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problem with live vocal levels

Member for

21 years 3 months
OK, here is my situation...I am running sound at a 500-600 capacity club in my area and this is my first experience in actually building and installing a setup in a venue. I have worked and assisted before in much larger venues with their house systems but never have I been solely responsible for setting up, installing, purchasing, maintaining, and running the whole thing. That being said here is what is happening:

I have 4 2x15 main cabs that run at 4ohms, 500W each. They sit on top of 1 2x18 sub cabinet per side of the stage. For clarification:

Left Side = Pair of 2x15 Cabs (4ohms, 500Weach) on top of one 2x18 Sub
Right Side = mirror of the left

My amps are the following:

Mains = 2 Crown XLS 602's (one for the left and one for the right, each being run in stereo mode) They deliver 600W per channel at 4 ohms and are running speakers rated at 500W at 4 ohms.

Subs = 2 QSC1450's in bridge mode, each running one sub

Here is my problem:

The stage is small and faces out into a long hall with hard walls and barriers (no soft surfaces). The wall behind the stage is also hard and reflects the drummers cymbals a lot and makes the Crash cymbals compete with the vocals coming out of the Lead Vocal Mic. I have tried altering the mic placement. Eqing out some of the cymbal freq. in the lead vocals even but nothing seems to get the vocal up to a suitable level to be heard over those cymbals hits. I have stopped miking the drums completely because of it. Now I'm starting to wonder if the Crown power amps I have running the mains just aren't enough to run those cabs at a high enough level for the vocals to really be heard well. To me its baffling because in our small practice space we run 2 2x15 cabs with a crown xls602 and the vocals are much more audible and easily heard than in the venue. What do you guys and girls think the problem or problems is/are? Do I need more powerful main amps? Will softening that back wall behind the stage perhaps cure some of the problem? Is there something stupid I might have missed in the setting up of everything? I appreciate any and all help and I said I just dont see any reason why this setup shouldnt be loud as all hell in that size a place. PS I also have tried cutting out all the instruments out of the main mix to see where the vocal is and it still won't let me push the vocal up over those crash cymbals...


Member for

20 years

Kev Sun, 11/26/2006 - 22:15
I know this problem

I feel for you
once I had my best rig and the bulk of my gear for one important gig.
As soon as I walked in the room I knew I was in trouble.
Just too reverberant and the stage walls were just too close and reflective.
I had two faders ... up ... Kick and Main Vocal.
... and you just could not hear the Main Vocal. I was in trouble with no solution.
more vocal fader and all I got was more band
NO vocal fader and the band was still loud.
The vocal subgroup meter was showing good levels when the singer hit their biggest note and EXACTLY the same levels when there was NO vocal.

The stage volume was too loud and the band volume right at the mis was louder than the singer could sing at.
There was no solution at that time for that gig.

You need to deaden the stage and get stage volumes down.

Side note.
I have in difficult long rooms
put the speaker stacks right against the wall so as it couples with the wall as a semi-horn loaded system.
A bit like a PZM mic in reverse.
This can help intelegability down the room BUT will not fix your basic problem of the Band volume at the Mic.

That gig was hell and the feedback level was just too low as well.

The Last Band of the night was an instumental rock electronica sort of thing.

I looked at my partner in crime and his look of joy was probably present in my eyes too.
I was able to put many of my tricks to use and I could lift the overall volume
I cranked it
and we had a show ... even if only for one set.

At least it did prove the PA rig was real and up until then I didn't think I was going to be paid.

The band was great and the music was great and they booked us for some future shows
and even one of the earlier bands with vocals booked us.

PA life can be hell sometimes
A 2way 15 and an SM58 just won't work in a toilet or stair well
... add a Marshal Quad and it's all over.

good luck

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Mon, 11/27/2006 - 19:58
Yeah Kev, you pretty much described what I'm faced with and experiencing word for word. I just did a Nirvana cover band where they did one set all unplugged which sounded phenomenal. Two acoustic guitars, bass, vocals, brush sticks on the kit...sounded amazing, so I felt like I redeemed myself and showed the club owner I really do know what I'm doing...then they did an electric set and that all was washed away by the problems we both described. So basically my hypothesis is correct and we need to deaden the stage right? Honestly those cymbals are the only problem. As long as I get the idiots on stage to keep their half stacks on the low side I havent had a problem with the guitar amps yet. It's just the element there is no control over...the drums...and mainly the cymbals. So you think coupling the stacks to the walls would help a bit? Interesting...I might just try that at the next show. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the help and if for nothing more thanks for proving to me that I'm not insane and my system setup isnt inferior. Cheers

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Mon, 11/27/2006 - 20:22
i know youd never get a drummer to go for it,but dont they make cymbal dampeners of some sort? even a real light cotton in the spots that the drummer hits them makes practices in my smallish basement much more tollerable.i know ya didnt have one in your pocket at the time ,but how bout the old plexiglass wall.

Member for

20 years

Kev Mon, 11/27/2006 - 21:20
RAIN0707 wrote: ... Honestly those cymbals are the only problem.

... So you think coupling the stacks to the walls would help a bit? ...
deaden(thick blacks) the stage walls
and the plexiglass is popular with some guys

smaller cymbals ? less heavy metal 8)

The stacks coupled to the walls worked a treat in one of my trouble rooms and once the stage was raised and deadened it turned out to be one of our favourite rooms.

Member for

15 years 8 months

BobRogers Tue, 11/28/2006 - 06:45
Acoustic treatment of the stage is going to be a big help here. High and high-mid frequency absorption is your most direct problem, but bass trapping will help too since it will make it easier for the bands to hear themselves at lower levels. If the bass response on stage is even, there is much less tendency to crank the amps and smash the drums.

P.S. It probably goes without saying, but make sure that the acoustic treatments are fire resistant. Might be good to get a contractor involved. Just google "nightclub fire" when you get worried about the expense.

Member for

21 years 3 months

archived member Tue, 11/28/2006 - 16:19
hey guys thanks for the tips and suggestions, the stage is also really small so the plexiglass shield that you speak of is going to be a nuisance on stage. I have used one before and they are nice if you have a drum riser and everything or enough room but unfortunately for me that isnt the case. I will deaden the stage then and see if I can get the vocals even a smidge louder by coupling that stacks to the walls. Thanks guy I really appreciate it. Oh and you are totally right none of these drummers would go for the dampeing idea. Stubborn breed... haha thanks guys

Member for

20 years

Kev Wed, 11/29/2006 - 21:18
BobRogers wrote: It probably goes without saying, but make sure that the acoustic treatments are fire resistant. Might be good to get a contractor involved. Just google "nightclub fire" when you get worried about the expense.
just though it was worth posting that again ... good stuff from Bob

the fire resistance doesn't have to cost a fortune but not doing so could be a disaster

give the stage proper electrics and the fire resistance