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Old 01-23-2013, 12:04 AM   #1
david-b
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Question How to fix vocals in live audio

Hey all;
Not sure if this is the best place for it, but seems like it to me. I do some live audio engineering for a 60s, 70s, 80s cover band. Help with setup/tear down and then work the mixer getting everything right throughout the entire 2-3 hour show each time. They're an older bunch, been musicians for a while and know their stuff. Band isn't perfect, but getting there. I'm not a pro by any means when it comes to this, its all for fun and I thoroughly enjoy doing it.

One problem I have with every who no matter where it's at is with the singer. He's got a good voice, so out of the box that's not the problem. When he sings softly, it's hard to hear him through the PA and sounds like he's singing with his hand over his mouth. When he belts it out, it's nice and clear. The problem is clearly with the lower singing and I try to compensate for it at the board but just can't get it.

Here's the setup:
-Singer (Obviously)
-Mic (not sure on the brand, looks like a SM58. I get a lot of the drums bleeding through at the board. Also getting bleed through the keyboardist and guitarist mics from their amps as well.
-He uses some kind of FX processor/preamp pedalboard. We keep turning the output down, but he turns it back up. At the board, I get an occasion clip and that's with the Gain all the way down! I have no headroom to work with for him. Uses the unit for addition chorus and reverb.

I've tried using the EQ on the channel at the board to turn down the mids and raise up the highs, and tried sending his channel through a (I believe) 14 band EQ built onto the board. Can clear him up a little down low, but then once he opens his mouth up it's all off and sounding terrible, being too high then with no depth.

So my question is... what can I do to fix his sound quality? Make his low-volume singing sound clearer, have more headroom at the board, and yet keep his high-volume sounding great? Then, how can I cut out this mic bleed? I'm sure once that gets cut, it's going to clean up a lot. I'm thinking a compressor with an expander but what do you guys think?

I appreciate the help! Thanks
/D
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:58 AM   #2
jthm_guitarist
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I think an EQ into a compressor would help out a lot. Cut the problem frequencies that you don't need and get a level response from the rest.
Then set the threshold to the compressor right at the level where he sings, and go ahead and try cranking up the ratio.
If that doesn't help with the bleed through maybe even try a noise gate. An expander probably won't help your problems at this stage.
And remember to work together; if you need his pedal turned down then tell him that this is important to getting a great sound.
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:41 AM   #3
chronowarp
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My first instinct would be to compress his vocal really hard so that it's more uniform. Try shaping it w/ the EQ before the compressor...hi pass it enough to get rid of the mud.
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:59 AM   #4
Quintex
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What is the effects processor or preamp he is using? What kind of board are you using?

Chances are that he is sending a line level signal to your board so the gain will be turned way down, also try bringing it in as a balanced or unbalanced line in, not as a mic to avoid running it through a mic preamp on the board. Adjust it in the mix using the fader, not the gain which should be set at U especially if the talent is sending you a hot signal.

Maybe run the signal through an EQ and a compressor using an insert and see if that evens it out.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:35 PM   #5
david-b
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Thanks for the responses everyone.

I actually don't know what unit it is. He carries the thing on him like his wallet thinking that someone is going to steal it or that we'll change the settings on him (like his output which we've done). The board is a Samson. No clue on the model or features. Only pic I have of it is attached below.

Every time we get him to turn down the pedal, he turns it right back up. I make adjustments on the fly throughout the whole performance using the faders and with his high and low volume, it constantly needs adjusting.

I have everything going through a snake using all XLR on the mics including the singer. Pretty sure IIRC, it's XLR only on there. Should I try using a 1/4" then to try to bypass the preamp on the mixer? I'm thinking, I can run the XLR into the EQ and compressor which can convert to a 1/4" then, so that may work out well. I'm not familiar with the insert features on this board so will have to check it out to see what would work best with their setup.

I"m going to get in touch with them and bring by my compressor and EQ and try to play around with some before the next show. They're not playing for a while so no immediate rush, but don't want to just start to deal with it as I walk into the next show.
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:33 PM   #6
Quintex
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david-b
Thanks for the responses everyone.

I actually don't know what unit it is. He carries the thing on him like his wallet thinking that someone is going to steal it or that we'll change the settings on him (like his output which we've done). The board is a Samson. No clue on the model or features. Only pic I have of it is attached below.

OK, that looks like it might be a Samson TXM20 Powered Mixer 2 x 500 watts or 1000 watts bridged mono. Download PDF of manual here.

As for his little gizmo, you are going to have to write it off as STS (Stupid Talent Shite). Trying to get anyone on stage to change their performance and effects (it's my sound, don't f*ck with it) is pretty much the same as pissing up a rope. You just take whatever signal they give you and deal with it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by david-b
Every time we get him to turn down the pedal, he turns it right back up. I make adjustments on the fly throughout the whole performance using the faders and with his high and low volume, it constantly needs adjusting.

You are dealing with a two fold problem here. Besides the signal level issue, he is trying to make his own dynamics which it seems don't quite work with a PA and he doesn't realize it. You are probably going to be riding that channel's fader all night no matter what you insert but a compressor where you mess with the EQ and Gate may smooth it out a bit. See if you can sit in on some rehearsals (if they have them) where you can just try things out. Give the singer a foldback monitor highlighting his vocals and get his input on what he wants it to sound like.

Not sure what kind of foldbacks you have set up for the live show, but maybe give his a full mix so he can adjust his vocal level on stage (he will automatically raise his voice level if he can't hear himself in the monitors. I believe that the TXM20 has two Aux Sends so you can give a different mix then everyone else.
Quote:
Originally Posted by david-b
I have everything going through a snake using all XLR on the mics including the singer. Pretty sure IIRC, it's XLR only on there. Should I try using a 1/4" then to try to bypass the preamp on the mixer? I'm thinking, I can run the XLR into the EQ and compressor which can convert to a 1/4" then, so that may work out well. I'm not familiar with the insert features on this board so will have to check it out to see what would work best with their setup.

I would use something that looks like this. I just pulled this link from a local store I sometimes buy from to give you an idea of what you need.

Here is a link for an insert cable.



Pretty much an insert allows you to "insert" other equipment into a single channels signal path. One of the two is "out" and one is "in" and will generally be marked on commercial cables. I use them when I am experimenting because to pull equipment out of the chain, basically all I have to do is power down the board (of course shutting down any downstream gear first), pull the insert, power back up and I am back to "normal".
Quote:
Originally Posted by david-b
I"m going to get in touch with them and bring by my compressor and EQ and try to play around with some before the next show. They're not playing for a while so no immediate rush, but don't want to just start to deal with it as I walk into the next show.

Good plan. Whether the talent wants to believe it or not, the sound guy is a large part of the show and it pays to work with them. You have to work with them to make it great and in my experience, sometimes you have to modify what you are doing to make it work as the talent is frequently unwilling to change. This is fine, because the number one thing is the talent has to feel comfortable on stage and changing how they perform is a lot more difficult that you changing things technically to accommodate their idiosyncrasies.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:20 PM   #7
david-b
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Thank you for the massive amount of information.

Don't get me wrong, I love adjusting the sliders all night. Do that with pretty much every song, adding in and taking out to songs that need more or less or whatever instrument. I have how I hear the songs and want to convey them to the audience, and have never had a complaint from the band or audience. Get a lot of compliments from the audience each time, which always puts a smile on my face and coming back for more. I can relate to the STS metaphor. Being a guitarist, it is my sound and I've worked hard to get it that way. No one touch it haha.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard bad things about the XLR->1/4" adapters. Something about the signal not matching up with those either? Or is that fine since it's already hot from hitting the preamp at the FX unit?

The monitors are just straight from the board running in series, nothing special. I believe this last show (I didn't do the initial setup) they ran one Aux to the left (with a stronger right mix), and the other Aux to the right (with a stronger left mix).

So you would recommend converting the XLR to 1/4" and then running the Compressor in the insert?

Again, thanks. A lot of good info here!
/D
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:21 PM   #8
chronowarp
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Why would XLR to 1/4'' do anything bad? As long as it's balanced TRS, it'll be fine
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:32 PM   #9
Quintex
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chronowarp
Why would XLR to 1/4'' do anything bad? As long as it's balanced TRS, it'll be fine

This.
Quote:
Originally Posted by david-b
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard bad things about the XLR->1/4" adapters. Something about the signal not matching up with those either? Or is that fine since it's already hot from hitting the preamp at the FX unit?

Putting a line level signal through a mic preamp is far riskier. XLRs are kind of bad because they are used interchangeably between Mic Level and Balanced Line Level whereas the 1/4" TRS and TR are almost always Line Level either balanced or unbalanced. Most mixers (and other gear) will switch automatically between balanced and unbalanced input on the line ins.

Edit: Also, XLR ins can have Phantom Power on them, 49 or so volts going into an output might not be a good thing (even though most equipment has a capacitor there to protect it from this happening).
Quote:
Originally Posted by david-b
So you would recommend converting the XLR to 1/4" and then running the Compressor in the insert?

I prefer putting it into the insert just because then I know the signal level going to the compressor (or other equipment) where if I put it before the "Line In" the input level is unknown or controlled by the stage.
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Last edited by Quintex : 01-23-2013 at 05:58 PM.
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