Talkback on location

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by FifthCircle, Nov 10, 2005.

  1. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I've been doing a lot more sessions lately and I've been using my DAW without a console. This leaves me without a viable talkback solution for session.

    What do you folks out there use?

    I've seen several solutions:

    1. Presonus Central Station
    2. Mackie Big Knob
    3. Samson C Control
    4. Hear Technologies 600 mv
    5. SPL MTC 2381

    All of these seem to have a lot more functionality than I really need. All I really need is something of decent quality that I can insert in my monitoring system to Dim the monitors and send a slate and talk to a client on stage...

    The Samson is at the low end of the list and the SPL is at the high end. Also something to consider is how portable it is... Obviously, this is for field use so ease of transport and setup is important.

    Does anybody have experience with these or do you have any other ideas?

  2. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    What I have done is purchased a $30 pair of self-powered, mini computer speakers. I installed a text book op-amp mic pre into one of them. I use this with a dynamic mic, the kind like you find in old airplane control towers. Its loud enough to slate through the mics. Its not loud enough though for large orchestral groups. Otherwise it works well, is inexpensive, and is very light and portable.
  3. route909

    route909 Guest

    The RME Fireface 800 has a talkback function built into Totalmix. Any input can be selected as talkback "mic". Adjustable dim levels, great master section and the shiznit. Haven´t really used it a lot, because my screen is too small for the mixer in it´s whole and it kinda makes it too cumbersome to use it as a talkback switch (I want a one key/click solution). So I leave the "talkback" channel open. However, there are several positive reports about people using a really cheap Behringer control surface to remotely MIDI control Totalmix. The BCF will give you 8 motorized faders (no touch sensitivity) as well. Looks like a deal.

    I haven´t really done any remote gigs where I can´t have direct contact with the peolpe involved, but running headphone cables, mic cables or line level audio cables for cheap powered monitors shouldn´t be hard, given one´s got a grip on Totalmix, or similar programs.

  4. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    We bought a little powered monitor and got our tech to make up a mic box with a push button. We have an AKG gooseneck dynamic plugged into the mic box and connect this via one of the snake lines to the powered monitor. Works a treat.

    The only problem we sometimes encounter is we have to power the monitor from the same circuit as our recorders to avoid an earth loop. Otherwise its totally silent.
  5. Stradivariusz

    Stradivariusz Active Member

    I use this little thing with a dynamic mic for 20€:

    It's so small en light! Just lovely for little work. Has pretty much volume and clean sound, so it's easy to understand what you are saying what's can be usefull sometimes ;) and it works on the battery


  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I've worked out a variety of solutions for this sort of thing. The main thing, of course, is just voice-quality, and loud enough to be heard between takes.

    Depending on the rig I'm using, it's either one of my Mackie Onyx boards that have very smart talkback systems & mic built in, or if I'm just using preamps and converters, I go with a silly-stupid device made by radio shack, part #33-3050. You really can't beat this thing for features.... (I have often given it to producers or other folks who want direct feedback to the stage)

    It's got a gooseneck mic with volume control, as well as switchable chimes (you can also make changes in how the chimes work with a dip switch underneath). The unit works with either a wall wart or two C cells. At $24.95, it's just an insanely easy choice. Output is 1/4" jack -10 level, perfect for driving a pair of computer speakers at the other end of your snake.

    Speaking of speakers, I have several choices here, as well...quite a few leftover el-cheapo Sony mini powered speakers from various stock computers I've bought over the years. I also have a more serious pair of (again!) Radio Shack minimus speakers (I forget the model # now) and they too run off either a wall wart or C cell batteries; simple and quick.

    All of the computer or mini speakers have a stereo 1/4" jack which I usually run down my snake back up to the console or mic station - you just have to make sure you have the right kind of adapters at the front end...make sure you don't confuse balanced 1/4" jacks with stereo (L/R & Ground) jacks. Otherwise, it's a great little system that with battery power, you can just have sitting at the conductor's feet.
  7. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    I use small selfamplified Fostex and Phonic speakers and a box that a friend of mine built, a small omni capsule and a breaker switch that cut power and sound wen You let it go (ie. it only works when You hold the button down)..

    I belive that KM has something like this in thier catalogue... (Without the power cut..) -- I got the idea from reading about the talkback part of the MilMedia Mixing Suite..

  8. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Ben, I have had great success by plugging a switchable mic into a Fireface...there is a specific feed in totalmix for talkback....

    This in turn goes to the headphones or to a small stereo amp pushing a pair of baby Advents in the tracking room...also good for 'spot playback' on a decent stereo system...

    The ONE time I've needed talkback to an orchestra, I just used a pair of Peavey powered floor monitors...but that proved to be severe overkill, as I found just interacting with the conductor via headphones and said RME setup was sufficient...
  9. drick

    drick Active Member

    I built my own talkback controller, based on little universal opamp boards from Dan Kennedy of Great River Electronics. It is a small slant-top box with a three position toggle switch: down enables the talkback mic and dims my monitors, center is normal, up routes my monitor mix to the talkback speakers. On the back are seven TRS jacks and a power jack. Inside, I use really nice dielectrically isolated opamps from Burr-Brown. I'd originally planned to put in a mic preamp chip as well, but I ran out of space. So the talkback input is line level and I just use a spare channel on the Mackie mixer that I use for my monitor mix. The Mackie channel fader controls the talkback level.

    My talkback speakers are a fairly expensive ($99 :wink: ) set of self-powered computer speakers from Radio Shack. They have unbalanced inputs, but I use a couple of Sescom inline audio transformers, which prevents any hum problems.

    I don't know if Dan still has any of those opamp boards. They were handy because you could build any standard opamp circuit depending on where you put resistors. But hooking them together ends up being a fair amount of hand-wiring. If I were doing it over, I'd lay out my own two-layer circuit board with everything on it including the preamp. Circuit board houses always have introductory specials where they'll make you a circuit board for $25-50. Ben, if you're interested in "rolling your own", I'll be happy to fax you my schematic to use as a starting point.

    David L. Rick
  10. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Well, I already own the powered speaker.... Been using a Yamaha MSP5 (knew it was good for something) for quite some time when I've used a console.

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I ended up picking up one of those little podium mics from RatShack. I'll give it a go this weekend on my session...

    I was ready to buy the Central Station (as I could really use a location monitor control), but the lack of a demo policy at my local retailer killed that idea. I may pick one up later, but not for now...

  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I put together a talk back system from some parts I had laying around in the shop. It consists of an old McMartin 1O watt pa amplifier, an old KLH portable speaker from a "record" player and a goose neck microphone from PACO that I picked up from our local electronic surplus place. I wired it my self. One thing that I had to do was to add a relay that turns off the speaker when I am not using it for talkback since it was "noisy" and the microphones were picking up the sound. If I am recording and the clients are using headphones I use the built in microphone and talkback on my Mackie Onyx console. I have seen some really fancy talk back systems with lights and a buzzer or tone for attention when recording a symphony orchestra. The lights tell the conductor or artist when they can start talking after a take. I do believe that there are some commercial boxes made that do all of this but most of the ones I have seen were made by the engineer or their engineering department. Sounds like you maybe on to something and I would like to hear from you how it worked out.

  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Ben, I'm glad you tried out the RS Talkback mic. Let us know how you like it. (or not!)

    As to all the DYI'ers, I think it's great that the entreprenurial spirit is alive and well on this list. I may be getting old and grouchy, but I have begun to dislike the "look" of ho-made stuff, and I often feel embarassed to have gear that looks like it's leftover from 50's and 60's era Sci Fi flicks. (No offense to all the DYI'ers! I am one too, really!)

    Also, sometimes the time spend building this stuff doens't justify the cost savings, either. Not sure what YOUR hourly rate is, but for $24.95, I think I saved a ton of time, and have time left to do other more important sleep, cable repairs, PC mods and other odd-job tweaks. :twisted:
  13. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Well unfortunately, it worked horribly....

    The output of this thing was so blasted low, I couldn't drive any of my powered speakers. I've sent -10 to all of them and had plenty of volume, but I turned the mic all the way up on this and even yelling into it (which caused it to distort), I could hardly hear anything coming out of it.

    I got it for $18.95 (it was on sale), but even at that price I just couldn't justify the money.

    For the time being, I've cluged something together. I ran a mic into one of my preamps, out of the preamp into my ADesigns Atty (passive attenuator w/ mute button), into the speaker. Worked beautifully, but I'll need something better eventually.

  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Yes but as a confirmed DIYer I get what I want and have it made to use the way I want to use it. I am going to look at the RS microphone but after Ben's last post I don't know. The one thing is that I try and go for the pro look. I have an engraving machine and I can make up really good looking and working boxes for very little money. I also have a nice machine shop including a drill press, bench lathe and shear so I guess I am really into DIYing stuff myself. Your mileage may vary. What ever you use or don't use the biggest thing is to make sure it works well and does what you want it to do. The only item on the list that I actually saw is the Mackie Big Knob and it seems very well constructed and seems to do what it needs to. The Presounus Central station has a remote that would be handy. The Samson C Control is very nice looking in the catalogues but it might not so well contructed as some of the other boxes. Some Samson stuff is great other stuff is JUNQUE!
  15. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I'm probably going to pick up a Central Station in the end... I just wish I could try it. I can either pay a lot locally and try it or pay a little and hope for the best.

    The little RatShack mic certainly looks cool. I could also see how the chimes could be useful to capture the attention of a performer in a polite manner. It just had virtually no output level. Really seemed do need to be plugged into a mic level input- not a line level input.

    I like the idea of DIY, but I live in an apartment that really has a limited amount of space for that kind of work. Add to that the fact that I'm extremely busy right now and just don't have the time for ventures that don't expressly earn me money. I'd come out even most likely even if the talkback unit cost me a few hundred dollars.

  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Radio Shack has discontinued the microphone/chime unit. They are closing them out for $18.99. I do believe after talking to the salesman at RS that it is designed to be pluged into a microphone input. Anyway I ordered one and it should be here next week.

  17. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Yikes.....sounds like that didn't work out too well for you Ben. I didn't realize the output level is so low on that thing. (Now that I think about it, I do sometimes run it through another line amp before hitting my speakers, I'll have to go re-check with the speaker alone.)

    One funny story about levels: I try to run the powered speakers low, and the input signal hot, or even mute the speaker's amp input as well as the tb mic so there's no chance of noise in the hall (near the musicians) when recording. On one gig during tracking, this annoying buzz in the talkback spkrs kept building and building, and driving me nuts. I kept having to boost the gain, trying to get enough level out of the thing so the artists could hear the producer, who was really over-using the thing anyway, and wouldn't lean in to talk INTO the mic. For a while, I was actually gating the speaker input manually in order to mute it entirely, it was so bad.

    Only at the END of the session, as I was packing up the gear, did I discover the idiot of a producer had been turning the mic level pot DOWN, a bit more each time. By the time the session was over (and my nerves nearly SHOT from all the line noise), I found the podium mic's volume level was almost at full OFF. I had been cranking the rest of the circuitry up and up and up to get usable levels, never realizing the maroon was turnning it DOWN at the front end. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr........

    Again, I need to go back and check the output of those things, I was fairly certain you'd be able to drive a small set of laptop or powered bookshelf speakers with it no problemo.....hmmmm.....

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