Two keys to sound systems that behave well.

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Two keys to sound systems that behave well

When designing a sound system, physics still applies, no matter how hard I might wish that it wouldn't.  Many venues that we work in have low ceilings and comparatively far distances to the last row of the seating area.  Think of the typical 1970's Nazarene church -- long and low, and it could be built inexpensively with standard wood trusses and asphalt shingles.  60' from front to back, 10' side wall height, 14' roof peak. 

The Inverse Square Law says that sound pressure level (SPL) or acoustic volume drops 6 decibels (dB) every time you double the distance from the sound source.  If we measure 94dB at four meters from the speaker, the SPL will be 88dB at eight meters, 82dB at 16 meters, 76 dB at 32 meters, etc. 

When designing systems, if we're asked, what we hope to find is a room that's about twice as deep as the ceiling is high.  In that type of space we can keep the SPL difference to about 3-4dB over the seating area with conventional speakers.  Note that in the example above, there's a 12dB difference for the person sitting 13.2' from the speaker and the person sitting 52.8' away. That's why the 1970's Nazarene church style building is a tough place to install a sound system, and to do it well (not to mention inexpensively).  That difference is 12dB represents more than a 50% apparent reduction in acoustical volume.  

That halving of volume is not a big deal, if you want people to be able to sit in relative audio comfort at the back of the room, but more often than not, the audio technician (who typically sits in a corner in the very back of the room) adjusts the SPL to his taste making the acoustic volume much louder (read as "too loud") up nearer the platform or stage. 

Unfortunately, system performance is close to the last thing that many churches and other performance venues discuss prior to design and eventual construction.

Read more: Two keys to sound systems that behave well.


Tone versus stage volume - an epic battle, and an easy way to solve it

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Headload-34Delivering great tone at low volume. 

One of our system designers is working on an article entitled "How Loud is Loud Enough?".  It will be published in the next week or two. 

We find, especially in smaller churches with contemporary worship, that the battle between what we'll call stage volume and overall volume in the house is often an issue.  Instrumentalists need more volume in order to feel their instrument or to get the best tone from their amplifier.  And there's truth to that.  And that need for volume drives listening sound pressure levels higher than they need to be for worshippers.  It's a very real conflict in smaller rooms. 

In order to get that full tone, many musicians build or buy isolation boxes for their amps and/or place the amps in another room so that they can get the tone they want and to not overpower the house sound system.  There's an easier way, and a less expensive way. 

The Radial Headload is a combination load box and attenuator that handles up to 130 watts RMS of continuous power and peaks of 180 watts. To use the Headload, it gets placed between the amplifier head and the speaker cabinet, allowing the guitar amp to be driven hard while reducing the output level - thus quieting the stage. 

The headload utilizes Radial's JDX Reactor direct box which captures the signal from the head plus the reactive load from the speaker cabinet for a more natural tone.  The Headload is also equipped with a Radial Phazer – phase adjustment tool. This lets you time-align the JDX direct feed with the microphone to deliver natural tones, or when pushed to extreme, create over the top effects. The JDX direct output may also be tailored to suit with a 6 position voicing switch to select from various cabinet emulation presets and fine tuned using a 2-band EQ to tame overly bright amps.

The Radial Headload V8 (8 Ohm version available now) can be used with or without the guitar speaker cabinet to help you get the precise balance of tone and volume that you need.  $899.  It might just be the product that allows everyone to have what they need. 


Make a big impact for less than $500

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"We've looked everywhere.  Someone must have 'picked up' the wireless microphone."  Not the words I wanted to hear five minutes before the service.

Our church hosted the Judson University choir on Sunday.  The platform had been cleared, and everything was set up the night before, except our lone handheld wireless microphone.  That's the microphone that the choir director requested to allow him the freedom to speak from different places. I couldn't find it during set-up, so I texted a couple people, one of whom said that it was in the pastor's office, so I didn't sweat it.  But the next day, we still couldn't find it. 

Like many of you, I'm the volunteer media team leader at the church I attend.  We work with a fairly limited budget, and it appears that I need a new wireless transmitter. Ugh!

With limited budget money, our purchases have to be spot on. 

We get daily questions about how to best utilize specific amounts of money, and the answers to the "how to" questions are particularly critical at amounts under $500.  

Here are some specific ideas.

Read more: Make a big impact for less than $500


The List Will Never Be Done

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by Mike Sessler, Church Tech Arts


Photo courtesy of Michael Mandiberg

Get a group of TD's together and it won't take long for the discussion to shift to how busy we all are. We all have a seemingly endless list of projects and tasks that we need to work on, and the pressure we feel (either from internal or external sources) to get them done—preferably right now. I too was one of those TDs. Years ago, I walked into a building that needed every single system updated, upgraded or replaced. In every room in the building. It was a long list. I know many of you are in similar situations. I started thinking that if I worked really hard just for the first few months, I could get it all done. But I came to realize that's simply not possible.

The truth is, the list will never be complete.

That realization can either be frustrating or liberating, depending on how you choose to deal with it.

I decided to go with liberating. Here's what I mean.

Read more: The List Will Never Be Done


Top 8 Microphone Myths Exposed

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by Davida Rochman, Shure

There are microphone myths just like there are urban myths. And their longevity rivals Bigfoot, Nessie and that mysterious Roswell incident in 1947.

Right here, right now, we’re setting the record straight on mic folklore that we’ve continued to debunk over the years. Check each one of these off your list, and when the subject comes up (yes, it will come up), you’ll be the expert.

Wireless Microphone Interference

1. There are wireless microphone frequencies that are completely free from interference.

False.  This is a myth that is being propagated by some pro audio manufacturers. The fact is there are no frequencies that are completely free from interference because there are no frequencies that are reserved only for wireless microphones. Even if there were, you could still have interference from other wireless microphones occupying that frequency band.

There are no “safe frequencies”.  All of the radio spectrum is allocated for different uses by different types of equipment. Every wireless microphone operates in a frequency range that contains other devices.  There is no exclusivity in the radio spectrum for wireless microphones.

Our advice: use wireless equipment that is as broadly tunable as possible.

2. Condenser mics are not as rugged as dynamics.

False.  In the days when this myth came into existence, condenser microphones were very expensive, studio-grade models.  The microphone they were compared to might have been a dynamic like the SM58®. If the ultra-expensive, circa 1930s vacuum tube microphone were dunked into a glass of beer or dropped on the stage ten times, or even one time, it probably would stop working. It will become a paperweight while the SM58 will survive all that.

Today, all of our condenser microphones are engineered to hold up to exactly the same abuse as an SM58. They go through the same exact environmental testing. Drop testing. Temperature testing. Humidity testing. Salt spray testing.  Vibration testing. Electromagnetic testing. They have to pass the same battery of tests, and they do.

The SM81 was introduced around 1978 as a studio condenser microphone. But because it is made from a machined steel handle and has the same sort of milspec environmental capability as the rest of our microphones, it was quickly embraced by the touring sound industry. There are SM81s out there on tour today that are probably fifteen or twenty years old. You can drive over them with a truck. Drop them on the floor. Hit them with a drumstick. And the same is true of all our condenser vocal mics.

So, in the modern era, the fragility of Shure condenser microphones is just a myth.

Read more: Top 8 Microphone Myths Exposed


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