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Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.

buddhuu 01 Apr 10 - 11:04 AM
Bernard 01 Apr 10 - 11:27 AM
Tootler 01 Apr 10 - 12:10 PM
mandotim 01 Apr 10 - 12:41 PM
Leadfingers 01 Apr 10 - 12:45 PM
Howard Jones 01 Apr 10 - 04:08 PM
buddhuu 01 Apr 10 - 04:18 PM
mandotim 01 Apr 10 - 05:04 PM
buddhuu 01 Apr 10 - 06:19 PM
mandotim 02 Apr 10 - 03:36 AM
Bernard 02 Apr 10 - 04:06 PM
PoppaGator 02 Apr 10 - 05:39 PM
buddhuu 02 Apr 10 - 08:41 PM
Jack Campin 02 Apr 10 - 08:49 PM
Tim Leaning 03 Apr 10 - 04:48 AM
Leadfingers 03 Apr 10 - 05:53 AM
Bernard 03 Apr 10 - 08:44 AM
Simon G 03 Apr 10 - 02:52 PM
buddhuu 03 Apr 10 - 08:36 PM
Bernard 04 Apr 10 - 07:08 AM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Apr 10 - 01:26 PM
Tootler 04 Apr 10 - 04:20 PM
Bernard 04 Apr 10 - 04:32 PM
buddhuu 04 Apr 10 - 07:40 PM
Bernard 05 Apr 10 - 08:46 AM
Valmai Goodyear 05 Apr 10 - 02:28 PM
PoppaGator 05 Apr 10 - 05:21 PM
buddhuu 05 Apr 10 - 05:46 PM
buddhuu 18 May 10 - 08:52 AM
buddhuu 25 Aug 10 - 06:29 AM
Bernard 25 Aug 10 - 07:13 AM
buddhuu 25 Aug 10 - 08:52 AM
Bernard 25 Aug 10 - 09:27 AM
buddhuu 25 Aug 10 - 11:00 AM
Stringsinger 25 Aug 10 - 03:36 PM
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Subject: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 11:04 AM

I run an informal ballad session / acoustic jam in a small pub in rural Hertfordshire, UK. The session has been going for a few years now.

Quite recently, circumstances resulted in a split. A band that evolved from the early version of the session kind of abandoned the pub, so I quit that band to concentrate on hosting the session. The band, who run mics and PA, now play one Tuesday a month (I still sit in with them then, but I don't gig out with them now), and the open session continues on all the other Tuesdays.

Basically we have a bunch of up to 8 or 9 guitars, mandolins, tenor banjos, whistles, 'ukuleles etc with various participants singing / playing anything they like from Trad dance tunes to folk songs and acoustic versions of 60s and 70s songs. It's not a purist gig.

The pub gets pretty full and I need to get some mics in place. I have a fair bit of gear from my time in the band, but how best to use it?

There isn't room to set up stands and mics for everyone. I thought of dangling a single condenser mic from the ceiling in the middle of the shenanigans and upping the gain with my little mixer in order to try to capture some of the group sound. Problem with that is that we're packed into a smallish rectangle. One of our guys is in a wheelchair and thus kind of prevented from getting as close as most, but he sings.

So I wondered about dangling two mics... or dangling one and then having another on a stand whch can be whirled around to emphasise the individuals who lead the various tunes/songs.

Any thoughts / ideas?

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 11:27 AM

It depends a lot upon where the loudspeakers are in relation to the microphones... if the speakers are 'looking' into the same space as the microphones, you're on a hiding to nothing - all you'll get is feedback.

However, if the backs of the speakers are towards the mics, you may find your second idea will work reasonably well.

Bear in mind the 'Inverse Square Law' - the sensitivity of a microphone drops off by the inverse of the square of the distance between the microphone and the sound it is meant to pick up!

In the past I've used boundary mics on tables rather than suspension mics...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Tootler
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 12:10 PM

How big is the room?

Do you really need to mic?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: mandotim
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 12:41 PM

Before commenting, I'd like to establish the need for mics; who is it who can't hear, and where are they in relation to the musicians/singers? Can the musicians hear themselves and each other? How big is the room? Do you need the sound to carry into other rooms? If you can give this info, I'll try to help. Bernard is right though; where you place the mics in relation to the speakers is going to be the biggest factor.
Tim


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Leadfingers
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 12:45 PM

We used to do a chairty folk Evening in a pub that used to get very full . To augment the sound I suspended three mics above the playing area - Six or eight singers and musicians sat more or less in a row , Amp under my chair , and two speakers , one on a stand in the corner and the other through in the 'conservatory' .
Worked a treat - HH MA100 amp and Ohm 4X5 speakers !


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 04:08 PM

I think you need to consider why you need to mic up the session. Is it for the musicians' benefit or the audience? If it's because you're in a noisy pub where the customers aren't really interested in listening to the music, if you amplify it you may find that they just talk even louder.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 04:18 PM

Thanks guys. :-)

Ok, the pub is effectively one L shaped room. We sit around a (removable) table in the bottom right section of the L as you look at the letter here.

I got the dangling mic idea from O'Connor's pub in Killarney. When I'm in Ireland I sometimes sit in with some mates who do a ballad set for the tourists. You'll see the mic in this video of a session a couple of years ago. (I'm the slaphead with the mandolin). It works there. If you pop through to the back bar of O'Connor's Margaret and Peter come through loud and clear from the speakers.

So that's where I got the thought.

The shape of the bar at my local means that the direct sound has to make it around a corner for the main bar area to hear us! The pub gets pretty full, and the punters are under no obligation to listen. Some talk, laugh... generally make the kind of noise you get in a jolly pub. That does NOT mean that they aren't appreciative - they are. It just means that the onus is on us to be loud enough, rather than on them to be quiet enough. LOL.

I have a couple of decent enough mics: a dynamic vocal mic and a small diaphragm condenser. The condenser is marginally better at capturing sound at a distance by upping the gain, so I'd suspend that one and use the dynamic as the stand mic.

Other gear is an Alesis Multimix 8 mixer and a Marshall AS50D acoustic combo. I'm going to use the Marshall instead of a PA speaker because it has a couple of built-in measures (phase switch and notch filter) that might give me a fighting chance against feedback.

The amp will be pointing away from the players and the mics.

Cheers.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: mandotim
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 05:04 PM

For this sort of use (dangling over a session) I'd be tempted to splash out on a cheap large diaphragm condenser mic with twin diaphragms that has a pattern switch for 'cardiod' 'figure eight' and 'omni'. You don't need a studio quality mic for this; Behringer do a decent one called the C3, it costs £58 on ebay. Set to omni, it should pick up pretty much everything (so watch what you say between tunes!). I like the AS50, it's a cracking little amp for the money. You can also pick up a feedback destroyer on ebay for around £50, if you are having problems.
If you want to take this further and use a mixer, a couple of boundary mikes on tables will work well, as Bernard suggests. Used together with the condenser and mixed properly, you should get a reasonable coverage of the performers.
Tim


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 06:19 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions.

I'm pretty skint, but the Behringer C3 sounds like a good bet.

As for the boundary mics, any recommendations for decent ones that are relatively inexpensive?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: mandotim
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 03:36 AM

Audio Technica ATR4697 is a good cheap one. About 30 squid on the 'bay.
Tim


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 04:06 PM

At one time, 'Radio Shack' (known in the UK as 'Tandy') used to sell a 'Realistic' (own-brand) PZM. PZM (Pressure Zone Microphone, another description for boundary mic or 'plate mic') is a brand name belonging to Crown, and the Tandy version was an unbalanced, battery only PZM, manufactured by Crown.

If you can find one, it's a fairly straightforward matter to convert it to balanced line with phantom power... plenty of drawings available if you do a search.

Of course, you may find that it's perfectly adequate without the mod, particularly if you use short mic lines and haven't got phantom on your mixer.

AudioTechnica do a range of boundary mics from around 25 to 250 squids... avoid any branded 'Eagle', though!

If you happen to have a tieclip microphone (perhaps the type of thing people use with MiniDisk recorders), try clipping it to a piece of card lying on its side, as it will work fairly well as a boundary mic. You can hear a dramatic difference in the 'focus' of the sound compared with the same microphone in free air, and you'll also find you can get significantly higher level before feedback.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: PoppaGator
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 05:39 PM

buddhuu: Please check that link to a video that you posted at 4:18 Mudcat Daylight Time. Clicking on it crashed my browser (IE) twice without revealing the intended video.

My knowledge of Irish pubs is extremely limited (a weeklong trip six years ago), but your description of an "O'Connor's Pub in Killarney" seemed to fit a well-known O'Conner's that I once visited in Doolin, Co Clare. I wanted to see for myself if it was the same place or not...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 08:41 PM

Hi Guys,

Bernard and Tim, thanks for the additional info, plenty to check out there. :-)

Tim, I'll take a look at the Audio Tchnica.

Bernard, both the mixer and the amp have phantom power so the conversion might work. :-)

PoppaGator, the link works fine on my laptop here and both my computers at the office. Please could someone else let me know if they've been able to view the vid?

The O'Connor's in the video is definitely in Killarney, Co. Kerry. I've been there many, many times over a number of years. It is (unless things have changed in the last year or so) run by a fine fella named Charlie who also keeps the Crock of Gold pub a bit further along the high street.

A chap called Pat tells gags and stories upstairs and often sits in on the song sessions with his bodhran. He usually sings "Red is the Rose". His dad sometimes pops in to sing as well, and his brother goes in the Crock.

If it's the same pub you're thinking of then you'll know at least one of those people. You'll also need a new map, as it's some way from Clare! LOL.

I really hope I get over this year. Last year I was too skint for the trip. Still exchange emails with our mates there though.

Thanks for the heads up re. the link, mate. I'll get it checked.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 08:49 PM

Video works fine here (Firefox 3.6.2 on MacOS 10.4).

Looks to me like you don't want amplification, you want the punters to put a sock in it.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 04:48 AM

Radio mics on table stands?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 05:53 AM

Radio Mics (Of ANY Quality) are NOT Cheap and may wel fall foul ofthe new law refgarding Frequency !
And ths link worked fine for me too !


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 08:44 AM

Radio mics are an expensive way of losing a piece of wire... and the handheld types are really intended for close vocals. As for the tieclip variety, see my comment above.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Simon G
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 02:52 PM

@Poppagator, if your on a netbook, you may be running the one of the betas versions of Flash 10.1, the one the runs with any kind of performance on a netbook. The crashes will be a result of that.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 08:36 PM

Thanks again for all the input.

Radio mics are a non-starter. Too expensive and not necessary. Wires aren't an issue.

@ Jack: no, mate. I/we don't want the punters to put a sock in it, we want the people round the corner of the "L"-shaped bar to have a fighting chance of hearing if they want to.

I know the venue and the punters very well. If they want to talk/laugh/shout they will do so. I'm fine with bowing to the inevitable... I just need some electronic weaponry with which to fight back ;-)

I've been playing in that pub for years, plugged and unplugged. I know what I need to do (amplify), but I just need ideas for options that avoid the need for loads of individual mics on stands, which is what the other band ended up with. That set-up is a pain in the arse. Takes ages to set up to everyone's liking and all those stands get in the way.

I'm very interested in the large diaphragm condenser (Behringer C3). I've used a Behringer C1 for recording and that worked well. The boundary mic idea is a possible too.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 07:08 AM

Just beware of the inevitable... noise breeds noise.

In other words, don't fight against it, just lift the level a little. The more noise you make, the more noise the 'audience' are likely to make!

Boundary mics will work much more effectively, because they use reflected sound to cancel unwanted noise. You cannot do that with a suspended microphone.

I have some large diaphragm Behringer B2 Pro microphones which are great for recording, but I don't think they are as well suited to sound reinforcement applications. They have two diaphragms and can be configured onmi/cardioid/figure 8, but around double the price of the C3.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 01:26 PM

Mic? Micing?

What's wrong with "mike" and "miking"?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Tootler
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:20 PM

Is it possible to sit at the bottom left hand corner of the L? That way your sound will carry up both arms of the L.

I'm with Jack Campin. You should not really need to mike up in a typical bar. You said you normally have 8 or 9 musicians with a typical collection of 'folk' instruments. Surely they will make enough sound for it to carry round the bar without use of PA.

If you really must use PA, then bear in mind what Bernard said about noise breeds noise. Some years ago, I went into a bar where a local rock band were playing who had turned the sound up so loud no one could possibly hold a conversation. I eventually left with my ears ringing - never again! That is the reason for saying what I do. I am sure you will not go that far, but please do be careful about volume.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 04:32 PM

Mic is 3 letters, mike is 4 - when dialling into a system with limited time available, it takes a lot less time (without a keyboard) to find Mic 1, Mic 2, Mic 3, DI1, etc... I don't think I've ever seen 'micing' used outside of rodent description, though. Certainly not on this page, as I've checked!! ;o)

That's my excuse, anyway!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 04 Apr 10 - 07:40 PM

McGrath of Harlow said: "What's wrong with "mike" and "miking"?"

Nothing, mate. Spell it however you like and I'll do the same. Is that the extent of your contribution? Thanks anyway.

@ Bernard & Tootler: Thanks guys..."Noise breeds noise" is damn right and I will certainly keep it firmly in mind.

I've tried to emphasise that I know the pub and the punters well. I've played there for years, both unplugged and with a fully amplified band, indoors and out. I won't be trying anything that isn't appropriate to the venue and/or the nature of the session.

The "L" shape of the room is crucially relevant, as is the fact that many or most of the players are actually facing away from the main part of the room as we face into the table.

The arrangement is kind of as shown below, where "O" indicates a player. The small "O"s give a far more spacious impression than is the real situation.

Sadly, available room does not allow us to move into the main part. The arrangement of tables, toilet doors, bar, fruit machine etc dictate our position.



-------------------------------
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |
|                              |-----------------------------------
|                                                                  |
|                                     O      O      O       O      |
|                                                                  |
|                              O                                  |
|                                                                  |
|                                     O          O         O       |
|                                                                  |
-------------------------------------------------------------------


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 08:46 AM

So often the case... good luck with it!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 02:28 PM

You can sometimes get a useful effect by starting a song or tune at normal volume and then, once you see people starting to pay attention, dropping the volume right down and singing or playing in a very intimate, focussed sort of way. It can shame all but the terminally drunk into shutting right up for a while. It wouldn't last for an entire evening, but it's worth trying from time to time.


Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: PoppaGator
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 05:21 PM

Well, I tried the link again today, and it worked without a hitch. I wonder what was different last week? I'm running IE on a desktop PC in an, ahem, office environment (don't tell!) ~ pretty standard stuff.

buddhuu ~ nice text/graphic of that floorplan!

I knew, of course, that any number of establishments in Ireland might well go by the name "O'Conner's." (Duh!) Just checking. Actually, the one in Doolin does not features an "L"-shaped floor plan; it's closer to square.

I have long preferred the spelling "mike" for "microphone," but the alternative "mic" seems to be gaining ground all the time. It is, after all, a true truncation of the word actually being abbreviated. However, "mike" works better than "mic" when you start making compound words out of it ~ e.g., as already noted, "miking" is more likely to be read accurately than "micing."


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 05 Apr 10 - 05:46 PM

PoppaGator, The Killarney O'Conner's doesn't really have an L shape. It's a long narrow bar like may Irish town pubs. It's my local that has the L shape.

The pub in question is The Plough, Plough Lane, Ley Green, Herts, SG4 8LA, and the song session is on every Tuesday evening (except 2nd Tuesday each month) from around 8pm or 8.30pm. If any of you ever get out this way we'd be happy to budge up and make room.

Anyway, this has all given me some real options to explore. :-)

Cheers.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 18 May 10 - 08:52 AM

Excuse me reviving this.

I've finally managed to get hold of a Behringer C-3 dual-diaphragm condenser (as suggested by Mandotim) with which I'll experiment at tonight's session. I'm also going to try a PA speaker instead of the Marshall combo and see if we can get away with the feedback situation.

I was going to try Bernard's boundary mic suggestion too, but we've had to move the table out of the way due to lack of space. I might try that one week when we have fewer than half a dozen players.

I'll report back after the session in the hope that someone finds the info useful in the future.

Thanks again for the input, guys.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 06:29 AM

Update:

The Behringer C-3 is great. It works very well when all players are sitting quite tightly together. As must be expected though, once we get so crowded that some players have to sit too far "off mic" then it is of no benefit to those players.

Feedback does happen, but it's manageable - even with just a PA speaker and no notch filter. It's all down to positioning, controlling volume and rolling off the bass frequencies a little on the powered speaker or on the mixer.

We keep the volume really quite low. The aim is just to help the sound make it around the L-shaped corner, not to make us loud.

I'm pretty satisfied, and I can recommend the Behringer C-3 as a good value mic.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 07:13 AM

I agree wholeheartedly! I've got four of the B2 Pro, and there is negligible background noise from the pre-amp stage, making it ideal for recording.

One word of caution about Behringer, though... make sure you check the kit as soon as you've bought it, rather than putting it on a shelf for later, as there are instances of 'dead on arrival'.

The other thing is, don't touch their amplifiers (or mixer amplifiers)! When they go wrong (notice I didn't say 'if'!), they cannot be repaired - fine if they are still under warranty...! Out of eight we've had, only two are still working - and two of the eight were replacements for ones that failed!

We've also had people come through the door with ones they've bought elsewhere, just out of warranty, and they are 'quite disappointed' when we explain they've got to scrap their pride and joy...

Okay, I accept that there are probably people who can report good, reliable service, but I've yet to meet one! The main problem is not being able to get service manuals or circuit drawings, but the design itself tends to be somewhat on the edge with no 'headroom'. An amplifier that's nice and light, yet powerful, suggests pilot's licences for pigs!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 08:52 AM

I've had good experiences with Behringer mics generally, and with their Xenyx mixers (not mixer amps - I prefer powered PA speakers), but I'm well aware that you're quite right about the inconsistencies.

I also have a Behringer guitar EQ that is the cheapest, nastiest little yellow plastic box one could hope to encounter. It has disgustingly cheap-feeling sliders, dodgy jack sockets... and it is great! It's quiet, it works brilliantly and, paradoxically, seems indestructible. It's been drenched in rain, dropped, kicked and generally abused, but it's outlasted my Boss GE-7!

My two favourite mics are both budget ones: this Behringer C-3, and a Shure PG81 that I've used on-stage to mic my mandolin.

Had an SM-57 and never really got on with it.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Bernard
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 09:27 AM

Behringer active DI boxes are great - ridiculously cheap, yet (as you say) quiet and work brilliantly.

I must admit powered speakers are not a favourite with me - eggs in one basket! One serious drawback is the cabling - mains and signal cable instead of a simple speaker cable is a recipe for hum.

Okay, the amps are matched to the speakers, but that's hardly an issue. Having an amp fail and having to change the speaker as well isn't always practical in a sound hire situation, especially if the speaker is up on a truss somewhere.

We have the JBL VRX series line array in our hire inventory, but we opted for the passive units and Crown IT4000 amplifiers. The Crowns have virtually all been back for repair... the faults were not in the actual amplifier stage, but in the networking, and they do seem to have finally settled down. It would have been a nightmare had they been self powered speakers. Add to that the complication that each speaker in an array would require a mains supply, a signal cable AND a CAT5e network cable...! Okay, in some cases just a jumper from one to the next, but even so!

I do accept that it is a neat solution for someone who is out on the road, as it is probably quicker to set up, but it's not for me!

Mics are such personal things, aren't they?!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: buddhuu
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 11:00 AM

"I do accept that it is a neat solution for someone who is out on the road, as it is probably quicker to set up, but it's not for me!"

Yeah, I admit it's the ease that works for me. That and the fact that I work entirely at the budget end of things. My PA speakers are mass produced Chinese ones that many outlets rebrand. Luckily they sound pretty good and I was able to get a pair of 280 watt 12" speakers for just over £300. Those with an Alesis Multimix 8 is pretty much my current PA set up!

If I need more than that I have a couple of very helpful mates locally one of whom owns a recording studio and another who does PA hire! Luckily for me, their kind natures mean I don't have to buy expensive gear.

Since I quit my last band last year I've only needed to amplify the session, so until my next band I'm covered!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mic'ing a ballad / acoustic session.
From: Stringsinger
Date: 25 Aug 10 - 03:36 PM

Last time I looked it was not spelled mikecrophone.


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