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#1
Live Sound hasn’t really got a home in UG and the guys in Bandleading have kindly offered a bit of a place for it, so here it is. Briefer information should be found in the thread but follow the links for more detailed sources of information. I hope this will offer some of the answers you need but that you will still post loads more questions about live sound. I’ll do my best to answer but I’m sure lots of others will join in. As extra information comes in I’ll try and update the original posts.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Jan 4, 2016,
#2
Amplifying Vocals


The first problem you’ll have in a band is getting the singer to be heard, to start with probably in the rehearsal room. If this is your first band then money will be tight and you’ll be using all sorts of odd practice amps whilst you save up for ‘proper’ gear. So, in this section it is about spending as little as possible.
As a minimum you’ll need a decent mic’, an amplifier with an input which will match the low output from a mic’ and at least one speaker with a fairly flat response which covers the whole vocal range. The best thing is to buy something specifically made for the job, either a small PA system http://www.peavey.com/products/index.cfm/item/745/116559/Audio%20Performer%20Pack or a wedge monitor with an amp built in http://www.laney.co.uk/products/product_details/39 . Failing that you can buy a single active PA speaker so long as it has a mic input http://www.mackie.com/products/thump/ . Any of these are a good purchase as they can go on to become your stage monitors as you grow as a band.

You can’t really use a guitar amp for vocals as it won’t be flat or a bass amp which won’t usually cover the vocal range but in an emergency you might get away with a keyboard amp or a acoustic guitar amp. Don’t buy one of these specially though, far better to spend on the real thing.

More about mic’s later but don’t go for a rubbish karaoke mic. You can buy an industry standard Shure SM58 for less than £100 and a cheap Chinese clone like the Samson Q7 or the Behringer XM8500 for £20. I’ve used both and the sound compares pretty well with the SM58 though they won’t be as robust. There may be others but I’ve not tried them.

If you are a singer then a decent mic and a set of monitors is as much part of your kit as a guitar and amp are for the rest of the band, though if you are starting out and play an instrument as well then the band will probably have to help you out.
This is pretty basic, Go and have a look at the section on monitoring or at http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/junkyard/sound_good_in_the_rehearsal_room.html
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 5, 2013,
#3
Setting up a PA
This section is about the real basics of setting up a PA. There are four parts to the PA system for a band: a mixer, an amplifier, loudspeaker(s) and a monitor (with its own amp and speaker). Don’t forget to allow for some mic’s and the leads. Nowadays amplifiers have become so cheap and reliable it has become easy and cheap to build the amp either into the mixer or into the speaker box. Putting the amp in the speaker makes it active, without an amp the speaker is passive.
Using an active mixing desk or an active speaker system makes setting up much easier. There are fewer things to carry, fewer wires to connect (and to pack away at the end of the gig) and less chance of getting it wrong. The down side is that you can’t upgrade just one bit and if they do go wrong then you have lost the whole system, you can’t just substitute another speaker or amp. Your choices are:

Passive mixer Amplifier - Passive speakers

Active mixer - Passive speakers

Passive mixer - Active speakers

The first system is the most flexible, you can upgrade any part without having to worry too much about the rest and substituting one part in case of problems is simple too. You’ll have more boxes to carry and more wires to trip over though. Using an active mixer is the simplest system, plug in the mixer and run the speaker leads and you are away. Active speakers are becoming very popular. If one goes wrong then you can still use the other. Each speaker needs to be plugged into the mains however as well as having a lead from the desk. The big advantage is that with the amps in the speaker they can be perfectly matched to the speakers and all the protection and crossover components are built in. Some active speakers even have computerised feedback control built in and some will even adjust to room acoustics.
To be honest if you don’t want to think too hard about your PA and just want to concentrate on the music go for a passive mixer and active speakers. If you know you are a techno-geek and will want to constantly tinker and upgrade go for the separate amp. If you do go for the simple active mixer make sure the amps are powerful enough for your ultimate needs, a lot of them are only 150W or so into 8ohms and so won’t be loud enough if your band really rocks.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 5, 2013,
#4
Microphones

I’m sorry to break this to you on Ultimate Guitar but in most bands the guitarist isn’t as important to the audience as the singer. So the best thing you can do to make your band sound good is to start with a decent mic’. Fortunately you can buy the microphone equivalent of an American Standard Strat (the Shure SM58) for under £100. Now the SM58 doesn’t suit everybody and you can probably buy better sounding stuff cheaper if you look at less famous makers but £100 for a quality mic’ is a steal. A singer/guitarist playing a Squier and singing through a Shure is going to sound a lot better than one playing a USA Fender and singing through a cheap mic.

First some things you’ll need to know. The mic’s you use on stage will be either dynamic mic’s or condensers. Dynamics work like a speaker in reverse and have a coil fixed to a membrane (the diaphragm) which picks up the sound vibration, condensers have two thin membranes with a charge which changes as the front membrane vibrates. Because of the weight of the coil the dynamic mics are less sensitive to subtle sound variations than condensers which generally sound more lifelike. Because the diaphragm is stronger the dynamic mic’s are tougher than condensers, The SM58 is a dynamic and is used by top bands all around the world and it is often said you can bang nails in with them, one reason why they are so popular with touring bands (the toughness, not the nail thing, please don’t try that)

Condenser mic’s need a power supply to create the charge, in cheap mic’s (back electrets) this is provided by a built in battery in proper mics this is provided from the mixer through the mic lead (phantom power) if your mixer doesn’t offer phantom power you will need to buy an extra pre amp to use these mics. If you are at all rough with gear buy a dynamic mic.

The next choice you have to make is whether to go for a balanced mic or an unbalanced mic’. Go for balanced, every time. Don’t even think about it. Balanced mic’s have three pin plugs, almost always XLR’s. Effectively they are humbuckers where any noise picked up in one cable is cancelled by the same thing picked up in the opposite cable, the third wire is earth. Use an unbalanced mic and you will pick up every buzzing light, thermostat, mobile phone and police radio in the vicinity. It won’t add to your performance unless you are really boring. The only time to use an unbalanced mic is if your mixer/amp doesn’t have XLR inputs. Even then buy a balanced mic and use an XLR to jack lead until you buy a better amp. If it is cheap and only has a jack plug it isn’t worth buying.


The last thing is the ‘pattern’ of the mic’. Omnidirectional mic’s pick up from every direction equally and are no good for stage work. Unidirectional mic’s pick up best from the direction they are pointing. They come in grades: Cardioids like the SM58 pick up best from the front, a little from the sides and have a dead spot directly from behind. Super Cardioids are less sensitive at the sides at the expense of slight sensitivity from behind (insert joke here) . Hyper cardioids have a narrower pickup pattern at the expense of even greater rear sensitivity (insert better joke). Don’t worry about this when buying but place your monitors behind a cardioid and slightly behind and to the side of a Super cardioid to avoid feedback.

Alternatives to the SM58

Ok I’m going to be controversial here, only buy the SM58 if rugged is your biggest criterion. There’s much better for your money. The Electrovoice ND767a, AKG D5, Sennheiser E845 and probably others I haven’t tried are all better sounding, well made mic’s at the same price or less, if you want a Shure then the Beta58 is really the one to go for though you pay a bit extra for the name £130 in the UK. The other mic you’ll see is the ShureSM57 which uses the same innards as the SM58 but with a different case and without the 58’s pop shield. It is designed to be used further from the thing it is miking than the 58 and is used to mic instruments. Some female vocalists use the 57 in preference to the 58.

If you are totally skint (google that) then I’ve tried a couple of cheapies that are OK. The Behringer XM8500 and Samson Q7 look very like the SM58, Probably not coincidence. If anything they are slightly clearer sounding than the 58, not so different that an audience would notice. They both come in a tough case but the internal wiring of the Behringer leaves a bit to be desired, I resoldered mine. The Q7 sounds great, rather like the SM57 but is a little more prone to feedback if your vocalist is on the quiet side. there may be plenty of other good SM58 a'likes that are good but I'll only recommend stuff I've tried.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 5, 2013,
#5
Mixing Desks

If you aren’t used to the tech then mixing desks can look pretty scary, a mass of knobs and switches with dozens of wrong places to plug stuff in. Fear not, they are basically simple in what they do and you can build up slowly in how many of their facilities you use.
The simplest of all mixers just have a volume control for each mic’ or instrument you plug in, perhaps some tone controls, and a master volume to control the... volume! Fundamentally that’s all mixers do, make sure you can turn down one instrument and another up without affecting the rest. Even the biggest studio mixer you ever see is at heart a volume control for each input and a master section for controlling the outputs. Usually you get tone controls and effects for each input which are lined up in ‘strips’ on the left of the mixer and a master section on the right. http://www.peavey.com/products/index.cfm/item/701/116919/XR%26nbsp%3B1212


The Strips

Look something like this http://www.livesystems.co.uk/Images/chan_strip2.jpg At the bottom is the slider, just a volume control, above this there is a mute switch to switch off mic’s not in use. Next up is the pan which can move the mic from the left speaker to the right. Above this are the auxillary sends which send the mic to any extras you want to use. You may only have one or two of these, this is a posh mixer with six. The yellow controls are for effects like echo and are connected to the slider volume setting (called post fade). The green ones are for monitors and aren’t affected by anything you do to the slider (pre-fade) the blue ones are switchable so you can use them for either extra effects or monitors. Next you have tone controls, no explanation needed. At the top you have a gain control (labelled pre amp here) This controls the volume going to the fader and is to compensate for particularly weak or hot mic/instrument outputs. You may also have a switch for removing deep bass (rumble, hum and handling noise) from the signal. Use it for everything except bass and keys. Above the strip you will have three sockets. An XLR mic socket, a jack for line inputs and a stereo jack for inserting an effect into this one channel only (confusingly Inst means insert not instrument) For a beginner you can set all the tone controls and the pan to 12 o’clock. The sends to 0 (off) The slider to two thirds and the gain to give the sound you need and you are away. More about mixing later though.

The Master Section

This will have two big sliders for the master volume and all the output sockets. It usually has a graphic equaliser or some sort of tone controls and often nowadays some sort of digital echo. It will probably also have some sort of monitoring, a meter and probably a headphone output switchable between the individual inputs and the master output. If you have lots of sends on the strips then there will be individual master volume controls for each send.

Buying tips

You don’t need to go for a big scary mixer to get a great sound. A great sound is more about using good mic’s and speakers and getting the controls set right. You are more likely to do this if you keep it simple. The big mixers just give you more options and flexibility. A mixer like the Peavey PVi 8 http://www.peavey.com/products/index.cfm/item/700/116558/PVi%26nbsp%3B8B will let you do most things and though it lacks a little power you could add extra amps. The XR 8300 isn’t much more complex and is stereo and more powerful http://www.peavey.com/products/index.cfm/item/701/116540/XR%26nbsp%3B8300 and we use a cheapo Chinese version of the XR 1212 for most of our gigs http://www.peavey.com/products/index.cfm/item/701/116919/XR%26nbsp%3B1212 . I’m not recommending Peavey over others by the way, It’s good stuff and reliable but so are others. I use a Yamaha mixer for bigger gigs and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at Mackie, Allen and Heath etc etc. I even used a Behringer Xenyx mixer without problems for years!!!

Look for at least two more mic channels than you think you need, and at least one channel for each instrument and one for each mic plus a couple of spares. You will want these extra channels sooner than you think. Beware the advertising hype which counts a single stereo inputs as two inputs or even four if there are phono sockets. If there are only 8 faders then the mixer is only 8 channels.
The next thing to look at is the number of sends, you’ll really need at least two, one for effects (echo/reverb on a simple mixer) and a send for monitors, so one pre-fade and one post fade. More than this means you can add in other effects or send band members different monitor mixes, switchable sends are most useful and pre-fade better than post fade.

A graphic is really useful, the more sliders the better. It lets you adjust for different room acoustics but it also lets you attack feedback without destroying your overall sound. Some mixers will even do the feedback destruction automatically, a great innovation. Other things worth having are built in echo and compression though you get better quality by having these as outboard effects.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 5, 2013,
#6
Amplifiers

The good news is that PA amps are real bargains and pretty reliable bits of kit. I’ve been running Behringers for years without a single hiccup and I can’t remember the last time I had to repair a PA amp. Even something as cheap as chips sounds pretty much as good as any hi-fi amp bar a bit of noise and hum so you don’t need to worry about sound quality, the amp is going to sound way better than the mic’s or speakers you are using.

So what do you need to look out for when buying a PA amp? The first issue is power, enough to sound good, not enough to blow your speakers, then extras like operating into low impedances, built in subwoofer outputs/crossovers, bridge operation, adequate power supplies and weight.

Power

Amps are rated differently to speakers http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/gear_maintenance/matching_speakers_to_amps.html so there is a little more to it than simply matching a 500W amp to a 500W speaker. Amps are rated at the power they will give before they start to distort, speakers by how much power they can take before they overheat. For your guitar you may want lots of lovely distortion so you may be drawing more power from the amp than its rating so you need a well rated speaker. For PA you never want your amp to distort, the power is only for the peaks and most of the music is a tiny fraction of the peaks so you normally have an amp which is over-rated for the speaker and run it gently to avoid those distortions of the peaks. It’s fine to have a 500W PA amp with a 250W speaker because so long as the overload light stays off you will never overheat your speaker but your sound will be cleaner.

Watts are ‘RMS’ watts here, ignore any power rating that says ‘peak’ or ‘music power’ as this is pretty much meaningless, it’s like giving a car's maximum speed as 250mph because that’s what it does when you drop it over a cliff. Look in the manuals where the real data can be found. My “2500 Watt” Behringer gives 450W into my 8 ohm PA speakers and a bit more into 4ohm speakers and my Peavey “1600W” amp gives nearly exactly the same. Both manufacturers give perfectly accurate data in their manuals, it would make it easier for everyone if their advertising was as honest as the manual.

So go for an amp that will give at least your speakers rated power and possibly double the rated power to keep the peaks nice and clean. Make sure these are real RMS watts and that you’ll get them into the 8ohms most PA speakers run at. 250W a channel into 8ohms will be enough for most small to medium venues and 500W will cover most gigs you are likely to do with your own PA. By the time you need more than 500W a side you’ll be able to pay someone else to worry about all this. You’ll get away with less if you play folk music or if you are only putting vocals through the PA.


Other things to look out for

Crossovers/bridging/DSP these are all useful extras you might get with an amp.
The most common crossover is a simple low frequency output to a sub which will also filter out some bass to your mains allowing them to handle a bit more volume. This is always switchable, obviously if you haven’t got subs this isn’t very useful but it will make upgrading cheaper.

Bridging is a way of connecting a speaker across both amps and doubling the power (sometimes more) basically you can use a 500W per channel amp as a single 1000W amp. This is useful if you want to upgrade the power because if you have a bridging amp you simply have to buy a second amp which you can leave at home for smaller gigs. Most amps will do this and most of us never need to use bridging.

DSP is simply digital signal processing where a built in computer does some of the setting up for you. At the simplest it will simply manage your amp so you can’t overload it and drive it into distortion or damage amp or speakers. Many DSP’s alter the bass/treble as you turn the amp up to optimise the sound and some have the ability to plug in a mic so they can measure the frequency response and adjust it to suit the room acoustics and speakers you are using.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 5, 2013,
#7
Speakers.

Speakers for PA have reached a stage where the design is pretty well worked out, so they all look pretty similar. Nearly all PA speakers are two way designs with a bass speaker and a horn built into a compact box designed to go onto a tripod stand. The bass speaker will usually be 10,12 or 15” and the horns driven by a 1,1.5,1.75 or 2”driver. There is some overlap but generally a 10” speaker will give clearer vocals but won’t be as loud or as bass rich as a 15. This means if you are an acoustic act or only putting vocals through the PA then a 10 or 12” speaker will be first choice but a rock band might want to look at either a 15 or buying a bass bin to go with their 10 or 12. Most of the vocals and the detail in the guitars will be produced by the horns however so this will make a huge difference to the sound. Avoid anything with a piezo horn, these are dirt cheap and although piezos could be made that worked well I haven’t heard any for a very long time. Having cheerfully recommended Peavey for everything else I really don’t like their horn drivers so I wouldn’t currently recommend Peavey PA speakers. I use Yamahas but Mackie, EV, JBL, Martin, RCF dB and many others make great speakers too.

Buying Guide

If you buy from a respected manufacturer then the design should be well thought out, try to get to hear them if you can, look to see what other local bands are using and see if they get a good sound. The cheaper speakers will compromise on two things because the big magnets needed to avoid problems are expensive. Either they won’t be as loud as a top rated speaker or they won’t handle bass as well or they will lose a bit of both. There’s more detail in this article http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/gear_maintenance/a_guide_to_live_sound_speakers_and_amps.html Ideally look at the speakers maximum output in dBs (which is actually how loud they are) rather than the wattage rating but beware because some manufacturers 'cheat' by either giving the output at ‘peak’ power or by adding the output from a pair of speakers, it’s all in the article.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 5, 2013,
#8
Monitors

Your onstage sound is more important than your PA. No, it really is! If what you are doing onstage is wrong then making it louder for the audience only tells them you don’t know what you are doing. If you can’t hear your guitar you can’t play properly, if you can’t hear your voice you won’t sing in tune and if you can’t hear each other you can’t play tight.
The first time you play live you are going to be disappointed with how you sound. The reality is that it is often pretty difficult to hear just what is going on when you play live. The physical problems of stage acoustics are against you. It’s hard to hear details in a really loud environment and if you are one side of the drumkit and your other guitarist is the other side then you don’t hear much of each other. To fill in the blanks you need to have decent monitors.
The first job for the monitors is to let the singers hear their own voices. It is incredibly noisy in most band environments and you can’t hear an unaided human voice. If a singer can’t hear their voice they will sing out of tune and, however good the musicians are the band will sound like s**t.

Wedges or In Ear Monitors.

You have a choice between having some speakers pointing back at the band or monitoring with in ear headphones. The advantage of IEM’s is that they cut off the onstage sound so you only hear the mix you want. Singers undoubtedly sing better with IEM’s and because there is no extra sound onstage from the IEM’s feedback isn’t really an issue. There are minuses though: they are fearsomely expensive for a whole band and you ideally need a more complex mixer with a monitor channel for each IEM. Wearing headphones onstage also can lead you to feel a little cut off from the audience and the rest of the band, it suits some people and not others. Some people just use one ear bud to try and get the best of both worlds.
Most of you will opt for speakers as monitors. Any speaker with a flat, full range sound will do the job though so by all means use ordinary PA speakers so long as you can tilt them back to point straight at you. It can be a great way of using an old PA when you upgrade. If you are buying new think seriously about getting active monitors, with the amps built in. It cuts down on the onstage clutter, is quicker to set up and you have the volume control right in front of you when you are playing, saving a visit the mixer.

Volume Wars.

Think about what you want when you are playing. You need to hear all the rest of the band but you also need to hear yourself clearly so you need to be louder than the rest of the band. The trouble is you are more or less sharing the same space so you can’t all be the loudest. It’s a bit like having a special p***ing corner in a swimming pool, it just doesn’t work. The almost overwhelming temptation when you can’t hear yourselves is to turn up. Immediately the person next to you can’t hear themselves so they turn up, then the rest of the band turn up, the drummer starts hitting everything harder and every amp ends up at eleven. You have fought a volume war.
Picking yourself out of a mix is a skill and you can learn with practice.
The main thing though is not to start a volume war. Keep the onstage volume down as low as you can. If you play acoustically it is easy to hear everything but as things get louder muscles in your middle ear contract and limit what you hear to protect the fragile inner ear. The louder it gets the less discriminating your hearing is. If you can’t hear, stop the song (at practice obviously) then talk to each other. Who is the loudest, get them to turn down or better still all turn down. Then use tiny tweaks to optimise what you are all hearing. Before a gig always try to practice lined up as you would be on stage, get your backline and monitors balanced and make a note of the settings, then use these at the gig.
Big stages make it easier because you can move around more just move towards your own amp if you need to hear that and the monitors if you need more vocals, Oh, buy an amp stand so you can point your amp at your ears, and not at your knees.

Buying Guide

If you have a small PA that you use in the practice room or you find some good second hand PA speakers they will often do as a monitor system. The only problem is tilting them back far enough to point at your ears. You could buy a couple of cheap tilt back stands. In the end proper wedges are so much easier, I speak from experience. Actives are easier than passives and by the time you buy an amp they cost about the same so if you are buying new go for actives. Some actives allow you to connect a second passive speaker which works out cheaper. Unless you are putting bass through the monitors they don’t need to be huge and a 10 or 12” monitor will be quite enough I have 15’s because I got them cheap and they can be a real pain on a small stage. Because you only have to reach the back of your playing area and not the back of the audience monitors don’t need to go loud so 1-200W is usually plenty of power and you can get away with cheapo speakers so long as they sound good. Avoid for monitors with Piezo horns though, they always seem to cause feedback problems.


If you have time go and have a look at the section on monitoring http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/the_guide_to/the_guide_to_pa_part_three_-_monitors.html or at http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/junkyard/sound_good_in_the_rehearsal_room.html
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 18, 2013,
#9
Setting up

It’s a great idea to always set up in the same way so long as your stage area allows it. Once you have a great sound start with that and tweak it rather than trying to reinvent the wheel at every gig. With the backline, put the amps and drums in the same relative positions each time and try to get agreement to set the volume on each instrument at the same level. Once you have the mix set up how you like it make a note of all the levels and you should be able to get that sound back at will. Always work methodically checking as you go. This is the order I do things in.

Line Check

I start by connecting up the speakers, amp and mixer including the monitors. I check them by putting an iPod through the desk and turning it on low whist I check the main speakers and then monitors are all working as they should. Then I turn the mains right down so I do the rest of line checking through the monitors and the audience don’t have to listen to me one-two’ing.
Next I connect up all the vocal mic’s and check each one is working. (always carry spare mic leads) I’m not worried about volume or tone at this stage. Now connect all the instrument feeds from their DI’s or miked cabs. Get them to play a few seconds of stuff to check these are working and sound as they should.
That’s it, lines checked.


Level Check

You will probably have three ‘volume’ controls on each strip and a collection of tone and effect controls and these need to be set next. Unless you are using settings that you know worked before then start with all the tone controls set flat. Now you need to work on one mic or instrument at a time. Turn the monitors down and check the mains are off or you will drive the audience nuts with noise and feedback.
First set the gain controls. These adjust because different mic’s and amps/DI’s vary in their output. Some are quite quiet and need lots of gain and others are ‘hot’. For low noise it is best if the faders are high and the master volume turned down. Each channel may have a red overload light or there may be a switch system which allows you to connect each channel one at a time to a level meter on the mixer, if not you will have to monitor for overload with with your ears. It’s great to monitor with headphones at this stage if your mixer allows it. I put my channel slider at about ¾ (it is marked as 0dB on my mixer) and turn up the gain until the red overload LED just flickers and then ease it back a bit. If I’m using the level meter I adjust it for 0dB (orange but no reds on mine) Now I know I have the full range of volume available but can’t overload the channel accidentally. Turn the slider down and repeat for each channel. If you use the same channel with the same mic each time you only need to do this once and then make a note of the settings.
Now set the tone controls if you need to. Use tone sparingly, frankly if you need to go past 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock something is wrong. If you have too little bass it is often better to turn down treble or mids rather than bass boost (and vice versa). Dial in any echo or other effects.
If you have a high pass filter/bass filter then use it on all your vocal mic’s and everything else except the bass and kick drum mic. It won’t affect the sound but will cut a lot of handling noise hum and general bass smearing.

Monitor Mix

Now turn up your monitors a little and your monitor send on the lead vocalists mic up to ¾. Your mains should be off at this stage. Get them to sing something and adjust the level until they are happy with their monitor feed. Then add in the other mics one at a time with the backing vocals just below the level of the main vocalist. I prefer to stop here but sometimes add monitoring for any keys or acoustic guitar. Obviously if you have more than one aux channel you can have more than one monitor mix but I’ll leave that for now. Set the monitor’s master volume so the vocals are loud enough to be heard over the instruments. If you get feedback you know it is on the monitors so turn these down. If the vocals are now too quiet turn the instruments down, no other alternative works!

Main Mix

Now you are ready for the actual soundcheck, if you’ve worked methodically then you know all the mics are working and that when you turn the mains up sound is going to come out. Up to now there shouldn’t have been any deafening feedback or endless one-twos coming from stage so you are looking pretty professional. Turn up the lead singers mic to ¾ and the rest up to just below that (or use the settings you worked out at the last gig) edge the main fader up until you think the vocal level will roughly match the instruments.
Get the band to play 30 secs of a song you’ve chosen beforehand. Choose something they all play loud in and that no-one drops out of. If you have multipart harmonies then I usually start with some acapella singing and do the vocal mix first then go for the band mix.
Ask the band if they can all hear themselves and if the on stage mix is good. Get people to tweak their instrument amps if they need to. Remember it is usually better to get people to turn down the loudest instrument rather than to turn up the quietest one because that starts a volume war. If they can’t hear the vocals then turn the monitor mains up rather than adjust the monitor balance. We each tend to want to be slightly louder than the rest of the band to help us hear ourselves but as we all share the same space this is never going to happen. You may have to remind them of this at every gig . Because the drums don’t have a volume control you usually end up mixing to their level and a drummer who can control their volume is just the best thing ever.
Tweak any glaring problems with the front of stage mix and ask the band to go again, probably for longer this time, making smaller and smaller adjustments to the mix until you are happy with the sound levels. Now tweak up the master graphic/tone controls if you have them to match the whole set up to the room acoustics, then make any final minor tweaks to tone controls on individual channels.
If you don’t have a designated sound engineer this is it, if you have someone who can actively mix as you go along then they can mix the front of house as they go but few start up bands have that luxury.


http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/the_guide_to/the_guide_to_pa__part_two_-_setting_up_and_soundchecking.html
Last edited by Phil Starr at Feb 6, 2014,
#11
nice. i look forward to reading the 2nd half later. a wealth of information here.
punk isn't dead, it's always smelled that way.

"A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem."
-ae
#12
Woo! Thanks so much for this thread Phil Starr. About a year ago, my band bought our entire setup. Your articles helped us reach a decision and we have no regrets. We paid a little more than we planned, but got more than we dreamed of.
#13
That's great, sadly it is not just PA systems that cost more than you expect. I really have to sell some of the stuff I no longer use!
#14
Yeah. So question...How much "hiss" is too much through the speakers? Like is it normal? I've heard that it was okay and was caused by the electronics. But, at times I wonder if maybe I have something improperly set on either our mixer or power amp.
#15
Hiss is generated in all electronic components, ultimately it is due to the random movement of molecules so you can't eliminate it entirely. the problem comes when you have very high gain as it amplifies these tiny sounds. The trick is to have the gain set as low as possible whilst still giving you a loud enough sound.

Mainly this applies to mixers. In any moderate mixer you usually have a slider for each input and at the top of the strip a gain control. The ideal is to have the slider operating at the top end of its range (about 3/4 the way up is good because it allows you to turn up during the gig, sometimes this position is actually marked on the mixer). Adjust the gain control then to just give you the right volume at the PA, avoiding clipping if you have an indicator light on each channel of course.

This means the gain is set as low as you can get away with so the noise is amplified as little as possible. The signal to noise ratio is optimised. Equally I'd have the master volume on the mixers output high and the volume controls on the amp low if the amp is noisy.

I find a lot of effects are quite noisy so switch them off unless you are using them for a particular song and obviously mute any channels you are not using.

By and large however the hiss is going to be completely drowned out once you start playing and can't usually be heard over the normal audience chatter. I'd expect the noise to be no louder than that from the average guitar amp.

Hope this helps
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 19, 2013,
#16
Hi Phil awesome thread.

How do you use an eq to fight feedback? I know thats how its meant to be done but cant seem to be able to find the appropriate frequency fast enough. If its just practice, are there ways to practice in a controlled setting? (Ie not at a gig).
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#17
I think you've asked the most difficult question in PA. Unfortunately it isn't always down to eq and there is no simple answer which fits every situation. I left a section for the bits I forgot so this may be the first thing to go in.

First of all you are right to look at a controlled setting, we were getting a feedback problem that was driving me nuts. It turns out to be one mic which is an SM58 bought on ebay. I'm pretty shure its a knock-off.

In a rehearsal (or a soundcheck without an audience) turn up the master volume till the feedback occurs. Back off until you reach the point where it is just starting to ring. Then edge up each mic in turn, usually one source sets off feedback before the others, be aware that though it is usually a mic I have had DI'd guitar amps setting off feedback. It's always better to deal with the one mic and not the master eq. Listen to the sound of the feedback and this should give you an idea of the frequency. usually its the treble that needs reducing but it may be mids and if these are sweepable then you may find the frequency sweet spot where you reduce feedback without having to dial back too much. Keep a note of what works best for that mic.

If all or several of your mics are on the point of howlround then you can look at the master graphic if you have one. This is a better way of controlling feedback in some ways as each control individually affects a far narrower frequency band than simple bass and treble controls so they distort the sound less. Again on the cusp of feedback drop down the sliders one at a time to locate the frequency which is most troublesome.

You almost always find that only one or two bits of gear are triggering 90% of your feedback problems and once you identify them you can find the solution fairly quickly. If I'm mixing only it isn't usually a big deal, if I'm playing and mixing it's too difficult to be in two places at once and I usually end up just easing the master volume back until the break, which isn't very helpful advice I realise.

What you need is a notch filter which will just remove the problem frequency without affecting the others. Fortunately computer controlled notch filters are becoming affordable as feedback destroyers so well worth looking out for if it is a perennial problem.
Last edited by Phil Starr at Mar 19, 2013,
#18
I've got a bit of a live sound conundrum.
I set up a show at my university's bar. I've played open mic nights there, and I've seen a show or two there over the past few years. So once it's all set up, I'm shocked to learn that their sound system is barely set up.
There's a decent mixer - 16 channels. And the speakers for front of the house are great - clear and loud. But they have no monitoring system, and no mics.

With the other 3 bands on the bill, we cobbled together what we think should be enough. Here's what we have to work with.
All bands are sharing two guitar amps, a bass amp and a drum kit - it's a small, fairly informal, free show, so we don't want to deal with the hassle of each band tearing down their gear so the next can set up.
Two floor monitors.
A kit of drum mics - snare, kick, and two overheads.
Three vocal mics and two other mics that the band normally uses for vocals, but we'll be putting on the guitar amps.
And the bass amp has a DI, or we could get a bass amp mic.

My questions are:
How would you set up the two floor monitors? I figure one for the vocalists, one for the drummers, and bassists and guitarists will just have to make do.
How would you set up the bassists? Mic it or DI?
Any general advice for getting a good mix for the house? The sound guy is just the bar's DJ, so I probably know more about live sound than he does, and I haven't done a live mix in about 5 years, so needless to say, I'm bloody rusty.
And same question, but for the two floor monitors.
#19
Hi Koslack, beware this is how I started. I ended up managing stages at festivals and answering questions here.

I'd keep it simple, just because you have gear you don't need to use it all. As a bassist I'll start there.

How good are the PA speakers, will they handle bass? If the bass units are less than 15" and there are no subs then they won't, so keep bass away from them. If you think they'll handle it then DI bass, it's one less mic to feedback(howlround) and unless you have time to keep trying mic positions it will sound better.

Monitors, I'd just use them as vocal monitors facing back so all the band can hear the vocals. Where you put them depends upon the mics you use, if they are cardioids like SM58's they go straight behind the mic if they are super-cardioids they go behind at a 45degree angle. If you don't do this you may get feedback problems.

I'd avoid mic'ing the drums or I'd just mic the kick if the PA is man enough. When I do mic drums it doubles the work needed and the opportunity for things to go wrong. I try to use a separate drum mixer or feed the drums to a submix on the desk so I can use a single fader to set their levels. However unless the bar is huge (300+) the drummer should be loud enough.

One last tip occurs to me, if you have a collection of mics try and use ones which match if they are decent quality, it simplifies the eq and will reduce your feedback problems as they will share the same frequency peaks.

I've given some ideas on setting up and sounchecking if you use the link above. Any specific problems come back to me.

Good luck
#20
wow this thread is insanely helpful. I am going to use this information for when I start playing at gigs!
#21
If you notice any links aren't working let me know and |'ll fix them UG are moving things around so the links are likely to break when the columns are moved.

Thanks
#23
^^^ Cheers mate.

I'm going to sticky this thread.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#24
Thanks Alan, I'll try and keep it up to date.

Any other PA experts are welcome to share their advice by the way.
#25
Hey Phil;

Looking at playing medium-sized venues (200-ish people). According to your advice above, my initial "gut feel" of 400W/side seems about right. We're looking at running the mains off one side and three monitors in series off the other side.

We'd *like* to run everything through as much as possible - 1 guitar, bass, kick, snare, 3 vocal mics, whatever else we can squeeze through - not because we want to be deafeningly loud, but to disperse the sound more evenly throughout the room.

First question: would that power rating be in the ballpark of what we're looking for? Or could we get away with less... 300 or 250W?

Second question: I know that, the more you run through a PA (especially once you start running bass and drums), the more stuff competes with the vocals and therefore the more power you need. My perception is also that, the smaller the speakers, the more likely the sound is to smear between the higher and lower frequencies as they all try to hammer through, say, a pair of 12" speakers.

So, what would you suggest for speakers, with (for instance) a power amp that runs 400W/side?

Thanks!

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#26
Hi Chris,
looks like you are playing the sort of venues we play and I find my Peavey IPR1600 perfectly adequate (500W into 4ohms and 350ish into 8ohms which is what we have) Because the loudness of an amp is logarythmic increasing the power from 300W to 400W only gives just over a dB of extra sound so don't worry about 'small' differences in power. You really need to double amp power to get a really noticeable increase in capability. But, yes, this sounds about right

You are spot on about putting everything through the PA sounding better for the audience. The problem is bass and kick, possibly the floor toms. All of these have appreciable bass content which needs more power from the amp and more excursion from the speakers to work. I think the speakers are more likely to be a problem than the amp. With high power bass the speaker coils move right out of the magnets and the speakers will distort the sound. All of the sound, not just the bass.

If you are only going to put vocals/guitars through the PA 12" PA speakers will be perfectly adequate. If you are going to put just a little bass through you might get away with 15" speakers but I'd really look to using bass bins(subs) if you are putting everything through the PA. If transport is a problem you can get away with a single bass bin. If funds are tight then you can manage your way through this by buying good quality main speakers and a budget active sub. Our ears are less sensitive to bass so the sub is less critical and the active sub will have a volume control so you can match the volumes easily enough.

What sort of music do you play? that makes a difference.
#27
Hey, Phil... thanks for your detailed response. Glad to know I'm on the right track.

We're a cover band that does everything from Stevie Wonder to My Darkest Days, and from Gretchen Wilson to Van Halen, and P!nk to AC/DC.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#28
Have you any idea of brands you'd look at yet? I use the Yamaha Club series (S112's and S118 subs) but I heard a band using JBL's the other day and they sounded great. Not sure what you can get out there, I'd guess European speakers might have a bit of a mark up. I wouldn't go for Peavey tops though. Not until they start making a good quality horn driver. The Black Widow bass drivers are excellent though so their subs are OK.
#29
Hard to rule out Behringer, just based on price, but ideally, I believe a step up would be gained by going with some of the brands I've worked with in the past, whose gear I have come to have a good deal of respect for:

-Yorkville
-EV
-Yamaha

Probably going to buy used, though, so might be at the mercy of what happens to be out there.

Anything in particular you'd recommend, or suggest to avoid?

Thanks!

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#30
Out of interest Phil and Chris, why are you opting for passive speakers?
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#31
I'm not really, Chris started off with a question about amplifier power, I took it from there. I've tried to address the advantages and disadvantages of active v passive in the original entries and in more detail in the column articles. Actives are really convenient and don't need any expertise to match speakers and amps. For plug and play I'd go for a passive desk and active speakers every time but I like playing with different setups (bit sad after 40 years) so I go for separates.

It is certainly something for Chris to think about.
#32
No worries. I just couldn't wrap my head around all the technical specs so opted for powered speakers all around. I like them alot.

Also beware Chris, once you go subs, you never go back.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#33
Quote by axemanchris
Hard to rule out Behringer, just based on price, but ideally, I believe a step up would be gained by going with some of the brands I've worked with in the past, whose gear I have come to have a good deal of respect for:

-Yorkville
-EV
-Yamaha

Probably going to buy used, though, so might be at the mercy of what happens to be out there.

Anything in particular you'd recommend, or suggest to avoid?

Thanks!

CT


Hi Chris,
I've had good experiences with Behringer mixers and amps. I've used Behringer EP series amps for 5 years without a hiccup. So have lots of others. Their speakers haven't been so good up to date but I haven't tried the new ones. It is hard to build a speaker to a low budget because there are substantial material costs involved. I'm not saying don't try them but I haven't heard any working well or tried any other than a bass cab (which sounded awful) so I won't recommend them.

Yorkville aren't really available in the UK so no comment.

I'm a Yamaha fan, the consistency across everything they do is a real credit to them. I've two Yammie mixers S112 tops and S118 subs and a Yammie Sax! The Yammie tops have what I think is a great horn driver which gives a bit of mid boost to the vocals that don't sound so good in the studio but really make vocals jump forward in a live venue.

I've also heard great sounds coming out of EV's and JBL's

Here's an article from a sadly defunct UK magazine you might find interesting.

http://www.performing-musician.com/pm/dec09/articles/pabuyersguide.htm

And here are the speakers they tested

http://www.performing-musician.com/pm/dec09/articles/pabuyersguide_reviews.htm
#34
Quote by axemanchris
Hard to rule out Behringer, just based on price, but ideally, I believe a step up would be gained by going with some of the brands I've worked with in the past, whose gear I have come to have a good deal of respect for:

-Yorkville
-EV
-Yamaha

Probably going to buy used, though, so might be at the mercy of what happens to be out there.

Anything in particular you'd recommend, or suggest to avoid?

Thanks!

CT

Some Behringer equipment is passable, but I would suggest giving their mixers a pass, most have distinct background noise. I have had decent experiences using their "D-Class" powered speakers as fold back monitors.

Yorkville passive and active speakers, especially the NX Series are a solid product for the price. I did find some weirdness at one show with a dead speaker and in the last minute panic fix found out it had an 1141 automotive signal light in the system, not something I carry in my tool box. It was an older speaker cab and this was a one time thing but it caught me off-guard, I have never seen it again in a Yorkville cab.

EVs are basically the cheapest drivers in the cheapest boxes available sold for the most money they can get. EV publishes parametric EQ settings so you can try and make them sound correct rather than designing them correctly in the first place. I was not impressed by their products.

I have no complaints about my Yamaha older generation Concert Club Series S112 and S115 for general PA use. I am also liking the analog MG24/14FX and MG32/14FX mixers even though the built in digital effects are kinda cheesy. All of my Yamaha equipment I have gotten for very little money through upgrade trade-ins (churches seem to be selling off old analogue mixers because the "volunteer" sound guys want to blow the next 10 years budget on double back flip digital boards), bankrupt bands/musicians and estate sales.

For amps, pretty much anything will work, but as Phil pointed out, beware the high number game. I actually use ART Pro Audio SLA-1 and SLA-2 power amps just because the local Long and McQuade has used ones cheap all the time. If you bridge a SLA-2 it is 560 watts RMS Mono. They are also only 1U in a rack but I suggest following proper rack spacing for ventilation around all power amps, they will overheat. ART is closely related to Yorkville as a company. For small rooms the SLA-2 used in stereo would probably be enough power through 8 ohm speakers. Other amps are QSC, Peavey, Crown and Yorkville that I have used and have had good results with.

Just to put this out there, I really have never used a Mackie product that I didn't like including mixers, powered mixers, amps and speakers.

I also use ART Graphic EQs as they are cheap and reliable and have a true by-pass so you don't have to do a speed rewiring of a rack if it craps out. I have also used Behringer, dbx and Peavey EQs with no complaints. I am using these examples as they are more reasonably priced, no reason to go into an Ashley or a Yamaha for a small venue system.

I also like the ART Tube Compressor units to smooth things out a bit. Compressors are often overlooked in small PA systems, but it makes a huge difference in they quality of sound.

If you experience feedback issues (I do a lot of stage sound for live theatre with several zones of mics) the fastest response for least amount if money is some of the Behringer equipment like the Feedback Destroyer Pro FBQ2496. I also run some old parametric EQs (like the Roland E-660) but these can be cumbersome if you don't have a full time sound guy.

My recommendations are always overkill as I subsidize my gear by renting it out (with operator) to other groups and events. This tends to make me cover myself for multiple situations.

People will also tell you the benefits of a digital board which covers off having to buy EQs, compressors, noise gates, six million busses, etc. I would suggest renting one or trying one out in a venue before making a purchasing decision. They are nice in a small studio or with a single performer/band but if you try to make changes to settings live or set up for a different show there are some drawbacks. I do like the feature where you can save the show settings and recall them again for use at a later date. One artist I worked for who played exclusively at small venues actually had each venue saved in the board so you could recall it the next time he played there. During a live show drilling down menus is a pita to change a setting. I have used everything from a PreSonus 24.4.2 to a Digico SD9 and they were nice and extremely versatile, but I also found myself mid show looking through the 110 page manuals on my iPad trying to find out how to use a feature. Maybe I am just too old to figure it out.
If I miss one day of practice, I notice it.
If I miss two days, the critics notice it.
If I miss three days, the audience notices it.

Ingacy Jan Paderewski (1860 - 1941)
#35
Hmmm.... thanks for the continued feedback. It's very helpful.

I simply never mentioned active speakers because I've only ever used passive systems. Any rehearsal space, or any time I've rented a PA, it has always been passive.

Not at all to suggest that I only want that because it's all I ever have and all I ever will use... just habit is a hard way of thinking to break.

Active speakers would mean less fuss and muss both in set up/tear down, and in storing stuff even too.

Now, just thinking....

Would I be correct in suggesting that, by going with active speakers, that would be fine for the mains, but I'd still need to get a separate power amp for a set of monitors?

And, going with active speakers, how easy is it to add a sub to a pair of them if desired? Is there just a plug in the back with an automatic crossover or something?

Thanks!

My personal experience with Behringer has been mostly favourable. I've owned a few of their things, and even still have some of them. I've recently just re-incorporated my X-Vamp back into my live rig for the FX loop. That said, it is a brand that I associate with, "Good to get you going, but expect to grow out of it eventually."

Quintex - surprised at your comments about EV. Keep in mind that I really haven't "followed" PA gear in probably about 20 years, but one of the speakers I was ever most impressed with was a pair of EV's. I couldn't believe how much sound - and good sound - came out of such a small pair of cabinets. Good to hear feedback on the ART stuff.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#36
^^^ I can comment on the powered speakers that I own.

1. Do I need a separate power amp for the foldbacks?

I have powered speakers for my foldbacks, so no. But if you had passive speakers for the foldbacks, yes you would. Pretty straightforward.

2. How easy is it to add a sub?

My subs are powered. Basically the mix goes into the input of the sub, and the sub output goes to the FOH. The FOH speakers have a switch on the back stating "with sub/full range" and you just choose whatever you want. Obviously the "with sub" setting cuts a lot of the lower frequencies from the FOH and boom you have the crossover.

That comes with certain provisos though. Firstly not all powered speakers come with the "with sub/full range" switch so a crossover would be required straight from the mix. Secondly my powered FOH and subs were designed to work with eachother so if I swapped in a sub of a different brand or model there may be some funky frequency stuff happening if I left them to their own accords, so a crossover would be "safe".

But I'm sure someone can explain how I'm wrong. I'm really still learning all this stuff.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#37
Welcome aboard Quintex,


The auto bulbs are used to protect the speakers, which you probably know. When the power gets above a certain level they heat and light up and their resistance increases reducing the power to the speakers and sometimes scaring the poor owner as his cab emanates a ghostly glow. Eminence use them in their crossovers and describe them as a 'fuse'. I'm also surprised at what you said about EV as i've had good experiences though I've noticed they have recently become more affordable which might be significant. The Behringer mixer I used wasn't too noisy for live work but I guess if you used it for recording that might be an issue. I'd agree about the Mackies too, over here they are pretty much a go to for people as powered tops. The RCF's sound wonderful too but are very pricey.

Just bought a Yamaha MG166 for my pub band to save size weight and improve the sound. Which it does. Really clean mic pre-amps on it.

Adding an active sub or two should be straightforward. Some have built in crossovers and all tops will be happy enough with 100-150Hz crossovers which is where most of them sit. The biggest problem matching speakers is sensitivity but as subs have their own amp this problem is avoided pretty much. If you have an external crossover then you can usually switch out anything internal. Obviously manufacturers want you to use their subs and it can save some fiddling but it isn't crucial, you just need to understand what your crossovers are doing to see if you can match two different brands.

I'd always go for active monitors if I have a choice. Being able to reach the volume control mid gig is a real advantage and they are right next to the power you are using on-stage so the extra mains lead isn't usually a problem.
#38
Quote by axemanchris
Hmmm.... thanks for the continued feedback. It's very helpful.

I simply never mentioned active speakers because I've only ever used passive systems. Any rehearsal space, or any time I've rented a PA, it has always been passive.

Not at all to suggest that I only want that because it's all I ever have and all I ever will use... just habit is a hard way of thinking to break.

Active speakers would mean less fuss and muss both in set up/tear down, and in storing stuff even too.

Now, just thinking....

Would I be correct in suggesting that, by going with active speakers, that would be fine for the mains, but I'd still need to get a separate power amp for a set of monitors?

And, going with active speakers, how easy is it to add a sub to a pair of them if desired? Is there just a plug in the back with an automatic crossover or something?

Thanks!

For smaller shows I use powered speakers for convenience and transport. I can haul gear for a show in my small hatchback rather than starting up one of the 18litre/100km gas pig vans. Two FoH, two monitors, small format board, 6U outboard gear rack (usually optional), couple of Furman EFI/RFI/Surge protectors, mic case, cable box and mic stands. In small venues I find subs tend to be over the top for a lot of genres. However, I use powered subs everywhere, it just saves me dedicating an amp. My larger format boards have adjustable low pass in mono for the subs which is convenient. For other applications Alan has got it pretty much covered in his post above.
Quote by axemanchris
My personal experience with Behringer has been mostly favourable. I've owned a few of their things, and even still have some of them. I've recently just re-incorporated my X-Vamp back into my live rig for the FX loop. That said, it is a brand that I associate with, "Good to get you going, but expect to grow out of it eventually."

Quote by Phil Starr
The Behringer mixer I used wasn't too noisy for live work but I guess if you used it for recording that might be an issue.

I actually have a lot of Behringer gear in inventory, but I steer away from using them in locations where the younger "artists" are renting them, then we pull out the stuff their heroes use. Brand name requirements fade as one gets old and fiscal responsibility and value for dollar takes over.

For lower volume shows you will see me with Behringer mixers where the noise is not very noticible. These would be in small pubs, lecture circuit and corporate gigs.
Quote by axemanchris
Quintex - surprised at your comments about EV. Keep in mind that I really haven't "followed" PA gear in probably about 20 years, but one of the speakers I was ever most impressed with was a pair of EV's. I couldn't believe how much sound - and good sound - came out of such a small pair of cabinets. Good to hear feedback on the ART stuff.

CT

Quote by Phil Starr
I'm also surprised at what you said about EV as i've had good experiences though I've noticed they have recently become more affordable which might be significant.

I am probably jaded against them. Everywhere there are EVs are generally high budget installs where the client is relying on a consultant or staff member to make the decisions. I see them in schools, municipal run art centres, churches, etc where the money people have no real idea what they should be paying. They have great sounding gear, but a lot of useless features like LCD VU meters and buttons that select "signal type" on powered units just add to the cost with no practical value. Almost all EV gear in my opinion can be replaced by a more cost effective solution. You don't need to buy a Porsche to go buy groceries, but damn you look good when you do..
If I miss one day of practice, I notice it.
If I miss two days, the critics notice it.
If I miss three days, the audience notices it.

Ingacy Jan Paderewski (1860 - 1941)
#39
Just thought I'd do an update on Mics. Our vocalist's husband bought her a mic for her birthday, she still doesn't know so, if you know me don't tell her.

Anyway he came to me for advice and I started doing lots of research, he also wanted to spend more than I'd ever dream of spending so a lot of the condenser mics designed for live work came into the reckoning.

I started off looking into dynamic mics though and came up with these. I'll start off by saying that we were looking for something at least one step up from an SM57 or 58

Audix OM5, OM7
Sennheiser E945
AKG D7
Shure Beta57
Electrovoice ND967

These are all top quality dynamics, if you want top feedback rejection then go for the OM7 or the Electrovoice mics, but be aware that you need to be right on top of the mics, like right up close, even touching the mics and no more than a finger away. They are nearly all supercardioids at this level so you also need to sing exactly in line with the mic and not into the side as you sometimes see people doing with cardioids like the SM58.

there's a really helpful video for this where Dave Rat does some good demos on vocal mics
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvUfXxalD7Q

I centred in on the Audix OM5 and the Beta57 because our vocalist won't get up close and personal with the mic, She doesn't always hold it straight and tends to adopt a three fingers distance which these two are more tolerant of.

It immediately became clear that we were looking for something even 'better' than these excellent fabulous bits of kit so we went to look at condensers. To cut a long story short I ended up recommending the Shure Beta 87, which comes in several variants the 87A which is super cardioid and the 87C which is cardioid. Have no doubts at all condensers are better sounding mics than dynamics, much more open and natural sounding. Every mistake is going to be heard, as is all your vocal loveliness! By repute condensers are more prone to feedback (they have better top response so this isn't a surprise) and are more fragile, though recent models are a lot more robust so the reputation for fragility isn't really so much of an issue. The Shure is used by hire companies and for touring all round the world so that's why I plumped for it, you want to recommend something reliable if it is someone else's money.

So what did he go for? The Shure KSM9, Shure's top condenser £450!! I notices that on many live video's people are using the Beta87 (£200ish) for top acts. This mic (KSN9) is so much better than our good quality Yamaha PA. The 87 would embarrass it enough, this thing is going to be great but we won't hear the best of it.

If I was a singer I'd probably go for the 87 though. The thought that for £200 I could have one of the best mic's in the world something equivalent to a custom shop Strat, well that is a bargain!

The only thing we did wrong? If you are buying, try the mic out, I got all sorts of recommendations and all of the dynamics I list are brilliant, the one to choose is the one that suits your voice and no-one can advise you that over the internet.

Our money is spent but i'd like to hear about your favourite mic, or ones that just don't work for you.
Last edited by Phil Starr at May 24, 2015,
#40
My band for a singing lead who plays guitar and a sing drummer and me who will sing and play bass all use the sennheiser e935's which are great microphones. They have great response and are a pretty hot mic which is great because I don't have to be straight on top on the mic to get good volume. I will often use our bands mics at a venue if their backline doesn't have decent mics.
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