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Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

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Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby SwingKing » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:04 pm

I've been performing for ten years now, still using the same rig as when I started. Thankfully, everything is still in working order and I'm still playing the same size venues as when I started (pubs, halls and social clubs of a weekend and care homes during the week) but clearly I've forgotten a lot of what I once knew because lately I've been getting complaints that people can't hear me.

I'm a solo swing singer with backing tracks and I'm using a Yamaha EMX312SC powered mixer amp with two Peavey Pro-15 speakers. I used to use a stage monitor but it started to get a little crammed for space (you know what these pubs are like: they give you five square feet to perform in and expect it to sound like Madison Square Gardens) so I stopped using it and I think that's where the problem lies.

I'm not in the market to upgrade my gear (I'd love an EMX512SC but I'd need to get more powerful speakers to handle it and there's just no budget for that right now) so I'm wondering if a workaround would be to get longer speaker cables so I can put them further away from me (quite often, they're only a few feet either side of me) and bring back the monitor.

It's only swing - not exactly an evening of Motorhead's greatest hits - but I appreciate the audience need to hear it loud and if I don't get things sorted soon, I'm going to start losing work.

Does my workaround sound feasible? The other option is to buy two more speakers and daisy chain them but wouldn't that just diminish the overall volume?
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby ore_terra » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:40 pm

issue with most of the pub entertainers I've seen is the (low) quality of the backing tracks makes impossible to get loud levels with enough clarity/balance with the mic input.

in my opinion, your 600 W should be enough unless you're playing in really big spaces that don't think it's the case if you struggle to fit a monitor.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Music Wolf » Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:47 pm

What is limiting the volume at present? Are you getting feedback or is the system hitting the buffers and starting to distort?

Those Peavey cabs are probably 4ohms (according to the spec that I looked up), so you can't easily add passive speakers (you should be achieving the max from your powered mixer of 300w per channel into 4ohms). You could in theory add active (powered) cabs but unfortunately things aren't that simple and adding cabs doesn't just increase the level.

What size audience do you normally play to?
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Wonks » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:04 pm

Is it just lack of volume, or is it the timbre of the voice reproduction and people can't hear the words clearly?

What mic are you using? Has it been dropped a lot i.e. could it be damaged and not working as well as it has been?

Has your audience matured with you or is it a mixed age-range you perform to? If it's an older audience (which is obviously the case for some of your gigs), it could simply be down to age-related hearing loss that might require some EQ tweaks to aid intelligibility. Your ears may have aged better than other peoples, so what sounds fine to you, might have people struggling.

A monitor is only going to let you hear yourself (and the backing) more clearly. You might improve your timing slightly, but that won't affect the FOH sound otherwise.

What impedance are the speakers? A web search indicates that the Pro-15s are all rated at 4 ohm.

How are you connecting the speakers? The amp has one amp for the main output in mono, and one amp for a monitor speaker. If daisy-chaining one spekaer into the nexyt speaker from the main output gives a 2-ohm load, and the EMX312SC is only rated to work down to 4 ohms. If using the main output for one speaker and the monitor output for the other speaker, then you have to balance the outputs up using the monitor level controls on each channel.

If daisy-chaining, then continued usage below the minimum value is likely to be damaging the amp section of the mixer - which could be the cause of your problems. It would certainly preclude adding extra speakers which would lower the overall speaker impedance even further.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Wonks » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:17 pm

OK, there's a selector switch which can send the same main signal to both outputs or one output is for the main signal and the other for monitors.

How have you got that switch set?
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:39 pm

SwingKing wrote:I'd love an EMX512SC but I'd need to get more powerful speakers to handle it

Good news... no you wouldn't! :D

The 'normal' advice is to have an amp rated at 2 - 2.5 times as powerful as the rating of your speakers. A quick dart around Google indicates that you'd be OK with your existing speakers.

But as someone else has said, what's inhibiting your volume at present? Is it that you've got everything turned up to the max; that you can't go louder because of feedback - or what?

There are several options that could be explored relating to your existing gear and small upgrades, but we do need a bit more info. For instance, how high are the speakers, tell us more about the backing tracks and how you play them?

But if you're a fairly quiet 'lounge' type act and the pubs you play are ones where people keep talking and don't sit and listen, sorry to say, but you could be on a hiding to nothing...
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:17 pm

Regarding the monitor vs space conundrum I have three TC VoiceSolo personal monitors (I play similar venues but with a three piece rock band/acoustic trio depending on the brief and the venue). They work very well and fit on your mic stand so take up little or no extra space.

http://www.gear4music.com/PA-DJ-and-Lighting/TC-Helicon-VoiceSolo-FX150-Vocal-Processor/WRL?origin=product-ads&utm_campaign=PLA+Shop+-+Avid&utm_medium=vertical_search&network=google&adgroup=*All+Products.+Avid&merchant_id=1279443&product_id=42465d1&product_country=GB&product_partition_id=120816550639&gclid=CjwKCAjw0qLOBRBUEiwAMG5xMLN_7kBb5qqo_dEHfiY1BRICwkuW7meg6ksee9gkl-hEnrItos6_BxoCFzMQAvD_BwE
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Wonks » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:52 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:
SwingKing wrote:I'd love an EMX512SC but I'd need to get more powerful speakers to handle it

The 'normal' advice is to have an amp rated at 2 - 2.5 times as powerful as the rating of your speakers.

Normally 1.5 to 2 times, Mike. But SwingKing will still be fine with his speakers and the bigger amp. However moving from 300W to 500W is just a 2.2dB gain, so it's going to be barely noticeable. With a 98dB @1W @ 1m sensitivity, they aren't bad, but 300W will take them to around 123dB and 500W to 125dB, so a better upgrade path might be to sell the system 'as is' and get a small normal mixing desk and some active speakers. It's easy to get 126dB from small active speakers and 131dB+ from the same size if you spend a bit more money.

12" speakers normally suit vocals better than 15" speakers and still have enough bottom end to suit swing music, with no heavy bass or kick sounds.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Wonks » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:55 pm

I'd second Sam's choice of a small, mic stand mounted active monitor. Doesn't take up any floor space and if it's on its own stand, it can be off to the side and the audience can still see you clearly.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:46 pm

Picking up on Wonks's points... I'd agree with much of what he's said - specifically about maybe getting some active 12" speakers driven from a small mixing desk. Depending on the speakers maybe even 10" would be perfectly adequate. I have some 10" actives and am usually winding low-end out for vocal clarity.

Back in the day I used to have some PRO12 speakers. Perfectly respectable and not rubbish by any means. But the world's moved on and you can probably get a better sound and a more compact kit at the same time if you go for modern actives.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:54 pm

Another plus 1 here for small active speakers. I have QSC K12s and Yamaha DXR10s which will deliver 131/132 dB SPL and a couple of Alto TS110As which manage 127 dB SPL each. Technology has moved on but if the budget is tight none of those options will be available, the cheapest setup would be a couple of Alto's and a Berry desk which would cost around £500-600.

With your existing kit probably the best thing you can do is get the speakers as high as possible.

Somebody has already asked what it is that limits your volume at present? That would be a useful piece of information.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby JohnW63 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:17 pm

I would still ask, is your overall volume no longer sufficient and it was before ? If the people who can't hear are in the back, how far back is that distance ? And, I have to ask... are the speakers still working properly ? What about any easy to accidentally move EQ knobs on them that you could have changed by moving them, and since they point away from you, it is not noticeable. All the watts I am reading about, in prior posts make me think you have plenty of power, for small venues that can't spare much space for your stage.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:42 am

JohnW63 wrote:What about any easy to accidentally move EQ knobs on them that you could have changed by moving them, and since they point away from you, it is not noticeable.

Good thought John, but these are passive speakers so no controls of any sort... :)
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby SwingKing » Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:45 am

Thanks everyone.

Just in response to a couple of questions:

The backing tracks I use are from London Arrangements. I've heard a lot of backing tracks over the years and these are the best I've ever come across.

I have the speakers at just above head height. I'm six foot one so I'd say the height is six-to-seven feet.

The overall volume at pub and club gigs is quite often at its max, with the vocals set at around the "quarter-to-twenty past" mark and the music a couple of notches lower.

Maybe it's an EQ issue, although I have the settings quite low, always below the halfway point on any frequency.

All told, I'm leaning towards the realisation that this may be an audience issue more than a technical one. I have, on one occasion, had to point the finger at chattering crowd members when someone has complained that they can't hear me but I don't want to make a habit of doing that!

Placing the speakers further away from me and then using the monitor makes sense to me, though. I'm just going to have to get to the pub gigs a lot earlier so I can set things up before the venue starts filling up!
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Wonks » Thu Sep 28, 2017 11:04 am

Are we talking channel EQ, graphic EQ or both? I'd really try and set the EQ flat if possible,with probably a bit of treble boost, as cutting all frequencies is just going to make the sound quieter and certainly less understandable (as the cutting isn't even so you'll get humps and troughs in the audio spectrum).

If there are a lot of people in the space, then for the natural room reverb/reflections, the higher frequencies are going to get absorbed a lot more than the lower frequencies. So the further back you go in the room, the harder it's going to be for people to hear you. So you are going to need more treble for people further back (especially older people) to hear you clearly.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Dave B » Thu Sep 28, 2017 11:23 am

Question : where are you based?

From your responses, I can't work out if you are trying to give lots of information as simply as possible, or if you're not 100% with the technical ins and outs. If it's the former, then oops - apologies for this, but if it's the latter, then maybe a quick session with a friendly tech-head might help you optimise your gain structure. Hence the 'where are you' question.

:)
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Wonks » Thu Sep 28, 2017 12:23 pm

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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby CS70 » Thu Sep 28, 2017 12:54 pm

SwingKing wrote:Maybe it's an EQ issue, although I have the settings quite low, always below the halfway point on any frequency.

This sounds a bit odd, but of course it could be just the wording.

If you're talking of a graphic EQ - if _all_ the little faders are lower than the "halfway point", you're effectively reducing level in all frequencies. The EQ should be flat (i.e. all faders on the halfway point), with only dips and notches on specific bands where it's needed.

If you're talking of parametric EQ, everything should be on neutral, again with the exception of the specific frequency bands you want to reduce/enhance for specific reasons.

That say, a way to "cut thru" at least for vocals is to bump up a little the usual 1K, 2K or 5K. So it's important to know if you're simply running out of power (with the EQ set flat-tish!) or you're hitting a feedback ceiling - in which case you need to use the EQ to notch out the feedbacking bands if possible so you make use of the available power.
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:13 pm

SwingKing wrote:All told, I'm leaning towards the realisation that this may be an audience issue more than a technical one. I have, on one occasion, had to point the finger at chattering crowd members when someone has complained that they can't hear me but I don't want to make a habit of doing that!

In which case you could be getting into 'volume poker' territory... You raise the volume so that people who want to hear you can... the talkers raise their volume so that they can still ignore you and chatter away.... you raise the volume so that... etc etc etc until ears start bleeding.

It's an increasing problem in some (many?) venues... people feel it's OK to chat loudly with chums even in a concert setting. In pubs and clubs all bets are off. I was in a folk club a few weeks ago when the majority of singers were of the gentle/quiet variety - and, of course, unamplified. To the irritation of nearly all, two old boys in the corner would talk loudly to each other whenever the mood took them...

One of the people I used to work with on live-sound is now so fed-up with the problem that he specifically asks about audience chat before accepting bookings. It's costing him money, but he'd rather do that than try and battle against a partially indifferent audience...

... all that said, do take note of what's being said here about EQ settings... :)
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Re: Turn It Up, We Can't Hear You At The Back!

Postby SwingKing » Thu Sep 28, 2017 7:48 pm

Wonks wrote:Are we talking channel EQ, graphic EQ or both...So you are going to need more treble for people further back (especially older people) to hear you clearly.

Graphic EQ. The older people are only in the care home gigs that I perform and we're not exactly talking Carnegie Hall when it comes to those venues! I can get away with only using one speaker in the care homes and being heard is never an issue.

Thanks, everyone, for the tips on EQ. I think this is really the aspect of the mix that I need to focus on the most. I don't have any professional training when it comes to mixing - I can always tell when it sounds bad, but I don't always know how to correct it in the best way possible. Sometimes, it's difficult to be performing and making quick fixes to the mix at the same time.

Someone asked what mic I use. It's the Shure 55SH Series II. It often gets more attention than I do!
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