CTW NAMM 2015 Coverage: Ansmann Max E Pro Batteries

Ansmann has been at the forefront of rechargeable batteries for a long time. And while their 2850 mAH AA batteries offer tremendous run time, they tend to need replacing after 200 or so cycles. The new Max E Pro cells offer a good 8 hours of run time plus the capacity to be recharged up to 2000 times! For more information, visit their website.

Roland

This post is brought to you by Shure Wireless. The new ULX D Dual and Quad wireless systems feature RF Cascade ports, a high density mode with significantly more simultaneous operating channels and bodypack diversity for mission critical applications. Visit their website at Shure.com.

5 Ways to Improve Your Sound in 2015, Pt. 2

Image courtesy of Michael Stephens

Image courtesy of Michael Stephens

This is part two of a series on improving your sound in the new year. Last time, we talked about testing and repairing bad speaker components, and tuning the system up. Those two things may (and probably should) require the services of a professional. Today, we’ll look at a few things that you can easily do yourself that will pay big dividends. 

Upgrade Mic Package

Microphones are mechanical, and like all things mechanical, they can wear out. They are also dropped and abused in other ways over time. If you are using really old, beat up mic's every week, changing them out is a cost-effective way to improve sound. Sometimes, it’s a matter of matching a mic to the source; a better fit for a vocal is a great example. Other times, you may be using a mic on a source because you had it, not because it was the best choice. Finding the right kick drum mic for your drum kit, PA, room and sound can make a big difference. 

Outfitting your stage with all-new mic's might be cost prohibitive to do in a single year, but perhaps you can start down the road. Pick up a few new vocal mic's that will help your singers sound better. Then move on to drum mic’s, and finally other instruments. Get recommendations from people you trust and try them first if possible. 

Optimize System Gain Structure

Gain structure is one of those things that we don’t talk about enough in audio. I’ve seen all manner of sins in this area; consoles that are way overdriven with amps turned way down, and others with the amps all the way up and the faders all running at -40. Optimizing your gain structure is critical to getting the best sound possible from your system. 

Start with the source, and make sure your input channels are running at good levels with your faders around unity. Then move onto your mix busses (either groups or main L&R bus). The main output should be running somewhere close to where the green lights start to turn yellow (the exact, optimum point will vary from console to console, so this may take some experimentation). You will hear it if your console is running too high or too low; it will either be noisy or distorted. Avoid both.

Next, move on to the system processor (or EQ) and the amps. You want healthy levels coming into and leaving the processor, then adjust the amps to achieve the level in the house that you want. If you have to turn the amps way, way down, you may want to drop the level coming out of the processor a little bit and leave the amps up.

Again, if you’re not quite sure how to do all of this, there is no shame in bringing in someone who is. This is another area where big improvements can be made by making some small changes. 

Practice

We typically expect that the worship leader, vocalists and musicians are practicing their parts throughout the week. But when does the sound guy or gal get to practice? Practice is the only real way to get better, so how do we do that? Unless you have a band that really enjoys playing for hours on end, the best answer is virtual soundcheck. 

There are many systems available now that make it fairly easy to record each input on the board and play it back in place as if the band were still there. With a virtual soundcheck system, you can mix a song over and over, trying out new things, adjusting EQ, compression, FX and other techniques until you get it just right. And the only person you need in the room is you.

Or, try this one. How about recording the rehearsal, then coming in the next day with the worship leader and work on the mixes? Find out what he wants to hear, and work toward getting there. Sometimes, it will be clear that the problem is not a mix issue, but an arrangement one; in that case, everyone wins when the band gets better. Virtual sound check might be the most expensive item on this list, but it’s still less than a new PA and will often have greater benefits. 

I’ve written several posts on Virtual Soundcheck if you need some help on how to get started.

Virtual Soundcheck on the Cheap

Virtual Soundcheck

As I said, this is not an exhaustive list, nor did I try to go into great detail on each topic. Do some research and find out how to implement these steps and you will have better sound at the end of the year than you do now. And you may even have budget left over!

Roland

Today’s post is brought to you by Digital Audio Labs, The Livemix monitor system is simple for volunteer performers to use while providing professional tools for great mixes. Featuring outstanding sound quality, color touchscreen with custom naming, 24 channels with effects, remote mixing, intercom, ambient mics, and dedicated ME knob, Livemix provides more and costs much less than competing systems.

5 Ways to Improve Your Sound in 2015, Pt. 1

Photo courtesy of Luke Jones (and a shout out to my friend Van!)

Photo courtesy of Luke Jones (and a shout out to my friend Van!)

It’s a new year, and now that we’re all rested up from Christmas, it’s time to start looking at how we can improve our systems—specifically audio—this year. Certainly big-ticket items like new PA’s, new consoles or new bands (just kidding) are nice, but sometimes we have to make incremental improvements. Oddly enough, sometimes these small improvements add up to a big improvement that sometimes negate the need for a big spend. 

Below is a non-exhaustive list of five things you can do this year—without breaking the bank—that will improve your sound.

Test And Repair Bad Speaker Components

I once inherited a sound system that had two subs. One driver was completely blown, the other was torn. The main boxes had three bad HF drivers. As you might expect, the sound in that room was not good. While it did take the better part of a day to diagnose the faulty drivers, and then another half day to replace them, once that was done, we actually had full-range sound again. 

Testing your speakers is relatively easy. If you have a bi- or tri-amped system, isolate each speaker either by unplugging the amps or the speakers so that just one cabinet is running at a time. Then play some pink noise through the system. Get right up to the box and listen. If you have access to an oscillator that can be swept from 60 Hz to 15 KHz, that’s even better. Just be careful with the levels; start low and work up to a comfortable level. If you find one box that produces next to nothing above 3K, you probably have a blown HF driver. 

If you are uncomfortable doing this or are unsure, contact a local dealer. This is a fairly simple process for them, and will likely lead to either a thumbs up or a list of new components to replace (and by components, I mean drivers, not an entirely new PA). Replacing the HF drivers in a system can have a great impact on the sound, and it’s not that expensive.

A test like this can have other benefits. I once was hired to mix in a room with a fairly complex PA layout. After struggling to get a good sound for a few months, I came in to test the drivers. I discovered the processor was wired incorrectly, sending the wrong signals to the wrong drivers. A quick re-patch made it sound like a new PA. 

Get Your System Tuned

Once your speakers are all producing full-range sound again, it’s a good time to have the system tuned. A lot of people refer to this as EQ’ing the room, but it’s really not. We don’t EQ a room, we EQ a PA to work well in the room. If you feel competent with using a measurement system, you can do this yourself. If not, hiring someone who is shouldn’t be a huge expense. 

Often, people who don’t really know what they are doing will try to “improve” on the sound of a PA by adjusting the system’s EQ. I’ve seen smiley faces, fish and other strange patterns on graphic EQs of systems I’ve worked on. None sounded good. Having someone come in to take measurements, set delays and EQ will often make a less than ideal PA sound decent again. 

Once the PA is properly aligned and tuned, lock the processor or EQ either in software or by using vented security covers on the rack. Just remember to write down the passwords and put them somewhere safe—and where at least one other person knows where they are.

Sometimes, a simple tuning can extend the life of an old PA by a few more years. Often, the PA was tuned years ago for one style of worship and the church has moved on. A re-tune can help optimize the system for the current sound you’re going after. It may not be a complete solution, and a new PA may still need to be in the long-term plans, but quite often spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on the tuning of the system will give you more time to save for the new one that is needed.

Ok, so that’s #’s 1 & 2. On Wednesday, we’ll be back with the other 3 ways you can improve your audio in the new year.

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.

This post is brought to you by Shure Wireless. The new ULX D Dual and Quad wireless systems feature RF Cascade ports, a high density mode with significantly more simultaneous operating channels and bodypack diversity for mission critical applications. Visit their website at Shure.com.