Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Follow-Up: Handheld Vocal Mic Shootout

In reference to the Handheld Vocal Mic Shootout article, a reader asked "If I may ask, do you recall if, during  the shows that you mention in that article, the performers were using in-ear monitoring? I have a Shure Beta 58 which I kind of like (I'm a dramatic tenor, amateur), and what I've heard from the e965 is quite impressing. I am just a bit afraid of running into feedback issues quite soon."

To be blunt, this question brings up a lot of peeves of mine that I currently feel totally free to vent. So, if you are a live guy do what you always do; cover your ears. This will be uncomfortable and actual information as opposed to the superstitions you usually depend upon. Feedback and in-ear monitors are a double-edged sword as are condenser microphones. A lot of live sound people have no clue how gain works and because of that grossly misuse microphones, monitors of all sorts, and gain structure. Educating them is a losing battle and one I have no interest in taking on.

On stage and in the audience, the only feedback number that matters is dBSPL, not the dB values from either preamps or monitor or main trim or fader levels. Anyone who believes otherwise is foolish and uninformed. Beware of foolish or uninformed FOH or monitor "engineers": they appear to be the majority population of that sad "profession." That said, in-ear monitors should resolve a lot of feedback issues on stage (although they offer no particular feedback advantage for the FOH system). The second side of that sword appears when stage volume (not gain) is so high that a feedback loop between the in-ear leakage and the microphone causes the system to squeal. Not only is that painful, but it can be permanently damaging. For that reason, many in-ear artists carry their own monitor system and provide themselves with a monitor mix outside of the mess the monitor guy pukes up.

Regarding condensers and in-ear monitors, do not disregard the original article's caution:
WARNING! There is one big downside to using condensers in a live environment that should be discussed before you ever consider this adventure: cables and phantom power. The live environment is not conducive to cable integrity and 48VDC can deliver a driver-shattering blast when it is toggled off and on through a defective mic cable. Before using a hand-held condenser on stage, you should be very careful in selecting the mic cable for this application and consider the talent and cable-abuse-tendencies of the performer. If there was ever a good time to consider quad-star mic cables, this is probably it.

This is huge when that phantom pop is delivered directly to your ears. One bad cable could be all there is between you and going deaf.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.