, CA), broadcast music mixers John Harris and Jay Vicari working with Music Mix Mobile *NJ/CA), and monitor mixers Tom Pesa and Jason Spence.

Artist Elite 5000 Series/AEW-T6100a wireless systems were used for lead vocals by A-T endorser Jason Aldean, who performed “Burnin’ It Down;” fellow A-T endorser Thomas Rhett, who sang “Get Me Some of That;” and Cole Swindell on his hit “Chillin’ It.” These systems were also deployed Doobie Brothers founding members Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons and John McFee on an all-star performance of “Listen to the Music” and “Takin’ It to the Streets.”

The backline mic complement of wired mics included AT4080 phantom-powered bidirectional ribbon mics on guitars, AT4050 multi-pattern condensers on guitars, bass and overheads; AT4040 cardioid condensers for overheads; AE2500 dual-element cardioid instrument mics on kick drum; AE5100 cardioid condensers on hi-hat and ride cymbals; ATM650 dynamics on snare; and ATM350 cardioid condensers and ATM250 hypercardioid dynamics on toms.

“Audio-Technica is a key supporter for us during the CMA Awards,” states Davis. “Their artist relations and on-site technical support are both second to none. And of course, their wired and wireless mics sound great, and are consistently reliable. Having A-T in our corner makes our lives a whole lot easier.”

Vicari adds, “It’s a very easy decision for us to choose Audio-Technica for the CMA’s year after year. A-T microphones are consistent from mic to mic, and A-T offers a wide range of microphones perfect for the singers and instrumentalists featured on the show. When doing a live broadcast, you want reliability, and A-T’s products and support put us at ease.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/08 at 10:37 AM
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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Countryman Microphones Bring Fishing Show To Life

Countryman EMV microphones solve issues during rain, snow or sun.

Stihl’s Reel in the Outdoors with Joe Thomas is a television show that explores America’s fascination with fishing. Those in charge of location sound have to deal with the challenges of working outdoors and a production environment that is literally ‘on the water’.

As a result, the audio equipment must be particularly robust while still delivering broadcast quality performance which is why most of the show’s dialog is captured using EMW Omnidirectional Lavalier microphones from Countryman Associates.

Stihl’s Reel in the Outdoors with Joe Thomas is produced by Reel Outdoors TV LLC and airs on the Outdoor Channel. Jim Kramer serves as the show’s producer and videographer. Being responsible for how the show both looks and sounds, Kramer is passionate about the program’s audio quality. He first started using Countryman EMW microphones in 2002.

“My responsibilities as producer and videographer are to bring to life the stories of the people and places that make angling one of our top leisure time activities,” Kramer explained, “and we encounter all sorts of unusual locales. Our productions take us to all types of remote places—often times, hundreds of miles from the nearest road.”

“One of the most challenging locations we experienced was deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest in search of trophy Peacock Bass,” he continued. “Our base camp was a two-hour float plane flight from the nearest major city of Manaus, Brazil. From there, we traveled by panga to backwater ponds where we would literally have to cut our way into the jungle with machetes, often in torrential downpours.

Initially Kramer notes that he picked up too much ambient noise as the torrents of rain slammed onto the talent’s rain suit. However, moving the EMW and placing it under the brim of his hat, away from the rain suit resolved the problem.

“The Countryman EMW has so many features that make it the perfect lavalier for our field productions,” Kramer explains. “The sturdy design and construction; the incredible water resistance, which is so important when you have to shoot rain or shine and, of course, the amazing audio quality. Even under windy conditions, I can place the EMW under the talent’s clothing and not have to worry about reduced frequency response or the dreaded ‘rubbing’ noises that can just kill a great sequence.

“When you go to the trouble of capturing audio and video in remote locations, you have to have a microphone you can count on—and the Countryman EMW is just that. The mic is dependable, durable, and trouble free. Paired with our Sennheiser EW series wireless systems, the EMWs make a great miking solution.”

Stihl’s Reel in the Outdoors with Joe Thomas

Posted by Julie Clark on 11/05 at 07:02 AM
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