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Bach cantata - setup advice Condenser Microphones
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
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Stradivariusz's Avatar
Bach cantata - setup advice

Recording I've done yesterday. Exceptionaly difficult for me.
Gear I had:

2 x Line Audio OM1, 2 x Line Audio CM3 - used as mains - CM3 in NOS, OM1 around 80cm on the same bar

2 x Rode NT5 (C) - spots for the singers (not used in the mix for the soprano and alt since they were present enough in the main microphones)

and one unnamed chinese large membrane mic used for the basses as spot.

Setup of the ensemble you can find in the picture. Problems I had to face were:

1) Very reverberant church

2) Two harpsichords in the middle of the group, what didn't let me hang more above the ensemble to get more blend of the total group and not have to much singers in the main micros to mix them later from the spots

3) Wind instruments were far left of far back

4) Just 2 violins per section and 1 viola against 2 cellos, bassoon, double bass and two harpsichords.

5) Not equal image of the setup - with the flutes at the back of the violins they were almost 2m wider left than basses on the right, so I turned the main micros to the left so that the harpsichords are also not in the middle anymore, what actually suits me much better while they are stlll a bit too present.

Mix in the example ended with CM3 as mains (1m before the group, around 3m high i guess, OM1 gave some bass wideness and fullness (LPF around 350Hz). Spots of the bass and the male singers were used.
I miss the winds, singers are a bit too present, harpsichords are too present, orchestra does not sound as blended as I have wished.

Last problem appeared during the concert. Suddenly in the main mics I could hear a hum, which didn't last for long, few minutes, than it dissapeared. Do you have an experiance with this kind of thing? You can hear it in the Hum example.

What would be your approach to this? What would you do different?

Thanks for any help.

S
Attached Thumbnails
Bach cantata - setup advice-setup-bach.jpg  
Attached Files

example.mp3 (8.79 MB, 665 views)

Hum.mp3 (292.6 KB, 566 views)

Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
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Stradivariusz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
What would be your approach to this? What would you do different?


S
Actually I would appreciate not only your ideas about using my setup, but what would you do with a setup you would like to have for this job in this circumstances?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
I think you have a pretty good recording there. Unless you have the ability to implement (suggest?) changes to the layout of the stage and place mic stands wherever you see fit, there will always be challenges in getting a balanced recording. Really the balance and image should be the conductor's concern and that is why he does a soundcheck; then its up to you to render a likeness of what he has set. The reverberant church sounds pretty nice to me. The hum sounds like aground loop to me. Bad cable or faulty equipment? Those things can be very difficult to track down when they are intermittent.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
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Stradivariusz's Avatar
We had quite a bit of a talk during the rehearsal. With the conductors and musicians of this kind of ensemble there is always a discussion - is the sound more important or is playing together more important.
If they don't feel comfortable playing in a better blending place they prefer to change it for the place where they will feel better/more secure. I understand them, while being myself a baroque musician, but find it a bit amateurish as a sound creator

Thanks for your comment jimjazzdad.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
Mix in the example ended with CM3 as mains (1m before the group, around 3m high i guess, OM1 gave some bass wideness and fullness (LPF around 350Hz). Spots of the bass and the male singers were used.
I miss the winds, singers are a bit too present, harpsichords are too present, orchestra does not sound as blended as I have wished.
I agree with your conclusion.
The front of the orchestra is too present and the back is not in the mix.

A suggestion I have used when this happen :
- put the CM3 NOS, 3m from the front. It will get the front of the orchestra,the harpsichords and the soloists well blended
- put the OM1 AB40cm above the back of the orchestra to get the winds better but in a second plane (I don't like the spots that put instruments in first plane instead of their normal second or third plane...)

But i agree that there is a lot of reverberation in your church, so nothing simple...
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
Last problem appeared during the concert. Suddenly in the main mics I could hear a hum, which didn't last for long, few minutes, than it dissapeared. Do you have an experiance with this kind of thing? You can hear it in the Hum example.

What would be your approach to this? What would you do different?

Thanks for any help.

S
It's a low level hum, often it can be masked by the music and only becomes apparent at the beginning or end of pieces played (just before or after applause)
If truly intermittent, it can be something operated in the building...eg a lighting dimmer or a fridge compressor. As Jim says, they can be very difficult to track down. Sometimes if you can record entirely on battery power (or with an uninterruptible power supply [UPS] ) you can avoid this, sometimes not.

Even your own cabling can make your recordings more susceptible eg is there a link between pin 3 on xlr connector and shell of the connector ?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
I might have tried something very asymmetric, to compensate for this unfortunate stage setup.
(To record this as it is results anyhow in an unbalanced recording if you don't have many spot microphones at your disposal).

Very wide CM3 main pair (actually one mic for the left strings, one mic for the right strings) on two stands, thus with a deliberate hole in the middle.
Aim L to the flutes, putting the strings off axis, thus creating an ideal balance for this group. Put R on a lower stand, making the balance between trebles and basses (L and R) ideal, aiming at the cello as double bass does not need too much grain in this kind of music. Try to exclude focus on the harpsichords -- they will be omnipresent anyway as they are two and centered.
One OM1 on the female voices, one OM1 on the male voices. I like omnis on voices because it blends better. Pan these where they are: more centered, to fill the hole.
Use the other CM3s to complement the winds: one dead center for the oboes, the other one more to R for the bassoon if need be.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
I might have tried something very asymmetric, to compensate for this unfortunate stage setup.
(To record this as it is results anyhow in an unbalanced recording if you don't have many spot microphones at your disposal).

Very wide CM3 main pair (actually one mic for the left strings, one mic for the right strings) on two stands, thus with a deliberate hole in the middle.
Aim L to the flutes, putting the strings off axis, thus creating an ideal balance for this group. Put R on a lower stand, making the balance between trebles and basses (L and R) ideal, aiming at the cello as double bass does not need too much grain in this kind of music. Try to exclude focus on the harpsichords -- they will be omnipresent anyway as they are two and centered.
One OM1 on the female voices, one OM1 on the male voices. I like omnis on voices because it blends better. Pan these where they are: more centered, to fill the hole.
Use the other CM3s to complement the winds: one dead center for the oboes, the other one more to R for the bassoon if need be.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
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Stradivariusz's Avatar
Great ideas, thanks.
Probably it's not the last time I face this kind of setup. Will try to maby even connect both approaches. Anyway, need more micros than what I've got now.

The hum actually happens only with CM3, I use different cables so see when which mic gets which cable. CM3 has got 3 different cables last recordings, hum has happend, it might be the micro then :/
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
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different approach

i'd put a a soundfield between the cembali and 4 cardioid mics for the soloists (and expanders on their tracks!) - or roughly based on that setup: something for the cembali (possibly blm/pzm underneath), stereo for each side and again whatever does the trick on the singers; maybe a spot to get the oboe in the back.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
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Stradivariusz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
i'd put a a soundfield between the cembali and 4 cardioid mics for the soloists (and expanders on their tracks!) - or roughly based on that setup: something for the cembali (possibly blm/pzm underneath), stereo for each side and again whatever does the trick on the singers; maybe a spot to get the oboe in the back.
Why to use expanders? Interested to know.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stradivariusz View Post
Why to use expanders? Interested to know.
'cause they automatically bring down the mics of the soloists by a few db when they are not singing - which imo is helpful in reverberant rooms and/or to change the behaviour of a mic (a bit like switching from an omni to a cardioid).



[i'm mostly doing rather large productions with anything from 16 to 96 channels: i would never ever do anything alike - not even smaller things - without expanders on most any source as i'd end up with a huge wash and way too much noise]
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
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Stradivariusz's Avatar
Being not live, but having a possibility for the postproduction I edit/cut out all fragments of the track when soloists are not singing (didn't do it yet in this recording), but very curious to your way. Thanks!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
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...while i never cut out/mute tracks (unless there's really silly stuff going on) 'cause depending on the panning of the track, how much room the mics pick up or how much is being sent into an efx device, it can affect the stereo image of the whole mix, something i truly hate!

(this usually doesn't become an issue or works smooth enough not to be noticed when using expanders, pushing down the each track by approx. 3-6 db (or more on very loud stages, but hardly ever more than 12db)



p.s. i'm often using dynamics on the way in as i want my signals to sound pretty much 'finished' when they're hitting the tracks...

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 3 weeks ago at 06:57 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
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There is certainly a tonal difference when the tracks partially disappear, I understand what you mean. Just didn't notice it since the focus is on solo.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
'cause they automatically bring down the mics of the soloists by a few db when they are not singing - which imo is helpful in reverberant rooms and/or to change the behaviour of a mic (a bit like switching from an omni to a cardioid).



[i'm mostly doing rather large productions with anything from 16 to 96 channels: i would never ever do anything alike - not even smaller things - without expanders on most any source as i'd end up with a huge wash and way too much noise]
On pop/rock I'd actually use noise gates with that many mics, as there's always enough "bleed" coming through the mics that have actual signal. Do you ever use more gain reduction, and do you experiment with expansion ratios? I ask because it's been decades since I've used an expander as anything other than a gate.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
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expanders

same here - but the opposite way: i (almost) never use any gates, not even for pop/rock.

(if so, it might be the through a sidechain to tighten sequenced and live drums or very rarely on kick and electric bass, but more as a special effect for maybe one song or to recreate this specific production style)

imo gates are rather dumb tools: glorified on/off switches actually as their threshold is always wrong but for one single setting. they cannot work on signals with just the slightest dynamics. additionally, they are often badly implemented (no hysterese).
although this severely limits the choice of consoles, for larger ensembles or in situations with bad acoustics i simply refuse to work on consoles which have no expanders (or bring along some expanders in case just a few channels are needed or if i'm not getting the console i'm asking for, yet i then rather bring my own console).
please note that i'm not saying operators using gates are dumb: sometimes they have to. the manufacturers not providing expanders are to be blamed! imo they are copying each others design faults...

i'm using expanders mostly with ratios between 1: 1.1 to 1:1.3 to achieve a mild (yet effective) attenuation by 3 to 6db of multiple open mics.
i do vary threshold and time related settings a bit depending on source: kick, snare, toms, tuned and other percussion all get different settings than from what i'm using on strings or horns. harp, harpsichord or lute may need a little more attention (and less attenuation) than a trumpet. i mostly start out with a generic setting (threshold around -45dbfs) which can be applied to most sources without causing harm. if in a hurry with a busy mix, the expander's paramameters are possibly the latest thing i'm adressing (if at all while with gates, this would be a constant issue).
my desk would even allow me to adjust relative settings of different channels all at once or in groups but that's something i rarely ever feel the need for, unless a composition switches from the very slowest to the most fast section immediately.

and yes, my desk does have gates too (and i even use them occasionally, see above or to shut down the lowest part of the dynamic spectrum of signals but move up the threshold of my beloved expanders - a bit similar as at the upper end of the dynamic spectrum: compressors imo are first and foremost a rhythmic tool! they need very careful adjustment if one does not want to impose their pattern on the music while limiters just do their job in the background as long as level settings are reasonably well chosen)
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
same here - but the opposite way: i (almost) never use any gates, not even for pop/rock.

(if so, it might be the through a sidechain to tighten sequenced and live drums or very rarely on kick and electric bass, but more as a special effect for maybe one song or to recreate this specific production style)
Thanks for this insight and hint deedeeyeah....in a chamber music or classical context, do you suggest these (expanders) could be used in the post-production/mixing phase (assuming all mics are multitracked).... to more gently open and close (or rather, ebb and flow) the contribution of spot mics to an overall mix ?

Or more correctly...to dampen down the contribution of spot mics when the instrument they are close to/aimed at is not being played...thinking here of say a piano or harp or tympani or woodwind spot in an orchestral context, or cello spot in a chamber concert ?

In other words, you don't want to mute or gate these mics when they're not being 'addressed', especially multiples of them simultaneously, as that could detectably change the recorded ambience...but rather you want to attenuate the spots' contributions, so that they are only adding a dimmed output....somewhat like a studio talkback mic during a playback or recording session ?

Then, when required, they would spring to life (but elegantly !) at the required level. A 'look-ahead' type of function would be most helpful, in their action behaviour ?

It strikes me that your low threshold/low compression ratio expander could accomplish this...rather than a 'fingers on multiple faders' manual gain ride of all spot mics...to achieve the same outcome ? This would all occur in the computer/software domain (not hardware mixing consoles...although I'm sure these are still used in such mixing tasks (or their control surface equivalents) ?

My guess is that for such spot mics, you'd want a relatively slow attack time and the same for release...so that they would more closely resemble the hand's move on faders, rather than a dramatic and fast action (like a gate or a ducker), which would draw attention to its' existence ? You'd need to pay careful attention to the adjustments of each...no 'one size fits all' setting for the totality of spots on a given stage !

Last edited by studer58; 2 weeks ago at 07:39 AM..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
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expanders II

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Thanks for this insight and hint deedeeyeah....in a chamber music or classical context, do you suggest these (expanders) could be used in the post-production/mixing phase (assuming all mics are multitracked).... to more gently open and close (or rather, ebb and flow) the contribution of spot mics to an overall mix ?

Or more correctly...to dampen down the contribution of spot mics when the instrument they are close to/aimed at is not being played...thinking here of say a piano or harp or tympani or woodwind spot in an orchestral context, or cello spot in a chamber concert ?

In other words, you don't want to mute or gate these mics when they're not being 'addressed', especially multiples of them simultaneously, as that could detectably change the recorded ambience...but rather you want to attenuate the spots' contributions, so that they are only adding a dimmed output....somewhat like a studio talkback mic during a playback or recording session ?
Then, when required, they would spring to life (but elegantly !) at the required level.
exactly up until here

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
A 'look-ahead' type of function would be most helpful, in their action behaviour ?

It strikes me that your low threshold/low compression ratio expander could accomplish this...rather than a 'fingers on multiple faders' manual gain ride of all spot mics...to achieve the same outcome ? This would all occur in the computer/software domain (not hardware mixing consoles...although I'm sure these are still used in such mixing tasks (or their control surface equivalents) ?

My guess is that for such spot mics, you'd want a relatively slow attack time and the same for release...so that they would more closely resemble the hand's move on faders, rather than a dramatic and fast action (like a gate or a ducker), which would draw attention to its' existence ? You'd need to pay careful attention to the adjustments of each...no 'one size fits all' setting for the totality of spots on a given stage !
no - the attack settings of expanders need to be very fast: a slow setting would lead to the situation that a signal would still be attenuated although a note was hit yet i want the expander to immediately respond at the onset of a signal and let through the sound - (close to) zero attack time is enough, a look ahead function is not needed (i'm not sure if there is any expander with this at all).

you're correct regarding the release settings: i try matching the release time to the natural decay of any given instrument.

with a higher ratio, an expander behaves as a gate: i do use steeper settings (say 1:2 or more) on drums for pop/rock and on loud stages and sometimes just a bit steeper (1:1.4 to 1:1.7) and a with different threshold to follow unique decay behaviour.

often i chose settings during rehearsals but globally adjust ratios once the audience is in (while keeping relative levels).

as previously mentioned, i often apply dynamics on the way in; when broadcasting, it doesn't make much of a difference but of course it's mostly a safer bet to do things in post (if there is any).

regarding gain riding: i let my automix function do this if needed (the algorithm can do this much faster than any fingers ever could) but since i'm often mixing monitors from foh, i try not touching the gains unless they are completely off. also, i hate thresholds of dynamics being affected when touching the gains... - but i do put the most important channels somewhere on the desk and ride the channel faders if needed.

and yes, i much prefer mixing on desks, also in the studio: having 120 knobs to adjust sound imo is much more convenient (and faster) than chasing a mouse...

---

so: expanders are great to dampen some of the reverberant sound (i sometimes use them on main mics too) and even let me, a hardcore addict of direction mics, use omnis for spots a tiny little bit more often (getting me the advantage of using mics which are less critical regarding their positioning but not get too much room sound from them; of course expanders are useful on all kind of directional mics too to emphasize their effect) - you may have a laugh reading this from me...



p.s. my desks happen to have the same name as your alias :-)

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 2 weeks ago at 11:19 AM.. Reason: added a little bit towards the end...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
no - the attack settings of expanders need to be very fast: a slow setting would lead to the situation that a signal would still be attenuated although a note was hit yet i want the expander to immediately respond at the onset of a signal and let through the sound - (close to) zero attack time is enough, a look ahead function is not needed (i'm not sure if there is any expander with this at all).

you're correct regarding the release settings: i try matching the release time to the natural decay of any given instrument.
Thank you for that explanation...I can see how it works in a rock context with lots of open mics and spill of probably greater volume, and also perhaps greater dynamics, than orchestral.

So do you think it would work just as well with orchestral, and not 'on the way in to a hardware mixer console', but rather during mixdown.... to gently reduce (not eliminate) the colour and blurring caused by open spot mics ?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
I can see how it works in a rock context with lots of open mics and spill of probably greater volume, and also perhaps greater dynamics, than orchestral.
depending on venue/genre etc., greater volume is quite common (and mostly silly), but there's hardly ever much dynamic range left: especially on louder shows (say above 93db a lufs), imo there is just a rather narrow range: just a little bit louder and you're annoying at least one half of the audience (and get troubles with some regulations/laws), a bit less loud and the other half starts complaining they cannot hear their favourite singer, guitar player etc.

with a full band blasting along in a rather dry sounding venue, i don't care much about open mics except for a few channels (drums, horn section, bg voc and maybe lead voc) or for larger setups (say above 40 channels).

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
So do you think it would work just as well with orchestral, and not 'on the way in to a hardware mixer console', but rather during mixdown.... to gently reduce (not eliminate) the colour and blurring caused by open spot mics ?
absolutely! i'm mostly using expanders for classical music and think it's here where they offer the greatest benefits - for a slightly more nuanced approach, i'm sometimes inserting multiband expanders (tc dbmax).

jazz is somewhere in the middle: not as loud as rock, lots of dynamics but not as wide a range as classical music (and smaller ensembles).

---

it's a thrill to bring together different folks from rock/jazz/classical and recording/live mixing/broadcasting: it can get hectic and become a bit tricky as it involves lots of people from different professions with different expectations, interests and knowledge, there's lot of gear to deal with (besides audio recording and live gear, there are almost always lights, often video and sometimes tv involved), but it keeps you fit - and it's just about the most fun i can think of in our business, especially if doing things in surround!

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 2 weeks ago at 04:16 PM.. Reason: edited
Old 2 weeks ago
  #22
Concerning the hum problem you had...
Unfortunately, it happens to me ALL OF THE TIME. Doesn't matter what pre (Audient, Midas, Line Audio) I'm using, or what mic (AKG, Shure, Line Audio, Warm Audio, Rode, etc) Soundcheck can be fine, then the musicians walk on stage, and mysteriously, hum or buzz appears in the headphones. And no, I don't really mean "all the time", but often enough to where I had to invest in additional gear. God knows what kind of wiring we're dealing with (especially in old churches).

A really crazy issue I had once was each track solo'd sounded fine, but when I put them all together, it created a buzz.

I had to invest in Izotope's RX. It's not always 100% though. Certain buzzes can be very similar to vibrating reeds. I also power all of my gear through Furman F1000-UPS. Even with the Furman, hum/buzz happens (sometimes).

Last edited by davernoise; 2 weeks ago at 01:52 PM..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davernoise View Post
Concerning the hum problem you had...
Unfortunately, it happens to me ALL OF THE TIME. Doesn't matter what pre (Audient, Midas, Line Audio) I'm using, or what mic (AKG, Shure, Line Audio, Warm Audio, Rode, etc) Soundcheck can be fine, then the musicians walk on stage, and mysteriously, hum or buzz appears in the headphones. And no, I don't really mean "all the time", but often enough to where I had to invest in additional gear. God knows what kind of wiring we're dealing with (especially in old churches).

A really crazy issue I had once was each track solo'd sounded fine, but when I put them all together, it created a buzz.

I had to invest in Izotope's RX. It's not always 100% though. Certain buzzes can be very similar to vibrating reeds. I also power all of my gear through Furman F1000-UPS. Even with the Furman, hum/buzz happens (sometimes).
embarrassing, but not a big surprise with many places still having a hearing aid loop installed, at least around here and sometimes having troubles with 'clean' power...
i'm using very short cables, use but one power outlet (and have enough cable with me to get power from somewhere else), go through active splitters with transformer isolated outputs and convert to digital asap.

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 2 weeks ago at 12:09 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 2 weeks ago
  #24
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Stradivariusz's Avatar
That actually might be a problem with a electric circuit of the venue...it happend twice and twice both buildings had electrical lines laid down few decades ago.
I've checked at home mics and cables creating a problem and it didn't appear anymore.
I will record once more in the same church soon, will try another socket.
Thanks for help.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #25
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tourtelot's Avatar
Do you test your AC outlets for proper wiring? Very important to always do this, not only to help eliminate any audible artifacts but to keep you, and everyone around you safe . . .

from death!

Always, ALWAYS, meter, check, non-contact (or whatever puts your mind at ease) your power source on location.

D.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #26
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tourtelot's Avatar
Just a couple of the many articles. Don't mean to hijack the thread but it matters for Bach and Rock.

Power & Electrical Safety On Stage |

Don’t Kill The Artist! Electrical Safety On Stage - ProSoundWeb

D.
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