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Vocal FX pedals live - feedback issues
Old 22nd October 2013
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Vocal FX pedals live - feedback issues

Hi all!

I'm a FOH live engineer in a small venue, we've got difficult room with low ceilings, but generally handle feedback fine with our graphics, however, i have had problems on a couple of occasions with vocal effects pedal. I've found that good ways to deal with issues are to take out any compression stages they have on, and to play with the front gain stage (which annoyingly not all pedals have..)

Just wondered if anyone else had any tips? I've always managed to end up with a decent sound in the end, but obviously aiming to be more efficient about it.

Also, does anyone have any opinions on which pedals are better or worse for feedback, or in general? I had the Boss VE20 on stage last night and didn't really get on with it, don't know if it's how it was set up, but it sounded thin to me, and was difficult to manage feedback wise.

Thanks in advance.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
Feedback in the monitors or the mains?
Are you splitting the vocal channel and taking a dry (no fx) and a wet (fx) to the board? That should be your first step. That will help in both cases.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #3
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In a small room theres no need to over complicate things. Some times less is better.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #4
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Behind the Glass View Post
Hi all!

I'm a FOH live engineer in a small venue, we've got difficult room with low ceilings, but generally handle feedback fine with our graphics, however, i have had problems on a couple of occasions with vocal effects pedal. I've found that good ways to deal with issues are to take out any compression stages they have on, and to play with the front gain stage (which annoyingly not all pedals have..)

Just wondered if anyone else had any tips? I've always managed to end up with a decent sound in the end, but obviously aiming to be more efficient about it.

Also, does anyone have any opinions on which pedals are better or worse for feedback, or in general? I had the Boss VE20 on stage last night and didn't really get on with it, don't know if it's how it was set up, but it sounded thin to me, and was difficult to manage feedback wise.

Thanks in advance.
Your "feedback problem" is not coming from anything solvable with GEQ or PEQ. It's strictly from the gain-staging anomalies caused by the units themselves. As you noted, disabling the compressor solves a lot of the problem.

Such units on stage really do put us to the test, patience-wise. Setting the input gain too high or too low, abusing compressor settings and make-up gain along with low batteries, poor cabling and lack of maintenance foists a host of problems (and blame-shifting) from the stage to the FOH person.

Those who insist on the necessity of using (or mis-using) such gear need to accept responsibility for opening the worm can...

Good luck.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #5
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Aisle 6's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jhana View Post
Feedback in the monitors or the mains?
Are you splitting the vocal channel and taking a dry (no fx) and a wet (fx) to the board? That should be your first step. That will help in both cases.
This method is only good if you can delay the dry signal to match the latency of the processed signal. Otherwise you will get a nasty sounding vocal. Thin and toneless.
Old 25th October 2013
  #6
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aisle 6 View Post
This method is only good if you can delay the dry signal to match the latency of the processed signal. Otherwise you will get a nasty sounding vocal. Thin and toneless.
im pretty sure he is talking about splitting it to send a dry one to monitors and the other to FOH. just guessing. thats what i would do for starters if gutting my monitor eqs didnt work.
Old 25th October 2013
  #7
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Aisle 6's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CHRSTPHRNLD View Post
im pretty sure he is talking about splitting it to send a dry one to monitors and the other to FOH. just guessing. thats what i would do for starters if gutting my monitor eqs didnt work.
Oh yes I see. Good call. Just checking.
Old 25th October 2013
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jhana View Post
Feedback in the monitors or the mains?
Are you splitting the vocal channel and taking a dry (no fx) and a wet (fx) to the board? That should be your first step. That will help in both cases.
I agree, BUT in some cases it won't work that well. If the singer wants only wet signals at times, and use the pedal to control this.
If you arrant touring with the band, it will be very hard to guess when they want this.
If the feed problem is on stage, i will make an Y split for monitor.
Old 26th October 2013
  #9
Registered User
There a good reasons why a vocalist will want to control their own FX from stage, especially harmony. I have a TC Helicon boxes, and I know the issues well.

Uncooperative sound guys on a cheap desk are a big problem. The actual technical issues are not difficult, but it requires a different approach to the usual plug-in-a-58 and walk away.

If the device has a built in mic preamp than you just have to accept that this is the mic preamp that will be used, and in many cases they are equally good or better than the mixing desk. The output is often flexible enough to give mic or line level - and usually stereo.

I would suggest using line level to improve signal to noise, and where possible run stereo to a stereo channel. That usually requires a channel that most mixer guys don't seem to know exists on their mixer (a stereo line level channel).

If the box has reverb etc they can sound really good in stereo, bypassing your mixer mic pres.

But if you have work with what you've got, you may wish to knock the line level down to mic level and work in mono to avoid confusing the guy on the desk. In that case, get him to apply reverb because it will sound better than mono reverb.

Ground loop hum can be a problem with AC powered stuff, so an Ebtech Hum Eliminator is a very useful tool to carry around. The Ebtech Line Level Shifter does the same thing but also can attenuate or boost the signal, which can also help when the guy on the sound desk is confused or too lazy to tweak the gain pots on the mixer.

Nobody seems to mind when a guitar player has multiple amps and massive FX boards - but there is still a lot of resistance to let vocalists take control of their FX.

My suggestion to vocalists is to own your own wireless rig, to bypass cabling issues, and take everything you need to connect to typical mixers. The stereo line level channels are almost always unused and available.

If your wireless receiver has line level output you don't need a preamp and can bypass the preamp in your FX.

For latency phase reasons, don't layer analog dry sound with digital dry sound. Choose to either have an analog dry path, or process everything through the FX and live with a little bit of latency.

Beware that a harmonizer will harmonize all leakage, which can be very ugly. A found that a Crown 311 noise canceling headset mic is brilliant for avoiding this. Patented, and now owned by AKG, there does not appear to be any competition for this type of mic.

How to control the FX is a difficulty but there are plenty of options, including wireless stuff such as the Soundblox Hothand. Or midi control boards like the Line6 stuff which connect and are powered by standard ethernet cables.
Old 30th October 2013
  #10
Here for the gear
 

Hey Kiwi
I just had this problem with a tc helicon pedal and couldn't figure it out. I have a presonus 1642 mixing console and when I went to set the singers gain structure I was getting feedback by hardly turning up the boards input. I had him turn his pedals gain all the way down but it didn't help. So are you saying that I should have used the line input on my mixer as opposed to the mic input? Would that have solved the problem?
Old 30th October 2013
  #11
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by dtxdrummer View Post
Hey Kiwi
I just had this problem with a tc helicon pedal and couldn't figure it out. I have a presonus 1642 mixing console and when I went to set the singers gain structure I was getting feedback by hardly turning up the boards input.
Try this:

Output of pedal on stage into DI. Check for clipping, you might need to turn down the pedal output or put the DI pad on.

DI into console mix input. All processing flat. Preamp all the way down. Faders down, aux sends down. Make sure the channel is selected so that you can see the metering for that channel.

With signal present, bring the preamp up until the level is healthy. If it is clipping even with the preamp gain all the way down you'll need to turn down the pedal, put the pad on the DI, or use an XLR F to 1/4" TRS adaptor to go into the line input.

SLOWLY bring the auxiliary send up, until you get the desired volume. If you can't get the desired volume in the monitor then the pedal may be doing some compression that needs to be adjusted, and you may need to use the graphic EQ on that auxiliary out to notch out the feedback.

SLOWLY bring the channel fader up, until you get the desired volume in the main speakers.

Adjust HPF, EQ, and compression to taste.
Old 31st October 2013
  #12
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Electrolytic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by M4-10 View Post
Try this:

Output of pedal on stage into DI
OH Goodness, you gone said it now! kiwi the mackie man going to start headbutting walls again!
Old 31st October 2013
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post

Nobody seems to mind when a guitar player has multiple amps and massive FX boards - but there is still a lot of resistance to let vocalists take control of their FX.

When vocalists show up with their own monitor, then this will actually be equivalent.

I'd suggest that any vocalist who wants effected sound in their monitor should bring a powered monitor and use it. Then the sound guy can mic the amp, just like the guitarist....



-tINY

Old 31st October 2013
  #14
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e3p0's Avatar
 

Vocalists with pedals should look hard at the Keymaster (Pigtronix). You can then use guitar pedals (or any effects) and remain balanced.
Old 31st October 2013
  #15
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post

When vocalists show up with their own monitor, then this will actually be equivalent.

I'd suggest that any vocalist who wants effected sound in their monitor should bring a powered monitor and use it. Then the sound guy can mic the amp, just like the guitarist....



-tINY


Funny man. Maybe if you want a Jack White vocal.

I guess it's true that sound engineers are failed musicians with a massive chip on their shoulder

Yes a DI works, when you are faced with a stubborn engineer who still thinks it's 1973 ...

But there shouldn't be any real problem sending professional +4 balanced line level signals from stage, assuming you have a professional engineer operating a professional mixing desk.

Like I said ... laziness and a reluctance for old dogs to learn new tricks.

It's not hard ...
Old 31st October 2013
  #16
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Electrolytic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Like I said ... laziness and a reluctance for old dogs to learn new tricks.
you really don't have a clue do you. We're mixing on ipads now, even the old guys.

someone is going to make an A B test for you, then you'll feel stupid, and then let people who know what they are doing get on with it, some of us are trying to run a show on time.
Old 31st October 2013
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post

But there shouldn't be any real problem sending professional +4 balanced line level signals from stage, assuming you have a professional engineer operating a professional mixing desk.

As long as they don't want robot vox in the foldback - or can live with the feedback....



-tINY

Old 2nd November 2013
  #18
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post

Such units on stage really do put us to the test, patience-wise. Setting the input gain too high or too low, abusing compressor settings and make-up gain along with low batteries, poor cabling and lack of maintenance foists a host of problems (and blame-shifting) from the stage to the FOH person.

Those who insist on the necessity of using (or mis-using) such gear need to accept responsibility for opening the worm can...

Good luck.
This is pretty much what i was thinking about it, good to know i'm on the right lines. I have an xlr y split around somewhere too, so that can be my backup if i get a difficult pedal / user. Thanks for the help guys.
Old 9th November 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
Yea looks like the VE20 is line level out. So you need to pad the XLR input on the console or use a TRS adapter if no pad available.

Vocal fx pedals are a PITA for sound guys because:

1. Sound person needs to know what you're sending to the FOH (line or mic level, balanced or unbalanced) 9 out of 10 times you ask a performer and get a Deer in the headlights look.

2. It's unlikely the performer has the manual with them, and the sound person doesn't really have time to be reading it anyway.

3. Sending the pedal to FOH means the FX cannot be adjusted in the monitors if mixing them from FOH and will prob be a feedback problem if there is no separate dry output option.
If there is a separate dry output option it takes up another mixer input which may or may not be available.

4. The lush FX preset the performer likes because it sounds great in the bands 20x20' rehearsal room may be way to much in the 50x100' untreated echo chamber of a ballroom venue you're performing in.

5. Then when the sound person is trying to make you sound good and suggests you need to adjust your FX...... 9 of 10 times it's the usual "that's my sound" and the pissing contest ensues.

6. The potential for improper settings that the FOH cannot adjust or correct and then it brings you back to the above #5 again. There is also potential to damage the FOH system.
(Can't count the number times power was cycled on something connected to FOH and created a spike/thumped the system).

A guitarist can have 50 effects pedals if they want, at least if they trip on their pedal board power line and disconnect power it won't send a power surge thru the FOH.
Old 9th November 2013
  #20
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johnnyv's Avatar
My take is I can see having your own efxs as part of your "sound", but Vocal efxs are best done under the control and ears of the FOH engineer. Give the damn box to them and a set list of patches. ( a case of beer might be in order too)
You want feedback,,, just crank up the efxs. All those overtones and harmonics that make your voice "sound" better just clutter up the signal until it freaks out.

Those boxes can and will work great in smaller venues at reasonable volume levels. But if it's a LOUD show, oh my oh my.
Old 9th November 2013
  #21
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Funny man. Maybe if you want a Jack White vocal.

I guess it's true that sound engineers are failed musicians with a massive chip on their shoulder

Yes a DI works, when you are faced with a stubborn engineer who still thinks it's 1973 ...

But there shouldn't be any real problem sending professional +4 balanced line level signals from stage, assuming you have a professional engineer operating a professional mixing desk.

Like I said ... laziness and a reluctance for old dogs to learn new tricks.

It's not hard ...
FYI:

Professional mixers don't have "line level inputs" anymore. Their preamps will accept line level without any problem. They are also designed for noise rejection and transparency at any gain level.

DI's don't only allow impedance matching for preamps. They also give earth lift and transformer isolation, which are great when dealing with cheap fx toys (yes a Helicon is a toy) and even cheaper PSU's. Not to mention the PAD, specially handy option when dealing with way too hot output signal levels coming out of a (even cheaper) extra and unnecessary AD/DA conversion.

I am not going to talk about the professionalism of artists using vocal FX pedals live, as there are plenty of every kind, but I will say that I have successfully operated gigs where these items were used (without any dry split) and all the artists happened to be very open to understand the issues that could arise from their (mis)use.

Regards.
Old 6th May 2019
  #22
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
There a good reasons why a vocalist will want to control their own FX from stage, especially harmony. I have a TC Helicon boxes, and I know the issues well.

Uncooperative sound guys on a cheap desk are a big problem. The actual technical issues are not difficult, but it requires a different approach to the usual plug-in-a-58 and walk away.

If the device has a built in mic preamp than you just have to accept that this is the mic preamp that will be used, and in many cases they are equally good or better than the mixing desk. The output is often flexible enough to give mic or line level - and usually stereo.

I would suggest using line level to improve signal to noise, and where possible run stereo to a stereo channel. That usually requires a channel that most mixer guys don't seem to know exists on their mixer (a stereo line level channel).

If the box has reverb etc they can sound really good in stereo, bypassing your mixer mic pres.

But if you have work with what you've got, you may wish to knock the line level down to mic level and work in mono to avoid confusing the guy on the desk. In that case, get him to apply reverb because it will sound better than mono reverb.

Ground loop hum can be a problem with AC powered stuff, so an Ebtech Hum Eliminator is a very useful tool to carry around. The Ebtech Line Level Shifter does the same thing but also can attenuate or boost the signal, which can also help when the guy on the sound desk is confused or too lazy to tweak the gain pots on the mixer.

Nobody seems to mind when a guitar player has multiple amps and massive FX boards - but there is still a lot of resistance to let vocalists take control of their FX.

My suggestion to vocalists is to own your own wireless rig, to bypass cabling issues, and take everything you need to connect to typical mixers. The stereo line level channels are almost always unused and available.

If your wireless receiver has line level output you don't need a preamp and can bypass the preamp in your FX.

For latency phase reasons, don't layer analog dry sound with digital dry sound. Choose to either have an analog dry path, or process everything through the FX and live with a little bit of latency.

Beware that a harmonizer will harmonize all leakage, which can be very ugly. A found that a Crown 311 noise canceling headset mic is brilliant for avoiding this. Patented, and now owned by AKG, there does not appear to be any competition for this type of mic.

How to control the FX is a difficulty but there are plenty of options, including wireless stuff such as the Soundblox Hothand. Or midi control boards like the Line6 stuff which connect and are powered by standard ethernet cables.


Thanks so much for all this info on getting the VE20 to work live/rehearsal everyone. I'm new to singing/gear/tech(!) and The splitter cable going into the left/right (the chunky head jack cable ones! yea I know) on the mixing desk solved all my issues and now my band can hear me in small rooms with absolute clarity. This forum has been a life saver!

Just to summarise: My newbies, small room, rehearsal check-list for singers is:

- use splitter cable to run sound out of left & right speaker (stereo) with the cables that look like a large headphone jack! you'll see a place for them on the mixing desk
- Turn down the mic sensitivity settings on your VE-20 then increase slowly to reduce feedback noise
- you can put the loudness up on VE-20 setting - I used 95 out of 100 last night
- if you can, take reverb off the mixing desk and only use reverb from your VE-20
- There's a setting within the VE-20 to change the sound to stereo so don't miss that
- Turn most of the little round knobs down on mix desk just under half way apart from the loudness on the mixer then gradually increased the gain for loudness
- Check the speakers are turned up from the back of them as well as on the desk's master setting
- try and stand away from speakers and in the middle of them like creating a 'v' shape with them and twist the speakers inwards away from wall (45 degree angle)
- I also move them forward either in line or a little bit in front of my drummer so my vox can cut through a bit more
- Don't forget to read the manual!

There's lots of little things that make a big difference but when it works, it works big - rehearsal was a lot of fun last night.

Cheers everyone.
Old 6th May 2019
  #23
Gear Addict
Just to share a quick anecdote - one of my worst experiences as a sound engineer with a vocal pedal.

This one was being used as a loop pedal, and the singer wanted the vocals set to "stun" in the monitors.

So, all of the main PA wash, plus monitor pickup, was being layered and layered and layered up, until the result was just mush.

… and I'm still not sure how to get around that.
IEMs and a mic with a very tight pickup pattern, perhaps.

Chris
Old 26th May 2019
  #24
Gear Maniac
 

Never put FX in the monitors. It makes feedback more likely, and it hides pitch issues from the singer.
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