Ask Me Anything!



Most of you probably know this by now, but in case you missed it, in about a week, I will be leaving Sunny California and moving to Nashville. Now that our girls are out on their own, my wife and I decided to head back east, a bit closer to home. We're very excited about the change and can't wait to see what God has for us on this next adventure. 

Van offered to drive out there with me and as we considered the possibilities of 22 hours in the car, it occurred to us that we should do something fun. Besides a road trip together. Something fun for all of you. So what we have for you is a chance for audience participation. 

You've probably heard of Ask Me Anything, something Reddit does with famous people. We thought it would be fun to do an AMA, or in this case a AMaVA (Ask Mike and Van Anything). Not only are we going to do an AMA, we're going to record it while we're driving. 

This is your chance to ask us questions. Collectively, Van and I have about 60 years of live production experience and 25 years on church staffs. It's safe to say we have learned a thing or two. Moreover, we know a lot of people, so we may even phone a friend, just to make it even more fun. 

Now here is where you come in. Go to our ask me anything page and submit your question(s). We already have quite a few, but remember we have 22 hours in the car. 

This is time-sensitive; we leave on May 28, so you're going to want to have those questions in by the 27th. Depending on how many questions we have and how long we talk, you'll be hearing the answers on ChurchTechWeekly in June. Maybe even into July... 

Thanks for reading, and don't forget,

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.

Today's post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA's range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA's miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

It's Not For Us

I had a bit of a revelation this past weekend. This doesn’t happen often, but the Lord showed me something on Mother’s Day that has freed me up from something that has been bugging me for a while now. My wife and I decided to go back to my former church for Mother’s Day. We hadn’t been back since Christmas Eve, and we figured with just a few weeks left in CA, it would be a good chance to connect with some friends again. 

Now, I’ve had a bit of a hard time going back because of the many changes that have taken place since I left. I spent nearly five years there, and also made a bunch of changes. In fact, I changed pretty much everything of a technical nature. There is almost nothing there today that was there six years ago when I arrived. 

As one might expect, the new TD has been putting her own touch on things. Last weekend, I noticed a whole bunch of things that were different from when I wrapped up the renovation last summer. At first, I was a bit put off, wondering what was wrong with what we did then. Then it hit me.

I didn’t build that system for me. 

Even when I was designing the new PA, video system and infrastructure, I knew I would be leaving the church before long. So I tried to design in as much flexibility as I could. I actually remember telling someone I wanted it to be easy to change down the road. Why was I bothered when someone changed it?

As I said, this was really freeing. It was almost exhilarating in fact, to realize that someone did exactly what I designed the system to do—change. The curtains that I fought so hard for have moved. The screen that I cleverly designed to move upstage or downstage is now upstage (I brought it downstage). The truss we re-hung has moved again. 

All this was possible because we designed a system that could change and adapt easily. It may not be the way I would do it, but who cares; I’m not there any more. What is important is that it’s easy for the current and future tech teams to make it their own. 

It occurred to me that as technical leaders we have to be very open-handed with our creations. The truth is we will not be where we are today forever. Someone will come after us. And they will change some or all of what we did. The real question is, will they be cursing our name because of the backwards, proprietary or obtuse way we did something, or thanking us for making it so simple to change. 

You are not going to be the last technical director at your church. That’s a powerful bit of knowledge. What you do today will either help or hurt your successor. Personally, I am now glad things are changing there so much. It means I did my job well. When I got there, there were a few things that I put off changing for 4 or 5 years because it was going to be so hard to fix, it was done that poorly. Now, they’re changing stuff all the time, which means our system updates must have made it easier. 

Think about what you do in the context of how it will effect those who come after you. It may change the way you work.


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CTA Review: Ultimate Ears UE18

There are many times when I feel very blessed that ChurchTechArts has grown the way it has. I’ve made some great friends through this site, and had some great experiences. I also get to play with some very impressive technology from time to time. And while I had an absolute blast mixing Easter weekend on the DiGiCo SD5 a few years back, I had to give that back. By far, my favorite product to test is custom IEMs, mainly because once they make them for me, they don’t need them back. 

This is the fourth IEM I’ve reviewed from UE, and they just keep getting better. I got a set of UE7s about 5 years ago, and thought they sounded quite good. As I’ve explored more of the UE range, I appreciate the UE7s more; not because they sound great for general music listening—they don’t—but because they are purpose-built for vocalists, guitar and keyboard players. Then I tried out a set of the Vocal Reference Monitors. Those sound terrible for general music listening, but are amazing for a vocalist. The clarity in the vocal range is unparalleled, and it’s so easy to pull a vocal mix together with them. Last year, I received a set of Reference Monitors. These were developed in partnership with Capital Records Studios, and are designed to be a flat reference for mixing. I thought they sounded great and used them as my everyday ears for almost a year. A few months back, my UE18s showed up, and the RMs now live in the palatial studio.

More Better

First, let’s look at what the 18 is. It’s a six-driver system with two drivers for lows, two for mids and two for highs. Also packed in that little package is a 4-way passive crossover. The sound exits from three separate ports.  The frequency response is quoted at 5 Hz - 20 kHz. That’s right, 5 Hz. Input sensitivity is 115 dB at 1 kHz, 1 mW. Impedance is 21 Ohms at 1 kHz.

All three of my other UEs are 3-driver models and to be honest, I kind of poo-poo’d the more drivers is better concept. At least until I put them on. 

The sound coming out of these things is simply incredible. I’ve found myself listening to them on a flight, and been completely unwilling to take them off when I land. Twice have I walked through airports continuing to listen to a given album because it just sounds so good! 

Sound Profile

As I’ve spent more time with the guys at UE, I’ve learned that each model has a target sound profile, which makes them useful for different purposes. For example, the UE7 has some low- and high-end rolloff that emphasizes more of the midrange, and cuts down on listener fatigue. This is perfect for musicians whose instruments occupy that middle frequency zone. However, give them to a drummer or bass player and they’re going to be disappointed. The RMs are almost ruler-flat, and perfect for making mixing decisions. They are incredibly detailed and clean, but tend to sound a little sterile.

The UE18s sound a lot like I like to tune my PAs. There is a nice bass haystack at the low end, smooth and flat through the midrange with just a little taken off at the top so they are not harsh or fatiguing to listen to. Thankfully, the low end isn’t over-emphasized, and it remains detailed and clean. There is still detail in the top end, it just doesn’t assault you. 

I don’t hear nearly as much clarity throughout the midrange as I do in the VRMs for example, but I wouldn’t expect to. This is not to say there is no detail there; there is more than enough. It’s just not emphasized as much. 

What you find is that there are different models that suit different tasks. For drummers and bass players, I would heartily recommend the UE18s (and from what I understand the 11s, but we’ll have to wait and hear…). If budget is tight, the UE5 is also well suited to more low end. 

Big Sound

The soundstage of the UE18 is big, wide and detailed. Listening to Zac Brown’s new album is a great test of these IEMs. On that album, we have everything from soft acoustic sections, large groups of vocals panned all over the place, heavily distorted bass lines, and full-on rock tunes. The 18s handle it all with ease, never sounding like they’re even working hard. 

The only thing I’ve heard that accurately gives me the sense of sitting near a stack of subs is my Heil ProSet 3 headphones. Those are rated to go down to 10 Hz, and remember these are rated to 5 Hz. Of course, I suspect that’s a 10 dB down point, but still. The bottom line is they sound amazing. I would not suggest everyone in the band needs these and they are pretty expensive. The cost is not insignificant—$1350 list—but now that my daughter is out of college and I have a little more disposable income, I might be willing to spend it. Especially after I started pricing out new washer and dryer sets. Totally off-topic, but we’re getting ready to move. 

I’ll put it this way; should you spend the money on these, you will not be disappointed. You will have a hard time wanting to take them out, however.

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.