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Church Sound: When To Address EQ Problems, And What To Do

Don’t let gain-before-feedback completely drive how you EQ

By Gary Zandstra October 11, 2011

I have a new pet peeve:  well-intentioned (presumably) sound operators that EQ for gain-before-feedback rather than sound quality.

In the last few weeks I’ve had some experiences where audio quality was a real issue, and no one seemed to know how to fix it.

In all of these cases, the EQ (both on the channel strip and the master EQ) had been jacked all over the place in an attempt of keep a microphone from feeding back. 

Some observations:

1) In general, if you have to EQ radically to get enough gain, something is very wrong – generally it’s due to a poorly designed loudspeaker system or the wrong loudspeakers.

2) More gain does not necessarily mean that the sound will be perceived as louder – and it surely will not sound better.

3) Besides the main loudspeakers and their placement, gain-before-feedback can also be influenced/determined by a number of other factors –  including additional open microphones and additional sends (stage monitors).

Here are a couple of situations I recently experienced:

Case #1

Problem: The musicians are all complaining that the monitors are loud – the stage volume is loud – but they can’t hear themselves.

Solution: Flatten out all of the monitor EQs and start from scratch.

What had happened is that a well-intentioned contractor was called in to help with monitor issues. He proceeded to set up the microphones that the praise team uses and then turned up the monitors until there was feedback. He would then notch an “offending frequency” – repeating this cycle again and again.

The 31-band EQs on the monitors ranged from what looked like a smile curve (missing a few teeth) to a frown (with a drop lip in the center) to a hair lip – and a few things in between that I can’t describe. I’m not one who says that the shape of an EQ has to look pretty, but it does give a pretty good indication of what the monitors will sound like.

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About Gary

Gary Zandstra
Gary Zandstra

Consultant, Dan Vos Construction, Writer for Worship Facilities and ProSoundWeb
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.


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tlmp says

Well, anytime you have people in positions they shouldn’t be in there are going to be problems - that goes for outside as well as inside the church. When I came to the church I’m at now, they were having many problems. As I took over and began to fix the problems, the band all said it sounded a lot better, but a few in the church, including the Pastor, would sometimes challenge me as to how I had the board set up - they weren’t USED to that. One elder even moved the master fader back down to where it was SUPPOSED to be, while I was sitting behind the board. The thing is you cannot train a person to be an audio tech, it comes from the heart. In my 25 years of being in the church, I’ve never actually seen anybody pick up a book or go study something online - they just all sit there waiting for the Holy Spirit to do everything. In your article you say “Don’t get trapped into the idea that you can’t make any changes.” Well, I feel that if you have to say that to someone, then that person doesn’t belong in that ministry. When I came to my church I tore everything out and never once asked permission. I then put everything back together in a sensible way. Now the whole system is stable, quiet and feedback free. Our Pastor can even go out in front of the boxes without me having to reduce his volume.

So, for me, it’s very frustrating to read your type of articles which pander to church laziness. No one should be allowed to touch the sound system unless they can prove they have years of experience and know what they are doing.

Carly says

@timp. You’re totally right. we should never take on young people who want to learn but are afraid that they may damage expensive equipment, and encourage them to experiment and try things out. We should never get older people on who have a heart to serve and want to learn a new skill. We should never deal patiently with people who have been taught something and haven’t had it explained to them why there is another way of doing things. We shouldn’t have to respect the pastor, the congregation, or the volunteers who make what we do even possible. We should just bull into our churches, do everything our way (because that’s the best way), and screw everyone else. Because we know everything.


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