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QSC CP Series Powered Speakers: Review by Craig Anderton

Posted on October 09, 2018 at 3:18 PM

QSC is probably best known among performers for their various K Series speakers, with the most popular being the K.2 line. However, there was always a gap in their product lineup—powered speakers that could get musicians, presenters, DJs, and others started in the world of live performance at a reasonable price. The question then became […]

QSC is probably best known among performers for their various K Series speakers, with the most popular being the K.2 line. However, there was always a gap in their product lineup—powered speakers that could get musicians, presenters, DJs, and others started in the world of live performance at a reasonable price.

The question then became how does a company fill that gap, and QSC’s CP (Compact Powered) series loudspeakers is their answer. When asked if I wanted to review them, I politely declined at first because I wanted to be able to test them under real-world conditions and besides, I just wasn’t that interested in another set of small powered speakers. But the company followed up, and said they could meet me at InDo Nashville, a co-working space whose lower floor doubles as a venue for after-hours and weekends. Having been to parties there before, I knew this venue had the size and acoustics for which these speakers were intended—and I thought the company’s confidence meant maybe these weren’t me-too products. So I went to check them out…and am glad I did.

CP8 speaker
Figure 1: The CP8 houses an 8″ woofer and high-frequency compression driver

First impression: they’re small and truly compact, particularly the CP8 8″ model (Fig. 1; $399 street). There’s also the CP12 12″ model ($499 street), but no 10″. After listening to both, I feel a 10″ would be redundant anyway. As expected, these are two-way systems with a Class D power amp (rated at 1,000W peak, so expect a couple hundred watts of continuous power). I’ve always been a fan of Class D amps, because they run cool and deliver serious power without a lot of weight.

Ins and Outs

The electronics and controls are identical for the CP8 and CP12 (Fig. 2). The rear panel has three inputs: Line XLR, mic/line XLR, and 1/8″ stereo aux for consumer gear, backing tracks, etc. A post-gain Mix Out allows for daisy-chaining. To tailor either unit for various applications, there’s a Contour control with six positions: Default with Sub, Dance, Dance with Sub, Floor Monitor, and Speech.

CP8
Figure 2. The CP Series offers convenient preset DSP contours for common sound applications.

You’ll find two gain controls, one for the line and aux inputs, and one for the mic/line input. A clever touch is that in the Speech position, the line and aux inputs are set to their defaults, while optimizing the mic input for speech. So you can be playing music while in speech mode, and then when it’s time to make an announcement, go over to the mic without messing with the music and have the mic sound good. Smart.

The Contour setting for using the CP speakers as floor monitors was highly effective. Testing it out with a mic in front was pretty much feedback-free, unless you got out of control with the volume levels and position. As is common these days, the speaker cabinet accommodates sitting at an angle for the correct floor monitor orientation.

Got Subs?

QSC recommends their KS112 when adding a sub. It’s compact and relatively lightweight (around 60 lbs.), and also, the CP Series is designed to pair with it. With a sub, the system that would make the most sense for stereo would be two CP8 speakers and one KS112; if you can’t use a sub, then two CP12 speakers would be a better choice due to the somewhat greater bass extension inherent in a 12″ speaker. The Contour control simplifies matters by eliminating references to crossover frequencies and such—no more Fear of Subs! If you’re using the KS112, just choose the Contour setting that specifies using a sub.

Testing, Testing 

One of my first tests for a powered speaker is listening to myself or someone else playing guitar (yes, guitar—not a typo). I’m into processors like the Line 6 Helix to get “my sound,” and then using a flat response, full range (FRFR) system to amplify it. I ditched guitar amps for keyboard amps several decades ago, then ditched keyboard amps for compact, “personal” PAs when they became commonplace. I have to say the CP8 is a really good FRFR amp. It’s small, powerful, clean, can fill a decent-sized venue, and has the transient response needed for convincing guitar sounds. The CP12 is equally good, but for guitar I’m not sure you really need the extra bass extension (however it would be appropriate with keyboards and bass). To my ears, for guitar the CP8 gives a “tight” sound that I prefer—and doesn’t step on the bass.

For program material, the sound for both speakers is balanced correctly: they avoid “mud” in the lows, “screech” in the highs, and have a well-defined midrange that’s neither forward or receding. The CP12’s 12″ driver gives a somewhat “fuller” sound than the CP8 (interestingly, with a K.2-type voicing). However, the CP8 projects well and when paired with the KS112 sub, delivers a rig that’s ideal for DJ and party applications.

QSC and Craig A 2
Craig Anderton taking the QSC CP Series for a test drive at InDo, Nashville.

Either set of monitors can fill smaller venues (100 – 200 people) easily, as well as bigger venues with low ambient noise (e.g., houses of worship). Large venues will work too, depending on how loud the people are, and the expectations for sound levels. If the audience wants hardcore DJ sound levels that drown everything out, you probably need something bigger. But if people want to carry on a conversation, when cranked up these speakers will at the very least mean they’ll need to shout.

“Mini-K”? Not Really…

I was a little taken aback that these aren’t “lite” versions of the K Series speakers, given that QSC has cachet with that line—the CP Series has its own identity, rather than being “baby K Series” speakers. Actually, for smaller venues, presentations, lounges, cruise ships, houses of worship, and rehearsal rooms, the CP series is a better choice if you don’t need the extra power, size, weight, or for that matter, cost of the higher-performing K.2 series.

Those for whom this is their first PA needn’t feel like they compromised. The CP Series is designed to fulfill a specific function, and both models do what they’re intended to do—and then some. Overall, these are impressive speakers. They provide an entry into the world of QSC products at a highly attractive price point, but more importantly, with performance that belies their small size and weight. I’m glad I overcame my skepticism, and took the trip into Nashville to hear these. I predict they will do very well.

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5 Tips for Choosing the Best Headphones

Posted on October 08, 2018 at 4:44 PM

Headphones have experienced explosive growth over the past decade, and are now the primary way many people listen to music—so before signing off on a mix or master, it’s worth listening over headphones. You’ll also need headphones for doing overdubs…or maybe you want to listen to rough mixes on your smartphone while traveling. Regardless of […]

Headphones have experienced explosive growth over the past decade, and are now the primary way many people listen to music—so before signing off on a mix or master, it’s worth listening over headphones. You’ll also need headphones for doing overdubs…or maybe you want to listen to rough mixes on your smartphone while traveling.

Regardless of how you plan to use headphones, with the plethora of choices it’s more important than ever to make sure you choose the right tool for the right job—which brings us to these five essential tips.

1. Use Closed-Back Headphones for Overdubs, Open-Back for Mixing

Open-back designs may produce a more “open” sound, but they don’t seal the sound in as well as closed-back types (Fig. 1). When doing overdubs while listening on headphones, you don’t want any sonic leakage to get into microphones, especially with vocalists who like to hear lots of volume in their headphones.

 

Fig 1 Sennheiser HD 280
Figure 1: The Sennheiser HD 280 is a popular choice for overdubs—it’s closed-back, and under $100.

Similarly, for overdubs you’re better off with over-ear (circumaural) headphones that surround the ear, even though they tend to weigh more and are bulkier than the on-ear headphones that rest on your ears.

However for mixing, when isolation doesn’t really matter, open-back headphones are not only more comfortable but add some space between your ears and the earcups. This can help reduce standing waves that could influence the sound of the mix.

2: Beware of Headphones Targeted at Consumers

Not all headphones are created equal: Some consumer models hype the bass, treble, or both. You’re not doing a mix any favors if you’re not listening on headphones intended for the studio.

 

KNS-8400jpg
Figure 2: KRK’s KNS-8400 is designed to produce the same type of sound as KRK studio monitors, but with headphones.

Headphones like the KRK KNS-8400 [Fig. 2], Audio-Technica ATH-M40x, Beyerdynamic DT990-PRO, and others designed for recording are a far better choice than consumer-oriented models like Beats. Tip: Also look for studio-friendly features like a volume control, detachable cable, and replaceable earpads.

3. Use Headphones to Save Your Hearing

If you mix live sound, or play drums in the studio and need to hear the mix without blowing out your eardrums, isolation headphones are the answer. For example, Telefunken’s THP-29 headphones provide 29 dB of acoustical isolation (Fig. 3).

 

Fig 3 Telefunken THP-29
Figure 3: Isolation headphones, like Telefunken’s THP-29, are designed to give maximum isolation from ambient sounds.

Beyerdynamic’s DT 770 M headphones cost a bit more, but attenuate ambient noise by 35 dB or better

4. Headphones Can Idealize Your Room Acoustics

Headphones take acoustics out of the picture, but exaggerate the stereo imaging and make balancing levels difficult. Also, mixing on headphones may not give an accurate indication of the amount of bass (headphones don’t move air like speakers), which can cause people to mix the bass too high.

 

Fig 4 Waves NX
Figure 4: Headphones eliminate room acoustics, but exaggerate elements of a mix like reverb and stereo placement. Waves NX emulates the sound of working within an acoustically treated room.

Waves NX – Virtual Mix Room over Headphones (Fig. 4), available as part of Waves’ AMBTOOLS, addresses this issue head-on by emulating the studio environment for stereo and surround monitoring.

5. Yes, You Can Fix Your Phones

Headphones get a lot of abuse in the studio, and are often the worse for wear. Sure, they’re plastic and a lot less expensive than speakers—but they’re not designed to be throwaways. For example, you can replace the KNS-8400’s cord jack, buy a new ear element, or even the in-line volume control. You can get replacement earpads for just about all professional headphones—and if you blew out your Audio-Technica ATH-M40’s ear element, you’re covered (Fig. 5).

 

Fig 5 ATH-M40 ear element
Figure 5: Did you forget that the cue mix level was at maximum? You can replace headphone drivers for a fraction of the cost of new headphones.aption

You’re also covered if someone broke off the ATH-M40’s left arm assembly. The point is for a couple dozen dollars, you can return your $100+ headphones to being a productive member of your studio.

Full Compass offers an extensive selection of headphones replacement parts. Once you’re on our replacement parts page, simply filter by headphones and brand.

 

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Upgrade your school year with essential gear for the classroom!

Posted on October 03, 2018 at 2:18 PM

A+ gear to take your school to the head of the class. Anytime of year is a good time to take stock of the gear in your school. Students who give presentations to their class, perform in a theater group, or are part of a sports team will appreciate an opportunity to be seen and […]

A+ gear to take your school to the head of the class.

Anytime of year is a good time to take stock of the gear in your school. Students who give presentations to their class, perform in a theater group, or are part of a sports team will appreciate an opportunity to be seen and heard. It’s time to “upgrade your school year,” so you can examine what’s working to determine your audio and visual needs.

You can engage students and upgrade facilities with top-selling education gear! So where do you start? Let’s examine a few areas of your school where you can set up the year for success with new and upgraded gear.

Classroom

classroom_av-16699212.jpgFrom projectors to flat-screen televisions, the type of gear you’ll need in your classroom this year can vary from big to small. Are students in your school sharing their learning with their classmates? A projector and display screen can help spotlight their collaborative creations with the entire class. If teachers are modeling a new strategy for students, a display screen can definitely come in handy. Teachers can show off the steps to solve a math problem, take students through the procedure of a science experiment. Find a full assortment of classroom A/V equipment here

Stadium and Sports Field

sports_outdoors-187343513Although it might be outside the walls of your school building, stadiums and sports fields are definitely in need of audio-visual gear this school year. Broadcast equipment for the press box and speakers for the field are just part of the equation. You’ll want weather-ready equipment for all corners of the field. If your community loves local sports just as much as your students, you might decide to fundraise for new equipment for your sports team to use.

Theatre and Auditorium

theater_auditorium-003039162What type of gear do you have in your school’s’ auditorium? Is your theater program prepared for performances this year? Making sure your equipment is set in all corners of your school building, definitely includes the auditorium. Whether you’re thinking about theater programs or focused on assemblies, this space needs to be ready. From moving lights to loudspeakers and installed and portable speakers, there are lots of choices as you decide how to equip this special space in your building.

Gym Speakers and Sound

gym_sound-499331469Indoor sports require special systems to make sure everyone can hear clearly. Ceiling speakers and megaphones are just part of the setup you’ll want to explore this school year. Sometimes tackling a complete renovation seems too large a task for one semester. This space in your building can benefit from small to large gymnasium A/V upgrades depending on sports you feature at different times of the year.

Music Lab

music_lab_recording-25281798In the music lab this school year you can upgrade your gear to make sure your students have the best quality of sound. From cables to speakers, student musicians need high-quality equipment as they learn to explore new instruments at school. The music lab in your building can benefit from electronic drum kits and digital pianos.

Ready to get started? Full Compass has you covered. Schools with students of all ages can upgrade their gear this school year! Click here to save big on the best new tech for the school year. 

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Will Your Next Guitar Amp Be “FRFR”?

Posted on August 31, 2018 at 3:49 PM

by Craig Anderton – The world of guitar tone is changing. While pedalboards with analog effects remain popular, a new generation of multieffects like the Kemper Profiling Amp, Line 6 Helix, Boss GT-100, DigiTech RP360XP, Zoom G5N, and others tailor your tone from the first of several effects up to amps and cabinet emulators. You […]

by Craig Anderton –

The world of guitar tone is changing. While pedalboards with analog effects remain popular, a new generation of multieffects like the Kemper Profiling Amp, Line 6 Helix, Boss GT-100, DigiTech RP360XP, Zoom G5N, and others tailor your tone from the first of several effects up to amps and cabinet emulators. You don’t need a traditional guitar amp, because these already provide the sound that amps and cabinets deliver—so what kind of amp do you need?

FRFR (Full Range, Flat Response ) Amplification. The answer is an amplifier with a flat response, like a PA system, that doesn’t color the amp’s sound. There are many (many!) powered speakers like the QSC K12.2, JBL SRX815PLine 6 StageSource L3, Electro-Voice ELX200-12P, Alto Professional TS310, Mackie SRM550, PreSonus StudioLive 328AI, Yamaha DZR10, etc. that are efficient, compact, and deliver clean sound (Fig. 1). However with this many options, it’s not easy to figure out exactly what you need—so let’s look at the specs that matter.

Fig. 1 Yamaha DZR10
Figure 1: Yamaha’s DZR10 is typical of the genre—a large, rectangular box with a protective front grille.

Speaker size. Powered speakers can include one main driver (woofer), or multiple drivers. Bigger speakers reproduce lower frequencies better, and because guitar goes below 100 Hz, a 15” speaker is a good choice. However, products with bigger speakers tend to cost more not just because of the speaker, but because of the larger cabinet—so there are practical, financial, and sonic considerations.. Fortunately, a 12” speaker works fine with guitar (think of all the amps with 10” speakers), and even two 8” speakers can be a good choice due to lower cost, a smaller cabinet, and a “tight” sound because smaller speakers can react slightly faster to the output driving the speaker.

For bass, a 15” speaker is usually adequate. But if you want to rattle the floorboards, consider a powered speaker that teams with a complementary subwoofer. Subs are big, though, so finding space in smaller venues—or fitting them into your car—may be tough.

Powered monitors also have high-frequency drivers. These aren’t as critical a the woofers, especially because guitar amps don’t have a lot of high-frequency response. The high-frequency driver may be a separate transducer, or integrated into a midrange speaker (i.e., a coaxial speaker). If a speaker has a woofer and midrange coaxial speaker, it can legitimately call itself a three-way system (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 StudioLive-32-8-AI
Figure 2: You can see the two 8” drivers at the top and bottom of the PreSonus StudioLive 328AI; the speaker in the middle is a coaxial speaker with both midrange and high-frequency drivers.

Amplifier wattage. You’ll see speakers advertising 1000, 2000, or even more watts. That’s a lot more by tube guitar amp standards, but these systems are designed to reproduce sound cleanly, which means being able to handle big spikes and transients accurately. You wouldn’t run these full out all the time, as you might with a guitar amp. Pretty much any wattage will fill a typical club; the main advantage of lots of wattage is that when you push it, the sound will still be clean.

Mounting. Most powered monitor can be pole-mounted, but others can mount on the floor, like monitor wedges that point up at the performer. Some wedges allow two angles—one facing more up to the performer, and one facing more outwardly. For guitar, this can be more “amp like” if you can angle the wedge so it faces the audience, and you can stand in front of it.

Daisy-Chaining. When you need more power, some powered speakers have extra connectors so you can “daisy-chain” the signal to additional units for more coverage or higher volume levels.

Other features. We’re now starting to see products that combine both guitar amp and powered speaker characteristics, like the Line 6 FireHawk 1500. Although it’s an FRFR amp, it’s built in a guitar amp-like cabinet and includes modeling options, so you may not need a multieffects. However if you already have a multieffects, then all you really need is the powered speaker. But remember that generally, these units are designed for PA applications, so they’ll have features that may or may not matter to instrumentalists (Fig. 3).

 

Fig. 3 QSC K12.2 controls 2
Figure 3: The QSC’s K12.2’s rear panel includes an LCD for making adjustments, and is one of the few powered speakers with a high-impedance guitar inputs. It also has a stereo TRS input.

 

  • Mic inputs and mic preamps. You don’t need an instrument input, because the multieffects will provide line level signals. If you’re a singer/songwriter with a stereo source like a multieffects or keyboard and a microphone, three inputs will take care of you.
  • Remote control and onboard DSP. For PA applications, it’s great to be able to walk around a room and tune the sound with a smartphone or tablet. For a guitar amp, this may not be as important.
  • Class D amplification. Generally, digital amplifiers are more efficient, run cooler, and last longer than analog power amps (although of course, analog amps still work fine).
  • If you play certain venues consistently, having presets that tailor the sound for each one can be convenient.
  • If there’s a fan, make sure it’s low noise. Preferably, it will have variable speed so if not a lot of cooling is needed during that quiet ballad, it won’t make a lot of noise.
  • The Yamaha DZR10 offers models equipped with a Dante interface for integration with Yamaha consoles and other Dante devices, while the PreSonus StudioLive system can also connect to Dante systems with an optional card for networking (it also includes a USB Wi-Fi module to connect to room control software over a wireless network). Although those options are useful for PA application, they’re probably overkill for an FRFR guitar amp.

Making the switch. If you decide to go FRFR, you’ll probably need to tweak your multieffects. You’re probably used to a certain “tone” from your amp, and it’s unlikely whoever came up with your processor’s presets has the same taste as you (or plays the same guitar). But once you get your collection of sounds with an FRFR setup, you’re set for any FRFR situation—in the studio or live.

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(DON’T) DROP THE MIC – PART 3

Posted on August 27, 2018 at 1:56 PM

The Best Models and Methods for Close-Miking Each Instrument Sometimes it’s best to get up close and personal with the audio you are recording. What are you trying to capture with each microphone and its placement? Is the ambience of an environment or an audience’s reaction relevant? Or do you want the extreme clarity and […]

The Best Models and Methods for Close-Miking Each Instrument

Sometimes it’s best to get up close and personal with the audio you are recording. What are you trying to capture with each microphone and its placement? Is the ambience of an environment or an audience’s reaction relevant? Or do you want the extreme clarity and truthfulness of a microphone situated very close to the sound source?

Close-miking a voice or an instrument can allow you to obtain a clean, precise audio recording, minimizing acoustical feedback and reflective sound, but each choice of microphone and its placement will change the flavor of the recording. And different instruments will benefit from different models and placements and proximities.

Drums – Many percussive possibilities

It’s entirely possible to capture the sound of a full drum kit with only two or three mics – many prominent producers did exactly that, particularly on classic 50’s and 60’s recordings. Today’s producers more typically record drums with a combination of stereo overheads while close-miking the individual kit pieces, all with directional patterns to minimize cross-talk/leakage. The overheads provide the sound of the cymbals plus the entire kit, but with a thinner, more mid-range-y tone than your typical modern drum sound. It’s the close mics that bring that fat yet crisp presence to the individual drums that we’ve all gotten used to ever since the era of multi-track recording began in earnest  in the early 70’s.

Let’s start with the basic arrangement – dynamic mics on the drums, with condensers for the hi-hat and the overheads, but there are no rules, and many engineers use condensers even on the individual kit pieces. Dynamics provide a nice punch, while condensers offer a bit more clarity and detail.

The go-to mic for the snare is the Shure SM57, a uni-directional, dynamic model placed anywhere from an inch to several inches above the drum, either pointing down at the edge of the drum, or aimed towards the center. Many engineers also mic up the snare from the bottom (ideally recorded on a separate track), using a condenser instead of another dynamic.

The toms are miked up individually, using the same techniques as the snare,with either the Shure SM57 or Sennheiser 421’s, which provide a bit more top and bottom end. Once again, a condensed microphone like the Audio-Technica ATM450 can be used for both snare and toms when extra clarity and openness is desired over punch.

Miking the kick depends on whether the front head is left on or removed. For a more traditional two-headed sound, a mic a foot or two in front of the front head will capture a nice round sound. Alternatively, a hole might be cut in the front head, and the mic positioned just inside, or the front head may be removed altogether and the mic pushed inside closer to the back of the batter head, for greater attack. Often a second mic is also used, either a couple feet in front, for more air, or by the batter head where the beater hits, for extra snap. As far as mic choices, mics with more extended low-end response are usually preferred.

All About That Bass

It’s common for the bass to be recorded as both a Direct Input signal for depth and clarity, and with a mic on the bass amp for grit and punch. The same mics recommended for the kick drum are usually good for miking the bass amp as well, typically placed an inch or so from the speaker grille, anywhere between the center of one speaker’s cone (bright, presence) to the edge of the surround (darker, warmer).

When it comes to the upright bass, a condenser mic with good bass extension such as the Microtech Gefell M297 a foot or so out, aimed near the bridge, should get the job done, but this may not always be possible. Upright bass is a relatively quiet instrument, typically used in ensembles of significantly louder instruments, and so very-close miking may be required to avoid excessive leakage.

Electric Avenues

Conventional wisdom calls for placing a uni-directional, dynamic an inch or so from the grille, positioned by ear. It’s the classic approach, but not the only one. Different mics will bring out different aspects of the guitar tone – bright, punchy, nasal, full, warm – any of the mics already mentioned, or any of the many similar dynamics or condensers could be a good choice. For a warmer, smoother tone, a ribbon mic like the Royer R10 offers a great spectrum of options) can often do the trick – just remember that when positioning ribbons, even the ones that look like pencil condensers are actually side-address mics.

A second mic, at a distance of a foot or two (or three) is often used to capture more of the sound of the amp loading the room, bringing in that thump and slap that subliminally lets the listener know that the amp is cranked and really pushing it – a potentially more exciting sound, even before resorting to mix processing.

Acoustic Guitars and Strings

Condensers are your best choice to capture the brightness and snap of the strings and the air and resonance from the body. Small-diaphragm pencil mics like the CAD Audio GXL 1200 are probably the most popular choices, but large-diaphragm condensers like the pricier Audio-Technica AT5040 will work equally well, bringing their typically more pronounced upper-midrange presence to the task.

Usually, most engineers will start by positioning the mic about a foot in front of the guitar, aimed at the twelfth fret, and then adjust the position and angle between there and closer to the bridge – the twelfth-fret position favors the strings, for a bright, strummy sound that sits well in a mix, while moving closer to the bridge may offer more body resonance, for a fuller tone. Try to avoid pointing the mic directly at the sound hole, as this can be prone to picking up too much “boom”.

It’s also common to add in a second mic. Two mics could simply be configured as a stereo pair, for a wider, more ambient effect. Often the second mic is either positioned a little further away, for extra room tone, or with one mic favoring the strings and the other the body for a potentially richer tone, optionally recorded on separate tracks and blended to taste in the mix.

Other strings, such as mandolin, banjo and ukulele, respond well to the same approach but many of these are much more resonant than acoustic guitars, so the choice of mic may need to reflect that. A mic with a strong upper-midrange peak (like a typical vocal condenser) may result in too much “glare” And a smoother, more subdued model (some pencil mics or reference mics) might work better, especially if combined with a slightly more distant placement.

Brass and Winds

Flutes, clarinets and other classical winds, and saxophones – are typically miked up with a condenser around a foot above or in front of the instrument, typically aimed somewhere around the center of the instrument (the holes) rather than directly at the mouthpiece area. However, in some playing styles the player’s breath noise is an important part of the sound – think of a jazzy flutist, or a breathy sax on a ballad. In those cases, miking up the mouthpiece may be in order to better capture that stylistic attribute. Normally, I’d advise against sticking a mic down the bell of a sax (except in some live on-stage situations) – most of the sound, at least the most well-balanced sound, comes from the holes, and a bell mic will often capture way too much honk.

Bell brass instruments such as a trumpet or trombone are usually addressed with a mic a foot or so in front, pointing straight at the bell (or further back, and even slightly angled, if the sound is too focused and leakage is not a problem). Here, pretty much all types of mics are widely utilized, and each brings its own benefits: dynamics handle the air pressure well when closer positioning is used; condensers provide the brightest, crispest sound; and when the sound is too bright & crisp, ribbon mics are a popular choice, for a more mellow, and potentially more well-balanced tonal character.

Kapturing Keyboards

Generally, acoustic piano is miked in stereo using small or large-diaphragm condensers, with placements from a few inches above the strings (rock/pop), to the edge of the piano case (jazz), to a few feet away (classical). The Hammond organ is recorded with mics on its companion Leslie speaker, typically a stereo pair pointing at the high-frequency horn, and one or two mics aimed at the low-frequency rotor. To capture as much of the swirling effect as possible, the stereo pair should be separated, on different sides of the cabinet, at angles from around 90° to 180°. The Leslie sound is comprised of tremolo, Doppler Effect (vibrato), and phase shift. Closer mics will emphasize the tremolo component, for greater “throb”, while somewhat more distant placement will emphasize the Doppler and phasing aspects, picking up a greater proportion of the sound bouncing around the room as the speakers spin.

Many Voices, Many Choices

Last but certainly not least, studio vocals are almost always captured with a large-diaphragm vocal condenser models positioned between 6” to a foot from the vocalist with the appropriate windscreen/pop-filter in place. There is an array of different options to capture the nuance of each singer. Producers and performers will often have discovered the models that work best for their voice or vision.

The Ears Have It

In the end, it comes down to what audio is actually being captured and the best producers and engineers know how to use their ears to really tune out everything about what is being recorded, deciding how that fits into the overall production. An engineer with a good ear may be able to get gold out of even the most limited mic cabinet and restrictive placement options. So take these recommendations as starting points, and don’t be afraid to experiment with a wide array of models, until you find the particular setup that provides just the results you need.

 

 

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How to Get Amazing Line 6 Helix Amp Sounds

Posted on August 16, 2018 at 2:05 PM

by Craig Anderton If you’ve heard the Line 6 Helix in action, you might wonder how it would be possible to get even better sounds than the amp and cabinets that are already included. However, there is a way—thanks to the Helix’s ability to split the guitar into four parallel signal paths. The technique we’ll […]

by Craig Anderton

If you’ve heard the Line 6 Helix in action, you might wonder how it would be possible to get even better sounds than the amp and cabinets that are already included. However, there is a way—thanks to the Helix’s ability to split the guitar into four parallel signal paths.

The technique we’ll cover is multiband distortion, where you create four different frequency bands (low, low mid, high mid, and high), distort each one individually, and then mix the four bands back together again. Because each amp needs to deal with only a limited frequency range, for rhythm guitar and power chords the sound is bigger, has more articulation, and is much more “focused.”

How to Create a Multiband Setup

Referring to Figure 1, start with a new preset. Set both signal paths to the same input, then drag a block downward from each signal path to create a second, parallel line for their respective paths. This creates four parallel signal paths.

Line 6 Helix-Anderton PostFigure 1: This multiband distortion template for the Line 6 Helix splits the guitar into four bands, and then distorts each one individually for a big, rich, focused sound.

Insert a 10-band graphic EQ block into each path. The low frequency band turns the 62.5, 125, and 250 Hz bands up full, and sets 500 Hz at around -10 dB. The next higher band turns the 250 and 500 Hz bands up full, with 1 kHz down about -4 dB. The next band has 500 Hz down about -8.5 dB, and 1 and 2 kHz up all the way. The highest band has 2, 4, 8, and 16 kHz up full, with 1 kHz at about -8 dB. The bands overlap somewhat because that’s what sounded best with my guitar, but where to split the bands varies with your guitar of choice, its pickups, and the purpose of the preset.

Now insert four Amp+Cabs. I tend to use the same Amp+Cab in each of the four paths, but the possibilities are endless—like a Marshall-type sound for the low frequencies, and a chimey Vox sound for the higher frequencies. However, since the signal is being split up four ways each amp is getting less signal, so you’ll need to turn up the Drive to compensate. You’ll probably need to turn down the Master too, because the output from four amps adds up. (Also note that turning down Drive for the highest-frequency path can give a sweet, less harsh sound, and that pulling down all the Drives somewhat can produce some beautiful clean tones.)

Tweaking the Preset

The Gain blocks in Figure 1 make tweaking easier. I set them all to zero gain, so that enabling the Gain block mutes the sound. Bypassing a Gain block allows tweaking a particular path without hearing the others. After creating your preset, you can delete these. The last block is for Pan. I usually leave the high and low bands centered, and spread the middle bands a bit to give a stereo image.

Finally, amps and cabs take a lot of processing power, so multiband distortion uses up a lot of the Helix’s power. You should still be able to add at least some effects, and this is where it gets really interesting—for example, insert chorus, delay, or auto filter in only the middle two bands.

But the proof is in the playing: create a preset with only one Amp+Cab, then create a multiband preset using the same Amp+Cab…and prepare to be amazed when you compare the two.

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(DON’T) DROP THE MIC – PART 2

Posted on August 06, 2018 at 12:55 PM

USING MICROPHONES FOR VIDEO PRODUCTION Viewers will forgive bad video imagery before they forgive bad audio. Nothing seems more immediately amateurish to an audience than bad sound production. Once the audio is captured, there are limitations on what can be done to correct or enhance it. That is why using the right microphone correctly during […]

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USING MICROPHONES FOR VIDEO PRODUCTION

Viewers will forgive bad video imagery before they forgive bad audio. Nothing seems more immediately amateurish to an audience than bad sound production. Once the audio is captured, there are limitations on what can be done to correct or enhance it. That is why using the right microphone correctly during production is so important.

CONSIDER MORE THAN ONE SOLUTION

Different scenes will benefit from different microphones. Before production, review the audio needs of each and every cinematic moment. What needs to be captured? Is the focus on the ambience of the environment? Are there directivity and intelligibility issues regarding conversations, especially dialogue that is whispered or spoken with minimal volume? Are there sound effects or audio moments that need to be captured separately to accentuate their narrative impact?

CAMERA-BASED INPUTS AND EQUIPMENT

Most professional-grade “big” cameras have a number of microphone inputs with the voltage to adequately power microphones. But more projects are being shot on smaller “photography” cameras like DSLRs that may only have limited power available and perhaps only unbalanced input. Extra gear is therefore needed in order to connect professional phantom-powered microphones. For example, you may need to purchase an external battery box or other equipment to access the necessary power.

GOING WIRELESS

Filming may benefit from a wireless transmission set, involving a transmitter and receiver. If you are mixing more than one microphone, it is important they all have the same polarity. Different brands have implemented different polarities in their wireless transmission systems. Make sure that you check the polarity compatibility on especially cheaper miniature microphones and wireless transmission systems. If it turns out that your system is out of phase you should consider introducing a polarity shift. In a balanced system this is easy as you simply swap the signal wires in the connector.

INTELLIGIBILITY MATTERS

Being able to hear a recorded voice does not guarantee clear intelligibility. And the best dialogue won’t matter if the audience cannot understand your actors. Pay close attention to how the consonants sound. The major part of consonants is found in the 1-4 kHz range. Unfortunately, this frequency range is attenuated for instance when placing a clip microphone on the chest of a person, or when placed under clothing or when a microphone is equipped with heavy wind shielding. If that is the case, the signal must be corrected by equalizing.

CLIP-ON SOLUTIONS

Securing a microphone directly to your actor will reduce background noise and room reverb. However, the sound field will be different depending on where the microphone is placed. Therefore it is important to have a microphone that is either corrected for its actual position or has an output that is good enough for equalizing.

SURROUND-SOUND SOLUTIONS

If you truly want to capture the full audio environment of a scene, you may need to use several different microphones placed subtly within the location. Though there are also individual microphone models designed for surround pick-up. It’s worth experimenting to see what will more accurately and impressively capture the audio and to consider what is actually needed for the cinematic moment.

What matters most is what the audience hears in the end. Take the time during pre-production to really think through what will need to be captured and what microphone models will do the best job of delivering the audio flavor and power. To help you find your ideal model, shop from a wide assortment of top brands for every budget at https://www.fullcompass.com/category/live-sound/microphones/. Or contact one of the Full Compass Sales pros at 800-356-5844 for experienced answers and expert advice.

 

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Are Your Wireless Systems at Risk?

Posted on May 18, 2018 at 10:53 AM

The time to replace those old 600 MHz wireless systems is now Have you been putting off replacing your older 600 MHz wireless systems? You’re not alone. The FCC’s auction of the 600 MHz spectrum for systems such as wireless mics and in-ear monitors means that these wireless systems at greater risk of interference or […]

The time to replace those old 600 MHz wireless systems is now

Have you been putting off replacing your older 600 MHz wireless systems? You’re not alone. The FCC’s auction of the 600 MHz spectrum for systems such as wireless mics and in-ear monitors means that these wireless systems at greater risk of interference or even complete failure.

Risks of Not Replacing 600 MHz Wireless Systems

The most common issues are ‘popping,’ static, erratic signals, and even loss of transmitted sound. The wave of 600 MHz mobile devices invading these frequencies means time is now of the essence and putting off replacement is no longer an option, even for those in seemingly rural areas. If your 600 MHz wireless microphone or in-ear monitor systems are suddenly prone to issues after years of operation, the mobile device transmissions on this spectrum are likely the cause.

Upgrade to Get Compliant and Stay Safe

The simple solution for smaller wireless systems (10 devices or fewer) is to replace existing systems with a new frequency-agile system from a single manufacturer. In this way, the coordination of frequencies is made much easier due to the manufacturer’s software to manage their own systems and use auto-setup to coordinate multiple wireless devices. In this way, replacing old 600 MHz wireless systems with newer wireless systems makes combining wireless mics, in-ear monitors, intercom stations, and wireless instruments is pretty straightforward right out of the box.

Unsure if you have 600 MHz Wireless Systems?

Our wireless experts are available to review the make and model of any microphone, in-ear monitor system, wireless instrument packs, or any wireless intercom systems to let you know if any of your equipment falls into this now defunct frequency range.

Even if you have existing wireless systems that are not in the 600 MHz spectrum, be sure to check with our wireless experts so that they can help you plan your next purchase to take into consideration the frequencies used by your existing systems as there are other frequency bands at risk for interference as new mobile devices are added to the already crowded frequency space.

Wireless technology can be confusing. We take the time to understand it so you don’t have to.

Call us at 800-356-5844 today for clear, plain-English answers to any questions you might have.

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Take advantage of Shure’s Trade In and Save promotion. 
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7 Principles that Give Our Compass Direction

Posted on October 11, 2017 at 8:09 AM

Full Compass is turning 40 this year, along with Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, Slim Fast and the high five. Reaching this milestone is a big deal to us, because we couldn’t have gotten here without the support of customers like you. If you’ve ever wondered why we chose the name Full Compass, it’s because […]

Full Compass is turning 40 this year, along with Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, Slim Fast and the high five. Reaching this milestone is a big deal to us, because we couldn’t have gotten here without the support of customers like you.

If you’ve ever wondered why we chose the name Full Compass, it’s because it connotes guidance and direction. For us, it signifies that we can help our clients follow their artistic passions no matter where they may lead and reach their destinations.

It’s one thing to guide others, but what gives us direction? We have our own set of values that serves as our compass.

While we’ve achieved a great deal of success and continued to grow and evolve over the past four decades, our mission and our core values have remained consistent. Our focus today—as it was on that first day in late October, 1977, when we donned our finest polyester leisure suits and officially opened our doors for business—is equipping our customers for success with the very best audio, video, lighting gear and musical instruments.

There are other companies who sell the same products, but none have the combination of qualities that shaped our brand.

Here are the seven pillars that serve as the foundation for all we do.

  • Customer Service
    Customer service has always been our number one focus. To serve you better and faster, we opened our 80,000 sq. ft. warehouse in 2009 packed full of inventory that is ready to ship to you—often the same day. In addition, our Sales Pros are the most knowledgeable in the audio, video, lighting and musical instrument industries. Each completes extensive training on the products we sell so that they can answer questions, offer insights and assist you with projects big or small. For added convenience, we also offer repairs, parts and service for both local and national customers. We are an authorized service center for most of our major brands and we service products that are both in and out of warranty.
  • Quality
    Whether you’re a worship tech, a recording engineer, lighting technician, school or corporate IT director, podcaster or musician, you demand a deep selection of superior gear to meet your needs. Since day one, we’ve partnered with only the very best brands, and after 40 years now you’ll find high-quality equipment and instruments from over 700 of the top names in the business.
  • Value
    We understand that value is about more than just a great price, it’s about the superior quality, and customer service that are included. It’s also about finding the right products to fit your budget. That’s why we offer our Low Price Guarantee. We guarantee the lowest price on every audio-related product we sell. If you see a lower, publicly advertised price on any audio, or audio-related product, simply send us that ad and we will issue you an in-store credit for the difference.
  • Education
    We provide in-depth training for our sales staff and we want to do the same our customers. That’s why we created GEARCAST. It’s your source for staying up-to-speed on the latest products and technology in your field, including new product intros, demos, technical and reference material, and expert commentary.If you’re looking for a live look at the newest gear, be sure to visit the Full Compass campus Friday and Saturday, October 27 and 28 for 40 Fest! It’s our 40th Anniversary Sales Event and Expo and we’ll be offering FREE learning sessions and live demos from industry leaders like Audio-Technica, Avid, Fender, Harmon, PreSonus, Sennheiser, Shure, and Yahama. There will also be big ticket giveaways, exclusive deals, and free ice cream!
  • Innovation
    Our company was founded by and for artists and innovators. We believe in taking an out-of-the-box approach to our business and helping you with yours. For more insight into some of the creative minds at Full Compass, and how we believe it can help us serve you better, check out this inspiring profile on Keith Post, our VP of Operations.
  • Family
    Created by founder and CEO, Jonathan Lipp, Full Compass is a family business. Jonathan’s wife, Susan, now Chairman of the Board, joined as president in 1977 and their sons Steve and Jeff are both serving the company. We believe in treating all our employees as family, as well as our vendor partners and customers. It’s a philosophy of respect, caring and generosity that has served us and our clients well.
  • Philanthropy
    Like most companies, Full Compass started small. We could not have continued to grow and thrive without the generosity of others. And we do our best to do the same for those in need. From fundraisers for a variety of local charities, to donating time and funds to local businesses, we are committed to supporting the community and the arts that are in part of our fabric.

We hope that sharing our guiding beliefs gives you more insight into our business and culture, and provides more reasons for you to feel good about doing business with us.

We think these 7 principles comprise one of the 40 top reasons to choose Full Compass for all your pro audio, video, lighting fcs40th_bug_175x171and musical instruments. As part of our 40th anniversary celebration, we will be sharing more throughout the year.

Do you love working with us? Send us your thoughts, personal stories, and opinions. We’d love to hear from you. Stop by 40 Fest at tell us in person!

 

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The Fine Art of Managing Business Operations

Posted on September 19, 2017 at 7:32 AM

How an art degree gave Keith Post a new perspective on corporate success. Keith Post has always been drawn to the arts. Much of his childhood was spent drawing and painting, and after high school he earned a Fine Arts degree. So how did his creative passion and talent lead him to Full Compass and […]

How an art degree gave Keith Post a new perspective on corporate success.

Keith Post has always been drawn to the arts. Much of his childhood was spent drawing and painting, and after high school he earned a Fine Arts degree. So how did his creative passion and talent lead him to Full Compass and the role of VP of Operations?

After college, like many Fine Arts majors, he was stuck looking for a job that could simply pay the bills. In that quest, he found Full Compass, but soon realized it was a company where his background would be a blessing, not a hindrance.

“Artistry and creativity are at the core of our company,” he explains. “It was the spirit of innovation and a singular vision that inspired our founder, Jonathan Lipp, to create Full Compass, and our mission is to provide our customers with the tools and service they need to achieve their own artistic goals.”

Indeed, our commitment to finding innovative ways to equip customers for success is the engine that has fueled Full Compass for 40 years. And Keith rose in the company as time went on, always employing what he learned in art school, and applying new lessons and perspectives propelled him to new levels of success.

“Like art, this work is not a linear process,” he says. “There is so much exploration, dialogue, mistakes and adjustment. Just like when you’re starting a painting, you have to identify your tools, and create your masterpiece one layer at a time. That’s how I approach every project.”

It’s the creating that keeps Keith motivated to push his work even further.

“Every project begins as a blank canvas. You put one idea onto the canvas, and then another and slowly build that up. By taking a step back and looking at the piece overall, you can see where you’re missing information, major gaps in processes or the next steps you need to take.”

And just as important as the tools and processes are, Keith also relies on the people around him to make everything work.

“In art, as in business, you have to be able to collaborate,” he says. “Giving and taking feedback, you have to think creatively, work with different egos and personalities. Art is never finished, and we’re always looking for ways to improve how we do business here. I’m always collaborating with my team, and other people around the company. And I fcs40th_bug_175x171love to see when someone has improved a process so that they’re doing it better than I could have. That’s when you know you’re going in the right direction.”

Even though he is now VP of Operations at Full Compass, the artistic side never left him. He owns a small studio in downtown Madison, where he continues to work on paintings, and other forms of art.

Learn more about Full Compass here or check out our newest products.

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