Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [bbshop] Digest Number 3493 - Sound Reinforcement

Expand Messages
  • mteacher@optonline.net
    Hi, netters -- The article posted earlier had some helpful tips, but in an attempt to be folksy and non-threatening, it was awfully vague. The best advice in
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 31, 2006
    • 0 Attachment
      Hi, 'netters --

      The article posted earlier had some helpful tips, but in an attempt to be folksy and non-threatening, it was awfully vague. The best advice in the article was to consult a professional if you're not sure. A few brief comments:

      - Pickup pattern -- It's "cardioid" (meaning "heart-shaped"), not "cartoid." The article is correct that this will generally be your best bet for live reinforcement. "Supercardioid" or "Hypercardioid" may be even better when properly used, since it will do a better job of rejecting sound coming from behind it, minimizing the potential for feedback (that awful screech we so often hear from inexpertly run sound systems). Avoid "Omnidirectional" for live audio -- they're potential feedback nightmares.

      - Microphone type -- While I respect Shelley's knowledgeable opinions on audio, I have to disagree with him on his mic choice and would not recommend ribbon microphones for a typical barbershop chorus. Why not? They certainly sound excellent, and are considered by many professionals to be the best instrument for capturing the nuances of the human voice. Well, for starters, they can cost upwards of a grand apiece. Secondly, they are the most delicate/fragile mics going -- blowing directly into one can destroy it, leaving you with a thousand-dollar paperweight. (How many times have you seen an M.C., a well-meaning chorus guy, or even some kid who climbs on stage from the audience blow into a mic to test it?) Also, if a careless or unsuspecting sound guy throws the "phantom power" switch on the mixer (more on this mysterious switch later), he can destroy certain ribbon microphones.

      Dynamic microphones (typical hand-held solo vocal mics) will not do the job in most cases. No matter how many you point at the chorus, they are so directional and so prone to the proximity effect that your total sound will be a collection of tinny solo voices. Even good quality mics (like the industry standard Shure SM-58) are designed for optimal use about a half-inch to a few inches from a solo voice or instrument, not for chorus or quartet use. (Unless, of course, the quartet wishes to use four handheld mics, which opens up a whole other can of worms that I won't get into in this post.)

      I DO recommend condensers, as the article states. However, there is a wide range available, and not every type is suited for every application. While large-diaphragm condensers are great for studio work, recording, and even certain live applications (indoors in a quiet environment), I'd recommend small-diaphragm condensers for most chorus reinforcement. There are several brands/models available designed specifically for chorus reinforcement, with pickup patterns and sonic characteristics (including bass rolloff) that are desirable for a cappella voices. ALL condenser microphones require an external power source, whether in the form of batteries, external in-line power supplies (plugin or battery operated), or the aforementioned "phantom power" from a mixer. Phantom Power = 48 volts supplied directly through the XLR microphone cable; so named because most other microphones can't even tell it's there. Notable exceptions include many ribbon microphones (which can be d
      amaged by phantom power) and some wireless systems, which will squeal and distort when phantom power is turned on.

      - Mic positioning for quartets -- The description is a little unclear -- I think the author has it right, but didn't explain the orientation of the "V." Two microphones in a "V" pointed outward toward the performers, while apparently logical, can create significant sonic problems. Two microphones in an INVERTED "V," with the mic elements overlapping or facing each other at a 90 degree angle, will give you complete coverage with no gaps in the sound. (This is called an "XY" configuration). When the mics are spread, there is a gap in coverage, and if a lead singer shifts slightly from side to side there can be a phasing effect, almost as if he was singing through a guitar "wah-wah" pedal. (I've seen and heard this very problem at several Society divisional and district contests, although thankfully not recently.) I pretty much agree with the mic placement for choruses outlined in the article, although you may want to adjust the number of mics for coverage of a larger
      chorus depending on how much vocal presence vs. room acoustic you like in your sound.

      - Mixing and Amplification -- oddly, this was not addressed at all in the article. While the author mentioned loudspeakers, he made no mention of mixers or amplifiers -- these are the critical components between the mics and speakers, and can't be ignored. Some considerations: will you use a mixer/amplifier combo (a "powered mixer" or "P.A. head"), or separate components? How many XLR microphone pre-amps are on the mixer? Is phantom power available? Is there sufficient onboard EQ (to adjust frequency balances and minimize feedback)? The best systems will have discrete mixers, amplifiers, and EQ units, and possibly even a standalone mic preamp. However, in the interest of portability, expense, and ease of setup, there are now some fine all-in-one systems on the market that do the job adequately for most performances. (My chorus uses an all-in-one mixer for on-the-road outdoor singouts, but uses a full theatrical mixer/amp setup for annual and Christmas shows.)

      Of course, there are other elements to consider -- number and positioning of speakers, the use of stage monitors, recording gear -- any number of variables depending on your particular group's situation. Again, consult a professional if you're not sure. As Shelley said, don't just walk into Radio Shack; you need a higher level of expertise than they can generally give. You don't have to pay a fortune for decent sound, but don't expect to get by on a few hundred dollars, either. If you're starting from scratch, plan on spending $2000 to $3000 at minimum for good quality equipment that will last you. (I'm including cables, road cases, electrical surge protection, etc. in this estimate -- take care of your gear, and it will take care of you!) I haven't recommended any particular brands or models here -- if your chorus would like some help in putting together a system and need guidance (at no charge!), feel free to email me privately. There are others on the 'net who are
      also good resources; Shelley is one (even if we disagree occasionally about microphone choice!) with a wealth of knowledge. Ask around, do some research, and find a reputable supplier. It's your sound -- make it work for you!

      Yours in harmony,
      Chris Andrade
      The Coastal Chordsmen
      Bridgeport Chapter K-001

      From: bbshop@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Friday, March 31, 2006 7:18 am
      Subject: [bbshop] Digest Number 3493
    • Clare McCreary
      Chris, and also Shelley: What is your opinion regarding the floor mounted mics, pcm and pzm, I think they are called. [Non-text portions of this message have
      Message 2 of 4 , Mar 31, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        Chris, and also Shelley:

        What is your opinion regarding the floor mounted mics, pcm and pzm, I think they are called.

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Dan Proctor PAH
        Friends, I noticed one small error in the information below. Most SuperCardioid and HyperCardioid microphones have a larger circle behind them than plain
        Message 3 of 4 , Mar 31, 2006
        • 0 Attachment
          Friends,

          I noticed one small error in the information below.

          Most SuperCardioid and HyperCardioid microphones have a larger "circle"
          behind them than plain Cardioid mics do. For any type of closer micing
          (quartets) the front "circle" of the SC & HC mics isn't wide enough to catch
          all the performers. Also, most Cardioid mics have a more flat frequency
          response than their SC & HC bretheren.

          As was stated by Chris below each mic is different so borrow or rent some
          before you purchase. My personal favorite is the Neumann KM184, this mic
          has a very sweet sound and, although it isn't the cheapest, it would be a
          good investment. It is a condenser mic so it requires Phantom power and it
          does require the full 48v power. Another thing I like about this mic is it
          can handle SPL of 138db so it is fairly durable (condenser mics aren't a
          tough as dynamic mics by their very nature).

          I just did a search on ebay and I believe you can purchase a matched pair of
          these for around $1000.00.

          Let's Go METS!

          Dan Proctor
          President, The Metropolitans, http://Metropolitans.org
          2006 Sunshine District International Chorus Representative
          2005 Sunshine District Chorus Champion

          NOTICE: This message is confidential, intended for the named recipient(s)
          and may contain information that is (i) proprietary to the sender, and/or,
          (ii) privileged, confidential and/or otherwise exempt from disclosure under
          applicable Florida and federal law, including, but not limited to, the
          appropriate privacy standards. Receipt by anyone other than the named
          recipient(s) is not a waiver of any applicable privilege. Thank you in
          advance for your compliance with this notice.

          -----Original Message-----
          From: bbshop@yahoogroups.com [mailto:bbshop@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
          mteacher@...
          Sent: Friday, March 31, 2006 3:31 PM
          To: bbshop@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [bbshop] Digest Number 3493 - Sound Reinforcement

          Hi, 'netters --

          The article posted earlier had some helpful tips, but in an attempt to
          be folksy and non-threatening, it was awfully vague. The best advice in the
          article was to consult a professional if you're not sure. A few brief
          comments:

          - Pickup pattern -- It's "cardioid" (meaning "heart-shaped"), not
          "cartoid." The article is correct that this will generally be your best bet
          for live reinforcement. "Supercardioid" or "Hypercardioid" may be even
          better when properly used, since it will do a better job of rejecting sound
          coming from behind it, minimizing the potential for feedback (that awful
          screech we so often hear from inexpertly run sound systems). Avoid
          "Omnidirectional" for live audio -- they're potential feedback nightmares.

          - Microphone type -- While I respect Shelley's knowledgeable opinions on
          audio, I have to disagree with him on his mic choice and would not recommend
          ribbon microphones for a typical barbershop chorus. Why not? They
          certainly sound excellent, and are considered by many professionals to be
          the best instrument for capturing the nuances of the human voice. Well, for
          starters, they can cost upwards of a grand apiece. Secondly, they are the
          most delicate/fragile mics going -- blowing directly into one can destroy
          it, leaving you with a thousand-dollar paperweight. (How many times have
          you seen an M.C., a well-meaning chorus guy, or even some kid who climbs on
          stage from the audience blow into a mic to test it?) Also, if a careless or
          unsuspecting sound guy throws the "phantom power" switch on the mixer (more
          on this mysterious switch later), he can destroy certain ribbon microphones.


          Dynamic microphones (typical hand-held solo vocal mics) will not do the
          job in most cases. No matter how many you point at the chorus, they are so
          directional and so prone to the proximity effect that your total sound will
          be a collection of tinny solo voices. Even good quality mics (like the
          industry standard Shure SM-58) are designed for optimal use about a
          half-inch to a few inches from a solo voice or instrument, not for chorus or
          quartet use. (Unless, of course, the quartet wishes to use four handheld
          mics, which opens up a whole other can of worms that I won't get into in
          this post.)

          I DO recommend condensers, as the article states. However, there is a
          wide range available, and not every type is suited for every application.
          While large-diaphragm condensers are great for studio work, recording, and
          even certain live applications (indoors in a quiet environment), I'd
          recommend small-diaphragm condensers for most chorus reinforcement. There
          are several brands/models available designed specifically for chorus
          reinforcement, with pickup patterns and sonic characteristics (including
          bass rolloff) that are desirable for a cappella voices. ALL condenser
          microphones require an external power source, whether in the form of
          batteries, external in-line power supplies (plugin or battery operated), or
          the aforementioned "phantom power" from a mixer. Phantom Power = 48 volts
          supplied directly through the XLR microphone cable; so named because most
          other microphones can't even tell it's there. Notable exceptions include
          many ribbon microphones (which can be d amaged by phantom power) and some
          wireless systems, which will squeal and distort when phantom power is turned
          on.

          - Mic positioning for quartets -- The description is a little unclear --
          I think the author has it right, but didn't explain the orientation of the
          "V." Two microphones in a "V" pointed outward toward the performers, while
          apparently logical, can create significant sonic problems. Two microphones
          in an INVERTED "V," with the mic elements overlapping or facing each other
          at a 90 degree angle, will give you complete coverage with no gaps in the
          sound. (This is called an "XY" configuration). When the mics are spread,
          there is a gap in coverage, and if a lead singer shifts slightly from side
          to side there can be a phasing effect, almost as if he was singing through a
          guitar "wah-wah" pedal. (I've seen and heard this very problem at several
          Society divisional and district contests, although thankfully not recently.)
          I pretty much agree with the mic placement for choruses outlined in the
          article, although you may want to adjust the number of mics for coverage of
          a larger chorus depending on how much vocal presence vs. room acoustic you
          like in your sound.

          - Mixing and Amplification -- oddly, this was not addressed at all in the
          article. While the author mentioned loudspeakers, he made no mention of
          mixers or amplifiers -- these are the critical components between the mics
          and speakers, and can't be ignored. Some considerations: will you use a
          mixer/amplifier combo (a "powered mixer" or "P.A. head"), or separate
          components? How many XLR microphone pre-amps are on the mixer? Is phantom
          power available? Is there sufficient onboard EQ (to adjust frequency
          balances and minimize feedback)? The best systems will have discrete
          mixers, amplifiers, and EQ units, and possibly even a standalone mic preamp.
          However, in the interest of portability, expense, and ease of setup, there
          are now some fine all-in-one systems on the market that do the job
          adequately for most performances. (My chorus uses an all-in-one mixer for
          on-the-road outdoor singouts, but uses a full theatrical mixer/amp setup for
          annual and Christmas shows.)

          Of course, there are other elements to consider -- number and positioning of
          speakers, the use of stage monitors, recording gear -- any number of
          variables depending on your particular group's situation. Again, consult a
          professional if you're not sure. As Shelley said, don't just walk into
          Radio Shack; you need a higher level of expertise than they can generally
          give. You don't have to pay a fortune for decent sound, but don't expect to
          get by on a few hundred dollars, either. If you're starting from scratch,
          plan on spending $2000 to $3000 at minimum for good quality equipment that
          will last you. (I'm including cables, road cases, electrical surge
          protection, etc. in this estimate -- take care of your gear, and it will
          take care of you!) I haven't recommended any particular brands or models
          here -- if your chorus would like some help in putting together a system and
          need guidance (at no charge!), feel free to email me privately. There are
          others on the 'net who are also good resources; Shelley is one (even if we
          disagree occasionally about microphone choice!) with a wealth of knowledge.
          Ask around, do some research, and find a reputable supplier. It's your
          sound -- make it work for you!

          Yours in harmony,
          Chris Andrade
          The Coastal Chordsmen
          Bridgeport Chapter K-001

          From: bbshop@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Friday, March 31, 2006 7:18 am
          Subject: [bbshop] Digest Number 3493




          Yahoo! Groups Links
        • Jim Emery
          ... I ve enjoyed the many good posts on this subject. It s refreshing to see how many barbershoppers are getting smart in sound amplification and recording
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 2, 2006
          • 0 Attachment
            > Dynamic microphones (typical hand-held solo vocal mics) will not do
            > the job in most cases. No matter how many you point at the chorus,
            > they are so directional and so prone to the proximity effect that
            > your total sound will be a collection of tinny solo voices.

            I've enjoyed the many good posts on this subject. It's refreshing to see how
            many barbershoppers are getting smart in sound amplification and recording
            technologies.

            I'd like to make a couple minor corrections to the above statement if I may.
            The conclusion is correct, but I will offer different reasons than those given.

            It's true that dynamic mics make poor choices for barbershop. But not all
            dynamic mics are directional. There are directional dynamics (the classic
            SM-58's and SM-57's) as well as omnidirectional dynamics (SM63's, etc.)

            Second, proximity effect applies to all directional microphones, whether they
            are dynamics or condensers. Even the best directional condenser will also
            exhibit proximity effect (accentuated bass response) if you sing close to it.
            This can be useful is a singer knows how to use it, but can yield surprising
            results if the group is unaware. The best habit is not to sing closer than 2-3
            feet to any directional mic unless you know what you're doing.

            Finally, the reason I believe that dynamics make poor barbershop mics is that
            they simply aren't as sensitive as condensers or ribbons. A dynamic mic
            captures sound by mounting a suspended coil on the diaphragm. To create the
            electrical wave representing the sound at the diaphragm the coil must actually
            be physically moved by the sound pressure. A condenser, on the other hand, has
            a thin foil layer on the diaphragm. This foil moves in accordance with the
            sound pressure at the diaphragm and varies the capacitance in the audio circuit.
            Since the coil of a dynamic mic has considerably more mass than the foil on a
            condenser's diaphragm, the dynamic takes much more sound pressure to move it.
            So the sensivity of a dynamic mic to subtle but critical nuances as well as the
            lower energy overtones we all want to hear in barbershop are usually lost with a
            dynamic but captured with a condenser or ribbon. This lack of sensitivity also
            makes miking at a distance, such as with choruses, difficult with dynamics.

            It's this superior sensitivity that makes condensers and ribbons superior to
            dynamics for our kind of music. Dynamics, with the superior durability, are
            found much more in rock groups or non-music applications where sensitivity isn't
            as critical.

            Thanks for listening. :-)

            --Jim
            ___________________________________________________
            Jim Emery
            Singing Judge
            Hilltop, MN
            Great Northern Union chorus
            After Midnight quartet
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.