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Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

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Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Yard » Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:07 pm

Hi all,
Our new 3-piece band (guitar/ukulele, bass, 2 vocals, cajon drum kit) has a Behringer desk and an Alto powered speaker setup with a powered monitor, and all is well, with the mixer set up on stage.

However, I would like to have the option to site the mixer off-stage, for gigs where I can have a friend man the desk for me.

I have read lots about DI boxes and stage boxes, but I can't quite figure out what I need.

What I THINK I should get is:

    2 DI boxes, one for the guitar/uke and one for the bass, feeding into:
    A stage snake with inputs for the 2 DIs, plus 2 vocal mics, plus 2 drum mics, and at least one return for one monitor send

Does that sound sensible?!

Thanks for any advice and suggestions!
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Funkyflash5 » Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:43 am

It sounds like you are on the right track, my only addition would be that you may want more than one return on the snake so that you can get the signal to the mains as well as the monitor with just the snake between board and stage. I would tend to allow a few extra channels each way to both future proof and allow you to swap channels if one would go bad at an inopportune time. I would get at least 8 sends and 4 returns but 12 sends and 4 returns would be even more likely to remain usable if you add additional parts in the future.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Music Wolf » Sat Aug 03, 2019 5:55 am

Hi Yard

Welcome to the forum.

You don't mention budget but you may wish to look into a new digital mixer which will allow you to have the mixer on stage (so eliminating the need for a snake) and mix from a computer / tablet / smart phone anywhere in the room. Something like this

https://www.thomann.de/gb/behringer_x_air_xr12.htm

I've not tried the above but I've used the Mackie DL804 for a few years now.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Wonks » Sat Aug 03, 2019 7:27 am

A DI box has a specific function - to turn a line level (normally unbalanced) signal into a balanced mic level signal.

They come in two forms, active and passive. Passive ones are good for sources with active electronics - e.g. synths. Active DI boxes have a much higher input impedance and so are better for passive instruments like guitars and basses with passive pickups. But they do need a power supply, so often have the option of using both battery or phantom power (from the mixing desk).
Instruments fitted with passive piezo pickups (without an inbuilt preamp) need to see a very high input impedance of around 10 Megohms to sound their best. This will either require the use of a specialist DI box, or the use of an interposing external preamp.

So you need to know exactly what the outputs of the instruments are before you can choose the right type of DI box.

If you are currently feeding one or more instruments into line inputs on the desk, then putting them into a DI box means they then need to feed into a mic input instead. You haven't said the model number of the mixer, so I don't know how many of each input type you are using and how many spares you have.

Stage boxes are useful things. Its useful to have some spare send and return channels on it, as has already been mentioned, in case you end up with a faulty channel at a gig.

Don't forget that you'll normally be sending the FOH speaker outputs back down the snake, so that would normally require at least three returns if you add a monitor send - which practically means a snake with four returns.

Length of the snake is something to consider. You don't want the FOH mixer to be stuck right by the speakers, and you also need to think about extra length so that you can run the snake over and above doors, rather than in front if them as a trip hazard.

The more channels you have on the snake, the heavier, thicker and more unwieldy the multicore cable becomes, so don't add too many spare channels.

I'd also suggest simply taping the mixer end XLR tails into groups of three or four (depending on how many input channels the mixer and snake have) as it really does help to keep things tidy and stop the tails all getting tangled together.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby ReedySteadyGo » Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:54 am

Consider having 3 DI boxes, 1 for guitar, 1 for uke & 1 for bass if they are all used on the same gig. Otherwise you'll be swapping cables and adjusting gains and levels.

If you want to swap cables or instruments then 1 or 2 muting DI would be good:

http://orchid-electronics.co.uk/Muting_DI_Box.htm
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby blinddrew » Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:54 am

Having a couple of M-M anf F-F xlr adaptors in your toolbox can be handy, it's an easy way to turn a send into a return and vice versa.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Wonks » Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:08 am

ReedySteadyGo wrote:If you want to swap cables or instruments then 1 or 2 muting DI would be good:

http://orchid-electronics.co.uk/Muting_DI_Box.htm

Though if both instruments take TS jacks, then a lead with a Neutrik Silent Switch jack on the instrument end will do just as well, if not better, as you don't need to remember to keep muting and un-muting the instrument.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby The Elf » Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:25 am

Music Wolf wrote:you may wish to look into a new digital mixer which will allow you to have the mixer on stage (so eliminating the need for a snake) and mix from a computer / tablet / smart phone anywhere in the room.
+1

A digital mixer of the XR series would do what you want and make cabling easier. It's the size/weight of a stagebox, with the benefits of a full-blown mixer. An XR18 (as opposed to an XR12) would also give you the option to add personal monitor mixers later, should you choose, so would be worth considering.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby ReedySteadyGo » Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:30 am

blinddrew wrote:Having a couple of M-M anf F-F xlr adaptors in your toolbox can be handy, it's an easy way to turn a send into a return and vice versa.

Interesting idea if you suddenly run short of cables but it also sounds like a way to inadvertantly test a PA's ability to block phantom power if you mix up the cables :oops:
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby ReedySteadyGo » Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:40 am

Wonks wrote:Though if both instruments take TS jacks, then a lead with a Neutrik Silent Switch jack on the instrument end will do just as well, if not better, as you don't need to remember to keep muting and un-muting the instrument.

I've not tried those but 1 instrument per channel would give more flexibility for gain, eq, effects and level.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Dave B » Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:15 am

Reedy, I think Wonks is suggesting that each of the instrument cables has the Silent Switch jack - not sharing anything.

I’d also +1 for getting something like an XR18 as a general solution to it all. It simplifies everything quite neatly. Other digital mixers are available :)
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby DanR » Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:37 pm

Dave B wrote:I’d also +1 for getting something like an XR18 as a general solution to it all. It simplifies everything quite neatly. Other digital mixers are available :)

+2
Agree. Makes everything a lot easier. No disruption to the dance floor/audience area finding a suitable place for table, mixer etc.
Soundman can check levels from anywhere in the room.
Small footprint and no need for a stage box/snake.

When I bought my Allen & Heath QU16 desk there wasn’t much in the way of digital WiFi mixing desks available.
Now you can be kitted out for reasonable cost.
Keep your current desk as a spare.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Yard » Sun Aug 04, 2019 11:48 pm

Fantastic advice, thanks everyone. Before I'd checked back into the forum I'd already been browsing this evening and looked into the XR18 actually!

With that many pre-amp channels on that unit, does it therefore negate the need for any DI boxes on stage?
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:21 am

Yard wrote:Fantastic advice, thanks everyone. Before I'd checked back into the forum I'd already been browsing this evening and looked into the XR18 actually!

With that many pre-amp channels on that unit, does it therefore negate the need for any DI boxes on stage?

No. DIs are designed to take unbalanced line signals and convert them to balanced mic ones. The key thing is 'balanced' which will usually quell electrical noise of various types. Stages are notoriously (electrical) noisy places. Short line from your unbalanced source - keyboards etc - into a DI and then balanced mic line into your mixer.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:56 am

DI boxes also block phantom power from reaching the keyboard or other equipment plugged in via the DI box -- which can be a critical gear saver!

I never ever plug any line level source in on a stage without a DI box.

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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Aug 05, 2019 12:00 pm

Strange desk then I would do the same but it's easy to check if your desk passes phantom power to it's jack inputs. As Hugh says, if in the slightest doubt use a DI.

WRT DI boxes, if you are close to the mixer then the same TS lead will work plugged directly into the mixer without the need for a DI box. Should you need DI boxes without a link output the Orchid Micro DI http://orchid-electronics.co.uk/micro.htm is about as cost effective as you can get.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Aug 05, 2019 12:09 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:... it's easy to check if your desk passes phantom power to it's jack inputs.

To be fair, that's a rarity, but it can and does happen -- I've come across several mic preamps and mixers over the years that do allow phantom on 'line inputs'.

But even where the line (TRS) inputs are phantom-safe, in a stage situation with a stagebox on stage and a FOH console at the other end of the room, it's just too easy for someone to mis-plug the stagebox in the dark, and accidentally send a line source down a mic line. It only takes a moment's inattention and Phut! :o

It's not so much of an issue with the current breed of remote-controlled mixers on stage --XR18s and what gave you -- since the plugging is generally done straight to the mixer itself, so it's much clearer what's being plugged into what...

But for my own peace of mind, when I'm doing FOH mixing for some unknown band (rare these days, but it does happen a few times a year) I still always connect line sources via DI boxes, and my own keyboard rig is are always connected via DIs when on someone else's stage setup -- not only for protection from phantom, but also protection from electrical faults in the PA system

H
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby The Elf » Mon Aug 05, 2019 12:12 pm

I don't use any DI boxes to connect from my keyboards/modules to the XR18. I feel that's overkill. I have an isolator box between my XR18 and FOH.

In fact my isolator box (I actually use two of them - long story...) is a custom design, made for me by Orchid. It has a pair of balanced line inputs, and both mic and balanced line isolated outputs. That way I can point the FOH engineer at the boxes and say 'take your pick'.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby AlecSp » Mon Aug 05, 2019 1:14 pm

Yard wrote:With that many pre-amp channels on [the XR18], does it therefore negate the need for any DI boxes on stage?
While best practise is to use DI boxes, in a typical practical situation you're likely to be fine plugging straight into the mixer. I've used mine with directly connected guitars and keyboards with no problems at all.
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Re: Advice on new band setup (DI/stage boxes)

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Aug 05, 2019 1:57 pm

The Elf wrote:I don't use any DI boxes to connect from my keyboards/modules to the XR18. I feel that's overkill. I have an isolator box between my XR18 and FOH.

I think you're right. But you're in an unusual situation in that the console on stage is yours, so you can have confidence in both its electrical safety and in the plugging. In that situation I'd plug keyboards etc directly into it too -- just as I do with my own studio mixer(s) and/or interfaces!

The only significant risk then is from the remote FOH console accidentally sending phantom into the XR18's outputs... but you have wisely taken care of that risk with your line isolation box. Tick VG! :D

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