Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: November 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

CTA Review: 1964 V6 Stage IEM


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I’ve been hearing about 1964 custom IEMs for a few years now. But it wasn’t until recently that I had the opportunity to actually try the out. One challenge of buying custom-molded IEMs is simple; how do you try before you buy? And once you receive them, what if you don’t like them? Most IEM manufacturers, 1964 included, have developed universal fit versions of their monitors to give people a good idea of what they sound like. If you’re on the fence about a particular brand or model, try to sample them as a universal fit version first. 

To help me get the full experience of the monitors, I had a set of impressions taken, and 1964 sent me two models—the V6 Stage and the 1964-D Dual Driver. We’ll save the Dual for another review and focus on the six-driver V6 Stage. Compared to the more neutral V6, the V6 Stage puts more emphasis on the sub and mid frequencies. The V6 puts more emphasis on the highs. The V6 costs about $50 less, and would not likely be a bad choice.

Six Drivers, Small Package

The basic design consists of six drivers; two for the lows, two for the mids, and two for the highs. Each frequency band has it’s own bore—that is to say both the low drivers exit into a single, dedicated bore, while the others do the same. According to 1964, “the result is an extremely coherent, 3-D soundstage.”

I don’t know how to test that claim, other than to say they sound really, really good. When I compared them to the other IEMs—both custom and universal—and it did appear the soundstage of the V6 Stage was wider and more defined than most of the others. 

Deep Bass

Another design feature of the V6 Stage is the Center Drive™ Technology. Most IEMs use a balanced armature design, but these feature drive rods in the center of the diaphragm, which purports to deliver deep, rich bass. I don’t understand all the engineering, but I can tell you the bass is solid. They definitely had more low end than my normal IEM, the UE7, and seemed to go deeper than the UE900’s. 

While they didn’t quite create the feeling that I was sitting next to a sub like the Heil ProSet 3 headphones do, the V6 Stage goes deep with excellent articulation. In fact, while I’m writing this, I’m listening to Tower Of Power’s 40th Anniversary Live At The Filmore, and it sounds totally balanced. 

Smooth Mids

Some IEMs I’ve heard tend to get a little strident in the midrange, especially as volume increases. This is especially a problem for vocalists as they will likely have more midrange than say a bass player. As that mid buildup happens, they can become less pleasant to listen to. The V6 Stage is very smooth throughout the whole midrange. Even when I soloed our vocal group last Sunday, the mids were smooth and clean, with excellent articulation. I listened to a wide variety of music with them, and never found anything offensive at all, just smooth, clean and spacious sound.

They Get Loud, & Have Great Isolation

Like almost every custom IEM, the isolation of the molds comes in at around 26 dB. This is one of my favorite features of customs. Knocking down the ambient sound level by 26 dB is a huge boon to musicians playing near the drum kit or for sound guys repositioning mic’s while the drummer is playing (I always put my ears in before going onto the stage). Ideally, this isolation means that the musicians can keep the overall levels down in their ears as they won’t be battling ambient levels. 

However, if you musicians like it loud, these are rated to go up to 115 dB (no mention of weighting, so I don’t know if it’s A or C). That’s going to be seriously loud, so I typically set the volume limiter on my wireless packs to not go louder than I think is safe. That’s a bit subjective and will probably open a can of worms, but we work with our worship team to establish safe boundaries. 

I used them on my recent road trip, listening to all kinds of stuff for both 6 hour flights to and from the east coast. They sound really, really good. I suspect these will become my regular flying monitors.


The picture doesn’t show it as well as I hoped. Then again, we are talking millimeters here…

What’s Not To Like?

They are a bit big. When compared side by side with my UE7’s, the V6 Stage’s look downright huge. I initially suspected the primary difference is that the UE7’s are a triple driver, while the V6 Stage has twice as many drivers in the housing. I believe I have average size ears, and these end up about flush with the outside of my ear. The UE7’s seat a little further inside—at least on the outside; the inside is about the same. When I pulled out the dual driver version, the back housing is about the same size as the V6 Stage. So perhaps 1964 just uses a bigger back shell than UE does. 

The other issue I noticed is that the stiffened portion of the cable as it comes out of the monitor is a bit short. The UE cables have about twice the bendable portion which allows you to form a nice curve for the cable over your ear. With these, the stiffened portion ended up near the top of my ears, so the cords didn’t tuck down behind as much as I’m used to. It’s not really a serious problem, but one I’d like to see addressed.


The Sharpie marking is mine; had to keep them straight somehow...

The Sharpie marking is mine; had to keep them straight somehow…


Everything you need, all in it’s place.

Rugged Packaging

This could be a pro or con, depending on your situation. The monitors come in a cute little Pelican-style case with the owners name etched on a plaque. The case is waterproof, and looks like you could run over it with a tour bus with no damage (don’t try this, OK?). On the downside, it takes up more space in my bag than my much smaller UE box. This is really a trade off between protection and size. You’ll have to decide which is more important to you. You could always re-package them in something else.

An Excellent Value

The V6 Stage retails for $699. While not inexpensive, it’s considerably less than competing 6-driver models. In fact, it’s less than most other 3-driver models. It comes with a two year warranty, and a 30 day fitment guarantee (meaning if it doesn’t fit quite right, send it back and they will adjust the fit). 1964 is a young and small company, but they seem to be developing quite a following. Based in Portland, Oregon, the products are designed and assembled right there in the Northwest. Having spent a few weeks listening to them, I give them two ears up (see what I did there?)

In the interest of full disclosure, and so as not to run afoul of FTC regulations, both pairs of monitors were given to me at no cost.

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.

And by GearTechs. Technology for Worship is what they do. Audio, video and lighting; if it’s part of your worship service, and it has to do with technology, GearTechs can probably help. Great products, great advice, GearTechs.

Thankful


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Since it’s Thanksgiving, it seems almost obligatory to do a “thankful” post. But I was part of a gathering a few weeks ago that put a whole new spin on this. Van and I participate in monthly Grove Gatherings sponsored by The Grove Center for Arts and Media. These are great gatherings of artists of all types; worship leaders, musicians, painters, sculptors, writers and yes, the odd tech guy or two (that would be me and Van). 

Last month, we celebrated communion together. This was especially meaningful for me as I rarely get to be part of communion at church; I’m usually mixing or lighting or something. As our leader was preparing us for what was to come, she told us of a vision she had while praying for the evening. 

She pictured Jesus standing right next to her in that room with all of us sitting there. He leaned in and looking at each of us said, “I am proud of you, and I’m thankful for you.” It was a holy moment to be sure.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot for the last few weeks. As a technical artist, I’m now pretty used to not being thanked for what I do. It’s part of the gig, and I’m not bitter about it. Really. But it is nice to be thanked, and to have a picture of Jesus himself telling me he was thankful for me and proud of me, well that stuck a pretty deep chord. 

Then I started to think of all the technical artists and leaders I’ve had the opportunity to meet in the last few years. One of my first thoughts after she said what she did was, “I have to share this with my fellow tech guys!” And as I prayed about it the last few weeks, it’s become clear to me that this same message that Van and I received is for you to. 

Jesus wants you to know he is proud of you and he is thankful for you. 

Just pause for a moment and let that sink in. Jesus is thankful for you.

He’s thankful for the many, many hours you put in serving His Church. He’s thankful for the way you proclaim the truth of His Gospel using art and technology. He’s thankful for the way you serve. 

It’s easy for us to sit in the dark, at the back of there room, and feel invisible. But Jesus sees what we do. And He is proud of us. 

So I want to encourage you with that thought on the eve of Thanksgiving. 

I’ve talked with enough of you to know that some of you are really hurting right now. You’re in a place where you wonder if you just power down the booth, walk out and never look back. I can’t tell you if you should or not, but before you do, remember Jesus sees you and is thankful for you. 

And this is not in a generalist sense, as in He’s thankful for us as a group. He is thankful for YOU. 

So be encouraged. Even if your senior pastor doesn’t ever say thank you, Jesus does. If the worship leader or band never says thanks, Jesus does. If all you ever get is complaints from the congregation, Jesus is still thankful for you (though perhaps you need to fix some things…). 

And by the way, for any pastors, worship leaders and musicians out there reading this, thank your tech team this weekend. They often serve week in and week out without ever a word of thanks from anyone, yet they keep coming back. 

So one more time before we go, remember—Jesus is thankful for you. And He’s proud of you. Don’t head off into the craziness of the next month without soaking in that beautiful truth for a little while.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Today’s post is brought to you by the Roland R-1000. The R-1000 is a multi-channel recorder/player ideal for the V-Mixing System or any MADI equipped console or environment. Ideal for virtual sound checks, multi-channel recording, and playback.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 174: Lightsaber, Off


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This week it’s all about lighting! We recap LDI—or as our panel calls it, LEDI. Learn about the new LED-source moving head fixtures, LED houselights, LED video walls and a new console from High End. And you’ll never guess who our sponsors are…

More…

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.

How Long do Hard Drives Last?

As more and more of our A/V/L equipment becomes computerized—and thus is running from a hard drive—figuring out how long a drive will last is quickly becoming a big deal for technical leaders. A quick count in my tech booth tallied 20 hard drives (both SSD and spinning). Some of those are backups, and that doesn’t count the 3 others that we keep in another room as backups. So to say our operation relies on hard drives is an understatement. 

But how long will they last?

That is the question. I’ve had a lot of experience with hard drives over the years. I’m sure I’ve owned, managed, bought, replaced hundreds of drives. And for the life of me, I’ve not been able to come up with a consistent answer. Thankfully, there are companies who don’t use hundreds of hard drives but thousands. Tens of thousands actually. 

Backblaze is a company that provides online backup. They started five years ago and now deploy 75 petabytes of storage. They are quickly approaching 30,000 drives in service. They elected to install consumer-grade drives, not the server-grade, industrial strength ones. People told them they were crazy, but it’s worked out OK. They have a ton of data on hard drive failure rates. 

Recently they wrote a blog post that details their current knowledge of failure rates. I recommend you go read the whole article because it’s quite interesting. But here’s the Cliff Notes version.

Drives last 6 years.

Well, that’s sort of true. They are extrapolating 5 year data, to 6 years, and arriving at the point where 50% of the drives fail. That becomes the median failure rate. In other words, if their projection holds up (and we’ll have to wait a year or more to see), 50% of drives will fail before 6 years. Which also meads 50% will continue to run. But wait…there’s more!

The Bathtub Curve.

Reliability engineers point to a curve called the Bathtub Curve. It shows three things; the early failure rate, a constant failure rate, and the parts wearing out failure rate. When overlaid on top of each other, it looks a bit like a bathtub. 

This curve mirrors what Backblaze finds as well. Indeed, I would say this is what I’ve tended to see in my much more limited experience. Backblaze finds that drives have three distinct failure rates. From their post:

  • For the first 1.5 years, drives fail at 5.1% per year.
  • For the next 1.5 years, drives fail LESS, at about 1.4% per year.
  • After 3 years though, failures rates skyrocket to 11.8% per year.

The early rate is the “infant mortality” rate; those that likely have some sort of manufacturing defect. However, if the drive survives the first year and a half, they seem to do quite well. After three years however, parts start to wear out. As mechanical devices, bearings will wear, heads will wear, and even the magnetic properties will change. At that point, almost 12% begin to fail. 

While that looks like a huge jump, keep in mind that after three years, more than 80% of the drives are still working. So that’s not too bad. 

What does this mean for us?

I think it means what it always meant: we have to back up regularly. For every mission critical drive, we need to have a hot backup that can be swapped in quickly in case of failure. If it’s not a RAID copy, having a clone of the drive with the most current data possible will make it much easier to get up and running when the drive fails. 

Also, I think having a policy of replacing mission critical drives on a regular basis is a good idea. I’ve personally settled on a 3-year replacement policy for most of my drives, and that’s just based on my experience. Interestingly, it seems to be mirrored by this data. I could probably stretch it out to 4 years because I have good backups, but drives are so inexpensive now, it seems to make sense to replace them.

I would love to see a study like this with SSDs. My gut tells me we’ll be on a 3-year plan with those as well, but we’ll have to wait and see. 

Like everything, planning is everything. Knowing our drives will fail makes it easy to justify backups as well as money in the budget for replacements. Remember, when it comes to drives, it’s not a question of “if,” but “when.”

Today’s post is brought to you by myMix. myMix is an intuitive, easy-to-use personal monitor mixing and multi-track recording system that puts each user in control of their own mix! myMix features two line-level balanced 1/4″ TRS outputs and one 1/8″ (3.5mm) headphone output, the ability to store up to 20 named profiles on each station, 4-band fully parametric stereo output EQ recording of up to 18 tracks plus stereo on an SD card. Learn more at myMixaudio.com

The Perfect Volume Pt. 4


It just  looks   loud  doesn't it?

It just looks loud doesn't it?

Hasn’t this been fun? We’re talking volume—everyone’s favorite subject! I actually enjoy talking about it because it often tends to bring to light other issues that haven’t been dealt with. In the last post, I talked about some of the issues I see in many churches, and how those issues relate to volume. Today, I’ll throw out some suggestions for solutions. 

The music selection needs to be appropriate for the congregation. I don’t understand why all churches think they need to be the same. A pastor of a small church with an older congregation will go off to a conference at a big church, hear some loud, rocking worship, see the many hip young people showing up and come home thinking his church needs dramatic change. Maybe it does, but trying to change a church used to choir and organ into Hillsong United is going to be tough. 

One is not better than the other. The music selection should reflect the congregation, and the band should be able to do it well. I’ve had this conversation with our leadership. When we were struggling with volume, I said, “Look, if we want to be a quieter worship church, that’s OK. But we have to stop playing big Hillsong United and Planetshakers tunes. That stuff needs to be loud. But there’s plenty of great worship music that works well at lower volumes.” 

Choosing the right music that is appropriate for your congregation will go a long way in making whatever volume you end up at more acceptable.

The level needs to be appropriate for the music. You’ll notice I’ve deftly avoided quoting SPL numbers throughout this series, at least as far as guidelines go. The actual number is far less important than making sure everything is appropriate. Saying we need to mix all our music at XX dB SPLA is just silly. Sometimes XX is going to be too loud for a given song, other times it’s too quiet. Strive for appropriate. It’s a fine line, but it’s not impossible to find. 

See, the problem with defining an absolute SPL level is that SPL meters are stupid. All they can measure is the pressure at the surface of the reference microphone in dynes per square centimeter. That’s pretty useful, huh? An SPL reading doesn’t tell you anything about how the mix sounds, what the overall spectral content is or if it feels too loud or too soft. And truth be told, it takes a lot of experience for an engineer to learn how to discern what is too loud or soft. There is a much bigger conversation to be had than quoting a blog post from someone who measured the level of Disney shows with his iPhone (see the first article in this series). 

You need a good band, good engineers and a good PA to get good sound. A lot of churches want to simply blame the sound guy when it’s too loud. And sometimes it’s his fault. But as we’ve discussed, it’s often the fault of the band or the PA. All three issues need to be discussed and dealt with. 

If the real problem with volume is an acoustic drum kit, no amount of yelling at the sound guy “turn it down” will help. This is a holistic discussion. And it’s best had on a Tuesday night, not Sunday morning. 

Dynamic range is a good thing. Now I’m showing my age. I remember when music, and even entire albums had dynamic range. Ever since the volume wars began about 15 years ago, some seem to think that the goal is to start loud and stay as loud as possible for as long as possible. This is exhausting. The worst services I’ve ever been to were just one crazy loud song after another, with no breaks in between. 

Song sets that build, rest and breath feel so much better. It’s a lot easier to get loud when you also get soft. Range feels good. Pink noise, not so much. 

If you have a congregation made up of both older and younger members, doing a louder song, followed by a medium one then a softer one will take people on a journey and make it easier to keep everyone happy. Most people can take loud for a short time (as long as it sounds good), especially when it’s followed up by some really good sounding quieter moments. Your service doesn’t have to look like a square wave. 

So there you go. That’s about 3,000 words on volume. In truth, we could go on for another 30,000 words and not exhaust the topic, but hopefully this will start some productive conversations around it. But please, put away the iPhone, OK?

Today’s post is brought to you by DiGiCo. DiGiCo audio mixing consoles deliver solutions that provide extreme flexibility, are easy to use and have an expandable infrastructure, while still providing the best possible audio quality. Visit their website to learn more.

The Perfect Volume Pt. 3


That doesn't sound good, I don't care how loud or soft it is!

That doesn't sound good, I don't care how loud or soft it is!

If you want to have some fun, start a discussion on how loud worship music should be in church. It often ends up in a shouting match with people on both sides of the fence hurling insults at each other. OK, that may be a (slight?) exaggeration. Still, it tends to be a lively debate. In the last two posts, we’ve been unpacking a post written on Thom Rainer’s blog. I talked about what I agreed with, and what I disagreed with in that post. Starting today, I want to begin to suggest some solutions (we’re supposed to be prophets, not critics, remember?). 

I find that “volume” in church is often a problem, and yet the problem is rarely as simple as turning the volume down. What follows is a list of some of the most common problem areas I see that are related to volume. And this is in no particular order. 

Sometimes, the band is just not that good. I hate to start off by throwing the band under the bus, but it’s a real issue. If you have a couple of guys on stage sawing away at their electric guitars (generating no small amount of energy between 1-4 KHz), a bass player who thinks 5 string basses are great because he can play more notes and a drummer who has never heard of a half note, it’s not likely to be pleasant. Unless you’re at a speed metal concert. But you’re not; you’re in church. 

And it doesn’t have to be all electric instruments. I’ve seen churches stack up 4-5 acoustic guitars, 2 keyboards plus piano; and they’re all playing the same line! That’s a lot of energy in a region that can be painful at even moderate volumes. My point is, sometimes the best solution to a volume problem is to work with the band.

On the other hand, sometimes the mix is just not that good. Last time I mentioned a few events I’ve been too that were way too bass heavy. Now, I like a good solid low end. I have a sub in my living room and I know how to use it. But when the goal becomes trying to see how many fillings we can rattle loose in our congregants, I think we’ve missed the point. 

We also have a generation of sound guys who were raised on low bitrate MP3 files played through iPod headphones. If that’s the reference for how music should sound for these guys, it’s no wonder the mixes in churches (and everywhere else for that matter) sound so bad. 

A good mix will sound better at higher volumes than a bad mix at low volume. Getting this right is more than half the battle.

Sometimes the PA is not very good. While it’s true a great engineer can make even a bad PA sound OK, most churches don’t have great engineers. In fact, many—especially smaller churches—do well to have one good engineer. Why stack the odds against them by making them work on a crappy-sounding PA?

If the system is not tuned well, it’s going to take a lot of work to make it sound acceptable. If you have a pair of old crappy speakers in a gymnasium, it’s not likely to sound amazing. It’s possible to get to good, or even great, but it is really hard. 

Churches, at least give your musicians and sound guys a fighting chance by providing them with a decent PA before beating them up over the volume.

Sometimes the music selection is simply wrong. I remember sitting in a class taught by Robert Scovill a number of years ago. When asked about volume problems, one of the things he said was, “Sometimes, people just don’t like electric guitars.” 

This goes back to the previous post somewhat. Why do churches who get regular complaints about the volume continue to pick loud, rocking songs? People can worship Jesus at many volume levels. It’s up to the worship leader to choose songs that can be mixed at appropriate volumes for the congregation he leads. 

The bottom line is that people complain about bad (or too loud) sound, yet refuse to upgrade the system or get training for the musicians and sound team. Leading worship is incredibly hard. Not only does it demand high technical skills—from playing to singing to mixing—it also demands high artistic skills, plus a healthy dose of spiritual sensitivity. 

When churches complain about the quality of the mix but fail to provide any training for their sound person, they are only perpetuating the problem. Did the pastor just show up one day knowing how to preach a great sermon? Of course not. Why would you expect a volunteer with not prior experience or training to know how to put together a Disney-quality mix? The same is true for the musicians. Stop complaining, pony up and get them some help.

OK, so those are some of the problems. In our next post, we’ll discuss some solutions.

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Church Tech Weekly Episode 173: Road Trip!


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Since Mike is on vacation, it’s time for the “Best of Episodes 1-100!” In this show, we talk with many of our favorite people, Camron Ware, Ryan Howell, Stephen Proctor, Andrew Stone, Dave Stagl, Nigel Spatling and Bob Heil. This is a must-listen to episode. 

More…

Today’s post is brought to you by GearTechs. Technology for Worship is what they do. Audio, video and lighting; if it’s part of your worship service, and it has to do with technology, GearTechs can probably help. Great products, great advice, GearTechs.

The Perfect Volume Pt. 2


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Last time, I was reflecting on an article I found on Thom Rainer’s blog entitled “How Loud Should Our Church Music Be?” In the last post, I took issue with a few points, namely that iPhones are useful for determining volume and that there is one perfect volume for all churches (I disagree with both those statements). But like I said at the end of that post, I agree with more of what he said than I disagree with.

I completely agree that spectral balance is key. He made the observation (from his free, RTA Lite app) that the overall sound was balanced and smooth. I would argue that spectral balance is more important than actual SPL levels in determining what is acceptable to a congregation and what is not. 

For example, even if we agreed that 75 dB (A- or C-weighted, it doesn’t matter for this illustration) SPL is the “perfect” volume, I could drive everyone out of the room by playing a 1KHz square wave at 75 dBA SPL. I could also put together a mix that sounds so offensive at 75 dB SPLA that people would still complain. On the other hand, I’ve heard mixes that averaged well over 100 dB SPLA and not only did people not complain, they had their hands up and wanted more. 

The key is getting the spectral balance right. Too many young engineers (and to be fair, some old ones) put way too much emphasis either on the extreme low end, or the top end. I’ve been to a couple of conferences lately where this was certainly true. At both, the low end was so over-emphasized that you could almost see those 8’ long waves gobbling up everything else. It sounded terrible—the volume didn’t matter at all.

But in a well crafted mix, people want more. At least up to a point. But we’ll get back to that. 

Like other things, content is king. He didn’t point this out as much in the article, but in subsequent comments, he pointed out that Disney has professional talent on stage and in the booth. So, the quality of the content in the mix was very high, and the mix itself was well done. It was also being played through a well tuned Meyer PA. He also intimated that there was the appropriate amount of dynamic range to the program. Because the average level was comfortable, loud portions of the show felt good. 

If most of the congregation thinks it’s too loud, it’s too loud. I’ll probably take some flak for this one, but I believe it’s true. I can’t figure out why churches with a mostly older demographic hire young worship leaders “to attract the younger people” then get upset when the worship gets loud. On the other hand, I can’t figure out why worship leaders and sound guys go into older churches and try to “turn the tide,” crank it up to 11 and then wonder why people get mad and leave. 

If you are standing in the sound booth looking out over the congregation and many of them have their hands over their ears, something is wrong. You need to figure out what it is. It may be a mix issue, the drums on stage may be too loud, or the music might be entirely wrong for the congregation. Or it may just be too loud. Either way, you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by quoting OSHA guidelines or bible verses about loud worship. 

Most of the time, the absolute volume is not the issue, but when something is wrong, we need to investigate it and fix it. We’ll tackle what I think the most common issues are next time.

Today’s post is brought to you by BargeHeights. Bargeheights offers cost effective lighting and LED video gear for churches. Coupled with unique visual design, Bargeheights transforms worship venues of all sizes.

And by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.

The Perfect Volume


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Back in April (which gives you some indication of how long it took me to come up with a way to process this…), a worship leader named Jordan Richmond wrote a post on Thom Rainer’s blog. The post is entitled, “How Loud Should Our Church Music Be?” and it incited no small number of comments. In fact, if you have some time, go read the comments; some are quite amusing. 

I think the article raises an important point, and is a good starting point for discussion. However, I do take issue with a few things he said. His premise is that as a worship leader, he’s not unfamiliar with volume complaints. But how do you solve that? While on vacation at Disney World, he pulled out his trusty iPhone and measured the SPL at the shows he saw there. He came up with 75 dB [sic] as “the answer” to the correct volume. I put [sic] at the end of 75 dB because he didn’t specify A- or C-weighting, and that makes a big difference. But that’s not the only thing.

Uncalibrated iPhones with free SPL apps cause more harm than good. Now that every member of your congregation has an SPL meter in their pocket, the number of people telling us they have proof it’s too loud is going way up. The problem is, an uncalibrated iPhone or Android phone is not at all accurate. When I attempted a calibration on mine (using an actual SPL calibrator), I found my (paid and “professional”) SPL meter was off by −10 dB. That translates to about double the perceived volume. Even after I calibrated it, it’s not truly calibrated, it’s just close. 

So before we start talking absolute numbers, let’s be sure we are using an actual and calibrated SPL meter. Even those are not super-helpful in determining the appropriate volume, but we’ll get to that shortly.

I respectfully disagree that there is one perfect volume for all venues. Shoot, I won’t even agree that there is one perfect volume for one venue. Our church’s average and peak volumes vary by a good 5-8 dB depending on the song set, arrangements and band makeup. Some churches demand loud, energetic worship. Others prefer quieter, more contemplative music. This is OK!! I get really frustrated when I hear people talking about setting a universal standard for music levels. If you like quieter music, find a church that does quieter music. If you like it loud, go to a loud church. But don’t go to a church known for loud music and complain it’s too loud! Likewise, if you’re a worship leader or FOH guy, don’t go to a quiet church and try to recreate a Hillsong concert. That’s just—dare I say it?—stupid.

I would also disagree that Disney is the standard. Sure, Disney gets a lot of things right. I like going there when I can. I think we can learn a lot from how they do things; they create great experiences for their guests. But to say that the volume of their shows is the ideal volume is a bit of a stretch. First of all, I suspect the actual level was higher than 75 dB. Second, it’s totally different material. 

Realistically, I think you could find just as many people who think Disney shows are too quiet as those who think it’s too loud. And you can probably say the same for many churches. So I guess this another way of re-stating my previous point. Finding the appropriate volume for a particular church is a tricky thing, and it’s a very individual thing. 

I suspect many a church member, pastor and board member read that blog post and ran into the sound booth yelling, “Here it is! Proof that it’s too loud. Never more than 75 dB [sic] again!” This does about as much good at solving the volume problem as painting a green lobby blue does at placating those who don’t like anything but yellow. 

The article was not all bad, however. In fact, aside from those three points, I think he is on balance. In fact, I agree with more than I disagree with. Next time, I’ll unpack those thoughts.

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Are We Filled With the Spirit First?


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Did you know that the first mention of a church technical director is in the book of Exodus? That’s right, some 4,000 years before the first mega-church, we meet the first TD. You can find the story in Exodus 35, right as the Israelites were about to embark on a pretty large building project. 

Starting in verse 30, Moses announced that God had selected a guy named Bezalel to lead the building. Here is his introduction;

“God has selected Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He’s filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and know-how for making all sorts of things, to design and work in gold, silver and bronze; to carve stones and set them; to carve wood, working in every kind of skilled craft.”

At first blush, he sounds a lot like a modern technical director, right? He was able to build things (sets, stages, tech booths…); work in multiple media (audio, lighting, video…); and work in every skilled craft (this probably relates to VBS…). It would be easy to draw a number of parallels between Bezalel and his team and what we do today. However, if we did that, I think we would miss the most important point. In fact, you probably skipped right over it when you first read that passage. I did.

“[God has] filled him with the Spirit of God…”

Before talking about all the mad skills Bezalel possessed, the first thing the writer wanted us to know is that the Lord had filled him with the Spirit of God. And while there may have been a number of highly competent builders and craftsman available at the time, God filled and chose Bezalel.

I find myself convicted every time I read that passage. On more than one occasion, I find myself behaving in a manner that would not likely be described as “filled with the Spirit of God.” I can come up with all kinds of excuse for it, but the reality is, I’m too often too busy with my current circumstances to be aware that the Spirit has better plans for me.

It’s easy for us technical artists to focus a lot of time and effort on developing our technical/artistic skills. It is our job after all, and given our collective personality, we have a drive to continually get better at it. But how much time do we spend cultivating the spiritual side of what we do?

Would people look at us and describe us first as “filled with the Spirit of God,” or would they first describe how gifted and talented we are a sound, lighting or video? As much as I want to be known for being an excellent technical artist, I think I would rather be known as someone who God has filled with His Spirit. 

I’m writing this as much to myself as anyone else. I get up early, work hard and long, all to develop my technical/artistic skill set. But I often (far too often, if I’m honest) skip out on spending time with the One who makes this all worthwhile. I bail on spending time with God because I’m too busy working “for” Him. 

The longer I do this, the more I realize this is a mistake. God doesn’t need me to work for Him, He wants me to work with Him; and the only way I can do that is to spend time with Him. 

A few years ago, someone asked me, “What would happen if the tech department became known as the most spiritual department in the church?” It’s a valid question. What would happen? What could God do through us if that were true? What would happen to the church? What would happen to us? 

It’s worth considering.

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.

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