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The Parable of the Talents rewritten for audio guys

 

 

I’m kind of in a silly mood tonight yet also spiritual.  So, I was thinking about one of my previous posts where I talked about the Parable of the Talents as found in Matthew 25 and Luke 19 and I decided to rewrite in more modern terms with a church audio tech twist.  Since all of you know my conversations all come back to audio equipment anyway, this shouldn’t surprise you :-)

Here it goes:

The boss gives his guys some speakers. Terry and Jerry sit down and think about how they can most effectively execute their shows with some dinky speakers.  They figure out how to rent stuff out, market their ideas, do great events and then they’re able to upgrade their gear cause they worked for it.  Joe decides to put his two dinky speakers on his coffee table, sit on his butt and rock out on his couch.  Sure it sounds great in his living room, but that’s as far as it gets.  When the boss gets back, Terry and Jerry are crankin’ up some sweet line arrays with awesome subs and rockin’ their boss’ socks off!  Well, Joe still has the same old speakers that the boss gave him.  The boss is really disappointed, so he fires Joe cause he didn’t do any work!  He gives Joe’s speakers to Terry who promptly grabs them and runs to the front of the room screaming “YES!!  Front fills!!”

And for those of you who want the serious post where I write about the Parable of the Talents, click here.

The God Anthology Live releases TODAY

Today is the day you can download National Community Church’s live CD that was recorded this past August at the Lincoln Theatre in DC.  The God Anthology is available at www.godanthology.com as well as iTunes.  There are samples that you can check out on iTunes by clicking the button below.  I was blessed to be a part of the recording concert and I hope everyone who listens to it is inspirited by the messages and truths that are communicated through the music.  Be sure to rate it and spread the word.  Feel free to retweet my post or share links to the music.  I hope you’re blessed by listening to it!

The God Anthology - National Community Church

JBL PRX635 Review

 

One of my reviews originally posted on www.musicgearreview.com.

Okay, so you’ve had a long day at work and you can’t wait to get out and play that gig tonight.  You’ve got your day job, but you love the opportunity to play your music. You meet up with your buddies and pack everything into the van and hit the road. Once you get there, now its time to haul all of your gear in, set up and do your very best to make things sound as good as possible.

Chances are, you’re already whipped and exhausted from the day, but lugging all that gear in kicked your butt.  If you’re in a band that has to bring their own PA (or feels like they have to bring in their own PA after they see what the venue is or ISN’T providing) it gets a lot harder not only on your back, but your wallet.  All of that makes it really hard to put on a great show that everyone will love.  Fortunately, JBL has released a new series of portable loudspeakers called the PRX600 that sound great right out of the box while still maintaining a price that the working musician can stomach and weight that won’t kill your back.

Recently, I needed to purchase a system that would be able to rock a 300-seat auditorium but would also be versatile enough to be used as a portable indoor / outdoor touring system.  I knew the PRX series was solid because I had heard the self-powered JBL PRX635 before.  So, I decided to look at the whole series before making my final decision.

Lots of options
There is a decent variety within the series; all of which are self-powered.  There is a 2-way with a single 12 inch woofer, a 2-way with a single 15 inch woofer, a 2-way with dual 15 inch woofers, and a 3-way with a diaphragm compression driver, a mid range horn and a dual voice coil neodymium woofer.  There are two subwoofers in the series as well but none of them had the output that I was looking for so I decided to go with a passive SRX series subwoofer which I will be reviewing soon.  Ultimately, I decided to go with the PRX635 for my set up.

The PRX635 features two XLR jacks on the back.  One is a pass thru so you can daisy chain multiple PRX635’s together and the other feeds a class-D 1500 watt Crown amplifier with a preset DBX DSP input section featuring a limiter as well as the internal crossover that splits up signal to each of the 3 drivers. The JBL spec sheet claims that it can produce a maximum of 135 dB which I completely agree with.  These speakers are totally capable of some serious bump!  But, bump is nothing without a quality sound.  The PRX635’s cover 90°x50° and can push 53Hz-18Khz with only a variance of plus or minus 3 dB which is awesome because most people can barely hear a difference of 3 dB.  Also, any variances are easily fixed with a 31 band EQ. It also has a user selectable EQ on the back allowing you to choose to run it flat or with JBL’s preset EQ.  I found their preset EQ totally useless because the speaker’s response is solid to begin with.  No crazy corrections or major boosts and cuts are needed for my application.  With that kind of frequency response, you can pick these up and wait a little while and get subs later because they will be able to hold their own.  They have a surprising and accurate low-end presence while still maintaining clear and crisp highs.

Lightweight heavyweight
The PRX635 speaker box is made out of lightweight poplar plywood, which is one of the best features because the whole unit only weights in at 60 pounds! The construction feels solid even after I loaded and unloaded them a few times as well as set them up and pushed them pretty hard.  The outside is covered in Obsidian DuraFlex finish.  I have no idea why it includes “dura” anything in the name because the finish is anything but durable.  It chipped off very easily after the first gig.  It did not effect performance at all, but they look like I beat the heck out of them.  That was kind of disappointing to me but as long as the sound quality was not compromised, I guess it’s okay. They have large ergonomic handles on the sides which are covered in rubber to increase grip when moving them or positioning them.

I have read online that the PRX series does have a problem with rattling inside of the unit when they are pushed hard and apparently, it is something that shows up after some use.  So, I figured I’d just be aware and keep my ears open for it.  Just recently, one of my speakers started doing just that.  The other ones aren’t doing it but I assume it’s only a matter of time.  It is not a major problem because you can really only hear the rattling from behind the speaker. It does not affect the sound quality that you are standing in front of the speaker.  It is just slightly annoying.

The Bottom Line
Overall, I must say I am pleased with the performance of the PRX635’s.  As far as bang for your buck, they come in at a pretty sweet $999.  There are small issues with the finish and the internal rattling but I think it is still a very solid competitor in that niche of the live sound market.  Check them out today!

NCC’s God Anthology Live promo

 

This summer, National Community Church recorded the church’s first live CD at the Lincoln Theater.  I was technical director for the event, created the lighting design, and ran front of house audio.  The CD was tracked by Vanguard Recording and the 16-time Grammy Award winner, Danny Duncan.  It releases on November 22, 2011.  You can pre-order it now at www.godanthology.com.

Click >>God Anthology Promo<< to check out our trailer for the CD!

And a picture of me running FOH for God Anthology Live.  Mixing on an Allen and Heath iLive T112.

Doug Gould’s Worship MD Training at @ Ebenezers

Over almost the past year, I’ve been looking into better tech training options for the production volunteers at National Community Church.  It’s a little bit of a challenge to keep my volunteers up to speed because the turnover rate in the Washington DC area is so high.  As all church tech guys know, running tech for an event is not only a learned skill, but an art…sort of like playing a musical instrument.

Anyway, since NCC is multisite, I was looking for a great way to do some hands-on mix training where the volunteers could just hang out and take the time to learn and play with what the mixing console controls do, how EQ works and reacts…basically, run sound with no pressure!  So, I contacted a friend of mine from Worship MD named Doug Gould.  Doug has had a background in audio for many years including working for companies like Shure and now his company helps to market brands like Audio Technica, Aviom, Presonus, Planet Waves, Ultimate Ears, Vox, and Waves plug-in’s.

Doug brought in six Presonus 16.0.2 consoles which we fed with signal from a full band through Aviom I/O and a master Presonus 24.4.2 console.  Doug talked through gain structure, signal flow, EQ, compression, and other mix basics that would benefit church techs.  Then, we turned the volunteers loose on the consoles with some tracks playing and gave them time to mix full band stuff with the Presonus console.  They were able to experiment with gain structure, EQ, compression, and gating.  It was really critical since NCC is multisite and there’s alot of pressure to get the mix and all the production gear set up and simply GO!  They were able to try new things, experiment, create a mix in a relaxed environment and get instant feedback and critique.  NCC will certainly be using Doug and Worship MD in the future for some of the training we will be doing.

Here’s a few pictures from the event we held at Ebenezers Coffeehouse on Capitol Hill in DC.

Allen & Heath iLive review – Part 1: Hardware

The mixing console market is constantly changing and evolving with the advent of the digital console.  We all hear how much “better” digital consoles are and the power they have but many people get extremely nervous about making the switch.  We all have our system and method for doing things and any experienced audio engineer is comfortable and confident of what they can and cannot do on an analog console.  But, a digital console makes a lot of people nervous because of the lack of intuition or accessibility of controls.  When I first had the opportunity to mix on a digital console a few years back, I was nervous at first.  The lights and interface seemed intimidating but I soon became used to it.  The first digital console I mixed on, was the Allen and Heath iLive.

The Allen and Heath iLive digital mixing console is an extremely unique system.  The “brain” of the iLive that does all of the mixing and processing is the iDR stage box.  It may not look like it, but technically, that is the mixing console and that’s where the magic happens.  The control surfaces look more like what we know to be a mixing console but unlike a standard analog console, the iLive control surface is merely a remote control for the iDR stage rack which is connected by a single CAT5 cable.  The control surface does not pass any audio signal other then through the modest number of inputs that are in the back of the surface which are immediately converted to data and sent to the iDR rack.  One cool fact about this is that the iDR rack can fly solo WITHOUT a mix surface.  You can actually run your show, unplug or shut down your console and the iDR rack will keep running and passing audio.  You can even connect your laptop or iPad and take over the whole show.

There are currently seven different control surfaces to choose from including the R-series, T-series, and i-series.  These surfaces must be paired with any of six different stage boxes.  This creates an extremely flexible and highly configurable digital mixing system that can be modified and customized to fit any mixing situation.  This also creates added flexibility when using the iLive system for mixing both front of house and monitors together.  Your split snake is simply the CAT5 cable that runs everything else and easily gives you the power and flexibility of a standard setup without trouble of running a split snake or the mess of running a direct out snake back from FOH to feed an on-stage monitor console.

The R-series and T-series control surfaces have a fixed configuration of in’s and out’s.  All of the i-series control surfaces have six open card slots which can accommodate any six cards.  All of the iDR mix racks are fixed in configuration with one slot open for a card except the iDR-10 which is modular and can be completely configured based on the needs of the user.  One of my favorite cards is the new Mini Multi Out card.  I bought it because I need the ability to use Avioms with my iLive setup.  But the card has much more then just Aviom outputs including  iDR Hearbus and up to 24 channels of ADAT outputs.  In the settings, you can patch any channel into those ADAT outputs giving you a lot of options.

The surface itself is also extremely flexible.  You can arrange channels, groups, auxes, VCA’s and various other mix controls where every you want them.  Each “channel” on the control surface is simply that, a controller with a fader, a rotary encoder, and a few other function buttons.  The bottom line is that you can literally create you own custom control line up that suits your needs for your application.  This is also great for churches or any other application where you do not want to give users access to certain options or controls, simply remove them from the control surface.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Stay tuned for a second part to this review where I’ll dive in depth into the functionality and firmware of the surface itself.

Hands-on review: JBL SRX728S dual 18″ subwoofer

It’s a few weeks old now but I wanted to post a link to the latest review of mine that www.musicgearreview.com published.  You can check my review of the JBL SRX728S subwoofer that I’m using at the National Community Church Barracks Row location by clicking here.

Hands-on Review Audio-Technica ATM650

It’s THREE reviews now that I’ve had published on www.musicgearreview.com. The lastest is a mic from Audio Technica. It is the ATM650 which is basically their version of the Shure SM57. We are using that mic at National Community Church in our Barracks Row location now. Check out the review at http://www.musicgearreview.com/article-display/4147.html.

Special thanks to Andrew Young for letting me experiment with this mic on his drum kit.

Special thanks also to Doug Gould who lent me this mic to try out.

Hands-on Review: Audio Technica AT4080 MGR

I’m excited to share that another one of my gear reviews was posted on www.musicgearreview.com.  I’d like to give a few shout outs to people who made it possible to do this review:

Lee Bilotta @ Valley Forge Christian College for giving me the opportunity to use the VFCC studio and chapel while I was a student there

Doug Gould @ Worship MD who lent me the mic

Aaron Ranzenbach from “The Interlude” who laid down some sweet guitar tracks that I recorded with this mic.

Check out the review at http://www.musicgearreview.com/article-display/4141.html

http://www.jasoncastellente.com

The Church Balcony and the FOH Engineer

 

 

Over the past few years, I have been privileged to visit quite a few churches on the east coast and run sound for worship services.  During that time, one problem that I have seen in some churches lies in locating the production booth to the balcony of a church auditorium.  While this may be aesthetically pleasing and creates more room on the main auditorium floor, the trade off is not usually beneficial in the long run.

There are a few major things that need to be taken into account when determining whether a position for a production booth is good or not.

Line of sight is by far the most important.  The sound tech needs to be able to SEE everything all parts of the stage and main floor.

Many times because of the “line of sight rule” people think that a balcony would be a good place to put a production booth when in reality the opposite is true.  I have seen and mixed at churches that have a balcony that is adjacent to the main auditorium and they have knocked a hole in the wall providing them a window for line of sight but unfortunately, while the FOH tech may have a great view, it is not a good location for a number of reasons.

First, when you run sound in any environment, your goal is to create a good mix for the audience and in order to do that, you need to be in that same environment.  The goal is to hear the same thing that the audience hears so that you can create a proper balance and make adjustments based on that.  Also, you cannot take into account the room acoustics, sound dynamics, and the overall perception of the audience if you are not on the same level as they are.

Also, if you put the audio booth on the balcony, the audio tech will never hear direct waves.  We would never position speakers directly towards a back wall and that is exactly what you would need to do in order to for the audio tech to hear what is necessary to get a good mix.

Also, consider the practicality of access from the production booth to the stage.  The worship team and the production team need to function together as one team and one body in order for a service to go more smoothly.  The access from the balcony to the stage will most likely be difficult at best especially when there are people in the room.  One thing I have been trying to cultivate is a trust between the worship band and the production team.  I am trying to accomplish this by encouraging the production staff to take a more pro-active role in working with the worship team and helping them to make sure the production needs are met.  Placing a production team on a balcony means that any time assistance is needed on stage, they will have to exit the balcony, walk down the steps, through the foyer, into the auditorium, up onto the stage.  Sometimes, troubleshooting requires multiple trips back and forth from the sound booth to the stage.  This can prove to be both exhausting and frustrating.

The bottom line is that in order to get a good mix and the continue to improve the quality of production at any church, the production crew, especially the audio tech, needs to hear exactly what the congregation is hearing in order to blend an accurate and quality mix.  Trust between the worship band and production team is also key in creating an atmosphere of worship in those who are serving in ministry.

I would love to hear feedback and opinions on this blog.  Feel free to email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com or comment below.

If you feel that my blogs are helpful to you or your ministries, feel free to link people to my blog, tweet links, or repost links on Facebook.

Check out some other posts that may be helpful:

Church Audio – Killing Feedback

Church Audio Problems

Check out my website at www.jasoncastellente.com/

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