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Unread 11-25-2013, 03:44 PM   #1
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Common Sound System Mistakes

Maybe if this is deemed helpful (or at least, entertaining) it could make a good sticky?

I thought it would be good to list some common mistakes people make in setting up, and using their sound systems. And maybe dispel some myths? Sound-Techs here, please add to this list. Include links if possible, to help explain why or why not.

I'll start it off. (These are all things I've encountered myself.)

I'll add more as they come to me.

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Unread 11-26-2013, 11:00 AM   #2
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Nice list.
I'm sure there's plenty more, but the first thing to come to my head overall is general gain-staging technique. Most folks aren't taught this, but if you're running your preamp gain low and your channel fader is maxed, you're not doing yourself any favors! Same with vice versa. I suppose it flows well with your last point, but I think gain-staging as a whole merits its own bullet point.

EDIT: Gosh, the more I look at your list, the more I see a common theme (that I've experienced a million times over in real life)- a general misunderstanding of balanced/unbalanced, and its non-relation to stereo/mono. I'm not sure how to integrate that into the list, though...
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Unread 11-26-2013, 11:37 AM   #3
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In regards to the first wrong cable you posted (this: Live Wire Stereo 3.5mm Male-Stereo 1/4" Phone Cable 10 Foot | Musician's Friend) Why is that the wrong cable?
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Unread 11-26-2013, 02:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thesteve View Post
In regards to the first wrong cable you posted (this: Live Wire Stereo 3.5mm Male-Stereo 1/4" Phone Cable 10 Foot | Musician's Friend) Why is that the wrong cable?
Because, most of the time, one end goes into an iPod (stereo, unbalanced) ,and the other end gets plugged into a balanced mono input. This results in phase cancelation of a good portion of the audio signal (primarily anything panned to the center of the stereo image of the track you are playing on the iPod) because of the way the balanced input of the mixer handles the incoming signal.

As Lifesglorydead mentioned there understandably exists a general lack of understanding of balanced versus unbalanced audio and how to properly interface the signals when necessary. The first link in my original post covers this in pretty good detail.

That cable would work great IF (huge if) your mixer actually has a stereo unbalanced 1/4" TRS input. Most do not (are there any that do?).

Last edited by Maestro_dmc; 11-26-2013 at 05:52 PM.
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Unread 11-26-2013, 06:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lifesglorydead View Post
I'm sure there's plenty more, but the first thing to come to my head overall is general gain-staging technique. Most folks aren't taught this, but if you're running your preamp gain low and your channel fader is maxed, you're not doing yourself any favors! Same with vice versa. I suppose it flows well with your last point, but I think gain-staging as a whole merits its own bullet point.
I teach it every time I train someone, but it is a hard concept to grasp. I've found that teaching how the whole system needs to be gained correctly helps, from the trim pot thru to the amplifier.

This is a rather lengthy article with lots of good information on gain structure. Maybe a bit much for the casual reader.
Ins & Outs Of Gain Structure

Also excellent:
Setting Sound System Level Controls
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Unread 05-19-2014, 09:20 AM   #6
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NEVER wrap tape around a broken SM-57 plastic grill to try and keep it from falling off. Just replace the grill altogether. Shure SM-57 replacement grill.

The reason for this is interesting. What it boils down to is that by taping the grill (I have used electrical tape) to the mic you completely change the pattern of the mic, and the frequency response as well.
You see, that little space between the plastic and the microphone body if you look closely is a grill that lets air/sound through. When you cover it with tape, you turn the mic into a horrible sounding omnidirectional mic.

So, if you have one or two of these that are in the "broken mic box" at church, try removing the tape, and the broken grill and plug it in for a listen next to a working 57. Chances are you'll be surprised to find that you have a perfectly good mic that just needs a new grill.
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Unread 05-19-2014, 09:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro_dmc View Post
NEVER wrap tape around a broken SM-57 plastic grill to try and keep it from falling off. Just replace the grill altogether. Shure SM-57 replacement grill.

The reason for this is interesting. What it boils down to is that by taping the grill (I have used electrical tape) to the mic you completely change the pattern of the mic, and the frequency response as well.
You see, that little space between the plastic and the microphone body if you look closely is a grill that lets air/sound through. When you cover it with tape, you turn the mic into a horrible sounding omnidirectional mic.

So, if you have one or two of these that are in the "broken mic box" at church, try removing the tape, and the broken grill and plug it in for a listen next to a working 57. Chances are you'll be surprised to find that you have a perfectly good mic that just needs a new grill.
Very true! Goes for any cardioid mic, especially super- and hyper- cardioids like the RE20 that have the grille going down most of the enclosure. The way they're engineered, the phase cancellation provided by those slots is entirely what makes up the mic's polar response pattern. Without them you're left with a subpar omni.
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Unread 05-22-2014, 06:53 AM   #8
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Good thread idea, thanks.

Common mistakes;

mounting the speakers below the head height of the audience / congregation and then compensating for it by turning up the volume.

forgetting that the eq knobs can cut as well as boost. You look over some mixers and notice that nearly all the eq's are turned up. Meanwhile the sound is fatiguing and always on the point of feedback.

staring at the desk and wearing headphones 100% of the time. What's happening on stage? didn't notice. What's it sound like to the rest of us? don't know.
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