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Simple gig pa for string band use?

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Last week we did a "split" gig...."acoustic" using a single LD condenser, and an SM57 for the string bass, then later, the typical setup with 3 vocal mics, backline amps, etc.


We REALLY enjoyed the sound we were getting with the "single" mic setup. Aside from the bass through the SM57, there were three instrumentalists and four vocalists through the LD condenser.


So, we're thinking of doing up a PA dedicated to just this setup. First, and most important, which LD condenser is most suited for covering a 5' X 6' stage area? How about a string bass mic?


We did use a single, small monitor(Yamaha 10" two way), and the mains were a pair of EV 12" in the plastic cabs...model 100's I believe. Mackie 408 mixer amp.


If I had a budget of $2500, what could I do for a PA that would be at a higher fidelity and ease of use than what we're using? Anything? Where do I make the first improvements? We'd like to be able to cover 300 people in an outdoor setting....

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Your mileage may vary, as always. This may break the "ease of use" factor.


How about:

Keep the EV tops, and use the 408 as the amplifier for the monitor. It sounds like mic stands are already a part of the equation.


2X Peavey PRSUB subwoofers (same as above): $400


2X Speaker Stands (if you don't already have them): $90


Whirlwind Mini6 Snake (2 channels down for mics, 3 channels back for PA and monitor drive, 1 spare): $170


CAD GXL3000 Stereo Studio Microphone Pack, with 1 GXL 1200 (you can switch the LDC amongst cardioid, figure eight, and omni for different coverage, and use the SDC for the bass): $240


2X PreSonus COMP16 Compressor (just to squeeze things a little for more density and polish): $200


Spirit By Soundcraft E12 Mixing Console: $430


Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra Curve Pro (sorry to all the Behringer haters, but it's the only overall system processing tool with as many features in its price class; eq, feedback destruction, dynamics, etc.): $300


Samson SX1200 (channel A for tops, channel B for subs, daisy chain one top to the other top, and one sub to the other sub): $300


10 pack of XLR cables (2 for mics, 3 for drive back to PA and monitors, 2 to go between console and DEQ, 3 spares): $70


2X CBI 14-Gauge Speakon to 1/4 in. Male Speaker Cable: $76


2X CBI 14-Gauge Speaker Cable (for daisy chaining): $56


2X CBI XLR Female To XLR Female Coupler (connect DEQ to snake fan for return to PA) : $16


4X CBI XLR Female To 1/4-inch TRS Male Connector (1 to connect from a console aux send to the snake fan, 1 to connect from a cable running from the box to the Mackie, 2 to connect from cables running from the box to the Samson): $32.00


2X Hosa Insert Cables (send and return from console to compressors): $18


If my math is correct, this should come out to $2398, which leaves some room for shipping. (All of this can be found at Zzounds.com, by the way.)


You could also go a different route, replacing the insert cables, compressors, and console with a Behringer DDX3216 for $650. However, you should be warned that Behringer does not seem to be wanting to make any more of them, and thus spare parts or service may be difficult to find if it's a lemon. (My experience with Behringer is that you either get a lemon or a reliable unit, but not much in between.)


What this setup is designed for is a variation on the "auxiliary fed subs" idea. At the mixing console, you would pan the "everything else" LDC hard left, and then pan the string bass mic somewhere between hard right and left (to taste). Then, you set the DEQ to dual mono, and create a crossover using the hi and low cut filters available in the PEQ module. (The left, or top box channel would have a low cut at about 40 Hz or so, while the sub channel would have a low cut at 20 Hz and a high cut at wherever your tast dictates, maybe at 150 Hz.) This method keeps any low end rumble or artifacts out of the tops, and gives you very precise control over how much level makes it to the subs. Everything else is "standard PA" tech.


This may not be for you, if really simple is what you want, though.


Yeah, I'm sitting at work, and a bit bored. :D

Grace, Peace, V, and Hz,



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What you used is just about as simple as you can get. Was it the Mackie 808 or 406? Both will power mains as well as monitors.


For simple you can't beat the power mixer setup.


Mics? You have to play with as many as you can and choose the one you like.

I've liked the sound with my, now stolen, MXL-1006 LD for that purpose, single mic for an acoustic group.

Not sure about the acoustic bass...


Our Joint


"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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From the other night....we weren't getting enough deep low from the mains. I'm sure part of it was the "Shure"..Sm57...but those little 12" EVs can't have much bottom. I do have an EV 18" sub... but wonder if it's really necessary if we go with 15" mains.


We're playing again in a couple of weeks outside at a country club...maybe we'll try it again there, this time with a better bass mic. It was great fun all of us standing around the one mic. More like a circle and less like a performance...more intimate, and much more dynamic.

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OK. let's talk about this.


Assumptions are running wild. I hear a LOT of string band music being butchered with PAs. That's not what acoustic music is about, especially not oldtime styles.


Any string band with decent instruments can play to 300 people without any amplifaction at all. That's how it's been done these last 80 years or more. A circle around the string band several rows of people deep takes about half that crowd and the rest are off pitching horseshoes and nipping off flasks in the tall grass and are digging that "high lonesome sound" of the string band keening through the air- a sound that is absolutely and totally destroyed by 99%+ of PAs out there. That's why all the high keening vocals and fourths and fifths in the vocal harmonies- this kind of music really carries beautifully, and makes people want to come forward and get close to the performers. I've heard some bluegrass type vocalists who are very harsh into a microphone, but just sweet high and lonesome through the air, which is how and why these styles developed the way they did.


This is really and truly intimate in a way that you won't get with any kind of PA. It's not really really loud- but this is a string band, it's not meant to be really really loud.


So you need to take a serious inventory of why you want to mic up the music. They better be damned good reasons, because no matter what the system the music will sound worse and less natural and less high and less lonesome. PA's keep people from gathering around in a circle, even if they sounded great which they almost never do.


So, when you really have to mic the string band is when you are next to a busy highway or industrial installation or 50 bands on 19 stages or some other ungodly unmusical racket, so you have to become industrial to compete. Only this destroys utterly and totally the character of the string band.


Since you're intent on mic'ing the band at least sometimes, I will say that a LDC, while it looks cool, is a poor choice for a one-mic. You have to do that thing where every soloist and vocal leaps in front of the mic just in time, because the off-axis response is not very good compared to a SDC. With a great SDC with a great off axis response, the band will sound far, far better circled around the mic. There's a discussion of this on Klaus Heyne's mic forum on Prosoundweb if you do a search.


Then there's the PA. Amps are no trouble, a good amp is a good amp, but speakers are designed to project sound in certain directional patterns, totally unlike acoustic instruments. Kind of like the voice though. But when you have a circle of high keening vocalists the coverage is pretty much 360 degrees.


If you use horn-loaded cabs, they will be brutal sounding up closer than 30-40 feet or so. Which punishes people who come up front to get close to the music. It should sound better close-up, not worse. If you use these kind of cabs you have to fly them clear up over the heads of the people up front so they don't get horn-fried.


if you use hornless cabs, the high end dies off with distance, and sounds clearest and most present up front. This is how acoustic instruments generally work, and for naturalistic styles I find the non-horn drivers to work up to 200 feet away on axis. Things are mellow and distant and airy. Of course- you're 200 feet away. The sound gets more present as you get more present, encouraging folks to come up front to get the details while sounding pleasant at a distance.


It's a big challenge to reinforce natural acoustic sounds in the round (360 degrees). Natural acoustic sounds do just fine on their own, but adding PA is very difficult to do and maintain pleasant sound all the way around. Either you need a ring of directional cabinets, four 90 degree speakers or six 60 degree ones, or maybe two or three 120 degree cabs. If they are very, very good ones they won't bleed out of the back, and this will work. Otherwise you are getting 360 degree back bleed muddying up everything.


Why 360 degrees? Because that's what your string band does beautifully already, if you are capable players and you have concert instruments. Don't understimate concert instruments! We played yesterday just acoustically and in the round for a few hundred people or so. That's what concert instruments are for, from before we relied on electronics to make our instruments huge and loud and unpleasant to listen to.


There's something really weird about hearing acoustic string instruments through big old PA cabinets. I have heard Tony Rice play his exquisite old Martin through a tremendously expensive and very fine Meyer PA, with a great soundman, sounding like he was playing through a Marshall stack because of the closed cabinet sound of the PA stacks. That's just bizarre. But not unusual- acoustic music is being slaughtered left and right these days. Towards the end of the show I realized Tony was playing that particular amazing old Martin- you just couldn't tell with the PA, even though it was the finest of it's type, or very nearly so. But if there was no PA, everybody present would have known that guitar was something special from the first note.


I would take a good look at that Bose PAS thing. I would be thinking one great SDC and the PAS. I think that would be pretty natural and unobtrusive and still let the string band play out in the middle of everything. It might take 2 for real 360 coverage, but some subtle reinforcement in whatever was the long-throw direction might do the trick. Just a thought as I've never used those PAS things. But I've done a lot of thinking as to how to amplify our own acoustic ensemble while retaining it's natural distribution of sound and not creating a muddy hell behind and beside the cabinets. So far there's no way to really improve on the unamplified sound, now that we have real concert instruments, and playing sans PA brings people to all gather round up close, which makes for far better audience/ensemble interaction.


For microphones, we have settled on Schoeps mk41/cmc6 after quite a bit of experimentation. DPA 4011 is another very good bet. The mk41 has a healthier representation of the bass end.


A lot of times where less expensive mics suffer is in the off-axis, which is one place you can't afford to suffer with a one-mic approach.


Good luck!



"There is nothing I regret so much as my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" -Henry David Thoreau

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We didn't have any problem the other night with the mandolin, dobro, and gypsy guitar cutting through. I was even getting reasonably fat tones from the Gitane...we did have two Mossmans which are known for cutting power also. We just sort of stood in a semi circle about 2-4 ft back from the mic. Whoever was soloing stood in front, but I couldn't get my guitar any closer than about 2 1/2 feet or it would just dominate everything else...so for rhythm, I was back at the perimeter. Vocals definitely weren't a problem as we all have strong voices. Mine is probably the strongest, but the least refined. All of my wife's ballsy blueness came through. What a great country/swing/roadhouse voice she has....


We did have the occasional bit of feedback when an instrument, usually a guitar, reflected a bit of the monitor back into the mic. But overall, we probably could have turned it up more; I know we'll be able to with a bit of practice.


We aren't the "old timey" string band at all...although we do use those instruments.


I will look into a SDC...I'm just wondering how it will work for distant miking like we're doing...will it be sensitive enough to reach out three or four feet.


My main concerns are simplicity and bass response. The directionality of the higher frequencies can be controlled through the speaker design...but those lows...getting them to the right level without domination or boominess...I think that's going to be the trick...


I'm just curious if an expensive mic is worth the premium. We used a $200 LD the other night...can I expect twice the gain/feedback AND twice overall sweetness from a $1000 mic. I'm sure there's a law of diminishing returns. You know, the $1000 mic is really only 5% better sounding than the $200 mic....it most of that difference is lost on the crowd anyway.

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Typically the mic for this application is an Audio Technica 4050.


You definitely do NOT want ANY compression in the system whatsoever except for protection limiters, which, unless something goes wrong, will never hit threshold.


The entire principle behind the single mic setup is the band controls their dynamics. Obviously the band must have superb dynamic understanding in order for this to work.


Check out the Mackie 450's. Excellent bottom end, great vocal clarity, self powered and biamped. Combine that with a good Mackie VLZ Pro mixer, and you'll be in heaven, and come in under budget. I'd skip the sub, as while yes the string bass definitely goes there, the reinforcement is just that, and the bass should be able to carry the bottom on it's own. Use the PA for mainly mid/hi reinforcement.


I do alot of these types of acts, and it's not easy to get a handle on the dynamic control, but once you do,, your sound will be consistantly superb. Be advised this setup won't get loud, no single mic system will, as the physics behind the sound principles only allow so much gain before feedback.

Hope this is helpful.


NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Very often there is no monitor used. This will improve the gain before feedback tremendously.


A SDC, depending on which one, will have just as much or more "reach". I'd recommend it for the 2- 4' back in a half-circle (or so) thing you describe. If there's a weak instrument, like bull fiddle can be, you can point the mic at it and give it a healthy boost.


The Mackie speakers Where recommends are about 120 degrees of coverage, a good bet for outdoors. Not so nice in a long narrow room, and there's a lot of bleed out the backs, but for the money they are about the best bet.


Picking up a whole ensemble on one mic is the hardest job that mic will ever do. That's a very complex signal and will quickly reveal the limits of the mic. It will help a lot to use the right sort of mic.


A really good way to get good at this technique is to record that one mic and see what happened! Sounds like you have a cooperative earful musical crew so you should do fine. Learn how to work it, and you can skip the monitors. Then will do better as far as gain before feedback. And without the monitor bleeding into the mic, it will sound that much more acoustic and natural.


FWIW, the music we're one-mic'ing over here is pretty far and out and non-traditional but "gather round!" still applies, and PA's keep folks from gatherin' around the same way. So we only use them when we absolutely have to.



"There is nothing I regret so much as my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" -Henry David Thoreau

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I'd take a different strategy, starting with the mikes. I don't like really good mikes in a live situation. Someone's gonna bounce them across the dance floor one day and... If I can, and there are a lot of variables, I like to try a little stereo separation with a band like yours.

So here goes.

Guitar Player mag this month has a review of a three condenser mike setup for around $400, designed for left, center, and right coverage. Run those into three channels on the board, pan left about 10 o'clock, middle to center, right to 2 o'clock. Get two stereo amps, about 250-300 watts each side (4 in all). Use your 12" EVs tight against the stage pointed to criscross about 40' in front of the stage, runnning through two of the amps; there's the basic setup.

If you stand 6' away from the bass, hit a couple of good pops and slaps, you'll feel it in the gut. Move away another 10' and it's gone: I would want that back. So ditch the SM 57 and get the bass player to use a contact pickup (see SC labs), with a preamp, into the board. Let the condensers handle most of the sound, but the pickup will give you something for the sub to find. I use an EV (#?) 12" sub cabinet that looks like your boxes without the horn. Use an aux out on the board, send the signal through a crossover to amp #3, and use a Speakon cable to go to the speaker. Peg the Xover a bit high, say 140 Hz, and place the speaker where it gives minimal l/f feedback.

Last amp is for the monitors.

You won't need bigger boxes -- as long as you have the sub -- so you can really push for clarity in the mains. With that many mikes you can also have a little elbow room on stage.

You'll have to buy:- amps, mikes, bass pickup, Sub speaker, and crossover. I'd figure $1500 - $2000.

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You didn't say if the EV tops were yours - are they? I like the Sx300's quite a bit, which are very similar. Surprisingly musical speaker, considering the looks of it. Plus, it has a companion sub to match - that might give you enough bottom to fill out the sound, without getting too bottom-heavy (or taking up too much space).


The AT4050 is a good suggestion. They're well-liked by many bluegrass groups, and have been tried & tested quite well. I'm not so sure I'd go with a SDC, although I wouldn't rule it out until I heard it - but a lot of them tend to do more on the high end of things. What you want is flat, even response.


There are a lot of options for bass, such as a "kick drum" mic or such - but I know a lot of guys who simply stick a 57 in the F-hole & it works great. I'd try it with subs & see how you like it, and if not then think about a different mic. (Wonder how the Audix i5 would do in that application?)

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