Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: June 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Gear Snobs

JesusPresleyArtCologne2008 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Martin Terber, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Audio guys can be snobs when it comes to gear. But the reality is, we can’t always have our favorites. Sometimes, it’s a simple budget issue. For Coast Hills, we didn’t have the budget for Meyer, d&b or L’Acoustics. If I had held out for those brands because they have more cachet, we would not have a new PA at all. The money is just not there. But the church can afford RoomMatch. And having heard it, and after some considerable evaluation, I’m convinced we haven’t sacrificed that much. 

Is RoomMatch as good as a L’Acoustics Kara rig? Maybe not. Will the average person notice a big difference between those two? Probably not. Will the average person notice the upgrade from what we had to RoomMatch? Absolutely. I’ll take that outcome over no change at all.

Be Open

Lighting guys can be snobs, too. Some will say, “If it’s not Varilite, it’s not in my rig.” Or Martin. Or High End. Whatever. In the past, we’ve rented about 6 VL2500s for Easter. Those are great fixtures, to be sure. But this year, we rented 18 Elation Platinum Spot 5R Pros. Are they as good of a fixture as the VL2500? Not really. The panning isn’t as smooth, the color mixing isn’t as nice and we had one go flaky on us. However, we made a bigger visual impact with 18 of them than we ever did with the 6 VLs for the same money.

And you know what? If I were buying moving head fixtures for Coast Hills, I would probably go with Elation. No, they’re not as rugged as a Varilite. But, we can afford more of them, and they would be fine for what we’d need them for. 

Use What Fits

When I say “fits” I mean both budget and application. If you’re at a big church with big budgets and can afford the best gear, go for it. But if you’re at a smaller church with small budgets, don’t feel bad about going with brands with lower cool factor. Sometimes, the smaller companies innovate really well and come up with great solutions at great price points. Don’t discount them because they are not what the big church or big tour is using. 

I’ve talked with guys who are at smaller churches with all volunteer tech teams who are convinced they need a Digico at FOH and a Grand MA at lighting. Those are great pieces of kit, but they do have a steep learning curve, as well as big price tags. In a smaller setting with lower production demands, there are better options. Never feel bad about choosing the best option for your church; even if it’s not what all the cool kids are using. 

Get Good Advice

In my new role, I find myself helping churches decide what to buy. While I have my preferences on what I like, I have to set those aside and make sure I’m recommending what is best for them. I recently steered a church toward a Yamaha QL away from a Digico SD9. Personally, I would prefer the SD9 any day. But in this setting the QL makes much more sense. Not only is it considerably less money—and they were already at the top of their budget—it’s much more friendly to non-professional operators with zero digital console experience (and 20 years of analog experience). 

When purchasing equipment, make sure whoever is recommending what they are recommending knows your situation and how it will be used. Make sure they aren’t just giving you their stock solution. It would be a lot easier for me to have a “small church package” of gear that I can price and sell. But it would not likely be the best fit for everyone. So we stay custom for each church. 

I’ve always been a contrarian, so this concept is not foreign to me. But I write this to encourage those of you who are nervous about not doing what everyone else is doing. They used to say, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” That may have been true, but a lot of companies missed out on better options because someone took the safe route. 

Don’t be a gear snob. Get what works for your church. Everyone will be better off for it.

Today’s post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

CTW InfoComm 2014 Coverage: Allen & Heath Que32 Digital Mixer

Allen & Heath introduced the Que line of digital mixers a while back, and now they’ve added the Que 32. As the name suggests, it has 32 mic preamps, with 32 faders (plus master), so there are no layers. Well, sort of. Auxes, DCAs and FX are on another layer. It has a 7″ touchscreen and some other cool recording/playback features. It looks like a square shot at the X32 from where we sit.


CTW InfoComm 2014 Coverage: Roland XS-Series Video Matrix Switchers

Matrix switchers aren’t exactly sexy, but Roland packs a lot of cool features into the XS series. We’ve got multi-format inputs, HD-BaseT & HDMi outputs, scalers on every input and output and decent audio processing. If you look at a complete system price, they are quite competitive.


Today’s post is brought to you by Pacific Coast Entertainment. Pacific Coast Entertainment is the premier event production company servicing Southern California and the western states. PCE offers a complete line of Lighting, Audio, Video, and Staging equipment for rentals, sales and installs. Where old fashion customer service meets high tech solutions. PCE, your one stop tech resource.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 202: I’ve Got A Yeti

It’s our InfoComm 2014 Wrap Up episode. Hear about all the cool products we saw in Vegas at InfoComm. We cover the gamut, from lights, to LED walls to audio gear and more. 


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.

CTW InfoComm 2014 Coverage: Audinate Dante Via

Most of us are familiar with Dante, the flexible audio network and transport protocol. They have now introduced Via. Via removes the dedicated hardware limitation of Dante and lets any input, output or even software on your computer become a transmitter or receiver for Dante. Plenty of great applications for this; the only downside is it won’t be out until year’s end.


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.

CTW InfoComm 2014 Coverage: Shure QLX-D Wireless System

On the heels of the successful ULX-D line, Shure unveils the new QLX-D. Though it’s missing a few features from it’s big brother (namely Dante outputs), it’s a solid offering. Considering a system with metal body packs or metal handhelds (no plastic!) will come in around $1100-1400 per channel, it’s a great alternative.


Today’s post is brought to you by Pivitec.Pivitec redefines the Personal Monitor Mixing System by offering components that are Flexible, Precise and Expandable. Ideal for any application from Touring and Live Production to fixed installation in theaters and Houses of Worship.

ChurchTechWeekly Episode 201: English Language Audio Puns

Our friend Brad is back to talk more about compressors! This week we cover side-chained comps, multi-band comps, dynamic EQ, gates and duckers. 


Today’s post is brought to you 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.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned


Steinbeck wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.” Such is often the case with installations. Four weeks ago, I had a great plan of how this week would go. All the new furniture for the booth would be ready to go, we’d pull in cable, terminate, move everything down and wire it all up neatly. Then we’d fire up the new PA and spend an afternoon tweaking. Then things started going awry…

As of this writing, the furniture is still in pieces in the loading dock. Six of the eight leg assemblies are rough sanded, but they are far from complete. The new booth is a mess and the gear is on Steeldeck tables. But we are ready to do a weekend, even if everything is not quite done. OK, it’s not close to being done. How did we get there?

Be Prepared with a Critical Path

Whenever I go into a big project like this, I always have a critical path in mind. The critical path defines what must be done to meet the goal. For us, the goal was be ready for the weekend. There are many components to the system that are not critical or even necessary for normal weekend services. Those are the first to go when the project goes sideways. 

We started the week off well; most of our cables were pulled and we were ready to start terminating plates. But we got bogged down and had a few issues crop up. Trying to do an installation in an active construction zone didn’t help. Looking back, we should have pushed this off another month. 

By Wednesday, I knew we wouldn’t get it all done. So we had to decide on what needed to be done for Saturday’s service. That list included:

  • The PA up and running
  • REAC to the stage for the M-48s
  • Com had to work
  • Video from ProPresenter to Projector
  • Audio to Broadcast
  • Cameras in place and working
  • Lighting working

That was pretty much it. You’ll notice having the PA tuned up is not on the list. I was pretty confident that it would sound good enough right out of the box that I wouldn’t need to spend hours on it to do a weekend. Thankfully I was right. 

Make Hard Choices

We have some cool new technology we’re installing, and it would have been great to get them all working. One is the Dante network. We’re installing a Focusrite RedNet6 MADI to Dante converter to feed the PA and distribute audio throughout the building. By Friday, we hadn’t tested it yet, so I set a limit of 1 hour to get it working. I knew that I could pull in a few analog audio lines to drive the DSP as a fallback, and it wouldn’t take long. After an hour, I was still having trouble with Dante. 

As much as I wanted my shiny new RedNet box working, I powered it down and pulled in a few analog cables. The PA was fully operational 30 minutes later. We wanted to play with all our new cool video routing hardware, but it wasn’t critical for the weekend, so we bailed on it. I even have a nice pair of Equator Audio D5s we’re putting at FOH, but again, we don’t need them for the weekend, so they’re still in the box. 


Do the Things You Can’t Do Later

I did spend a fair amount of time wiring the PA. I could have just thrown wiring up there and made it work, but as it’s 31’ in the air, getting back up there after the lift is gone is really hard. Since we had a lift in last week, I spent the time to wire it up very cleanly. No one will have to go up there for a long, long time to work on that. The same goes for the amp rack. I probably spent an hour more than I had to to make sure it was completely tied down and neat. Because it’s up in a catwalk and getting tools and materials up there is tough, I wanted to do that job once. Again, it’s done probably until it is removed in 10+ years. 

Like I said, this week didn’t go as planned, but we are still able to do church. The new PA doesn’t sound as good as it will sound, but it’s orders of magnitude better than the old one. We did the best we could and made it as far as we could. From this point on, it’s all refining.


How Custom IEMs are Made Pt. 2

Last time, we were working our way through the custom IEM “factory” at Ultimate Ears. I put factory in quotes because it’s not that big, and most of the work is done by hand. In the last post, we saw the shells being created, today we’ll see how the electronics are married to the shells. 

This is where we start seeing things coming together. As you can imagine, the inside cavity of the IEMs is pretty small. And so are the components that go inside. As a result, the people working on these have small hands and good eyesight. This is very detailed work.

Below is a picture of the balanced armature driver network that goes into the shells. A balance armature is similar to a regular speaker, but because it operates in a sealed environment, they don’t have to worry about what happens behind the driver. The key to getting great sound out of balanced armature speakers is the tuning. That was the part I couldn’t photograph as it’s proprietary. But know that every driver is tuned and each IEM is checked agains a reference frequency response profile. If it doesn’t meet spec, it’s worked on until it does, or the process begins again.

It takes a lot of skill to fit the above components into that small shell, while maintaining the right sound. Once it’s all in place, tuned and tested, it’s time to fix everything in place. You can’t have driver boxes rattling around in your head, so they are glued in place with a special UV cured glue.

A technician adjusts the final fit of the drivers in the shell.

A technician adjusts the final fit of the drivers in the shell.

A small amount of UV cured glue is injected via a very small syringe. 

A small amount of UV cured glue is injected via a very small syringe. 

A blast of UV light and the glue is cured. Cool!

A blast of UV light and the glue is cured. Cool!

Because every shell is a different shape, there is no automated process to make this go faster. Each and every part has to be hand-fitted. To me, that was the most impressive part of the process—how labor intensive it is. The cost of the IEMs started to make a lot more sense when I saw how long they take to make. These aren’t coming off an assembly line hundreds an hour.

After the components are fitted, glued in and the back plate attached, it’s time for some final polishing. Because they will be inserted and removed from your ears hundreds or thousands of times, a perfectly smooth outer surface is critical. 


Like every other step, it’s all by hand. If they remove too much material here, the whole process needs to start over again, so a light touch is critical. Of course, they check the shells against the mold at each step.


The final step is polishing the back plate and making sure the fit is perfect. This last buffing puts a super-smooth finish on the shell which makes it easy and painless to put in place and remove. 


The final step is another layer of quality control. Each box is signed by the inspector and has a serial number that can be traced all the way back through each step of the process. Should there every be an issue, the problem can be found quickly and corrected. 

So that’s the process. Hopefully this gives you a better idea of how those things are made. One of the things that impresses me about UE is the attention to detail and dedication to customer service. They are working on getting the process tuned up and quicker so if an artist is on the road or a church musician has a problem, it can be corrected in days, not weeks. 

All impressions are kept on file so if you lose your ears, a new set can be made without having to visit an audiologist again. In fact, I’m anxiously awaiting a new set that I’m getting to evaluate. As soon as they arrive and I get some time with them, I’ll let you know how they sound!


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.

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