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Best Threads: The Case Of The Disappearing Stage Monitors

From the PSW Church Sound forum, a member searches for a logical reason why his monitor mix seems to vanish.

By PSW Staff May 17, 2018

Editor’s Note: Here’s an interesting thread from the PSW Church Sound forums. It’s lightly edited for grammar and formatting. Enjoy.

Posted by Stephen
Asking this mostly out of curiosity and a desire to learn and understand what is happening. I have my theories, but curious what others think.

A few weeks ago we had a special conference with guest preachers, lots of visiting churches, all around pressure to be at the top of our “game.” The first speaker wants to use the lavalier, which is set and works great on our pastor. Our pastor projects well and generally has good technique with a clear, easy to mic voice. The opposite is true of this speaker. On top of that, pastor is on the platform, wanting to hear the message clearly in the monitors. It was a bad scenario to deal with.

I am not mixing, but I take over and back the monitors off some, but it is the mains that are ringing. I cut a little 250-300 where it is ringing and boost a little in the 1500-2000 and now I have a clear, easy to listen to sound, but pastor wants the monitors up. I am able bring them up until he is fine with them without creating any issues, then I bring the mains up a little more and feel I have a really good sound. Then pastor tells me we lost the monitors.

I haven’t backed the monitors off and I never “fixed” them. I know they were working and just as loud as when he said “good enough,” but apparently raising the mains made them “go away” where he sat. What gives?

The room is very reverberant — designed and built before PA’s were a thing.

Reply by Caleb
Too bad you couldn’t have been on stage to listen. Some musicians and I assume pastors freak when they hear the house system on stage.

Reply by Luke
Well the mains and monitors are out of phase with each other. I wouldn’t weed out the possibility that the added mains SPL was just enough to take precedence over the monitors and in such a way that some or a bit of cancellation was taking place.

Reply by Johannes
I bet this has more to do with psychology than physics…

Reply by Jerome
Both psychology and physics. If the monitors are within 5 feet of the mains like on a small bar band stage. The vocals are 200 to 500 Hz primary and the two speakers are facing opposite directions. Changing the polarity on the monitors and adding a small delay of 2 or 4 ms on front of house can help some of this problem. The 2 to 4 ms is what is used to line up the sound wave from the backline and drums with the vocals on the front of the stage.

Reply by Kevin
As the others are alluding to, it isn’t that the monitors are missing, it’s that they aren’t as predominant anymore. Did he hear a difference if you muted the monitor send? To me, this is the most likely explanation, unless you have something really weird happening in the digital mixer.

Reply by JP
My money is on either interaction between the mains and monitors as others have already stated or purely psychological.

I have, a few times, had an issue where vocalists have complained about their monitors disappearing when the mains were brought down a bit. We run separate monitors and front of house with an analog split, so there is no way it was a post-fade issue in my case. This is psychological.

Reply by Mike
Lapel mics in monitors is never a good combination. Lapel mics used in the big reverberant room is a challenge and it sounds like the person’s speaking technique was not helping at all.

The mains combined with the room were just louder to his ears than the monitor level. You’re never going to get a lapel mic in a stage monitor to peel your face off, regardless how many knobs are turned.

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