Problem - Where is the sound tech positioned relative to the ARTICULATE COVERAGE ZONE?
A huge problem with a sound tech is where is this person sitting?
If your sound tech is not hearing the same sound the audience is hearing, you will never, ever get the right sound mix. It is absolutely impossible.
Imagine a typical central speaker system hanging in the middle of a church near the pulpit. Some call it a “cluster” though a cluster would be more than one speaker system hanging there. Let’s assume that the sweet spot is only covering about 40% of the seats under and near the central speaker system. Imagine a circle of clear sound over this seating area. If you sit in this zone you can hear every word crystal clear. The sound is perfect. As you begin to move out of this zone near the rear seats and into the balcony, the sound begins to get a little “dark” or muddled. There is no crispness, no clear definition in the tone quality anymore, certainly not as good as the seats up front. Now, we can hear the speaker just fine – it’ll knock your head off if we turned it up loud enough. But the articulation has dropped off significantly from the front to the rear seats. It just doesn’t sound the same.
Most folks put the sound tech in the back of the room or in the balcony. That’s fine. No problem except for one thing. They never think that the sound tech is not in the same clear sound field or ARTICULATION COVERAGE ZONE ©.
Remember that the crowd up front is hearing excellent high end or crispness. The sound tech is not sitting in this sweet spot and to him the sound where he is, is too dark – needs more highs. What do you think he is going to do? He is going to increase the high end to make the sound more crisp where he is so it sounds right to him. The people around him are loving it! Sounds great back here now! But what just happened to the crowd up front? Now they are getting too much high end and are complaining the sound system is too loud. It’s really too bright but most folks don’t think that way or know what they are hearing let alone know how to describe it. All they know is it’s hurting their ears.
Another problem just happened too. Those lapel mics, pulpit mics, and choir mics just heard the high end go up too. Feedback happens when a microphone can “hear itself” in the speaker system. Now that the sound tech has pushed up the high end sounds, the high end or high pitched sounds will be the first to be heard by the choir mics. The choir stands up ready to sing, the sound tech brings up the choir mics and SQUEAL! Everyone shrieks with the annoying but familiar sound, the sound tech pulls back down the choir mics, the choir sings, and can’t be heard. Sound familiar? See how the main speaker system, the position of sound tech, and what the sound tech does are all connected?
So even if you had a great sound tech that knows how to mix, if he or she is not positioned to hear what the audience hears, you’re still dead in the water. And forget using headphones or a remote speaker. Won’t work. It’s an OK get by work around, but it still won’t get you where you want and need to go.
You should realize by now that the problem is not so much the sound tech is in the wrong place. The speaker system is not doing it’s job – it’s not covering the seating area with the same sound side to side, front to back. The speaker system should project the same quality of sound to the first pew as it does to that back left pew in the hardest to get to part of the building including the balcony or side seating areas. Then you can put the sound tech almost anywhere and he or she can hear exactly what the audience hears. Problem solved.
I have no idea where this next concept started perhaps looking at recording studios on TV or in the movies.
Under no circumstances do you put a live mixing console behind glass or in a closed in room. A recording console where you need to isolate the studio sound from the mixing sound – yes, live sound – no. The sound techs ears must be out in the open with no obstructions of the main speaker system. Anything that blocks the direct transmission of sound to the sound techs ears will color or block the sound making a good sound mix impossible.
Forget about a hole in the wall opening for them to listen through. I’ve seen installs where a large window is cut into the back balcony or rear wall and the sound room located behind. This seems like a smart idea if you don’t know a thing about sound. That hole in the wall actually becomes a bass trap or filter that colors the sound reaching the sound tech. The interior walls of that room reflect sound coloring the mid range tones. Now you’ve got a real mess on your hands.
A sound room that looks nifty and tucked out of the way is worthless to mix in! If you spent 80 grand on your sound system, know that you have wasted your money and ruined the whole thing by putting your sound tech in a place where they cannot possibly do a good job.
And then there’s the balcony box – a boxed in affair built in back of the balcony with a door and window to hide the awful looking sound equipment. Again – a worthless arrangement that will never work.
If you want to know for sure if your sound tech can hear the same quality
of sound as the audience, arrange a time for our ARTICULATION
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