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Gear to improve vocals?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Wayne8, Oct 3, 2009.

  1. My old band used a Peavey PA for everything and it was plenty loud. We never turned it even half way up. But the vocals were always weak compared to quartets and such that come to my church. They alway bring their own equipment (I'm talking different groups, not just one) and their vocals alway sound so full and present compared to ours. We use SM58s. That old band of mine also played through the regular PA at the church and again the vocals were weak compared to these pro groups.

    Now I'm in another band and the PA we're using is an ancient Holmes PA but we don't even turn it up past 3 and we're only using it for vocals. Same thing, the vocals are weak. Now, we don't gig, we just play for fun so I'm not looking to spend a fortune.

    What would I need to achieve the kind of quality vocals these groups have with the equipment I've already got? Compressor or some other kind of vocal processor? Subs? We're playing through two 15" mains now.

  2. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    1. singing tehnique
    2. mic technique
    3. a good mic (I recommend Sennheiser e935, e865 and Heil PR-22, but there are many more good ones)
    4. decent preamps
    5. quality dynamics processors (compression)
    6. quality effects (reverbs etc.)
    7. high quality sound reinforcement (amps and speakers)

    Just the ones popping into my head right now, in order of importance.

    Notice that the first 2 are not "gear"...
  3. I'm not sure how much of #s 1 & 2 I can control or influence. Better mics may be an option, I just thought the SM58s were pretty standard. And we don't use preamps. We run the sound from the stage so no long cable runs. Do we still need a preamp? And can anyone suggest a reasonable all in one unit to augment our board that has compression and a preamp? The board has reverb already.

  4. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    Singing lessons for the singers help in both accounts. A good teacher will address both if a problem is detected. This is assuming it´s your band. If you work as a sound engineer, you have little control over the singers´ education...

    SM58´s are a standard, and although you´ll find differing opinions, I find their design and sound a bit dated. A 58 is surely a workhorse (it really can take a beating, and still work), but the sound is lacking, compared to more recent designs.

    If your console has decent pres, you don´t need outboard ones. How do you know if your pres are good enough? Comparison. It´s also safe to assume that budget boards don´t have as good pres as f.ex. a Midas XL -series desk. If you can hear the difference, you might want to look into a upgrade. Running the mix from the stage is really difficult to get right. Having somebody capable do the FOH, and concentrate solely on the mix (as opposed the mixing AND playing) will be much better.

    Good compressor units are all around. Do a couple of searches on live-audio boards, and you´ll surely run across a few... I´m a bit wary of on-board effects, and again on budget mixing desks, they really don´t stack up to outboard units (which are, surprise, of much higher quality and almost invariably much more expensive).
  5. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    I suggest finding some bands that have great sounding vocals and talking to them about their equipment. Make a list of everything they have and start possibly buying what they have.
  6. Or join that Band - problem solved. :D
  7. Hi.

    Spot on.

    Back in the day when I did quite a bit FOH and monitor work, these two were always on top of the problems.

    #1 Soft as cotton and quiet as a house mouse won't get amplified in a band setting, no matter what You do. Only the background noise bleeds through and if You try to increase the gain the feedback hell breaks loose.

    #2 "But I'm told to sing at least 5" away from the mic".
    On some isolated cases that's true, not in popular music of any kind IME.

    Like said the pre-voicing plays a big part in the quallity and audibility of the vocals. Won't do any good if the #1 & #2 are not taken care of though.

    It's also a pretty big surprize what a decent (or any at all) compression can do to even out the vocals.

    Huge + for spying systems that sound good in the first place.

  8. Thanks.
  9. Okay, a couple more questions. After researching mics, I've settled on EV 767a. And I'm thinking about an Alesis 3630 compressor.

    One question is about hooking up the compressor. I just run it in the effects loop of my mixer, right?

    And better quality mics and a compressor should add more punch and presence to the vocals, right?
  10. Hi.

    Compressing a specific signal is usually done via the insert point in the mixer. Putting it in the FX loop won't give satisfactory results.

    Better quality equipment won't guarantee anything unless the user is competent enough to use 'em to their full potential.

  11. TimmyP


    Nov 4, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN

    If the vocals are not loud enough - turn them up. Then tweak the EQ for the best tonal quality (cut lows to get rid of the overblown bottom, and cut high-mids to get rig of the irritating "ice pick in the ears". A compressor can help smooth the vocals by reducing the level of the loud parts.

    The 767a is very good. But it won't cure your problem. If one cannot get the job done with a 58, there's something wrong (band is too loud, monitor and main needs some cuts on a 31 band or parametric EQ, acoustics are terrible,....).

    The 3630 is the most reviled comp on the planet. Even a Behringer is better. And it won't cure your problem. A comp keeps the loud parts from getting too loud, but it does not help make the quiet parts louder. See paragraph 1.

    No, you don't run a compressor in the effects loop. You use the channel insert (but it will also affect that channel in the monitors) or the insert on the vocal subgroup. (Or as a last resort use it on the main mix.)
  12. Thanks guys!
  13. JackANSI


    Sep 12, 2006
    I don't think anyone mentioned it.. Try turning the instruments down. Also if your graphic EQ looks like a smiley face, turn it into a frown.

    I think you're gonna find a compressor is going to cause more feedback in your situation, but its not a bad thing to have in the rack when you have a singer who gets powerful occasionally.

    Less effects is usually better.

    And the 3630 got a bad rap when they went cheap on the components. But most the recent ones I've opened to modify, already have THAT chips in them and don't sound too bad at all.
  14. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    No. Accentuating the mid freq´s will only get you serious feedback. Just make it flat and start over. Your goal is to get rid of the most offending freq´s...
  15. JackANSI


    Sep 12, 2006
    If you boost the vocal range you might get a bit more out of it though. The PA is probably all out of oomph if the singers don't end up being the problem.
  16. ...a decent compressor, like a DBX 1066, will also have an 'expander' section, which WILL make quiet parts louder. (I miss my 1066.)

    Having been a vocalist (and faderhead) long before I was a bassist, here's what I reccomend: Good dynamic mic (condensers are too sensistive for live use IME), compressor (I reccomend DBX, and am not affiliated with them - I just love their product), three-band paramatric EQ (the mixer's channel strip is usually fine), and a reverb or a delay. You can go outboard, but any decent 'live' mixer will have good enough FX on it.

    If you want to get really fancy, throw a tube pre in there between the mic and the comp.

    As per compressor placement in the signal chain - I actually like to toss it between the mic and the board - or between the pre and the board - but that's just me.
  17. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    A comp compresses the signal making the loud parts softer, AND after turning up the "make up gain" for the level-loss, soft parts louder.

    The expander on most compressors (including the 1066) is downward-expansion. Designed to make levels below threshold (background noise etc.) quieter.
  18. TimmyP


    Nov 4, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    That's where the turning them up part comes in :)

    You are correct. It's a little like a gate, except it turns the level down just a little instead of a lot.
  19. I don't know how to do that, putting a comp between the mic and mixer. What few pics I've been able to find of the back panel on comps show line in and out. So what would I do, use adpters to go from the mic cable to 1/4" and then either run a guitar cable from the out to the mixer or another adapter
    and then use a mic cable from the comp to the mixer?

    Several said not to run it in my effects loop. Don't forget this is just for jamming every few months or so so I don't want to sink a whole lot of money into it and the board, though ancient, seems to do a fine job, way louder than we need. The instruments aren't too loud. For that matter, the vocals are LOUD enough, they just don't seem very full or warm.

    I am planning on a couple of EV 767a mics. I may spring for an outboard eq. Can I run an eq in the loop?
    Some of the advice on how to run the comp won't work on my board. It's 6 channels with a hi and a low impedence input for each channel. Three band eq per channel with a master 7 band eq. Monitor out. Effects loop. That's about it.
  20. TimmyP


    Nov 4, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    A comp never goes between the mic and mixer. Neither does it go in an effects loop. It is inserted in a channel or subgroup, as previously mentioned. (It can also be used in the main insert, or in line with the main out.) The manual for the compressor with show you how these connections are made.

    No, you cannot run an EQ in the effects loop. It goes in an insert, or in line after the main out. The loop is for effects. The EQ manual will show this.

    Before you do anything, download and read the manuals for the gear you own or are thinking of buying.

    If the vocals don't have the tone you want, then you need to make the appropriate adjustments. Listen for what there is too much of, and EQ it out. With most any live vocal mic, there will be too much upper bass/lower midrange (200Hz), and too much upper midrange (often somewhere between 4kHz and 8 kHz).

    And don't waste your money on a 15 band EQ. (But if you insist, please buy one of mine.)

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