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GLD vs. Pro1 Comparison: by Peter Wituszynski

This article is the first of four guest posts this month.  Recently, I wrote a hands on review of the GLD console but you really can’t make a wise purchase without comparing more then one product.  It’s not often that people have the oppertunity to compare two brand new consoles on the market head to head, hands on but a friend of mine did just recently.

Pete Wituszynski is the volunteer audio director at Restoration Church in Dover, New Hampshire. He loves all things production and enjoys the challenge of pulling church services together. He will receive his BS in Electrical Engineering from UNH this May, and always looks forward to meeting and hanging out with other techs, especially in the New England area. Connect with him on Twitter: @peterwit

 

Allen & Heath GLD vs. Midas Pro1 Hands-on, head-to-head comparison review

This past Christmas, I got to demo an Allen and Heath GLD and a Midas Pro1 side-by-side for a week of services. The GLD was shipped from our usual equipment vendor, and the Midas came from a local dealer who knows a few people in our congregation. These are both $10,000 audio consoles, but they are aimed at different audiences with different feature sets. Both mix audio quite well, so I am mostly going to compare the features and quirks that set them apart.

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Inspirational Voices in the Church Tech World

As a technical director who is was relatively new to the world of church tech and also to ministry, one of the things I struggled with was learning more about what I was doing before I crashed into a barrier of not having enough knowledge or experience to make good decisions.  Sometimes, it was that I simply didn’t know enough about a certain area of technology to get the job done and I was at a loss. Other times, my leadership was poor simply because I didn’t have the experience or maturity to weigh all of the aspects of the challenge and make a good decision.

Each time that I’ve come across problems such as this, the Lord has always provided someone to help me, challenge me or guide me.  It doesn’t mean I’ve averted failure; nor does it mean that I made good decisions every time.  But , it does mean I’ve learned and changed how I do things because of people who the Lord has placed in my path.  It comes from people who are older then me and sometimes from people who are younger then me.

In the next month, I want to highlight a few people who I have had the pleasure to get to know over the past few years and some I have had the privilege to do ministry along side of them.

Two of these guys are church technical ministry gurus.  Bill Swaringim and Kevin Poole have been huge influences in my life over the past two years for church tech but also for leadership in technical ministry.  Their voices carry experience and wisdom.  Bill is the leader of CTL (Church Technical Leaders) which has networked church technical directors across the nation.  His website and faithfulness was one of the reasons I figured out that being a church tech director was something I could actually do and pursue as a career and had a life-altering effect on my life.  Kevin is the tech director of Mobbery Baptist Church in Longview, TX but has been a TD at First Baptist Church of Dallas as well as the audio director for Liberty University.  He’s attention to detail, intricate planning and technical orchestration is amazing and there is much to be learned in the church world today from his insight.

The other two guys are up and coming leaders who I meet while I was on tour as an audio engineer with Valley Forge Christian College in Chosen and Pneuma.  David Brock was a youth leader who that I connected with and wound up touring with a year later and is now a Children’s Pastor integrating tech into other areas of ministry.  Pete Wituszynski was a camper in my cabin as a youth leader who is now on his way to becoming an electrical engineer and has become a solid production tech.  He’s an ultra-nerd when it comes to gear functionality and workflow and is doing an in-depth product comparison on two new consoles that are rocking the market right now.

I’ve done alot of writing…and you all have done alot of reading!  I just wanted to take some time to kind of sit back and stop talking and allow some of these stellar tech guys to talk for me.  They’ll be posted on Mondays this month and potentially next month depending on the response so make sure you’ve subscribed to the blog and you’re getting updates.  I’m also asking people to tweet these articles if you enjoy them or if you’ve learned something from it.  I want to amplify the voices of these guys because of their knowledge and faithfulness.

Thanks for your support!

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.

I know I’ve been neglecting my blog…

This has been a crazy month with alot of things to do but also some time off from work to vacation in Pensacola, Florida with my family.  Also, I’ve been working alot of the implementation of new gear and training for it at NCC.  It’s great to have an intern working with the production department this summer.  It’s been awesome to have extra hands and ears working on things at NCC.

Tech guys might want to check out my latest article, a hands-on review of the Audix D6 on www.MusicGearReview.com.  Check it out here: http://www.musicgearreview.com/article-display/4176.html.

Hands-on review: JBL PRX635

During the past few months, National Community Church has been transitioning our Sunday morning Capitol Hill meeting place to 535 8th Street SE, Washington DC on Barracks Row. While the production department of NCC is working with designers and audio companies to create a crazy awesome movie theater which will double as a church on the weekends, we have a temporary sound system in there. The mains that we are using are the JBL PRX635 self-powered mains. The PRX 600 series has only been on the live sound market for a few months so it is a fairly new product. As we started using them, I realized I had to write a review on them. I’m thankful for www.musicgearreview.com that has published four of my gear reviews now. I hope they are beneficial to musicians, audio techs, and churches alike. Check out my review of the JBL PRX635′s here: http://www.musicgearreview.com/article-display/4158.html

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.

T-Mobile mytouch 4G – Part 1

First off, the reason that I am titling this part one is because I’m sure I’ll have more to talk about once things get rolling and I’m pretty sure I’ll get Facebook and Twitter comments and things on this post.

Secondly, I’m a newbie when it comes to the world of Android.  My only other experience with Android other then playing with my friend’s phones, is when I wrote about how to install Android on an iPhone running iOS firmware 3.1.2 or less. For a while I had been using a jailbroken iPhone 3G on T-Mobile’s network but eventually I got tired of the slow networks speeds and issues with the iPhone firmware.

So, after some research and also after trying out a friend’s mytouch and also one at an area T-Mobile store in PA and also in DC, I decided to buy the mytouch 4G.  Best Buy had a deal that gave you a $100 instant rebate off of the normal $199 the phone cost, plus I had two gift cards from Christmas.  So, it was a pretty sweet deal.

I keep reading online that people say this phone is heavier then other phones but I disagree with that…it seems fine.  I don’t think it is any heavier then most other smart phones on the market.  You turn it on and you are greeted with the T-Mobile mytouch 4G screen before you are taken to the home screen.  Interestingly enough, it didn’t have the standard large number clock that is some what synonymous with Android phones on the market.

I bought it up in PA and immediately after signing in through my Google login for Gmail on the phone, I promptly opened the Android market and downloaded the Ookla Speedtest.net app to see if the hype with all of the 4G speeds were true.  I hit the begin test button and got 4601 kbps down and 1509 kbps upload.  Not bad at all…that made me quite happy actually.  I did a few more as we were driving home to see about the consistency and the lowest speed I got was 1596 kbps down and 861 kbps up while I was syncing some of my apps.  Not shabby at all.

I downloaded a few more apps and things and when all was said and done, I logged into My T-Mobile online and it showed that I had used almost 400 MB of data that night.  Wow!!  There’s a reason to buy their unlimited data plan for $30 per month and not the $10 per month data plan with only 200 MB.

I have to say though, the data coverage back home in the Philadelphia area is way better then the data coverage down here in DC.  At work, just outside of Capitol Hill, my data coverage is around 1000 kbps down at the most which is slightly frustrating to me.  I will say that I have better coverage with voice and that the phone has boosted my network reception for calls but I’m paying almost the same amount for data as I am for voice and I feel like my coverage should be just as good on both especially in a major metropolitan area like DC.  Of course, as I drive around in DC, there are some areas that are better then others but I just wish it was more consistent across the city.  Farther down in NE DC, I’m having a rough time with bandwidth.  Somewhat disappointing to me.  Although, I have to say, right around the intersection of 13th Street and H Street in NE DC, there is amazing bandwidth.  It’s kind of coincidental that there is also a T-Mobile store on that corner.  Interesting if you ask me…

The other issue I keep having is the phone gets really slow at times.  I have an app to kill processes that continue to run in the background on Android, but even with a ton of memory free (over half), it will still run slow for a few minutes and then either start running better, or I’ll just have to reboot it.  I have also killed background syncing and I really only sync things when I open the app.  To me, there is no reason to really have stuff other then maybe your work calendar that is shared with a whole office or company of people syncing in the background.  Just sync it when you open it in my opinion.

I’m not quite sure that my phone is working correctly because it gets really slow just completing basic options and things.  I’m thinking that maybe when I go back to PA next week, I’m going to exchange it for another mytouch just to make sure that there is nothing wrong with this phone.

The hardware is pretty solid.  The LCD screen is 3.8 inches and runs 480×800 resolution and has great color.  The screen is really responsive although I had to consciously push a little harder on it then what I would have normally done with my iPhone but that’s not a big deal to me…just something I have to get used to.  On the top of the phone, you have some notification LEDs as well as a front facing camera.  In the speaker grill, you have an ambient light sensor that by default changes the screens brightness depending on where you are and what you are doing.  Also on the very top of the phone, you have your standard 3.5mm headphone jack for headphones or a headset and along side of that is a power button.

On the bottom, there are 6 physical buttons.  The home button, the settings button, a touch sensitive button that can be used for navigation, a back button, the genius button, and on the side there is a dedicated camera shutter button.  I think the buttons are basically self explanatory especially when you are actually using the phone.

On the back, the phone is pretty beefy with a metal battery door.  Under the door is the battery, along with access to the SIM card and also an 8 GB microSD card that comes with the phone.  Also, there is a 5 megapixel camera and LED flash.

I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the actual phone specifications.  It’s pretty sweet and will probably be a decent phone even at the end of my two year contract renewal.  It’s got a 1 Ghz Snapdragon MSM8255 processor along with 768 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal space.  It obviously has WiFi capabilities on the phone and can handle basically any b/g/n connection you need.  It can also broadcast a WiFi hotspot using the cellular data connection allowing you to tether your phone at no extra charge like some other carriers require.

My first time calling on it was great.  It’s loud and I can hear way better then on my iPhone 3G.  There is no noise reduction but I didn’t have any issues hearing when I was making a call.  However, the speakerphone on the other hand is pretty rough.  Actually…terrible.  The speakerphone is very tinny and the caller is almost unintelligible.  It’s almost not worth using.  That would especially stink when you are using the video chat function since you must use the speakerphone for that.  I guess I’ll just have to use the headphones or get a bluetooth headset.  I should probably get a bluetooth headset since talking on the phone and driving is illegal in DC anyway.

Anyway, I think that’s good for my review of my initial impressions as well as the phone itself.  Maybe in my next blog post, I’ll dive more into HTC Sense and the software that is on the phone and some of the Android apps that I’ve liked and enjoyed so far.

I’m sure this is kind of a hot topic in the world of blogging, phones, and technology today.  So if you have any comments, feel free to post below or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Audio Technica AT4080 Active Ribbon Mic Review

There are a multitude of microphones that are in the market today and even more applications.  Choosing a mic for whatever purpose you may have dreamed up is not rocket science, but it can be difficult to get the sound you might have in your head.

I have always been more of a Shure fan and then select mics from various other companies.  But, by far the company that I had the least experience with was Audio Technica.  Lately, I have had a lot more exposure to Audio Technica and I have been pleasantly surprised.  Valley Forge Christian College just had their yearly Christmas concert Christmas at Valley Forge this past weekend.  We were able to borrow some microphones from Worship MD CEO, Doug Gould (www.worshipmd.com) who does some promotional marketing for Audio Technica among other leading audio industry companies in the church market.  One of the mics he lent us was the Audio Technica AT4080 Active Ribbon.

First of all, I was interested that it said “active ribbon”.  In my experience, a ribbon mic is in the “dynamic” family of mics, not condenser.  Also, it is usually dangerous to send phantom power to a ribbon mic.  But this ribbon mic required phantom power.

Holding the mic in my hands, the construction is rock solid.  The mic felt very durable and the construction is aesthetically pleasing.  When I plugged it in a tried it, I was actually able to use it live and amplified.  Our application for the Christmas at Valley Forge concert was to lightly reinforce a classical vocal in a dry room as well as live tracking in Protools HD.  My initial impression was that the mic was very warm and smooth and had a clean, clear and crisp ribbon mic tone.  Even though it has a figure 8 polar pick up pattern, was able to get a serious amount of gain and volume for our live reinforcement out of the AT4080.

Like I mentioned earlier, the AT4080 has a figure 8 pick up pattern that responds to 20Hz to 18khz and can take up to 128dB.  Stop…128dB from a ribbon mic?  Yes, actually it can take it.  That really broadens the applications that this mic can handle.  I think in the next few weeks, I’m going to experiment with this mic as an ambient mic on a guitar amp because it can most certainly take the SPL.

This is a serious contender for the future of live sound as well as studio recording because it still allows you to get that classic ribbon sound while allowing the user to practically forget about the issue with lower output and the delicate nature of ribbon mics in the past.  I must admit, this mic is going to be added to the ever growing list of mics that I will be looking to purchase for my own personal mic collection and closet.

As always, I want to hear your comments and feedback.  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Check out the Audio Technica AT4080 here: http://bit.ly/idww3t

Check out Worship MD and Doug Gould here:  www.worshipmd.com

Presonus Studiolive 24.4.2 Review

It has been a few days since I last posted on here so I decided to do some blogging today.  I want to talk somewhat briefly about my experience with a new mixing console that could potentially change the way people view small format digital consoles.  I had the opportunity to use the Presonus Studiolive 16.4.2 and 24.4.2 consoles and must admit I am impressed.  As far as bang for your buck, it is all it says it is and gets the job done.  For a smaller sized church that is looking to upgrade, this might just be your ticket.  Both consoles can be daisy-chained to another console of the same model to give your more inputs.

The Presonus Studiolive 24.4.2 features 24 channels, 10 aux busses, and 4 subgroups.  It features four dual 31 band EQ’s that can be routed to the mains, or any of the aux busses.  You can recall settings and copy and paste settings across channels.  It also features an auto save function so that if the console crashes or loses power, you do not lose all the settings you created or modified.

The features are solid.  The EQ section features 4 band fully parametric EQ, gates, and compressors for each channel.  Each part of the signal chain has factory presets to give beginners a starting point for EQ’ing everything from a kick drum or snare to a guitar or vocal.  The rotary encoders that stretch horizontally across the console and are clearly labeled control these options.  It has some great effects built into it, which also have some presets to get beginners started.

Another awesome option that the console has is a Firewire record out.  This allows you to multi-track your live performance directly to your computer.  The preamps are the Presonus studio quality XMAX preamps that are installed in many of their recording interfaces and produce solid results.  The included Studio One Artist software is a basic multitracking program that is easy for most people to work with yet still includes solid features and plug-ins for post-production tweaking and producing.  Studio One also allows you to play the track back through each channel so that you can use the console to mix your tracks or to perform a virtual sound check.  This can be great for beginners who need to practice mixing without the pressure of a start time or a band waiting on stage.  They can play back a recording and work with EQ’s, compressors, and gates until they are perfect.  Not to mention, the console supports VNC which allows remote control of the console from a computer, iPod, iPhone, iPad or another VNC device.

This console lists for $3999 but you can find it for about $3299 which is a great deal for the price.

This is just a brief review.  There are quite a few other features that this console has and things it is capable of.  I would love to hear from anyone that has had exposure to or experience with this console.  Please feel free to contact me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

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