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Portable Live Sound Setup
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EricS
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#1
25th June 2012
Old 25th June 2012
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Portable Live Sound Setup

In a few other threads I posted some questions and got lots of replies from the kind folks here. To recap: I'm the dad/manager of a teen pop singer/dancer. Currently I show up at a show with a CD of backing tracks and use whatever wireless mic they give her (if they give us one). We're starting to do bigger venues (we had 15,000 fans with security taking screaming kids off the stage recently). She has wireless in-ear monitors- at least if the house can (and is willing to) plug them in. The artist dances a lot during her set and can get winded, so we are thinking of using a vocal helper track to blend in when needed (but most of her vocals are live, she's a legit singer). We are also adding a DJ to the act. We've had good & bad luck with sound, microphones, monitors so I want to take things into my own hands a little more.

After digesting all your input, I came up with the diagram here. What I really like about this setup is that I can show up, plug it in, turn it on with all the settings dialed in and be up and running in just a few minutes. The mixer & gear (not counting he DJs stuff) fits in a single box that I can schlep pretty easily, and which can travel as well. We'll always have the in-ears set just right and use our own good quality wirelss mic.

I think I attached the diagram, but here's a link in case:
https://dl.dropbox.com/u/10530820/SoundSetup.jpg

Based on your suggestions, I'd still send separate vocals and backing track to FOH to let the in house engineer do the final mixing. But with this setup it would be a simple change to send them the full mix and do it myself if I needed to. But I will do some compression, eq and delay on the vocals before sending to FOH.

One interesting thing that came up is how to keep a vocal helper track synced with the music, if I have a DJ doing whacked out stuff with the track (mixing and scratching etc). The solution I'm going to try is to put the music on one track of a stereo mix and the helper vocals on the other track. This way they'll always stay synced as the DJ does his thing. In my mixer, I'll blend the vocal track with the live vocals as needed (usually the vocal track will be turned most of the way down).

What I like about this is that it has lots of room to grow. I can add my computer, a keyboard, guitarust, background singers etc and still have the same interface to FOH. I can even add DMX control synced with the music etc.

First rehearsal with this setup is this week, and a concert next weekend at a fairly big event, followed by an even bigger July 4 event.

Anybody want to look at the diagram and see if this makes sense? Is what I'm trying to do common or reasonable enough?

Thanks!
Eric
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#2
25th June 2012
Old 25th June 2012
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Manfrensengensen is offline
First thing I notice is the DJ mixer has TRS outs, Just run TRS cables to line in
on the bigger mixer. No need to drop the DJ mixer line level to mic level with a DI box just to pre amp it back up to line level with the Presonus.

Sub out TRS can go direct down snake without needing a DI either. Only reason you need a DI is if FOH wants Mic level instead of line. You may need some TRS-XLR adapters which is good to have in your tool box anyway.
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EricS
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25th June 2012
Old 25th June 2012
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Thanks Manfrensengensen for the input. I can definitely save some money if I can return this 6-circuit Radial JDI.

On another thread, though, people had recommended I DI both the DJ output into my mixer and to DI my output to FOH. But I don't quite understand the reason to DI the DJ mixer since it will be close by. An abundance of caution perhaps? Or will it sound better even though my mixer can handle the line input?

Regarding the DI for the signal to FOH the advice was that most houses have the snakes hard-wired to mic level inputs. The DI would also provide some isolation.

Do you think its best to be prepared for both situations for the signal to FOH? Do you think the DI on the DJ output is good insurance, or completely unnecessary?

Thanks again,
Eric
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26th June 2012
Old 26th June 2012
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Manfrensengensen is offline
Cheaper dj mixers with only unbalanced RCA out I would say yea you might want a DI in the event you might have to be running long distance, but a source with TRS bal outs going to TRS line ins there is no need.

If FOH only wants mic level then you would need a DI. Most only use DI because they don't have a balanced source and need to run it down snake/convert to balanced to go long distance.
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26th June 2012
Old 26th June 2012
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M4-10 is offline
You can probably use a Presonus 16.0.2 instead of 16.4.2.

Smaller, about 60% of the cost, and for your purposes it can do everything the bigger one can, including communicate to an iPad through a laptop.

As far as signal level, if the house mixer can't handle line level from the stage because the sound guy is too lazy or dumb, then you can simply turn down your master outputs until the house mixer input doesn't clip. You might consider carrying two Isoblox in case their are grounding issues between the mixers and you should definitely carry XLR female to TRS cables to go from the snake to the house mixer line inputs.
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26th June 2012
Old 26th June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M4-10 View Post
As far as signal level, if the house mixer can't handle line level from the stage because the sound guy is too lazy or dumb, then you can simply turn down your master outputs until the house mixer input doesn't clip.
"Turning down" a line-level output to achieve mic-level is NOT an acceptable method. It is guaranteed to make a dog's breakfast out of your signal-to-noise ratio. I am quite surprised that "M4-10" said such a thing in public here.

If you play venues that aren't equipped to handle proper balanced line-level inputs, then at least carry some inexpensive attenuators to accommodate them. I would just plan on using proper isolation transformers between the DJ system, your system, and the FOH system.

While the Radial JD6 is a quality piece of gear and provides this isolation, it isn't necessarily the optimal KIND of functionality for this purpose. I would prefer a couple more conventional stereo iso transformer units. For example the Isoblox that M4-10 suggested.
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26th June 2012
Old 26th June 2012
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15,000 fans and they can't handle adequate FOH sound?
I can see the need for this kind of thing in smaller venues that have little or no audio facilities, but if it's growth you're anticipating, sub mixing should be less necessary.

I understand the desire to have repeatable results with effects and studio backing tracks and a DJ and whatnot, and that makes the studiolive very attractive and extremely useful. But the more discreet channels you output to FOH the better. This includes effect returns. And play it cool with compression as much as you can. Leave lots of headroom on everything and let the increasingly capable house engineers (that should come with increasingly higher profile gigs) do what they do best. Give them as much control as you can. I'd recommend a minimum of 6 channels to FOH. Stereo DJ (or summed to mono), 100% wet stereo FX, Lead Vocal, backing tracks.

As an experienced live engineer, I can tell you it's a real pain when artists submix too much and limit my choices for things like compression and wet/dry mix. I think you'd do better to build up a small fly pack rack to hold wireless receivers, effects, and a simple computer interface for backing tracks. A custom patch snake to insert your effects, return computer audio, and send wireless receiver outputs to the house mixer is the way to go. Compact, always ready (just pull the patch snake out from the rear of the rack), and you would act as a guest engineer assisting the house engineer since you know the material. You cue the tracks, switch programs on the verb/delay, etc. The FOH guy can then massage things a bit further and keep an eye on levels and such and still maintain control over the mix. Remember, he probably knows the room and system better than you do. He's there 5 nights a week. You'll end up with better results and you'll step on less toes by not tying the hands of the house engineer.


Looks like a cool rig though. I love my studiolive 24.
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26th June 2012
Old 26th June 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcrowley View Post
"Turning down" a line-level output to achieve mic-level is NOT an acceptable method. It is guaranteed to make a dog's breakfast out of your signal-to-noise ratio. I am quite surprised that "M4-10" said such a thing in public here.

If you play venues that aren't equipped to handle proper balanced line-level inputs, then at least carry some inexpensive attenuators to accommodate them. I would just plan on using proper isolation transformers between the DJ system, your system, and the FOH system.
Almost 500 posts not sparing on advice and this is the first time I've been called out. Okay, I'll bite.

What is the difference, with regards to signal-to-noise, between attenuating using a sub-mixer's channel faders/master fader, and attenuating via an inline pad or a ratio'd transformer like a DI?

In all cases (except a line input that isn't simply a pad before a mic preamp like most live mixers) we're taking a hot signal, reducing it, and boosting it back up again.

What am I missing?
#9
26th June 2012
Old 26th June 2012
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a pad will lower the entire signal, including the mixer's noise floor, and preserve the signal:noise integrity of your program material. Turning the signal down at the mixer will effectively narrow the dynamic range as you're reducing the ratio of useable signal:mixer self noise. Try it on your computer. turn down the volume of the media player, then crank the gain on your external speakers. The same thing happens when you apply makeup gain at the preamp.
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