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Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

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Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby Weedog » Sun Jul 10, 2011 9:01 am

Does anyone have any tips or methods used to set up and tune a small PA?

I've got a pair of JBL FOH speakers (PRX615M), a pair of EON 315's for fold back and a 31 band eq for each channel (DBX 231+1231). Generally the PA is setup and packed down for every gig and the venues are rarely the same

I've read about ringing out the speakers, which seems like it gives a good starting point for controlling feedback and getting the most volume from the system, but does that mean it will sound good to the audience?

For the most part, only vocals and acoustic guitars will be run through the PA with bands from duo’s to rock bands up to 5 people in small venues with no dedicated engineer at the controls.

Thanks for any feedback!
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:38 am

Weedog wrote:Does anyone have any tips or methods used to set up and tune a small PA?

I've got a pair of JBL FOH speakers (PRX615M), a pair of EON 315's for fold back and a 31 band eq for each channel (DBX 231+1231). Generally the PA is setup and packed down for every gig and the venues are rarely the same

I've read about ringing out the speakers, which seems like it gives a good starting point for controlling feedback and getting the most volume from the system, but does that mean it will sound good to the audience?

For the most part, only vocals and acoustic guitars will be run through the PA with bands from duo’s to rock bands up to 5 people in small venues with no dedicated engineer at the controls.

Thanks for any feedback!

No, "ringing out" is about quite the opposite of "sounding good" (except in the sense that feedback is the ultimate of "sounding bad"!)

I don't like ringing out. It's damage control for a system that is being run too loud. And it doesn't work particularly well either.

One suggestion. When you're sound checking, get the sound right on stage before even turning on the FOH speakers.

Those 31-band eq boxes may get you out of trouble if you hit a particularly nasty-sounding room. But remember, ringing out is a last resort when you're tyring to run louder than the room will take (and couldn't you just turn down a bit?). You'll probably find them more useful on the monitor mix than the FOH. (Does the FOH have to be stereo? Why?)

Thanks for any feedback!

Now, you don't REALLY mean that!
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby markstar » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:49 am

What I do
i put a cd on and listen via the desk through a good pair of head phones then remove the headphones and listen to the foh and eq the foh to get them sounding much the same as each other I find this works great to getting a good foh sound works for me most times
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby seablade » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:51 am

Exalted Wombat wrote:
No, "ringing out" is about quite the opposite of "sounding good" (except in the sense that feedback is the ultimate of "sounding bad"!)

I don't like ringing out. It's damage control for a system that is being run too loud. And it doesn't work particularly well either.

Not exactly.

Ringing out the system can help in the sense that the frequencies most likely to feedback are those that are accentuated by the room or system. So it is far from the opposite of sounding good.

Now if we are talking about a system that has good response out of the box, not the norm for around here, then we are in a different topic of course.

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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jul 10, 2011 11:17 am

Interesting responses so far!

There are a number of ways of 'tuning' your system. Ringing out, i.e. Putting a mic out front and winding up the volume until you ge feedback and then notching out rogue feedback frequencies can help, but is perhaps primitive.

A quick method I use is to play back test tones (matching the frequencies on the graphic) using the graphic equalizer to 'equalize' volume levels of each band. Then I'll follow this by playing back test tracks with which I'm very familiar and which enable me to analyze all aspects of the frequency spectrum.

But it's important to move around the room as you do this as, especially with lower frequencies, as you need to take into consideration null and peak points of standing waves in the room.

If you're running at higher levels I also tend to pull out frequencies around 4kHz as our ears become more sensitive to these frequencies at higher levels, so worthwhile being aware of loudness curves.

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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:04 pm

seablade wrote:
Exalted Wombat wrote:
No, "ringing out" is about quite the opposite of "sounding good" (except in the sense that feedback is the ultimate of "sounding bad"!)

I don't like ringing out. It's damage control for a system that is being run too loud. And it doesn't work particularly well either.

Not exactly.

Ringing out the system can help in the sense that the frequencies most likely to feedback are those that are accentuated by the room or system. So it is far from the opposite of sounding good.

Now if we are talking about a system that has good response out of the box, not the norm for around here, then we are in a different topic of course.

Seablade

Trouble is, all too often ringing out is more about the peculiar off-axis frequency response of individual microphones. And if eq could cure room problems, all the Studio SOS features would be about graphic eq settings rather than room layout and treatment!
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby seablade » Sun Jul 10, 2011 2:12 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
Trouble is, all too often ringing out is more about the peculiar off-axis frequency response of individual microphones. And if eq could cure room problems, all the Studio SOS features would be about graphic eq settings rather than room layout and treatment!

EQ can alleviate some problems(Certainly not all), and yes the frequency response of a system will change depending on the room and situation you put it in, which is why EQs do exist and are used on most systems, and on every single high end system as well as all systems I design. I can design a system that by specs and in ideal conditions will by completely flat, but in reality may not be due to various conditions in that room and I have to adjust to give as close as I can to a flat response across the room in general.

That being said it is certainly better to have a system capable of fairly flat reproduction out of the box than to try to fix it with EQ later which will not only not be a good solution but drastic EQ as required by many cheaper systems will in fact introduce other problems that are even harder to fix. Will it be better than running said cheap system without the EQ, in most cases the answer is going to be a resounding yes, but will it be better than having a system capable from the get go? Absolutely not.

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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:28 am

Exalted Wombat wrote:

Thanks for any feedback!

Now, you don't REALLY mean that!


Classic! :-D

Bob Bickerton wrote:Interesting responses so far!

There are a number of ways of 'tuning' your system. Ringing out, i.e. Putting a mic out front and winding up the volume until you ge feedback and then notching out rogue feedback frequencies can help, but is perhaps primitive.
Bob

This 'primitive' method is my MO of first response except I leave the mics on the stage and open. Particularly where space is tight and on small systems the stage area is a little subsystem of it's own with resonances and faultlines which will affect the FOH headroom. It should be used with caution and a good understanding of what those faultlines may be or you will most definitely antagonise punters (if present) and could fry your top end coils.

It is very effective at highlighting problem frequencies however and those are usually (IME) the areas that need dealing with anyway.

As far as getting the onstage sound right first, if your FOH is on or near the stage it will affect the onstage sound to a great degree so you may end up having to start again once the system is running.

As you may gather there are several approaches to this, all backed up my personal experience (and lots of fried coils), you may have to make some mistakes of your own to decide what's most appropriate for your setup.


It's worth underlining that all methods assume you've dealt with issues like mic placement, monitor placement and EQ, etc before resorting to FOH EQ to remedy problems.
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby tacitus » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:32 pm

I'm more in the 'set FOH then see how little monitor you can get away with' school, but that does assume some basic level of musicianship and the existence of some backline that's not just going through the PA - which for small gigs is usually the case.

For a guitar/bass/vox/drums type group, everything but the vocals is likely to be nearly loud enough on stage before any monitors are used. So the monitors will have a bit of everything and enough vocal for the singer to be able to perform. In practice, for pub gigs, everything has 'a bit of everything' in it because it just isn't possible to get better separation.

EQ-wise, start flat and use as little as possible. Cut wherever possible rather than boost and never assume you need to be savage with it. Always try to achieve good gain before feedback by doing anything else you can to avoid unnatural EQ - keep mics really close in, position monitors and backline very carefully, control the drum kit volume (especially in small rooms), don't allow yourselves to escalate stage volume and don't assume you'll be able to hear everything the band's doing in the monitor mix. While it's nice to have separate monitor mixes for each player it isn't necessary and in many cases will be another factor sucking the music out of the performance. I don't expect you all to agree with that but it's how it goes for me.

Finally, and possibly most contentiously, avoid gratuitous amounts of bass. There's nothing better in the right situation, but my feeling is that a few times a gig is plenty to be shaking yourselves to pieces. I've always tried to get my PA as close to Hi-fi as I reasonably can, so I'd prefer smooth, extended bass over hyped-up whoomph on a few notes.

If you can work well enough as a band to be able to manage on lower monitor levels, you can turn the FOH up as the evening goes on and not have the continual pressure of being on the verge of feedback - the room filling up with people will help, too.
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:37 pm

tacitus wrote:I'm more in the 'set FOH then see how little monitor you can get away with' school,....

Oh dear. You don't perform yourself then? :-)
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby tacitus » Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:46 pm

Yes, I do perform, Wombat, but possibly not exactly the way that others do. But in many venues setting monitors and then FOH isn't a practical way for me to work - it may be different for you and your band(s). Given the biggest problem with most weekend bands is poor control of volume, extensive monitoring as often as not engineers in problems that have to be engineered out again.

Granted, I come from a classical background, so I probably don't work the same way as most other people, but I'm only reporting what I've found in the venues I've played with the rock bands I've played in. PA for classical music is a whole other world again.
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Re: Tuning a PA - Getting the best sound

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:45 pm

tacitus wrote:Yes, I do perform, Wombat, but possibly not exactly the way that others do. But in many venues setting monitors and then FOH isn't a practical way for me to work - it may be different for you and your band(s). Given the biggest problem with most weekend bands is poor control of volume, extensive monitoring as often as not engineers in problems that have to be engineered out again.

Granted, I come from a classical background, so I probably don't work the same way as most other people, but I'm only reporting what I've found in the venues I've played with the rock bands I've played in. PA for classical music is a whole other world again.

I don't often play or amplify classical music. But neither am I in the world of "weekend bands", thank goodness! At least, not ones composed of mindlessly thrashing quasi-musicians.

As a performer, however, I sometimes step into the world of the "sound guy" who wants everything FAR too loud and sees monitoring as an optional extra - dialled in at the last minute (and often mysteriously dialled out again by the time we play the first note:-) And HE'S the person we're meant to trust with controlling what balance the audience hear? Arrrggggh!
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