Friday, 9 December 2016

Don't Go Cheap on Audio

In my spare time I am also a pianist/organist and last night I, along with other musicians and a large choir, were rehearsing for an opening performance for a new church. The church has beautiful acoustics but is extremely reverberant. It is so much so that the sound designers for the building took out all of the low frequencies for the sound system that serves the altar.

As for those of us in the choir loft, we were on a separate mixer that feeds into the same main speaker system. Since the building is so reverberant this means that balancing the output is going to be a very critical matter. This is not the time to use cheap equipment (main speakers, microphones, mixer, monitors, etc) OR people who do not know how to mix properly. In a room that is so alive, it is very easy to go from low volume intelligible but barely audible speech, to a high volume ugly wish-mash of music. I know, because it has happened to me in many special events. Usually the reason is that the equipment (often the speakers) is incapable of handling the load or the audio tech is not knowledgeable enough to know how to fix equalization problems or how to set up main speakers, not to mention which types of mics to use in certain situations.

For example, in our rehearsal last night, we had to "make do" with a single vocal mic for a 30-voice choir. Of course, it sounded terrible. What should have been used was at least two or three choir mics (condenser overhead mics with unidirectional pickup) placed up high and just in front of the first row of singers. What happened? There was not enough of the right equipment (e.g. mics) available and we had minimal time to check and gain experience with the system.

So what is my point? It is that if you have an event that has a critical audio component (i.e. speeches, stage show, even a dance band), then you would be well served to not always go for the least expensive company to supply the audio. Do your homework and make sure you get techs who have lots of experience in running audio for your kind of event and that the company uses only the highest quality equipment. You will save money and your reputation in the end.