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Are you excited about what you’re doing?

I had someone pay me a complement recently that kind of blew my mind.  A leader mentioned to me that my opinion and ideas meant more because of how enthusiastic and excited I was about what I do.  Anyone who knows me, knows just how much I love church production.  My passion permeates who I am and how I serve.  It’s my calling, my element and my gift of worship given back to God for the furtherance of His Kingdom here on earth as well as in heaven.

How cool is that?  We get to influence people simply by living out what we’re passionate about and giving our all in the service of our Lord!

I just wanted to share that encouragement with everyone else who is in church production.   Continue Reading…

DPA d:fine headset mic review

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all used them.  We’ve all be frustrated with them.  At least they’re better then lapel mics right?

I’ve never really been satisfied with Countryman headset mics.  They are easily bent up and even broken at times especially if they are used by different people all the time.  In all honesty, they don’t particularly sound that great without alot of EQ even on a well tuned and optimized system.  At church, whoever is preaching uses one when we record our video services.  If they aren’t fitted properly, they can easily move when someone turns their head or simply moves around.  If a speaker is constantly playing with his headset while we’re recording the video, not only is it distracting to the live audience, but it isn’t something I want on the video recording.  I decided to do some research to look for a different mic to try.

While I was at WFX, a friend recommended that I check out the DPA d:fine.  DPA had a booth and I was able to put one on my ear and get a feel for how comfortable it was.  It felt awesome!  I knew that if it sounded as good as it felt I had to get one.

Wally Grant of Church Solutions Group was able to quickly hook me up with a demo.

The headset doesn’t sit on your ear quite like other headset mics.  It is made of a rubbery material that is smooth but springs back putting slight pressure on your ear.  Not enough to be uncomfortable, but enough to hold it in place. It loops over your ear and then once it reaches the front of your ear, it looks inside your ear slightly allowing the headset to stay perfectly in place.  It a little hard to explain, so here is a screen grab from a DPA demo video that shows how the mic is supposed to be positioned on your ear.

There is also a clip on the cable so that you can clip it to the back of your collar so that you don’t yank it off.

The design is modular.  You can replace the mic capsule with the boom, the ear piece, or the cable all separately.  That’s great if something breaks.

It comes in black, beige, brown, as well as a pretty stunning lime color which seriously caught my eye.  I don’t think I’d be able to get away with lime green but it’s still pretty cool looking in my opinion.

All that is well and good, but how does it sound?  I must say I was stunned at how great it sounded.  It was crystal clear and didn’t require alot of EQ.  Just a little bit of ringing out and tone shaping mostly based on preference was all it needed.  It comes in a omni directional or a cardioid pick up pattern.  I bought the directional cardioid model which does an awesome job of rejecting noise or interference especially when the band is playing on stage at the same time.  It also improves the gain before feedback over most other headset mics I’ve used in the past.

All in all, it was a great buy and I’d highly recommend the DPA d:fine headset.  It’s one of those things that once you hear it, you don’t want to go back to what you had before because of how great of an improvement it is.  It’s something you seriously need to hear.

Presonus StudioLive consoles now include Smaart Analysis tools

Rational Acoustics, who has been a leader in software for acoustic tuning and measurement software, is now including system analysis tools with the Presonus StudioLive VSL remote control/editor software.  These tools can be used for sound system analysis and optimization and can interface directly with the console’s graphic EQ.  Also, with the software, users can view the spectral analysis of their mix and make changes in real time.  It can help identify feedback frequencies.  For the many churches that have already adopted the StudioLive into their sunday morning set up, this will be a huge update for them and will not only give helpful flexibility, but will also equip church volunteers to serve more effectively.

You can check out the press release at: http://www.presonus.com/news/press/Detail.aspx?NewsID=183

Building bridges and standing strong in church production

 

In Washington DC, we have a few bridges that get you in and out of the western side of the city.  The speed limits are relatively low even though they’re on a highway but people never do the speed limit.  It gets even worse during rush hour when everyone packs on there.  Everyone wants to get to where they are going. Think about the forces exerted on it from gravity, weight and temperature among many other factors.  The average person doesn’t think about the weight, but the architects and maintenance workers sure do!  It’s all held together by forces we cannot see, but ultimately, we feel the effects.

What we do in production is a ministry of building bridges.  We build bridges between our pastors, worship leaders, the worshippers, and ultimately to God.  That’s an incredible responsibility!  When we’re mixing, firing lyrics or lighting cues not only are we worshipping as we serve but the worship of everyone else is depending on us doing our ministry well so that there are no distractions.

The message is flowing through us.  There is so much mystery in just that.  It should convict us about our purity before God and prompt us to take care of thoughts or feelings that may not be honoring to Him.  I hope you understand the gravity of that statement…but I hope you see the great honor that we have in getting promote and communicate the message of Jesus Christ through what we do.  That’s the beauty of the bridges we build.

For anyone who has served or worked in church production, you know the feeling of being pulled a million different ways at the same time.  The worship leader decides to change the order of some songs and add a few slides that weren’t in there before.  He doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal because it’s only a few slides.  The pastor wants to add an extra sermon illustration and swap a video around and maybe add an extra graphic or scripture slide.  He doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal cause it’s only a few things here and there and they have the bulk of the material already…it’s not much to add in right?  Meanwhile, you’re still having a minor issue with an acoustic guitar that is buzzing and he’s getting a little frustrated because you aren’t making it happen quite as quickly as he would like.  After all, it’s just a few cables!  Any of these issues independently are not too big of a deal to fix.  But, all of them happening at the same time will typically stress out most church volunteers or even some staff members for that matter.  I’m all about making it happen and like anyone else who does production they will probably do all they can to make things happen week in a week out.  But when there are issues like this, stress and tensions can run high and people are people and sometimes they just react in ways they shouldn’t.  It doesn’t make it right though.

In my experience, part of being a bridge, involves getting walked on.  Sunday morning can get stressful…tensions can run high and it can get difficult to push forward and carry the weight of what is going on.  Maybe the problem you’re dealing with isn’t your fault or you are simply struggling with the weight you’re carrying.

Maybe Satan has knocked you down earlier in the week and you’re afraid that you aren’t strong enough or good enough to do the work of God.  And actually, that’s true.  You aren’t strong enough or good enough on your own.  That’s why we need Jesus.  We need His power and His strength.  We can’t walk into church ministry without it.  We are carriers of the message of Christ with the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  There’s great power in that.  If we try to depend on anything other then that, we will almost definitely come up short.

We may not see all the forces that hold everything together.  But that bridge certainly feels the pressure.  If it’s built well, it will stand.  If it is maintained well, it will continue to carry the weight.  And you will too week in and week out.  Stand strong.

 

Check out these other blog posts if you liked this one:

Depend on God, Do what you do well

Church Audio Problems

Killing Feedback

Mix with your EARS and not your EYES

 

 

 

Allen & Heath announces the new GLD series digital console

Allen & Heath has really outdone themselves this time announcing a product that is a serious contenter for the mid-range price point and the medium format digital console market.  Their small format digital console teaser is now public with announcement of the GLD series.  They created a happy medium between their high-end iLive series and their  reliable, budget-friendly, workhorse GL series consoles.

The console is very similar to the iLive in look and feel but obviously scaled down to come in under the more budget conscious bar.  The GLD-80 is currently the only control surface in the GLD line.  It should be interesting to see if A&H will expand this range with another control surface or two.  The GLD-80 has 20 faders and 4 layers so you can lay your show out however you’d like and connects over a CAT5 cable using the new DSnake protocol to an audio rack.  There are currently two racks in the GLD line: the GLD-AR2412 which features 24 in’s and 12 outs and the GLD-AR84 which features 8 in’s and 4 outs.  The GLD-AR2412 features a CAT5 port labeled “Monitor” which is compatible with Aviom.  Similarly to their iLive line, they offer the ability to scale the system capabilities to what the user or venue requires.  Those two models can be linked together and, when connected to the GLD-80 control surface, it is capable of processing a maximum of 48 inputs and 24 outputs.  Each of those inputs features gain, polarity control, HPF, gate, 4-band parametric EQ, compressor and individual channel delay. It also has 8 stereo FX racks, 16 DCAs, 30 mix busses and 20 mix outputs which are all configurable and accessible from the GLD’s 8.4 inch touch screen.

I was extremely excited to see that the GLD system includes a card slot in the console for expandability similar to the iLive system and cross-compatibility with the iLive system if you put an ACE card in that slot.  However, I’d certainly be more inclined to put a Dante card in there and have a killer multitrack rig or the Waves plug-in’s card and rock some of those.  Either way, that slot option is an extremely powerful option that pushes the GLD farther then the rest because it leaves the door open for future functionality and updates without having to buy a new system.

A feature that is new to Allen & Heath’s digital systems is the ability to record and playback audio files with a USB flash drive.  Hopefully, this functionality will appear on the iLive in a future firmware update.

I must say, I’m really excited about the release of the GLD.  On paper and in pictures, it looks awesome.  Out of the digital console manufacturers, Allen & Heath has planned their development and marketing strategies extremely well.  They developed an extremely innovative family of systems that create a world of flexibility both now and for people who many need to expand down the road as their needs and requirements change.  I will certainly be excited to get my hands on the GLD and work with it in a live concert situation for a real world test.  I will certainly write a demo as soon as I have the opportunity to do so.

For more info, check out A&H’s promo video.

Check out my Hands-on Review of the new ALLEN & HEATH GLD digital console:http://bit.ly/LhKSrL

 

Allen & Heath to announce new digital console January 2012

Yesterday, I received an exciting promotional email from Allen & Heath “leaking” pictures of a new digital console that will be officially announced in January 2012.  You can check out a link to the announcement on the news section of their website by clicking here.

It’s advertised as a “professional digital mixing console system at a distinctly analogue price.”  They also mention that their most accessible digital console will be unveiled in January 2012.  Obviously, it will probably be announced at NAMM which is towards the end of January every year.

It’s a pretty huge deal to me considering what I do and the goals I need to make sure are accomplished on a week-to-week basis.  National Community Church runs Allen & Heath consoles almost exclusively across all of our locations including their current iLive digital series in our Barracks Row location with another iLive system with Dante being installed in our Ebenezers Coffeehouse location early in 2012.

I’d like to give my opinions based on the few teaser pictures that Allen and Heath has released already and try to predict some features that will be available on the new digital system.

Here are a few pictures from the Allen & Heath website.

Picture #1 shows that not only does it feature a touch screen similar to it’s bigger brother, the iLive, but it also has a feature that the iLive does not have as of yet.  It seems like it will feature flash recording to a USB drive as well as playback.  The tab on the top of the navigation screen says “USB Audio” and in the box being displayed below, it says “Playback”, a file name and size as well as controls that seem to allow you to navigate playing the selected file.  Below, there is a finger touching a record button on the screen with an indicator showing how much space you have available on the USB that is plugged in.  Also, the navigation menus to the right of the screen indicate that the operating system will probably be similar to that of the iLive.

The LED channel strips are also similar to the iLive so it seems like Allen & Heath will be keeping a pretty similar vibe across their lines of consoles.

In the second teaser photo, you can see that the button arraignment is similar to the number on the iLive but we’ll have to wait and see exactly what they are but I’d venture to guess that they are Mute, Select, Mix, and PAFL buttons.  It looks like it will look similar to the iLive.  However, I assume they’ll continue the trend that it set when they released the T-series and R-series of flattening the original oddly-shaped i-series modular iLive.  It will feature LED meters on each channel for monitoring levels but obviously not as long as the iLive’s.  To the left of this photo, you see two PK lights which I assume are to indicate peaking on different layers.  That also would mean it features layers which could mean that this console will be capable of a higher channel count then other smaller digital consoles.

Teaser photo #3 confirms a very similar vibe to that of the iLive in orientation of controls and functions.

Teaser photo #4 is another very interesting picture.  It’s a picture of a small section of the control surface and the stage rack.  Purple is certainly an interesting choice of color since the only purple mixer I’ve ever seen to date is a Midas.  The featured stage rack has 12 outputs on it which I’d say is a pretty decent number for a small format console.  There are also 3 Ethercon networking ports on the right side of the stage box.  The top one looks like it says “Expander” and in the picture, it looks like there is a separate rack stacked on top of the main rack so I’d assume you can use multiple stage racks with the same surface.  Second ethernet port down says “Monitor” which makes me wonder if these small stage boxes will support a digital split to a monitor console.  I’ll be interested to see if that is a feature or not.  Finally, the last ethernet port says “dSnake” which I assume is the connection protocol for the new digital system.  I also assume it will not be compatible or interchangeable with any of the iLive systems at this point since the iLive control surface protocols are currently only Ethersound, ACE and MADI.  Photo #5 shows a more close up shot of the stage rack but unfortunately does not show how many channel inputs the stage rack has.  I’m hoping it’s 32 channels.  That would be awesome!

Teaser photo #6 is a picture of the EQ menu on the screen.  Even though it’s cut off, I’m assuming that it will be a FOUR BAND fully parametric EQ with the option to select cut, shelf, or parametric filters on the low end and high end.  You can see five different filters on the screenshot they showed.  Purple looks like a high pass filter, then you see green, light blue, blue and a red filter on the graph.  On the display below the graph you can see that it indicates where you’ve swept the filter and the Q-size.

Bottom line is that I’m really excited about this console.  I’ll certainly keep my eyes and ears open for updates and blog about them as they come out.  If anyone else gets more information, please pass it on to me at jdcastellente@gmail.com.

 

UPDATE:  Allen & Heath has now released more information on this console.  You can check out my post on the release here:  http://jasoncastellente.com/2012/01/mix-with-your-ears-not-your-eyes/

The Next Level

The big question:  ”How do I get to the next level in what I do?”  I’ve always loved audio engineering and mixing.  It’s something I’ve been passionate about for years.  Someone once told me that when you think you’ve arrived and you’ve got no more to learn, you’ve died as a creative and an innovator.  I want to consistently stride forward and improve in my field as and in new areas as well.

There are tons of great nerd books out there that I enjoy reading and learning from.  Hands on time with gear is critical in moving forward.  Mixing shows, tuning systems, training your ears…it’s all critical and I undertand that.  However, I want to take what I do to the next level.  There must be ways to learn more and I need to find them…  I have a few ideas already but still, I want to learn and grow.  I’d love to get some feedback and ideas for how I can do that.

Feel free to comment or shoot me an email at jdcastellente@gmail.com

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!

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