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Acoustic Singer/Songwriter Americana Condenser Microphones
Old 18th February 2018
  #1
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Acoustic Singer/Songwriter Americana

So I'm embarking on a solo acoustic singer/songwriter project. Looking for a setup. One acoustic guitar, one vocal mic (maybe two) and might occasionally switch up guitars from acoustic to electric (going DI though) for a few songs. Usual originals mixed with covers sort of thing.

I've unfortunately been spoiled with friends who are great at running sound and have some excellent gear (QSC K10's and K12's), Behringer X32 Mixers, Graphic EQ's, etc.

Now part of me would love to be able to replicate this as much as possible but also realize/afraid that it would be overkill. I know mixers can be analog and smaller, but also know that it tends to sacrifice quality in the mixer itself.

As an aside, I know that the quality of live sound is much more of a skill than just having the "right/expensive" gear but at least in my somewhat limited experience, "cheap gear" tends to sound cheap, whereas when there's a skilled sound person AND the gear is able to express those skills, people tend to notice the music slightly more, sounds a little more "finished" aka reminiscent of recordings.

Gear recommendations?
Old 18th February 2018
  #2
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3 weeks ago I bought 2 Yamaha DBR10 active speakers new for 344,- € each. That is quite cheap here in Austria. Tested them with my 6 piece acoustic band in my practice room. They sound really good and go loud at only 10 kg per speaker. I bought them for monitor duties but would have no problems to use them as a little main PA.
Lower than that are the Alto speakers, higher you can take RCF HD or Yamaha DSR or ...... many others.

For a mixer, take a look at those little Behringer XR 12/16/18 mixers since you like the X32.
Old 18th February 2018
  #3
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cheu78's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fenderbender4 View Post
So I'm embarking on a solo acoustic singer/songwriter project. Looking for a setup. One acoustic guitar, one vocal mic (maybe two) and might occasionally switch up guitars from acoustic to electric (going DI though) for a few songs. Usual originals mixed with covers sort of thing.

I've unfortunately been spoiled with friends who are great at running sound and have some excellent gear (QSC K10's and K12's), Behringer X32 Mixers, Graphic EQ's, etc.

Now part of me would love to be able to replicate this as much as possible but also realize/afraid that it would be overkill. I know mixers can be analog and smaller, but also know that it tends to sacrifice quality in the mixer itself.

As an aside, I know that the quality of live sound is much more of a skill than just having the "right/expensive" gear but at least in my somewhat limited experience, "cheap gear" tends to sound cheap, whereas when there's a skilled sound person AND the gear is able to express those skills, people tend to notice the music slightly more, sounds a little more "finished" aka reminiscent of recordings.

Gear recommendations?
For small places the small yammies boxes are ok (as well as qsc and other similar boxes are good at that.. maybe check out the unknown Amate Audio, their Joker series is great for the price ime). Eventually a used pair of Nexo PS8 will be great ime (you'll need an amp/processor with the ps8, but you could rack it with a small mixer that you could control with an ipad, which after all could become a very very fast setup).

I strongly suggest to get an allen&heath mixer.. It has good preamps, a good quality for the price.. Either analog or the small digital ones sounds better than anything behringer imho.
Qu-Pac or Qu-SB or qu series is great for your purposes (the app is really good imho) as well as the analog zed series.. The prices are great for the quality you get. Slightly more expensive than behringer, but imho better built/thought generally speaking. And a better investment in the medium/long term.

For the best results hire somebody who's worth its salt.. It could make a small setup sound decent/good without you to worry about anything technical, so that you could concentrate on the performance. Which is everything that matters really..quite priceless.



Cheu
Old 19th February 2018
  #4
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I have been a working Acoustic Americana performing musician for a long time and I am glad to share a bit of my experience and advice with you. 1. Purchase either a UI24R or QUsb stage box and the appropriate connectivity for control: hook up a decent pair of head phones and go to work finding your sound. This is the single most important effort you should make! 2. I use KV2 EX10 wedges for our small gig guitar pulls but for half the KV2 $ the RCF TT series wedges are a real value @ apx. 2K each. I fully well realize I am suggesting a $5,000. investment in performance gear and other options are available for a much smaller expenditure, however it is also important to remember the golden rule of live performance: "People Pay for what they can hear, Not Necessarily what You Play"! The RCF TT premium differential affords the technology that produces transparent sonic delivery. Never ever use gear that offers less than your better performance capabilities.
3. Think through very carefully about your most effective stage performing protocol (stand up VxS seated) (single mic to capture both Guitar and vocal or one for each) Try all of the above with your head phones and you will find your sound. My buddies Doc Watson, Wayne Henderson and Vince Gill all choose to work seated for solo or duet guitar pull performance and so do I: at this point I also play in a bluegrass band that works from a seated position. I use a single AT 4060 tube mic or Peluso 2247, or Flea47 next to capture both vocals and guitar. My EX10 wedges on poles provide small gig FOH that is very close to studio quality.
Unfortunately in sound gear you have to pay a relatively large premium for incremental enhancement of your sound and to this end only you can make the value judgement if your skill is worth the additional investment .
Hugh
Old 19th February 2018
  #5
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If you like the Behringer sound then you could buy yourself a Behringer XR12 mixer or even the Midas version for clearer sound, the MR12. 10" powered speakers are suitable for your sources unless you intend to add some bass sounds.

This will meet your stated requirements. If you want some expandability you could look at the XR18 and MR18 mixers and a couple if powered 12" speakers. Subs would be overkill for what your doing.
Old 20th February 2018
  #6
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Some questions:

1. What size will the audience typically be?

2. Will the environment be rowdy, respectful, or both at various times?

3. Will you have no help at all, meaning nobody to help you unload, set up, run the board, tear down, and load up?

These are the sorts of things that can help you figure out what to buy. You want to sound good, be loud enough, not have to twiddle knobs while performing, have it all be relatively lightweight and easy to set up on your own, and have it all fit in your car.

I can vouch for:
Allen & Heath ZED mixers
QSC Touchmix mixers
Ashly analog mixers
QSC powered speakers (k10 especially)
Ultimate Support speaker stands
Ear Trumpet Labs mics
LR Baggs Lyric pickup with Venue preamp
Old 21st February 2018
  #7
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by doncaparker View Post
Some questions:

1. What size will the audience typically be?

2. Will the environment be rowdy, respectful, or both at various times?

3. Will you have no help at all, meaning nobody to help you unload, set up, run the board, tear down, and load up?

These are the sorts of things that can help you figure out what to buy. You want to sound good, be loud enough, not have to twiddle knobs while performing, have it all be relatively lightweight and easy to set up on your own, and have it all fit in your car.

I can vouch for:
Allen & Heath ZED mixers
QSC Touchmix mixers
Ashly analog mixers
QSC powered speakers (k10 especially)
Ultimate Support speaker stands
Ear Trumpet Labs mics
LR Baggs Lyric pickup with Venue preamp
I'm very open to other model/brand suggestions. I'm just listing brands and models of things as those are my points of reference and have so far had good results from those. My only other experiences with mixers and PA speakers have been the random old models that a venue might have or the kind of "starter PA" system some people have (which I know I DO NOT want at all).

In terms of size it'll vary but mostly the coffeeshop and smaller bar/craft cocktail things. So say spaces for 50-100 guests, sort of the places I've played now at open mics/showcase things which is where I kind of noticed the equipment being used (how I arrived at the QSC K10/K12, Behringer X32, etc.). From my experience the patron volume really varies, can go from whisper quiet to pretty noisy depending on the night. Although there have been the rarer, larger-capacity, rowdier gigs which could mean 200 people and loud/Saturday night setting.

Yes, it'll be my solo loading in and out.

Thanks for the mic recommendations as still kind of new on how to figure out the good vocal mic. I was just going to go the SM58 route (and will just for backup) as it seemed simple, but I've used some other kind of vocal mic at some showcases and noticed a much better EQ/sound, I'll have to pay more attention next time. Might be one of those "heftier" condenser mics?

Also just want to say a general "thanks" for all the input and information, really appreciate it.
Old 21st February 2018
  #8
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doncaparker's Avatar
 

Your small-time level of venue is sort of my thing (as opposed to the serious live sound work that the seasoned professionals do, which is definitely not my thing). A few more thoughts:

1. I really like QSC K10 powered speakers. When you are performing alone for a crowd of less than 100 people, one K10 on a stand could do you just fine most of the time. It's half the weight and hassle of two of them. Two covers more space, but one will probably get you loud enough to do the job, much of the time.

2. If you are performing alone, you don't need a large mixer. Of course, the smaller the mixer, the fewer bells and whistles it will have. But that is a good thing, because the last things you need as a performer handling your own sound are more decisions to make and more things to twiddle during your performance. Keep it as minimal and simple, but with decent quality, as you can.

3. I love Ashly analog mixers for this application, because they have a low channel count, and they are simple, but they are decent quality. You can put one in a rack bag and be in great shape for the types of gigs we are discussing. If you want to go super small, the tiny Mackie mixers are not bad, but Ashly is likely better. The smaller digital mixers are very cool, and they can work great, but I think it is important to ask how much processing you really need. If you plan to be minimalist, then you probably won't use all of the cool stuff on a small format digital mixer. But, maybe you will. If you will, be careful about the knob twiddling taking over too much of your attention. It happens to people; they convince themselves they need all sorts of processing, and then they wonder why they don't sound good any more. Turning off all of the processing solves the self-inflicted problem. Just be aware of the dangers of having too many choices, and maybe not fully understanding all of them!

4. You need poles for the speakers. They need to be decent quality. You have to elevate the speakers to be heard, but you don't want them falling over. Don't skimp on poles.

5. If you are going to use a guitar pickup, you might as well use a Shure sm58 and close mic your voice. That should work fine. But, if you decide to be more organic, you can go without a pickup in the guitar and just use a single mic to pick up your voice and your guitar. This doesn't work in all situations and it doesn't work for everybody, but it works great for me and many other folks. Just ponder it as a possibility.

Good luck with the endeavor.
Old 22nd February 2018
  #9
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Old 24th February 2018
  #10
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by doncaparker View Post
Your small-time level of venue is sort of my thing (as opposed to the serious live sound work that the seasoned professionals do, which is definitely not my thing). A few more thoughts:

1. I really like QSC K10 powered speakers. When you are performing alone for a crowd of less than 100 people, one K10 on a stand could do you just fine most of the time. It's half the weight and hassle of two of them. Two covers more space, but one will probably get you loud enough to do the job, much of the time.

2. If you are performing alone, you don't need a large mixer. Of course, the smaller the mixer, the fewer bells and whistles it will have. But that is a good thing, because the last things you need as a performer handling your own sound are more decisions to make and more things to twiddle during your performance. Keep it as minimal and simple, but with decent quality, as you can.

3. I love Ashly analog mixers for this application, because they have a low channel count, and they are simple, but they are decent quality. You can put one in a rack bag and be in great shape for the types of gigs we are discussing. If you want to go super small, the tiny Mackie mixers are not bad, but Ashly is likely better. The smaller digital mixers are very cool, and they can work great, but I think it is important to ask how much processing you really need. If you plan to be minimalist, then you probably won't use all of the cool stuff on a small format digital mixer. But, maybe you will. If you will, be careful about the knob twiddling taking over too much of your attention. It happens to people; they convince themselves they need all sorts of processing, and then they wonder why they don't sound good any more. Turning off all of the processing solves the self-inflicted problem. Just be aware of the dangers of having too many choices, and maybe not fully understanding all of them!

4. You need poles for the speakers. They need to be decent quality. You have to elevate the speakers to be heard, but you don't want them falling over. Don't skimp on poles.

5. If you are going to use a guitar pickup, you might as well use a Shure sm58 and close mic your voice. That should work fine. But, if you decide to be more organic, you can go without a pickup in the guitar and just use a single mic to pick up your voice and your guitar. This doesn't work in all situations and it doesn't work for everybody, but it works great for me and many other folks. Just ponder it as a possibility.

Good luck with the endeavor.
Appreciate the input! Yeah, probably go pickup with the acoustic (probably K&K mini as it seems to be the "least terrible" option) without resorting to micing the acoustic.

Although, theoretically, what's your setup for the single mic (voice + acoustic) scenario? Never seen one live but curious.

For sure I need poles, and realize one K10 would be enough, but just going off of what I've seen a few other guys (who always have great sound) around town do. They are the ones I mentioned before and usually go with a more stripped down version of their full-band live setup. Typical to have one guy with 2 K10's one as a monitor and one as the PA, on a stand.

Good advice on the mixers! Definitely been trying to decide between the two approaches for my uses (simple vs. more complex)
Old 24th February 2018
  #11
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cheu78's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fenderbender4 View Post
Good advice on the mixers! Definitely been trying to decide between the two approaches for my uses (simple vs. more complex)
Go simple, although with Allen&Heath mixer the routing and workflow is really simple anyway.
Either way you choose a qu-sb with ipad or a zed 10 fx, they could be both very simple..

the digital mixer could give some more option and more control overall, if you setup up that once (and you invest time with somebody who does that for a living) you could then recall it at any gig and not worry too much, other than maybe riding your fader more or less depending on how loud you need to be in the venue.
Plus if you choose the passive nexo ps8, you'll want to rack the pwr amp and the mixer in the same rack, so everything is already patched. The only thing you'll need to do in this case is have a powerstrip somewhere in the venue, and take out the speakon cables already plugged in in the amp to the 2x ps8. Incredibly efficient and fast ime.

Although this is not mandatory, also with the small and simple zed mixer you could sound good, it doesn't have a compressor, which might help to control/finish the sound a little bit.. and it will take slightly more time to cable up.. But it's not a biggie.

good luck!



Cheu
Old 24th February 2018
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fenderbender4 View Post
Although, theoretically, what's your setup for the single mic (voice + acoustic) scenario? Never seen one live but curious.
I use a single Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina to pick up both my voice and my guitar. It works great. If you go to their website, you can look at a lot of videos of their mics in action. I won't go into their virtues here.

I will say, though, that your "never seen one live" comment is a great example of something that I have been saying here on GS for a few years now: That acoustic pickup use is too widespread. There are lots of situations where a singing acoustic guitarist would be much better off just using a single mic to pick up both her/his voice and the guitar. Before we had as many pickups as we have today, that's what folks did: They just grabbed their guitars and walked up to the mic.

The reason you, a performer of this type of music, have never seen someone just sing and play through a single microphone is because singing acoustic guitarists have been conditioned over several decades to think that singing and playing through a single microphone is a terrible idea and it should never be done. And that's just nonsense. There are plenty of situations where it is way better to use a single mic for both voice and guitar than it is to close mic the voice and use a quack-ridden pickup on the guitar.

the "close mic on voice, pickup on guitar" method is necessary in many contexts. If you are going to play in a band with drums, a bass, and electric guitars, yeah, you need to go that route. If you are going to be in a hopelessly noisy environment where the only way to ever be heard is to eat the mic and shout, then yeah, you need to go that route. But I have seen so many singing acoustic guitarists in ideal conditions for a single mic choose instead to close mic their voice and use a quacky pickup on the guitar, and it's painful to watch and listen to it. They do it because they have been conditioned to think that way. My point is that they have been over-conditioned. A single mic approach is far better sounding in many (not all, but many) contexts.
Old 24th February 2018
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fenderbender4 View Post

Although, theoretically, what's your setup for the single mic (voice + acoustic) scenario? Never seen one live but curious.
This is actually still a common practice for Bluegrass performers so it depends on what gigs you are going to.

Personally I think that piezo pickups are so BAD in guitars that I'm a dedicated microphone user. No matter what it takes I'm going to use a microphone.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am when listening to guitarists using piezo pickups in guitars. I don't know why they bothered coming out to perform. I don't know why I bothered coming out to listen.

/Rant
Old 24th February 2018
  #14
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I'm mostly with Anthony. My perspective: Acoustic guitar pickups are to microphones what artificial sweetener is to raw honey. I understand the need for artificial sweetener in some contexts, but it is nowhere near as good tasting as raw honey, and too much of the artificial stuff is really bad for you. Moreover, many people have been conditioned (by overexposure) to prefer the taste of aspartame, and that is just messed up.
Old 24th February 2018
  #15
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Try before you buy...Rent as many systems as you can until you find something that best suits your specific situation before you buy...at the end of the day you are the person who must feel comfortable with and like the system.

Do the legwork now so you don’t end up buying a second or third system, or settle for something you don’t really like. Use the information given here as a very general guide because your situation, your likes and dislikes will be unique...do you want to use pickups, what microphone do you like, do you need or even want to mix on an pad etc.

Do you want a very simple or a complicated setup, do you want the best quality, or the least expensive system....I guarantee you’ll learn more going the route I’ve suggested.
Old 25th February 2018
  #16
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Sam C has provided the best and most beneficial advice: a tailored fitting based on auditions is always the best plan when making a critical gear purchase.
Hugh
Old 26th February 2018
  #17
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Try before you buy...Rent as many systems as you can until you find something that best suits your specific situation before you buy...at the end of the day you are the person who must feel comfortable with and like the system.

Do the legwork now so you don’t end up buying a second or third system, or settle for something you don’t really like. Use the information given here as a very general guide because your situation, your likes and dislikes will be unique...do you want to use pickups, what microphone do you like, do you need or even want to mix on an pad etc.

Do you want a very simple or a complicated setup, do you want the best quality, or the least expensive system....I guarantee you’ll learn more going the route I’ve suggested.
Appreciate it, and yeah, actually getting "hands-on" with stuff is the best route. Having said that, the stuff I mentioned in the first post is what I've had some experience with and liked the sound of. Like I mentioned, I've gone through other kinds of setups at random/odd coffeeshops/venues and liked them less. The QSC + Behringer X32 and the QSC + (still not sure but definitely racked mixer) have both been pleasing to my ear and worked (although that also has to do with the quality of the sound-person).
Old 26th February 2018
  #18
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Sounds good is not the only criteria you should be looking at...how easy is it to transport and setup etc are other important factors you should look at too.
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