A Review by: Alphonso Soosay
The individual held responsible for the sound in a Night-Club or Theatre, is as important as any Musicians or Singers on stage.
As an audio engineer or an audio operator, paradoxically you are doing your most excellent job at a live concert when you are least noticed, also when the live show sounds crystal clear and in the right perspective, the audience takes for granted the knowledge and effort that went into the presentation. I hope this will be a consoling thought when you are winding up cords or battling with heavy road cases at 3.00am. After watching the musicians skip out the stage door with their musical instruments.
Hopefully, this article will make your job a little easier and inspire you to pick up a pen and communicate your own questions. Let’s concentrate on club style sound system, which will typically involve questions about accomplishing sound in rooms that hold up to 500 people. Let’s begin our analysis with a consideration of several factors that come into play when you are assembling a sound system for Club work.
Size of Venu:
The Nite-Club room you work may range in size from an intimate (100 to 500) setting to a massive warehouse like showcase club. (Metropolis). The shape of each room, and its resulting characteristics, will have effects on the sound. To a large extend, your job involves making educated guesses about these effects in every situation you encounter. Taking into consideration the fact that you probably have a limited amount of equipment at your disposal, it is important to make the absolute most out of it. You really would be surprised at all the minor changes you could make that yield major differences in your results.
Angling your reinforcement speakers more efficiently, for example, through a better understanding of directional characteristics, can make a world of differences, as can careful selection of crossover points. Learning how to gauge and calculate the effect reverberation will have in a room will also help provide clues to optimal placement of speakers. Multi level venues (example, Metropolis) could require a zoned, or split, system that would use upper and lower speakers to cover the balcony and ground floor.
Sometimes, you could encounter oddly shaped rooms where, no matter how you aim your speakers, you cannot cover the whole area evenly. In those cases you may have to add extra speakers to your system, its called “Side Firing” and elevate on walls.
Details of Venue:
Generally, it is important to know in advance the shape and size of the Nite-Club or venue you will be working in. It would be a great idea for the sound operator in charge to keep a log book of the venues they work in often. The log book should have a page for each venue, with information like the managers name, the telephone number, the location and size of the load in door, the stage size and headroom (watch out for low ceiling), the main mixing board location, monitor mixing location and electrical notes including the location and number of outlets and breaker panel and location of where the lights are powered from (this is to make sure that you don’t have problems with buzz effects on the sound). To a large extend, your job involves making educated guesses about these effects in every situation that you will encounter. Taking into consideration the fact that you probably have a limited amount of equipment at your disposal, it is important to make the absolute most out of it. You really would be surprised at all the minor changes you could make that yield major differences in your audio results. Have a drawing made of the club’s layout and this would be helpful. If you have roadies who work for you, copies of this information in their hands will save everybody’s time.
This is about positioning your Reinforcement speakers more efficiently, for example, through a better understanding of directional characteristics, it can make a world of differences if you carefully select the crossover points on the crossover. Learning how to gauge and assess the effect reverberation will have in a room will also help provide clues to optimal placement of speakers. Multi level venues (example, Metropolis) could require a zoned, or split, system that would use upper and lower speakers to cover the balcony and ground floor.
One factor to take into consideration is how many people are going to help you move the audio reinforcement equipments, which may help you decide between putting your amps into a rolling rack or individual cases.
If you have a fairly small portable system, a bread van will probably be your transportation. The next step up would be a small truck or an old bus with their seats removed.
For a much bigger set-up, the best transportation is a good 18 x 24 feet box body trucks, these can come with either a ramp or a hydraulic lift gate. Remember, whether its you or hired hands (roadies) who do the work in setting up, sound work often requires supreme amount of physical exertion.
Without compromising your quality one bit, you can cut costs. If you possess any carpentry or electrical skills, there is a point at which it may be more feasible to build. Rather than buy some equipment. Your handiness and ability to learn these things could also enable you to make your own minor repairs on equipment. Tracing and eliminating shorts in cords by having a continuity electronic tester. Another way to save money is to buy from discount departments in as large quantity as possible. Purchasing microphone cables and connectors from a distributor in quantities might save you up to 50 per cent of the cost of buying 10 of them at separate times.
Size and Location:
The prime consideration is the type of music you are involved with presenting. If you are working with one band all the time, you can design a system to specifically meet their needs. However, if you are working with several bands or artists, you must concern yourself with having a more flexible system. The size of the band will determine, among other things, how tight the stage set up will be and how many speaker, amplifiers and microphones you will need. It’s good to know before hand exactly what you are in for with each job. Let’s take a good look at the system of equipment? Speakers, There are several ways to go about transforming electrical impulses into sound waves, and the speaker system you work with should utilize their different characteristics to correspond your needs. Your concern for mobility, cost, and efficiency will also help determine your collection of mains and monitor speakers.
The type of power amplifiers you need will best be defined by the quality speakers you have to drive. There are many different superior types of amplifiers in the market today, well respected old standard and young competitors with new attractive audio and visual features.
Although you may not have spent years playing scales on your board, yours ears should be finely tuned to the subtle (or dynamic) effect that each knob, lever, and switch has on its input and output sound. With the many excellent boards on the market, your personal needs and resources will define the board you end up with.
The Mixing Board:
Audio Mixing board, (the heart of any audio chain) is what the audio operator / engineer use to perform on during their live show. With the latest digital and most popular in line boards, which includes a line input, microphone input, insert point, and CD / tape send / return, The microphone inputs for each channel that supplies 48 volts phantom power independently, and there is a switch to select the line or microphone input The equalization section (example) High: 10kHz to 20 kHz, High Mid: 500 Hz to 15 kHz, Low Mid: 100 Hz to 1.6 kHz, and Sub LF: 20 Hz to 120 Hz.
Of course, there are Pan Pots and Buss assign switches that let you route the signal to the stereo mix buss and / or any of the eight group (output) busses. Stereo connections include outputs to the control room monitor system and two main outputs; insert points for the stereo buss, and returns for the two tracks. All CD, i-Pod and Tape sends and the two track returns are factory set to accommodate O-dBV equipment, but they can be switched for +4 dBu operation by removing several resistors from some of the circuit boards. Please do not try this at home unless you are an electronic technician or very sure of what you are doing. The mixing board also includes an oscillator (1 kHz), for queue up live recording situations. It can be a mono 12 channel output or to a 48 channel in-line board with 8sub stereo plus two master outputs.
These days there is a big variety of names and many different types of microphones available for a variety of uses. But it is safe to say that for live club work you will be dealing almost exclusively with passive dynamic microphones. It’s very important to know your specific musical instruments requirements and the application of each microphone.
Shure SM 58 is one of the popular microphones since 1966 and because of its wonderful mid range abilities, it is also a fairly robust microphone and possesses everything needed to provide with great live performances. It’s known for low-feedback issues during live performances when used correctly. Audio feedback has always been a huge nuisance with many live performances with other un-tested microphones. The SM 58 is probably the most popular microphone in the world for a worthy reason as it is much affordable compared to most other quality microphones.
Other live application microphones tested are:
Electro-Voice N/D967 Supercardioid Vocal Microphone has a dynamic Supercardioid pattern optimized for live vocal performance. It has the highest gain-before-feedback compared to other vocal Microphone and it has excellent uniform Supercardioid rejection with only 27% of ambient noise pick-up. This Microphone has a switch that changes the response curve by reducing some low mid content, therefore giving the Microphone more cut through without having to increase high frequencies. Its unique internal micro grill breaks up plosives of those unwanted “B” and “P” pops; also it provides a 3 to 5 dB more gain compared to other dynamic microphones.
The Sennheiser E935 Cardioid vocal microphone provides a lot of power in an inexpensive package. It is a multi-use microphone, for home recording studios too, it provides clear, crisp sound and minimal feedback. It even picks up the rich low notes that many Singers would love.
Audix OM2 is also an established microphone because of its outstanding mid range abilities. It is also a fairly durable microphone and possesses everything needed to provide a great live performance. According to Live Concert Singers it does not have much feedback during their live performances compared to other microphones they have used previously. In addition, this microphone can be used for home recording studios too.
To mike up a Bass Drum, for example, this calls for a microphone with a large enough diaphragm (example, AKG D-12 or D112) to reproduce low end noise without distortion. It robustly handles low frequency high sound pressure levels. And it reduces the sound picked up at the sides and rear of the microphone; they are receptively applied where feedback from monitors or bleed through from other microphones may be a problem.
An equaliser is a pretty remarkable piece of electronic circuit, to say at least, in the hands of a capable engineer or operator. This device enables you to control the frequency of certain segments of the sound spectrum.
Different types of equaliser device are used in the sound spectrum in different ways, simple treble and bass tone controls divide it into two effectible parts. A graphic equaliser usually divides into, 10, 15, or 31 parts, while other types of equalizations, like the parametric and Para graphics, let you focus in on the exact point you wish to make changes.
The Key Man of the Live Performances:
This is where your job as a sound operator / engineer, businessman, craftsman, turns into being an artist as yourself. To a large extend you as the operator / engineer in conjunction with the Live Band you are mixing is responsible for how the audiences receive the final Audio and whatever the band is trying to convey. You are the intermediary man in an artistic exchange, and hopefully you will have a sense of responsibility that translates into doing your best in every live audio situation, regardless of a number of factors that might affect your own level of inspiration. (The fact can be that you had only a few hours of sleep in the past few days) If you have worked with a couple of bands then you could be in touch with the music as much as, if not more as any member of the band you are working with. This is a musician’s audio engineering job. Also as a mix operator / engineer, you will have to be aware of every song on the set list, (on the ball all the time on every set) this example is, if you know where, in the second song of the third set, the guitarist is about to jump into a magnificent lead solo which needs to be boosted with effects at the mixing board Details like this can make the difference between good and great mixed sound operator / engineer.
Audio Recording Engineer