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Improving our live sound with our current PA

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Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Nheme » Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:54 pm

Hello

We're a 80s band that have been playing together for some years. Back in the days we purchased a big PA (for us atleast) to be able to play in larger avenues after recommendations from different people that works with live sound.

Our PA:
2x Martin Audio W8
2x Martin Audio W8S

2x Tannoy TDX1 Digital System Controller

2x Crown CTs 3000
1x LAB.GRUPPEN LAB4000
1x LAB.GRUPPEN FP7000

Monitors:
1x LAB.GRUPPEN LAB2000c
4x Marin Audio LE-350A

Mixer:
Soundcraft Si Expression 3

We haven't been tinkering too much with the PA, the adjustments we've done to the sound has been to the indidual instruments using the 3-band EQ on the mixer.

After using the PA for some years, these are the issues we currently have:
1. Our synth sounds hard (especially the piano sounds). We have a Roland Jupiter 80, but just this month we bought two VSTs (Omnisphere and Hans Zimmer piano) and they have the same tendencies.
2. Some lack in the lows (If we want that punch from the bass-drum I feel we need to boost it a lot so we often opt to a middle way).
3. Lack of crispiness in the highs.

Our experience with live sound:
At home we have 2x Munro Acoustics sE Electronics The Medium EGG 150 System which we used when we decided to buy the VSTs. The VSTs sounded great with the EGGs compared to the sounds from our Jupiter-80 (even though the EGGs are lacking some lows), so we will with time build a computer and only use the synths as midi controllers for to use the VSTs from a computer. Also we've been to concerts where the bands sound amazing (playing for 500-30.000 people), but most of them are national or international artists (so I guess they have access to great gear and great sound engineers).

In the later years we've worked with 5-6 sound engineers, but we've always ended up doing the sounds ourselves as they have been below par. For instance we ended up giving our two guitarists each a 4-amp switch box sending it to a total of 8 tracks on the mixer with each track having it's own volume and panning. This is so that when one guitar switches to his solo, the other one switches to a stereo panned track with higher volume to compensate for the other guitar dissapering from the comp and keep the balance. Audiences and some semi-professionals have taken note of our well-balanced live sound.

Maybe we are a bit perfectionistic, but we know the sound we want is possible (as we've heard great bands with great sound live before), though we don't know if it's possible with our current PA. We are new to the idea of configuring a PA and that's why I come to you. Can our issues be solved? The problem here is that we don't know what we don't know so it's hard to look for information about our issues.

Please keep you answers simplistic enough so we understand, we haven't learned all the jargon/slang yet.
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Jul 14, 2017 5:06 pm

Welcome!

That's all very respectable kit and I'd be surprised if it's the kit itself that's causing your dissatisfaction.

You ask for simple answers. That and some of your other comments suggest that you may not be completely at ease with the way that all this kit can be used and the various settings that are available to you. I'm not trying to be 'smart' here - just looking for clues as to where the issue lies.

Where are you based? It may be that the best way to proceed is to get someone very experienced in live-sound to spend some time with you going through everything and working with you to get an optimum set-up for a given room.

I'm not volunteering :) but I often spent a full day with a band or venue going through every aspect of their gear and helping them better understand what all the controls were and how to use them. Often the most productive time was to sit-in on a full rehearsal, tweaking the system and explaining what I was doing and why.
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby mccready » Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:52 pm

Question what are you using for DI's? I am sometimes surprised to see great instruments and a great system with poor quality DI's. Make sure you have a high quality DI (Radial J48, Cable Factory DI etc) they are worth every penny.

Once you know you have a good chain (good instrument and good DI) it is time to EQ if you still find that the sound is "hard." If you haven't done this before using the parametric EQ on your board turn the gain all the way up and move the frequency until it really highlights what you dislike... cut that frequency.

As far as the kick. What size drum? How is it tuned? What type of mic do you have on it? Are you compressing the kick drum? Recently I did an event with a 20" 60's kick drum. I miced the kick with an Audix D6. On its own the kick was very tight and punchy sounding (in a way it is hard/impossible to get with larger kick drums). At the console I added in some lows at about 40hz with a subharmonic generator. Now the kick was punchy but carried some serious weight. It was delicious.

I would 2nd the suggestion to find a good local engineer. Good engineers exist and there is nothing better than having a great engineer that you can trust, having full confidence in their abilities to make you sound your best. When you find that individual let them do the work, they will know what they are doing better than you.

Also I would recommend working with that engineer to let them know what you want soundwise. If possible when you do shows have them multitrack the show. Then afterwards you can all take a listen together and make notes on how it sounded and how the playing was, this can be very revealing.

Also a note on your console while it is not a bad console it is not one I would prefer to work with. Why? Well it is digital but in my opinion it really fails in the workflow that is possible with a digital mixer. I have a GLD-80 ( a little more expensive) and my favorite parts of having a digital console is that I can use a digital snake (one ethercon cable instead of a big heavy snake), easy In Ear Monitor use (either aviom or A&H), fully customizable layout (this really opens the door for creativity), and the processing capability. All that being said I am not recommending you buy another board, yours is not a bad one; however there are better ones that may make getting where you want to get easier. You may find once you pick up an engineer that they have preference.
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:15 pm

I think mccready is being slightly disingenuous here. Sure the GLD is a more expensive (and possibly better sounding) desk than the Expression. I have used A&H iLive and GLD desks but given that most pros agree that a seriously budget desk (Behringer X/XR series) is capable of first class sound quality I don't think the desk is causing your issues.

The other points mccready makes are very valid (as are Mike Stranks' comments) and a day with a good engineer, combined with some serious communication with them regarding what you want will almost certainly pay dividends.

Good luck (and, if your DIs are remotely 'budget' consider some Orchid Electronics DI boxes, £100 quality for £25 according to SoS magazine.......
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:27 am

I guess the question ask is, presuming you tour the rig around different venues, what procedure do you undertake to tune the system to the room. Also, what size gigs are you playing?

I'm not familiar with those Martins, but they have a fine reputation. The Tannoy processor looks like a rip off of the TC Electronic equivalent, which itself is very good. Nothing wrong with the Soundcraft desk either (Mcready's comments about workflow are simply personal preference).

So I'd say the problem may be inputs or system tuning.

Yes quality DIs are important and my vote would be for Orchids or the Radial J48.

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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby MarkPAman » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:35 pm


Mixer:
Soundcraft Si Expression 3 ....... For instance we ended up giving our two guitarists each a 4-amp switch box sending it to a total of 8 tracks on the mixer with each track having it's own volume and panning. This is so that when one guitar switches to his solo, the other one switches to a stereo panned track with higher volume to compensate for the other guitar dissapering from the comp and keep the balance.
I don't know that desk well, but does it not have scene recall that would be simpler for this job?
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby MarkPAman » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:37 pm

oops - double post
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby mccready » Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:47 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:I think mccready is being slightly disingenuous here. Sure the GLD is a more expensive (and possibly better sounding) desk than the Expression. I have used A&H iLive and GLD desks but given that most pros agree that a seriously budget desk (Behringer X/XR series) is capable of first class sound quality I don't think the desk is causing your issues.

I also don't think the desk is causing any issues. Its not a bad desk and it has effects built in which eliminates the need to bring an extra rack of stuff along. More what I meant is I think the the board poorly lays out the space... If I wanted one for one channels I would use an analog board... I feel the point of digital is to be able to layer. There is a lot of wasted space on the top left of the board and the screen is small. That is me nitpicking though which is only personal conjecture (I agree with Bob here :tongue: )

The more important limitations would be no proprietary digital snake or IEM's (that I am familiar with... correct me if I am wrong) while there is a card slot, that could be used up quickly. Also with 1/1 channeling eliminates much of the quick creativity I associate with a digital console. Often when I mix a show I split one kick mic into 3 channels, which would require external routing with this console (correct me if I am wrong). I am not suggesting they get a new console I am however suggesting there are others (even an X32) that have better workflow and that when they get an engineer he may have a preference such as Midas, Digico, Yamaha, or whatever else floats his boat or he may love the Soundcraft. :-) just thought it was worth noting. I will cease and desist at this point though :beamup:

More important than what console is learning how to use it. The Soundcraft is very capable of making your system sound great. You just need to learn to properly utilize the EQ and compression, or preferably find an engineer who does (as it is hard to play and engineer at the same time).
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:07 am

Good call!

Hopefully the OP is still around and will let us know his thoughts on the general consensus: gear good; practical training helpful.

:)
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby blinddrew » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:13 am

Any chance of making a recording of the next show? Both the feed from the desk and a carefully positioned audience mic? A) it might help clarify exactly the problem you're trying to fix and B) it might help identify where in the chain some of the challenges are occuring.
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Nheme » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:01 pm

Thank you so much for taking your time trying to find a solution to our problem! What is relieving is that in the end, the gear we have to work with is good, but we have a lot to learn about it.

We're located pretty far from cities, so the engineers we've used has been from smaller companies. They are usually the ones that do the sound for smaller warm up bands, but the bigger bands passing through have their own people and rigg.

We've tried with and without DI's so that we've been able to exclude problems in the chain. Also we've tried Omnisphere directly out from our computer (avoiding our Si Expression) through an Audio Interface and continuing into the EGGs (great sound), but when we replace the EGGs with our Martins, the Omnisphere sounds a bit more hard, lacking the clearity and some depth.

After checking the EQ on our Tannoys, I can see that there are absolutely done no adjustments at all, and from my understanding Martin has some recommendations on how to set the EQ from the DSPs (though I'm really struggling to find exactly what they've suggested). I suspect this might be the main issue. What do you guys think about that? Could it be?
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:00 pm

blinddrew wrote:Any chance of making a recording of the next show? Both the feed from the desk and a carefully positioned audience mic? A) it might help clarify exactly the problem you're trying to fix and B) it might help identify where in the chain some of the challenges are occuring.

+1. :thumbup:
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Jul 16, 2017 3:32 pm

blinddrew wrote:Any chance of making a recording of the next show? Both the feed from the desk and a carefully positioned audience mic? A) it might help clarify exactly the problem you're trying to fix and B) it might help identify where in the chain some of the challenges are occuring.

Speaking personally, neither of those would help me very much at all. They actually run the risk of complicating the picture rather than shedding any light on what are the underlying issues. It's the physics y'know... :)
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Jul 16, 2017 3:57 pm

Nheme wrote:Thank you so much for taking your time trying to find a solution to our problem! What is relieving is that in the end, the gear we have to work with is good, but we have a lot to learn about it.

We're located pretty far from cities, so the engineers we've used has been from smaller companies. They are usually the ones that do the sound for smaller warm up bands, but the bigger bands passing through have their own people and rigg.

We've tried with and without DI's so that we've been able to exclude problems in the chain. Also we've tried Omnisphere directly out from our computer (avoiding our Si Expression) through an Audio Interface and continuing into the EGGs (great sound), but when we replace the EGGs with our Martins, the Omnisphere sounds a bit more hard, lacking the clearity and some depth.

After checking the EQ on our Tannoys, I can see that there are absolutely done no adjustments at all, and from my understanding Martin has some recommendations on how to set the EQ from the DSPs (though I'm really struggling to find exactly what they've suggested). I suspect this might be the main issue. What do you guys think about that? Could it be?

I think you're getting towards the solution...

Usually for Front of House sound when using decent speakers with onboard DSP I'll leave it flat/neutral and make the necessary adjustments using the various EQ options available on the desk/board/console (delete as appropriate according to world location!)

So...

Are you using the Graphic Equalizers to tune the sound to the room?
If so, how are you determining how they should be set?
If not, are you setting any form of equalization across your main outputs and your stage monitor feeds?
How have you determined how to set up your speaker management system?

Any advice we give of the 'try this' variety will be, at best, guesswork and may actually be counter-productive.

I'm presuming you're not in the UK and am guessing the States. Wherever, your best solution is going to be to find someone who knows about live-sound and can spend some time with you explaining how to adjust your system for each location you play. There isn't a one-size-fits-all...

While you're on the hunt for that person go through the User Manual for the Si (not the Quick-Start Guide) and let us know which bits have you baffled, unsure or not sure of their relevance to your situation.

... and I've just thought.... it's easy to get caught out by having some control somewhere set to a value that it shouldn't and that to colour your sound without you realising it. (Been there, done that...) It might be an idea to do a factory reset on the board and start again...
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:25 pm

This brochure on the Martin W8/W8S series talks about a bespoke Martin controller https://martin-audio.com/downloads/userguides/W8_EN.pdf and https://martin-audio.com/downloads/userguides/MX5_EN.pdf

It looks as though you're running the system in 4 way mode. The only way to do that (at a cursory glance) with the Tannoy controller is to run the system in mono and be VERY CAREFUL about your cross-over settings. If you have the Martin MX5 controller (and you'd need two for stereo mode, then the Tannoy would appear to be surplus to requirements.

Either way I would email Martin support, fully describe your system and ask them how to set it all up. Sometimes those bespoke controllers have clever (black magic?) hokery pokery going on.

Once you've sorted your speaker controller, then you can take to tuning the system to the room. My advice is to make a recording of your full mix (in the studio) and have it ready for playback through your sound system.

Start by flattening all EQ, both on the input channels and the outputs. To flatten the outputs on the Expression, 'select' the main L/R channel. Then deselect the parametric EQ section. (is this flat already?)

Then with the main L/R channel still selected select the GEQ option/s, the faders will turn red. Make sure they're all at zero (press each channel's 'On' button to zero).

You can now go about 'tuning' the system next time you're in a concert sized room (not your home). The way I do it is to play a recording I know inside out with a full frequency range, then I'll gradually bring up each GEQ fader so that I can 'hear' what effect it is having on the sound, and then pull it back until it's neutral relative to the overall sound. So I go through each frequency tuning by ear. This requires some practice, but you already seems to have a good handle on how you want to sound. I should have said, I generally start with the mid-frequencies (1kHz) move up and then move down.

I always aim to only reduce a graphic below its zero position. If you're doing this from the back of the room, especially if you're up against a wall or a corner, you need to be aware of standing waves. It's best to do it with an iPad from an optimum audience position.

You need to go through this procedure for each and every hall you perform in as they will all be different. You may wish to use the parametric eq if you're dealing with broader band problems.

So if your recorded track sounds fine, then you can go about EQing each instrument's channel, which you can then save for next time.

There are many different ways of tuning a system to a room. This is the one I've settled on as it give me the best results, but it does require very careful listening.

Bob
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:06 am

Excellent post from Bob - of course! :)

It's worth emphasising the point... you can save/reuse instrument/channel settings, but you can only save/reuse GEQ/room settings if you revisit a room that you've previously set the GEQ for.

and... always GEQ BEFORE you tweak channel/instrument settings.
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby mccready » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:51 pm

Nheme wrote:
We're located pretty far from cities, so the engineers we've used has been from smaller companies. They are usually the ones that do the sound for smaller warm up bands, but the bigger bands passing through have their own people and rigg.

We've tried with and without DI's so that we've been able to exclude problems in the chain. Also we've tried Omnisphere directly out from our computer (avoiding our Si Expression) through an Audio Interface and continuing into the EGGs (great sound), but when we replace the EGGs with our Martins, the Omnisphere sounds a bit more hard, lacking the clearity and some depth.

Ok so no great engineers around (that you have found), but do you know anyone who would like to learn? Find someone who is genuine, shows up, and is willing to learn. Even with a few weeks of intensive work they would probably be better than nothing. If you find someone who is greener they will presumably not have any bad habits/attitudes just don't give them any :mrgreen: Just an idea.

One other thought on your keys problem, while your keys sounding harsh would be an EQ problem the clarity and depth might not be. I am not familiar with the "EGGs" however I am going to presume it is in a different ball park then your PA setup. To the point the speakers in my home listening room sound much more detailed than any PA speakers I have yet come across (still would like to listen to some more Meyer and D&B though). My keyboard sounds much better through my studio monitors than it does through a PA, keep this in mind. This is not to say that a keyboard should sound bad through your PA, more that it will sound different and to have proper expectations (I would assume you do, but it was worth mentioning).

Your goal with EQ is to make the instrument sound the best it can with the speakers in the particular room, sometimes it might be a minor tweak other times a more strong handed approach might be required.

My main question would be is your PA setup in mono or stereo? That will completely change how your keyboard sounds. I adore omnisphere, however you need to be really careful picking patches as they may sound great in stereo but they might be thin and lifeless in mono. If you are running a mono PA make sure to choose patches in omnisphere (and with your keyboard as applicable) that really shine in mono.

Also Bob's advice on tuning a system to a test track you know well is great.
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Re: Improving our live sound with our current PA

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jul 20, 2017 11:05 pm

mccready wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:I think mccready is being slightly disingenuous here. Sure the GLD is a more expensive (and possibly better sounding) desk than the Expression. I have used A&H iLive and GLD desks but given that most pros agree that a seriously budget desk (Behringer X/XR series) is capable of first class sound quality I don't think the desk is causing your issues.

I also don't think the desk is causing any issues. Its not a bad desk and it has effects built in which eliminates the need to bring an extra rack of stuff along. More what I meant is I think the the board poorly lays out the space... If I wanted one for one channels I would use an analog board... I feel the point of digital is to be able to layer. There is a lot of wasted space on the top left of the board and the screen is small. That is me nitpicking though which is only personal conjecture (I agree with Bob here :tongue: )

Sorry if I came across as suggesting you did, not my intention :) As you say different desks have different workflows that suit different engineers (I love my DL1608). Much good stuff for any semi-pro sound guy here........
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