Martin Audio CDD Speakers

For years, Martin Audio has been known as a quality product, a very good sounding product, and an expensive product. Now, when you do a fair comparison with other brands, they are really right in there, but you’re typically talking about the higher end of the market. They have not really had a lower market solution. Until now. 

Bring on the Small Boxes

We first heard the new CDD line at InfoComm, and I’ll tell you, I was not excited about going to another speaker demo. I expected to hear yet another small box that does pretty much the same thing as a dozen other small boxes. But then they fired them up. All our project leads were in the room, and we immediately started looking at each other saying, “Hey, these sound good!” 

Now, there are literally dozens of single 8, 10, 12 and 15” driver speakers on the market. Most employ a single large—8-15”—LF driver and some type of horn. The CDD is different in several ways. First, the design is coaxial. The HF driver is located right in the middle of the LF driver. I’ve always liked this approach as it greatly improves phase coherence. The longer I do sound, and the more I’ve talked with guys like Bob Heil, the more I appreciate how much phase matters. 

The other thing that is unique—well, perhaps not totally unique, but special—is the asymmetrical coverage pattern. By attaching some waveguides to the LF driver, they have figured out how to do two things. First, they have a wider pattern close to the box, and a tighter one further away. Up close, the horizontal coverage is 110°, while in the far field, it’s 70° (vertical is a constant 60°). Second, they’ve “squared off” the coverage pattern (our rep’s words). And indeed, when we model it, the boxes do a better job of getting into the corners of the room without splashing all over the walls. And did I mention, they sound good?

The Shootout

At CCI, we’ve been using the Nexo PS10 for many of our small systems for quite a while. It’s a good-sounding box with a similar asymmetric pattern, which is useful for the longer, narrow rooms we find ourselves doing. So we wondered, how does the CDD compare? Last week, we hung a PS10 with an RS15 sub on the ground next to a CDD10 with a single 12” CDD sub and fired up the tracks. 

The difference was immediately apparent. Now, this is not to say that the Nexo box sounded bad, but it was quite a bit different. I’ve always felt the Nexo products have quite a bit of bite to them, and whenever I tune a Nexo system, I’m always taking out 2-3KHz to soften them up. The downside of that is a slight reduction in clarity. But I have made them sound quite good.

The Martin’s on the other hand, sounded pretty much like I would want them to with no EQ. When we turned them up, both got loud, but the Martin stayed smooth while the Nexo started to sting a bit. Now, I admit I’m an old guy, and I much prefer a hi-fi sound to the edgy, aggressive PA’s that a lot of younger guys seem to prefer. So, like many things, it comes down to what you’re after.

Aggressive Price, Not Sound

Like I said, the CDD line is not an aggressive, in-your-face, slap-your-momma kind of box. It just sounds really good. It is however priced very aggressively. Because the CDD doesn’t require special amps or processing, and because the speakers themselves are quite a bit less expensive than the Nexo boxes, total system cost can be significantly less expensive than Nexo. 

The mains are all flyable and the subs can be ordered in flyable and non-flyable versions. The line is expansive enough that you could cover just about any venue up to 400-500 seats pretty effectively with this line, and do it at a very reasonable price. You could also do ancillary rooms like kids and student venues with the same line and achieve consistent sound quality all over the church. 

Ultimately, I really liked them and have them spec’d into a job I’m installing in the fall. Once I commission them, I’ll be back with a full report on how they sound installed as a system. But I’m pretty sure both I and the church will be happy with them.

Check out the whole line at Martin Audio’s website.

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

When Cheaper is Not Less Expensive

Photo courtesy of Tim Parkinson

Photo courtesy of Tim Parkinson

Now that much of my time is spent developing AVL budgets for churches, I’ve spent a lot of time considering what constitutes a good value. One of the things I’ve noticed for a long time is that many churches shop based on price only. They may be comparing two pieces of equipment that do similar things and choose the least expensive. Sometimes that’s a good idea, but more often than not, it turns out the lowest price doesn’t equal the lowest cost. 

This is especially true when you begin to factor in the cost of labor. This has been one of the more fascinating thing for me to start looking at closely. Here’s an example that might surprise you.

A Tale of Two Microphones

Shure makes two mid-range digital wireless mic systems, the ULX-D and the QLX-D. Both offer similar audio performance, but the QLX-D brings several key features to the table. They also make a ULX-D dual and quad system, which is two and four receivers in a single rack space. 

Now, if you look at the line item pricing on the ULX-D Quad, you might think it’s a lot more expensive per-channel than both the regular ULX-D and the QLX-D. However, when you price it out with all the accessories you need for four channels of wireless, and consider the installed cost, the Quad actually comes out ahead. How can this be?

The big selling factor for the Quad is the fact that it’s four receivers in one space. The installers take it out of the box, rack it up, connect the four audio lines (or better, the Cat5 for Dante), connect power and two antenna lines and they’re done. With ULX-D single or QLX-D, they have four units to unbox, build into two rack mounted units (the receivers are normally 1/2 rack space), rack, wire, and then on the QLX-D, there’s the antenna distro. 

The extra time of doing all the work, especially when you go beyond four channels really tips the scales in the favor of the Quad. So we use it almost all the time. The more expensive product is actually less expensive for the church. Now, if a church wants to do all the install themselves and they have the time and knowledge, then the QLX-D is a better deal even with the antenna distro. 

Choosing Poorly

For years I’ve regaled you with tales of tearing out poorly chosen equipment that didn’t meet the goals of the church. This happens with speakers, wireless mic’s, projectors, lights, and a myriad of other gear. Often, it happens like this: 

The church has a need for something, say, new speakers. They’ll head down to the local Guitar Center or music shop or do some shopping at one of the large online retailers. They’ll talk to a salesman and ask, “What speakers should we buy?” The salesman may suggest something good, they may not. Speakers are bought, installed and everyone is disappointed. It may not be loud enough, clear enough or focused enough. Then they buy more speakers. If two are good, four are better, right? Then the sound gets worse. No one can figure out why the sound keeps getting worse. 

Finally, perhaps out of desperation, they’ll hire a company like the one I work for and we will actually do a design (for which we get paid), and take down all the “less expensive” speakers, and put up some good ones. Quite often, I’m taking down 2x as many speakers as we put back up, and people are stunned with the results. 

At the end of this road, the church has wasted a good deal of time, money, energy and may have even lost some members. The original intent was to save the congregation some money by not hiring one of the “expensive” integrators. But all they did was waste money and time. 

Doing it Once is Always Less Expensive

This is my rule; do it once, do it right. Spending money twice for a given system will always be more expensive than spending it once. This is just math. If you call me for a new PA and I tell you it will cost $50,000, then you decide to try to do it yourself with a $20,000 PA that we end up taking down in 2 years because it didn’t work, how much do you spend for the $50,000 PA? Hint, it’s more than $50,000. 

Here’s the bottom line: Get good advice. Take good advice.


CTA Classroom: Sound Checkin' Pt. 2

Last time, we began talking about how to optimize sound check. Normally, it’s a simple matter of getting organized, staying organized and working through a set process quickly and efficiently. Before you start, make sure you are ready. As I mentioned last time, your board should be labeled and everything should be working. Now let’s get to it.

The Drum Set

I changed the way I do drums a few years back, and I’ve been pretty happy with this new method. I start with the kick, get that dialed in, then add snare. Once the snare is sounding good with the kick, I’ll add hat. Same deal. I like to get those three locked up and feeling right before moving on. I’ll then do the toms, usually asking for a hit on hi, mid, low, hi, mid, low until I have the levels balanced and feeling right. Then it’s a quick hit on cymbals before asking the drummer to play a groove on the whole kit. When the drummer is playing the whole thing, I can make some final balance adjustments and get the drums sounding like a single instrument. 

Work Quickly, With the Big Picture in Mind

What you want to do during soundcheck is get the levels dialed in to roughly where everything should sit in the mix. You might do some quick EQ and on drums perhaps tweak the gate or comp. But do it quickly. No one wants to hear the drummer hitting quarter notes on the snare for 15 minutes. Ideally, you’ve paid attention to where your gate and comp settings should be and have already preset them so you’re only tweaking. Same goes for gains, if you can manage it (digital consoles are great in this regard). If you have 30 minutes for soundcheck and you spend 25 getting the drums dialed in, it will be tough to take care of the rest of the band in the remaining five minutes. Get things close and move on. You can always come back and tweak settings after rehearsal gets underway.

Pre-Build Monitor Mixes

If you’re mixing monitors from FOH (and even if you aren’t), it’s not a bad idea to pre-build some rough monitor mixes before you start. I knew most of my vocalists well enough to know roughly what they liked in their monitors from week to week, so I normally started a mix before they got there. Then it’s a simple matter of tweaking. It also really helps musicians through the soundcheck process if they can hear themselves right away. Start with the gains and monitors a little lower than you think you’ll need, and work up.

Get the Vocals to Sing

There are few things as unhelpful during soundcheck than having vocalists speaking, “Check 1,2...” Guitar players constantly noodling is a close second, followed by drummers who are still trying work out the drum solo from YYZ.. I like to have all the vocals sing a chorus of a song while I dial in gains. We’ve told our vocal team, don’t worry about your monitor mix just yet, simply sing. Usually we’ll have the piano or guitar play along for pitch, but that should be the only other sound besides vocals. Have them keep looping until you have their levels dialed in. Of course, starting with rough gains and monitors makes this go faster.

You’ll notice a consistent theme running through this post; get things ready beforehand. The start of soundcheck is not the time to be peeling out the board tape and labeling the desk. By the time the band is set up, you should have completely line-checked, roughed in your gains and pre-built rough monitor mixes. Starting from scratch can be a good thing once in a while, but if you know roughly where things end up each week, starting a little below that makes things go a lot faster.

We had our soundcheck down to about 20-25 minutes, and that’s a full band with 2-3 vocal monitor mixes. Soundcheck doesn’t have to be a painful process. Take some time to develop a system that works well for you, pre-build as much as possible, then communicate clearly to the band. Soon you’ll find it going more smoothly and both you and the band will have more time for rehearsal.

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.