Equipment for live sound

They finally let us out of the studio: the Pipeline crew is now doing live sound for all the shows in the WMBR Presents concert series. The first shows we did were Xiu Xiu at the YWCA, and Mt. Eerie at the La Sala de Puerto Rico on MIT’s campus.

All told, verything went quite well. More on the shows themselves later–but technically speaking, we built a system around the Mackie SA1232 mains, and the SWA1801 sub. They’ve proved very effective for the size shows we’re doing, despite initial reluctance on my part. The only downside so far is that the mains are GODDAMN HEAVY, but whaddya want?

Now, however, it’s time to invest in good EQ’s for both the mains and the monitors. A bit of digging and talking to people, and we got a couple options:

Presonus DEQ624 — around $600
dbx 2231 — around $500

Also, here’s an interesting thread I found about this very topic.

I also hear good things about the Sabine FBX1200 Feedback Exterminator.



Be it evil or not, we have a Finalizer and use it weekly to smoosh our mix a little before it goes to the radio airchain. Here is a quick quick summary of the manual, for the benefit of our engineers:

Matrix settings
The finalizing matrix controls the settings of the multiband compressors in the Finalizer. The horizontal axis (“STYLE”) controls the ratio and threshold of the compression. Approximate values are below.

        Light   < --     STYLE   -->     Heavy

Ratio   1.25:1            2:1             4:1
Thresh   -12dB          -11dB           -15dB

The vertical axis (“RATE”) controls the attack and release times of the compression.

        Min     < --     RATE    -->     Max

Attack  30ms            20ms            14ms
Relse   1.4s            0.5s            0.1s

The manual includes a chart of the compressor values at every point in the matrix (p.17). Also, the function of the emphasis button is to lower the compression threshold when it is activated on a particular band.

Gain staging
The finalizer has two main components: a compressor and a limiter. The compressor comes first: its gain is controlled by the Normalize knob. The gain into the limiter is controlled by the three Spectral Balance knobs. The output level of the limiter is controlled by the Fader control.

Spectral Balance

So, if you want to hit the compressor harder, turn up the gain and ease off the spectral balance controls equally. Vice versa to hit the limiter harder.

You can find the manual here.

Skating Club

Skating Club was a quietish 3-piece, with two guitars, one singer, and a drum kit. Not very complicated, but some interesting things to note:

– I used a RE10/MD421 pair on the “lead” guitar amp and just an SM57 on the other guitar (there was no bass). I left the SM57 in the middle of the mix and slightly left/right panned the other two. It gave the lead guitar a much richer sound, I thought, without crowding the mix as hard-panning a dual-miked cabinet sometimes does. In retrospect an RE20 probably would’ve been better on the rhythm guitar, oh well.

– Because I haven’t slept much lately, I used an ATM25 for the snare mic and an SM57 for the rack tom, rather than the other way around like we usually do. The ATM25 actually sounded great on the snare (should be noted that the snare was a bit deeper-bodied than a standard snare) and might be worth using for that purpose in the future. The 57 wasn’t godawful (or particularly nice) on the rack tom, but since we have 3 ATM25’s this might be one solution to our snare-miking problem.

– I used a subtle drum plate effect on the kick drum, which by some weird resonance with one of the symbols actually sounded pretty awesome.

– The lead guitar was very dynamic and could probably have benefited from some compression; I tried to ride the faders but there’s some parts of the mix that really just don’t sound right.

– Quiet, sparse bands confuse me in general. Mostly I just tried to keep the drums and vocals audible and work the guitars in around those. I haven’t listened to the final mix yet, but it sounded alright during recording.

Other than that, business as usual. Very friendly band, incredibly painless soundcheck, and in general a nice laid-back recording session.

Comments welcome.

Playlist 3-29-2005

Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band “Hey Kid”
the Konks “Can’t Get Along With You”
Dinosaur Jr “Freak Scene”
Mobius Band “I Had A Very Good Year”
the Books “Smells Like Content”
the Perceptionists “Medical Aid”
Anaïs Mitchell “Cosmic American”
Damon and Naomi “the Robot Speaks”
the Dirty Projectors “Tour Along the Potomac”
Cerberus Shoal “Wyrm”
Mahi Mahi “I Can’t Hear You”
Turpentine Brothers “All the Same”
Ad Frank “Unspeakable”


Urdog “Ani Nie Ma”
Clem Snide “When We Become”


the Information “So Clear”
Phantom Buffalo “In a Summer Grove”

Pipeline! playlist 3/22/2005

Big Bear — “#3”
Urdog — “Paths of the Meridians”
Mobius Band — “City vs. Country”
Cerberus Shoal — “Parachute”
Turpentine Brothers — “Fool For You”
The Information — “Attention”
the Dirty Projectors — “D. Henly’s Dream”
Alec K Redfearn and the Eyesores — “The Smoking Shoes”
Anaïs Mitchell — “Two Kids”
Ad Frank — “You Will Never Learn to Play the Cello”
Philistines Jr — “We Will All Go Down Together”
Mahi Mahi — “654321”
Dinosaur Jr — “Severed Lips”
the Konks — “Honey”

the Downbeat 5 LIVE

Clem Snide — “Something Beautiful”
the Books — “If Not Now, Whenever”

the Downbeat 5 INTERVIEW

All Combinations — “Forward Momentum”