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NCC Leadership Retreat Preparation

So, I’m two days into my work at NCC.  Everyone is working super hard in preparation for the leadership retreat NCC is doing this Friday and Saturday.  It is going to be at the Potomac Park Camp and the tech crew is loading up and heading out tomorrow (Thursday) morning.  I am looking forward to being involved in my first event with NCC and I can’t wait to hear the pastors of the church preach and teach for their leaders.  I’m sure there is much to learn and I can’t wait to hear their wisdom and knowledge.  I’m looking forward as well to working with new tech and production people.  Time to get some sleep.  It will be alot of work, but also alot of fun for me.

Comments are welcome or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Here goes EVERYTHING

This weekend was my last weekend mixing for Chosen 2010.  We were at the second weekend of Penndel Winter Retreats at the Philip Bongiorno Conference Center.  It was a weekend of memories for me.  Memories of Penndel events from the past, people including students I have met and talked with, leaders I have learned from, and media nerds I have been blessed to work with, and great times of music, teaching, worship, and seeking God with everything and through everything.

This weekend, the Youth Alive missionary for Penndel, Jason Lamer, told a story that impacted me.  His story went something like this…  There was a man who got on a plane.  He sat back and thought about where he was going and anticipated where he was going.  Or at least, where he thought it was going.  During the flight, the voice of the pilot came over the loudspeakers saying that the engine of the plane was on fire and that all the passengers of the plane would need to put on their parachutes and prepare to jump in order to save their lives.  The man on the plane was afraid and upset and as he prepared for what he had to do in order to survive, thoughts were running through his head.  He was thinking, “this is not what I had planned”, “this is not what I wanted”, “why does this have to happen?”, “this isn’t my destination”.  And as he stood on the brink of jumping, he took a deep breath and said, “Here goes nothing!”.

On that same plane was another man…another man who was eager and excited simply to be on the plane.  He was prepared for anything and was willing to go wherever.  He wasn’t afraid.  Sure, he had a destination in mind but he wasn’t hesitant to change direction if he was called to.  When the voice of the pilot came over the loudspeaker explaining that the engine of the plane was on fire and that everyone would have to put on their parachutes and prepare to jump, he leapt into action.  He grabbed his parachute and was first in line.  Thoughts were running through his head too, but they were quite different then the other man.  This man knew that this is not what he had planned but he was willing to change and do what was necessary.  No, it was not what he wanted, but it was what had to be done because he was commanded to do it.  I am sure he did not understand why it had to happen, but instead of being afraid of stepping forward and taking that jump, he was excited by it.  No, it was certainly not his destination, but he was thrilled that he was going to jump in spite of circumstances that may have not seemed ideal but ultimately, was the best thing to do.  And without hesitation, that man with the wind blowing in his face, leap out of the plain and shouted, “Here…goes…EVERYTHING!!”

The first man was more concerned about where he was going, then the ride along the way.  He was caught up in his own plans and life and what he was going to do rather then an experience that could change his life forever.  It certainly may not have been what he wanted, but it was necessary for him at that moment in time.  It was necessary for him to jump.  It wasn’t all for nothing; it was all for everything.

Sometimes, God changes the course of our lives when we least expect it.  He creates a path for us and points us towards it and then all of the sudden, there is a cliff.  A lot of times, when we see that cliff, we think that God has forgotten us, or he has abandoned us, or he doesn’t care about us anymore.  But, that is just the contrary.  He has NOT forgotten us!  He has NOT abandoned us!  He cares very deeply for us!  He has placed that in our lives so that by faith, we will jump.  He has placed that in our lives so that we can experience a fullness, a fulfillment, and an excitement that we have maybe never felt before.

This just really impacted me deeply and I have been thinking about it all weekend and I am still thinking through it.  My life is at a point like that now.  I am getting ready to jump into something that I have never really done before but I am looking forward to doing.  It’s a step forward that I am super nervous about taking, but it is also a major step forward.  Someone once said that to risk nothing in life is to not live.  I want my life to be worth living.  I want my life to count for something greater then myself.  I want my life to be a building block in the Kingdom of God.  I want my Savior and my God, to be proud of me and how I have invest what He has blessed me with.  I am so incredibly grateful for my salvation and for life.  May the things that I do, may they all be an offering back to the God to saved me and gave me life.

 

“May the word of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

 

Penndel Winter Retreat Week 1 Production

One of the first events that I mixed for when I toured for Valley Forge Christian College was a Penndel  Assemblies of God youth camp at the Phillip Bongiorno Conference Center in Carlisle, PA.  I still remember the camp, stage design, theme and kids.  The theme was “Driven” and the catch phrase was “What drives you?”  They talked about living a life driven by God, the Bible and His ways and driving your live down the road He has marked out for you.  It’s been quite a while since that camp and Penndel books a VFCC worship team for most of their events and I have been to almost all of their youth events in the past two years and I have a great amount of respect for their communication of the gospel and how they do such an amazing job at meeting kids ranging from ages 12-17 where they are in their lives and helping them to learn and understand the Bible and what God has for them in their lives.  They clearly and consistently communicate salvation in a critical stage of their lives and then foster and encourage spiritually maturity and high standards in every aspect of life.  This is desperately needed in a generation of young people who want to feel that someone cares about them and understands them and their situation.

This past weekend kicked off a three consecutive weekend Winter Retreat 2011 for middle and high school students at the Philip Bongiorno Conference Center in Carlisle, PA.  Their theme for this event was “Parallel”.  They are focusing on living a life parallel to the one that Jesus lived during his time on earth and to follow his blameless example.  I love how they have created an environment and stage design that reflects what the theme is and helps to non-verbally communicate and reiterate the message and theme of the event.

A big deal to me is that the Penndel Youth Department is committed to a great production in every aspect but also realizes that in order to cultivate growth in new leaders, they need to be given an opportunity to develop skills that they might not have otherwise had an opportunity to discover and then to take those skills back to their home churches and youth groups and use those skills to help communicate the gospel more effectively where they have been planted.  They do this by announcing that students can volunteer to help with the production.  Penndel runs full IMAG video for all their services in 1080p.  They usually have at least 3 camera angles that are feed to two huge 16:10 screens on each side of the stage.  They also use various LCD TV’s placed strategically in their stage designs which are usually pretty elaborate.  For example, at Winter Retreat this year, they had 5 levels of staging.  In their production room backstage, they have a portable video rig with a Panasonic video mixer, screen for video mixing, Mac Pro for recording and for running Renewed Vision’s Pro Video Player and a few Mac Mini’s running Propresenter through a network.  They use alot of student volunteers and interns to run the production.  It’s a pretty sweet opportunity for students because I know at that age I was dying to get my hands on gear like that and never had the chance.

Their most recent upgrade has been their own house sound system through the generous donation of churches and through new gear.  They run a Avid (Digidesign) Venue SC48 console as their FOH board.  They run a digital output to a BSS system processor which then goes to various Crest, Crown and QSC amps powering their EAW mains.  Their most recent purchase was new EAW SB2001 subwoofers and QSC PL380 amplifiers.  The subwoofers have dual 21″ drivers in each and they put out some seriously deep low end.

The masterminds behind this are Nick Palomo who is the head of the media department for the Penndel District.  He built the department up when he was hired and has created a standard for excellence while still helping to train up the next generation of talented production personnel.  More recently, Sam Cornwell has joined the media staff as the Youth Creative Media Lead bringing a new set of talents to the table.  This is all part of a youth department led by District Youth Director, Doug Sayers.

I have enjoyed working with the district for roughly the past two years and still try to make it a point to be a their events as much as I can.  I am extremely thankful for the time I have spent there because it is always a learning a growing experience.  They have taught me alot about production, event management, and being able to simply react to a situation positively and quickly solve whatever is necessary.  One of the reasons I have developed the skills that I’m going to make my living on is because of their investment in my life.  I believe you are blessed for sowing seeds into the kingdom of God and I know their investment has been yielding great returns not just with better and better events each time, but also through encouraging teens, giving them opportunity to shine, and through pouring their heart, soul, and life passions into students.  I have seen it with my own eyes and watched students develop and grow.

I’m excited for what God is doing spiritually and through their ministry and lives.  I believe God is going to great things because of how much they have poured into it and because of their selfless dedication.  I am excited to go back next weekend and mix again for Winter Retreat week 2 and for Chosen 2010.  I’m praying for God to do something big in the lives of the leaders, staff, media and production team, as well as the students.

Check out the Penndel District Youth Department at www.penndelyouth.com

Follow the Penndel District Assemblies of God Youth Department on facebook by clicking here.

Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Thoughts, life, and the NEXT CHAPTER!

Looking back on my life, I am constantly amazed at how God has worked in me and through me.  We are created as worshippers of our Savior and King over all the heavens and the earth.  He sent His one and only Son to live a blameless life and to die a horrible death on the cross.  He rose again defying all odds and now offers eternal life as a free gift to those who are willing to accept it.  In return, he asks us to follow Him and walk in His ways.  He asks us to follow Him at all costs and to give our lives back to Him as a living sacrifice.

At a young age, I have always tried to follow in those ways and to live my life as unto the God who saved me.  Even though I am still relatively young, I have still been alive long enough to see that God has ordained my footsteps and has walked with me through various decisions in my life.  I am thankful for his provision and guidance.  Maybe not every decision has been “the right thing” but ultimately, God was still in control and He directed me down the paths that He had for me.

My last four years or so at Valley Forge Christian College helped me to learn and grow dramatically.  Through many professors and staff, I learned more then just academics.  I learned how to apply the practical academics, musical skills, and music technology into furthering the Kingdom of God.  VFCC did much more then just teach the skills, they encouraged you and many times gave you the opportunity to put those skills into practice.

One huge part of me putting things into practice and learning things through experience alone was the past two years of touring as an audio engineer for Pneuma 2009 and Chosen 2010.  Those summers and semester bookings taught me how to take the musical and technical skills I had learned and use them in a real application in real time.  I learned to think on my feet and with my ears.  I learned to jump right in and try my hardest to make something work.  And when I didn’t know what to do, God gave me the wisdom to know how to figure it out or to place something or someone in my path to help me press forward.  Also, throw in the variables of travel, relationships with people on the team, friends from school, family back home, and the day-to-day relationships I made with people along the way, and that makes for a challenge!  I know I grew and God taught me so much in those times.  Even now, I know I was so blessed to be part of Chosen and Pneuma these past two years.  The things I learned, the ways I grew, relationships I developed, the friends I made and the connections I made were awesome.  I am so thankful for Chosen and Pneuma and I pray that God continues to use them in ways bigger and better then they would have ever expected.

But, part of a journey includes moving on…moving forward.  I know I always want to be challenged and pushed to work harder and do more then I have before.  In everything I want to further the Kingdom of God while still using my talents and giftings that are from the Lord.  He gave me life and made a way for me to have eternal life; I feel like that in return, I should give my life back to Him as an offering of worship so that He may be glorified in my life.

That brings me to the next chapter of my life.  I have been offered a position as the production coordinator of National Community Church located in Washington DC.  National Community Church uses coffeehouses and movie cinemas as venues for church.  They currently have six locations in the Washington DC and Virginia areas and have plans to open more and to build a new building.  NCC began meeting in the Union Station movie theaters until they closed down.  They continued meeting at their coffeehouse, Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, just a short distance away.  God, then, place a vision in their hearts to expand what they were doing into the movie theaters of the Washington DC area and surrounding areas.  They brought it before their congregation who decided corporately that this was the direction God wanted for their church.  And with that, the multi-site vision of National Community Church was born.  As God blessed their faithfulness, they opened more locations and currently they have six locations.  They are constantly looking at new locations where they can expand to and will be kicking off their seventh location later this year.

I am so excited about what God is doing at National Community Church and blessed to be able to be a part of their team reaching the Washington DC area.  I love their presentation and their style.  It’s so out of the box and new.  It’s relevant to the culture and meets people where they are.  They fuse what this generation gravitates to, the coffeehouses and theaters, and then reclaims that medium to communicate the Gospel and the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I’m still trying to work out logistics of moving to DC and starting the job, but it’s going to be fairly quick.  It will probably be around the end of this month.  It’s going to be interesting to figure all that out but I believe that God will lead me and guide me in this new chapter of my life.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, worked with me, given me opportunities, and invested in my life over the years.  Without all of you, this wouldn’t have happened.

Feel free, as always, to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

You mean I can read whatever I want? Mixing in Pro Tools Skill Pack

One great thing I’ve found in the last few weeks now that I’m done college, I have the freedom to read whatever I want.  Crazy right?  I’m not forced to read for a class or for an assignment or paper or whatever.  I have actually really started to enjoy reading again.  One book I am enjoying right now is (nerd alert!!)  Mixing in Pro Tools Second Edition Skill Pack by Brian Smithers.  I have been seriously using Pro Tools LE and HD for the past 3 years and I’ve seen the most recent evolutions from Pro Tools 7 to the new GUI interface and options in Pro Tools 8 and most recently, the “digi-hardware free” version of Pro Tools 9 that hit the public just a month or so back.

This book is pretty cool and helps the reader to understand more of the art and craft of mixing projects in Pro Tools.  It begins with the basics that I was pretty well acquainted with and then got progressively harder and more complex.  I have to say, I was caught a little off guard by how in-depth this book got towards the end.  In fact, I had to go back and review earlier parts of the book that I thought I had down in order to understand little nuances of more complex techniques.  I had assumed this book would be a lot of basic material and tutorials.  And while, it presents it in more of a tutorial method for beginners, the techniques and methods it teaches and the tricks it gives you are very easily applied to your own projects in your day-to-day work, mixing and hobbies.

It starts of explaining equalization and just basically describes what all the GUI knobs and meters do.  It also briefly goes into what equalization is.  Equalization is the adjustment of the timbre of a recorded signal.  It basically dictates the tonal shape of a signal.   Other then that, I thought the chapter would be basic knowledge and a review for me.  Although, when I got farther in the chapter, it gave a few tips that can give better results and can help create a bigger stereo image.  For example, it suggests that while many of your channels are mono when you record them, you can instantly make them stereo by inserting a standard Pro Tools plug-in called “Short Delay II” (mono/stereo).  Pro Tools will then display two meter bars on the processed channel showing that there is a stereo output to wherever the channel is routed.  You can then insert more plug-ins after that to continue your processing although you should use a multi-mono plug-in so that Pro Tools will process each signal individually while still changing the settings uniformly on both the Left and the Right outputs.  Equalization is probably one of the hardest parts of the post production process because you need to make everything sound great in the mix without making thing clash.  That means, you will need to find a unique place in the frequency and dynamic range of the recording.

It continues in the next chapter to talk about dynamics processing.  Obviously, dynamics vary greatly with the style of music but this book talks about the principles you need to be successful in making whatever music your a mixing sound great.  I like how they explain how a compressor works because I think this is something that gets confused very easily in studio mixing as well as live sound reinforcement.  I took the questions they used and modified them a little to better explain how a compressor works.

What gets compressed? – Threshold settings (numeric setting in dBv)

How much gets compressed? – Ratio settings (numeric setting in ratio for i.e. 4:1)

How abruptly will the compression begin? – Knee settings (numeric setting)

How fast will the compressor take before it engages? – Attack settings (us or ms)

How long will the compressor hold the same setting? – Hold settings (us or ms)

How quickly will the compressor release its limiting of signal? – Release settings (us or ms)

Oh, by the way…I used two terms above that I should explain: “us” and “ms”.  ”us” means microsecond which is one thousand of a millisecond (one ten-thousandth of a second) and “ms” means millisecond which is one thousandth of a second.

I also love the way that they go into how to get a rough mix later in the book.  They walk the reader though basic organization and things that not everyone would think of a common sense.  Creating your workflow in a session, is extremely important.  Making sure that tracks are labeled from the get-go is important because Pro Tools names waveform data off of that track name to help with organization in the actual Pro Tools session data.  Then, lining up your tracks in an order where you are comfortable working with it is very important.  Coloring your tracks is an added benefit to help you visually.  The way I work is that I have my drums first colored yellow, bass and guitars next labeled green, keys and midi stuff after that labeled blue and vocals after that labeled orange or red.  I will then route them through busses to make mixing easier and I put those busses at the end of the order of channels so that I have easy access to the “master fader” of each group of instruments.  This is very helpful when I mix in the end.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you though.  There are tons of great mix techniques in this book that I will certainly be implementing in the near future.  The book goes into advanced signal flow and advanced dynamics.  It talks alot about stereo imaging and enhancement to make things sound spacious and open while still creating that tight powerful mix that we have all come to know and love in pop music today.  The really cool stuff happens when it gets into special effects for recording and for mixing.  It has a couple really creative techniques that will help you make you studio mixes pop and pound.  I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I took the time to read through it because I know it will benefit me in my career in audio and production.  I highly recommend this book.  I’ll be using some of the things I’ve learned when I go back in to the studio to finish up mixing The Interlude tracks.

Does anyone out there have any creative or interesting audio techniques to share?  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Thoughts on Communicating the Gospel using technology

As I was reflecting on some technology that was developed this past year, I am continually amazed and interested in what has been introduced to us.  I remember watching Star Trek with my dad.  He talked about how he always thought it would be so cool to have a flip communicator like they did.  It would be so cool to just flip something like that open and be able to communicate with anyone.  As a kid, I’m sure he never dreamed it would be possible to communicate with anyone like that.  Now, people have “flip communicators” and even more advanced communicators called cell phones!  I can slide my finger across the heat-sensitive touch screen of my iPhone and have virtually anyone literally at my fingertips.  I can call someone across the room, across town, or across the world.  I remember using my cell phone to call home from Liberia, Africa while I was away on a missions trip a few years ago.  I pressed a few buttons and then seconds later, I could hear the voices of my parents and hear dinner cooking in the background from almost half way around the world.  What we never dreamed possible, has become so commonplace to us that it does not even faze us.  It has changed the face of communication today.

The face of communication is constantly changing largely due to technology and its development and re-development.  We are pushed forward whether we like it or not.  Some people enjoy it and thrive on it; some people don’t like it; some people don’t really care.  But anyway you look at it, we are in the midst of a new culture that is being changed and influenced by the current technologies.

The church is being forced to take note of these changes and change how they communicate in order to reach the culture that they are a part of.  It would be easy for the body to just fall back on what they know and point out how the Bible talks about not conform to what the world is saying and doing.  But maybe the church needs not be so defensive and realize that it’s not about that.  God is alive and His word in the Bible is alive.  This means that the Bible’s principles of standards and ethics need to be applied to the life that we live and in the culture we are a part of.

Many times, people think being in the world but not of the world means that we need to avoid evil at all costs and to keep away from it.  Shining your light doesn’t go very far if all of your “lights” are staying together where they are comfortable.  They can be so much more effective by going into dark places and illuminating them.  I am not saying we should participate in what is going on in that dark place.  I am however saying we should be there to show contrast to the darkness.  We can still be in the world but not of the world.

How does all tie together?  I think the church is afraid of what they cannot see or understand.  They fear the darkness of sin and of the unknown because it is uncharted.  We know sin leads to death but we must be willing to stand in the darkness in order to stop those who are walking further into the darkness.  We also should not be fearful of the unknown.  Traditional methods are just that: tradition.  They may still work at times but there are new mediums for interpersonal communication.  These mediums need to first be understood and their power realized.  Then, they can be harnessed for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.  The early church stopped at nothing to communicate the gospel.  That same passion should motivate us today.  We have more channels available to us.  Let’s use them as effectively as we can.

Obviously, this is simply my opinion.  Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts and opinion.  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.

Audio-Technica ATM650 Review

Over the past few years, I have been running sound in a lot of different environments on many different systems.  I am an audio engineer at Valley Forge Christian College and I have toured as an audio engineer for the college’s ministry teams for two summers now.  The first summer, I toured with Pneuma 2009 and then with Chosen 2010.  I have always enjoyed experimenting with micing techniques and finding the best sound with each individual instrument.  Every live reinforcement engineer and studio engineer wants that “it” factor.  The sound that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck because you know it’s awesome.

One mic I experimented with recently was the Audio-Technica ATM650.  It is part of the artist series of microphones that were loaned to the school from Worship MD owner and representative, Doug Gould.  (www.worshipmd.com)  The ATM650 features a dynamic element with a hypercardioid pickup pattern and responds to frequencies in the 80-17,000 Hz range.  It is basically Audio-Technica’s version of the legendary Shure SM57.

My first impression was that it was solid in my hand and it felt well build.  The flat windscreen on the front was more open then an SM57 but was also more durable because of the threaded head.  The design of the head was very similar to the Audix i5 drum mic.  I have had countless SM57 windscreens fall off and it is always annoying.  This does not seem to be an issue for the ATM650.  The first thing I did was plug it in a put it on my drummer’s snare.  I was pleased to hear that it responded well and was clear and crisp while still maintaining fullness and body.  Since it was a 14-inch snare, balancing attack and body can be interesting at times using a SM57.  This mic responded better and was clearer with less EQ adjustment.  It also had more “life” to it.  It was not as focused as a SM57 but also, did not pick up a ton of ambient noise from the room or from the rest of the drum kit.

I also experimented with the ATM650 on a few different guitar amps.  It proved to be a solid choice on pop tones as well as still keeping the fullness and growl when used on heavier tones.  It was easy to shape the tone I was looking for both for solo playing as well as contextually within a mix.

As far as “bang for your buck” is concerned, the ATM650 keeps up with the going rate of the SM57 and the Audix i5 coming in at $99 retail.  If you are lucky, you might even find the ATM650 for cheaper then a SM57.

Like I said, every audio engineer is looking for that “it” sound.  This may be the mic for you and your application.  I suggest that any live sound or recording engineer check out the Audio-Technica ATM650.  Keep going after that perfect sound!

You can check out the Audio-Technica ATM650 at this website.

I welcome comments and questions.  Feel free to comment here or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

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