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Author Topic: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.  (Read 3477 times)

Debbie Dunkley

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IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« on: February 02, 2018, 04:06:53 pm »

Just how reliable is the limiter built into a Sennheiser EW300 iem body pack?
It has been brought up before but I am wondering if it an be relied upon in the following situation.

We carry a rack full of iem wireless transmitters as you probably are all aware and it gets used 95% of the time. We hardly ever use in house PA systems.
However, on the rare occasion the guys play through provided PA and they either use wedges or their own individual iem systems (those who have them)
At a particular bar that band A plays, we know the sound guy really well and he can be trusted to run the iem levels safely so the singer in that band and Chris bring their individual iem systems, drummer is hard wired and guitar player uses a wedge. Works out great.
Same bar for band B and I have to bring everything but speakers and give the sound guy left and right - mainly because everyone but the singer in that band has an iem system and also  I run various special FX etc so it just seem the best way to go.
However, a show is coming up with band B that has an in house system.
I am preparing to bring all but speakers again and it occurred to me that the singer could use my spare iem system BUT begs the question.
If we do not know the sound guy or what his ability level is, can we trust everyones ears to him? If he suddenly shoves someones aux fader up high, I doubt the limiter would save them - would it?
If this is the case, what do you guys - in bands using iems - do when offered PA and an unknown sound guy??


Or........ do I hope he'll let me mix??
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2018, 05:18:39 pm »

Just how reliable is the limiter built into a Sennheiser EW300 iem body pack?
It has been brought up before but I am wondering if it an be relied upon in the following situation.

We carry a rack full of iem wireless transmitters as you probably are all aware and it gets used 95% of the time. We hardly ever use in house PA systems.
However, on the rare occasion the guys play through provided PA and they either use wedges or their own individual iem systems (those who have them)
At a particular bar that band A plays, we know the sound guy really well and he can be trusted to run the iem levels safely so the singer in that band and Chris bring their individual iem systems, drummer is hard wired and guitar player uses a wedge. Works out great.
Same bar for band B and I have to bring everything but speakers and give the sound guy left and right - mainly because everyone but the singer in that band has an iem system and also  I run various special FX etc so it just seem the best way to go.
However, a show is coming up with band B that has an in house system.
I am preparing to bring all but speakers again and it occurred to me that the singer could use my spare iem system BUT begs the question.
If we do not know the sound guy or what his ability level is, can we trust everyones ears to him? If he suddenly shoves someones aux fader up high, I doubt the limiter would save them - would it?
If this is the case, what do you guys - in bands using iems - do when offered PA and an unknown sound guy??


Or........ do I hope he'll let me mix??

You mix your band.  End of discussion.  If he has a pissy attitude about it go to the promoter/bar manager and explain that YOU are the sole and exclusive soundperson for the band, either you mix or the band does not play.
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frank kayser

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2018, 05:41:57 pm »

You mix your band.  End of discussion.  If he has a pissy attitude about it go to the promoter/bar manager and explain that YOU are the sole and exclusive soundperson for the band, either you mix or the band does not play.


I guess the question is whether you are able split off and separately mix monitors for your crew.  I would say that would be the minimum amount of control needed to go forward and also protect your band's hearing.


I hesitate just a bit as Tim's answer brings up ugly memories of a BE coming in to "my" venue and really screwing the pooch.  We know of your talent, ability and care, so Tim's statement holds for you to claim exclusivity.


I'm very interested in what others say to this.  (and the technical question of the limiters...)


frank
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2018, 06:32:07 pm »


I guess the question is whether you are able split off and separately mix monitors for your crew.  I would say that would be the minimum amount of control needed to go forward and also protect your band's hearing.


I hesitate just a bit as Tim's answer brings up ugly memories of a BE coming in to "my" venue and really screwing the pooch.  We know of your talent, ability and care, so Tim's statement holds for you to claim exclusivity.


I'm very interested in what others say to this.  (and the technical question of the limiters...)


frank

Don't let the pooch in the building, no matter who claims it as emotional support critter... ;)

Frank, I'm sympathetic.  It's no fun being blamed for the ugly audio that are the results of a Band Engineer's mix or requested system changes.  I've done some shitty mixes of my own and don't claim any superiority but I think some BEs got their gig because they had a packed bag and passport...  At any rate as a system provider it's not usually my job or my place to make or enforce "artistic expectations" of a BE.  That said, you were likely hired by your client because (among other things) they liked the audible product you delivered and to hear a subjectively worse mix/high SPL/feedback/etc can make your skin crawl... But at some point the Finger of Blame will get pointed at you because you're The Sound Guy - you could have been in Antarctica at the time but it's still on you. ::)

If Debbie's band is playing on another band's rig as a convenience to the promoter/bar/bridezilla there is a bit more courtesy involved but in the end her band should make it clear that Debbie is their employee and that it's expected that she will perform her duties.  If this is a bar's house rig then there might be some Local Ego involved but until there is a conversation we're just speculating.

Kind of like her New Year's Eve DJ gig, a lot of this can get sussed out with a phone call.  If this is a venue gig & venue rig, and close by, it might be worth a personal visit to hear another band and make introductions to the venue Mixerperson.

This situation is why having your IEM mixer/mics/DIs as a permanent part of the band's stage package is a good thing: consistency for the band and Debbie can mix over tablet(s) with PC backup and hand L/R to the venue.  Add a split for those times when you want another console for FOH when the need/money is there.
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Helge A Bentsen

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2018, 06:38:41 pm »

Is this really an issue?

I haven't run into a sound guy who can't mix IEMs in about 10 years or so, so I would not expect this to be an issue.

I'd be very suprised if I ran into this since nearly every band I meet that's under 30 either use IEMs or have tried it on several occations.
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frank kayser

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2018, 08:03:48 pm »

Don't let the pooch in the building, no matter who claims it as emotional support critter... ;)

Frank, I'm sympathetic.  It's no fun being blamed for the ugly audio that are the results of a Band Engineer's mix or requested system changes.  I've done some shitty mixes of my own and don't claim any superiority but I think some BEs got their gig because they had a packed bag and passport...  At any rate as a system provider it's not usually my job or my place to make or enforce "artistic expectations" of a BE.  That said, you were likely hired by your client because (among other things) they liked the audible product you delivered and to hear a subjectively worse mix/high SPL/feedback/etc can make your skin crawl... But at some point the Finger of Blame will get pointed at you because you're The Sound Guy - you could have been in Antarctica at the time but it's still on you. ::)

If Debbie's band is playing on another band's rig as a convenience to the promoter/bar/bridezilla there is a bit more courtesy involved but in the end her band should make it clear that Debbie is their employee and that it's expected that she will perform her duties.  If this is a bar's house rig then there might be some Local Ego involved but until there is a conversation we're just speculating.

Kind of like her New Year's Eve DJ gig, a lot of this can get sussed out with a phone call.  If this is a venue gig & venue rig, and close by, it might be worth a personal visit to hear another band and make introductions to the venue Mixerperson.

This situation is why having your IEM mixer/mics/DIs as a permanent part of the band's stage package is a good thing: consistency for the band and Debbie can mix over tablet(s) with PC backup and hand L/R to the venue.  Add a split for those times when you want another console for FOH when the need/money is there.
Points articulated well, Tim.  As with everything else, it is about human relations, and about setting boundaries, doing one's job, and taking one for the team, if it comes to that. As you alluded to, a little advance and and diplomacy, can make almost anything work better.


Having the band's permanent stage package as outlined above is a necessity, as it lets Debbie (and anyone else so prepared) deal with either a good or bad situation equally.   A band I just recently began working with started just that discussion today - hence my renewed interest in IEMs.


Many thanks for the additional insights.
frank

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brian maddox

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2018, 08:33:22 pm »

Just how reliable is the limiter built into a Sennheiser EW300 iem body pack?
It has been brought up before but I am wondering if it an be relied upon in the following situation.

...

Okay, time for my little lecture on the subject, but this is an area that i feel many people really don't fully understand, so...

There are several Gain stages in an RF IEM system and it's important to understand ALL of them if you're going to make sure no one gets the "IEM Spike Of Death"

First there's the mix output buss.  There should be some type of compressor/limiter on that buss and you should be setting your levels so that you're introducing a few dB of compression just to smooth out the mix and set the limiter to prevent overloading/distorting the input stage of your transmitter.  However, this by itself will NOT protect your performer's ears in any kind of significant way.

Secondly, most IEM transmitters have a limiter on their audio inputs.  Assuming your input levels are set correctly, this will prevent overloading the actual RF Modulation stage of your transmitter, which helps prevent all sorts of weird stereo artifacts and other unpleasant things.  But again, this by itself will NOT protect your performer's ears in any kind of significant way.

Lastly, Many IEM receivers include a limiter as well.  This is located between the output of the RF Receiver and the headphone volume control.  Unfortunately, this limiter's functionality is often, ummm, Limited.  The Sennheiser G3 does provide for 3 levels of sensitivity, which is better than most but still not great.  This is the limiter with the best chance of protecting your performer's ears.  BUT, only if the other gain stages have been set correctly.

The easiest way i can think to explain this is by example.  Often Sound Techs will elect to send a lower signal to the IEM transmitter to "provide for more headroom".  This results in a fairly low signal being transmitted and therefore a relatively low signal being received by the beltpack.  Often this level will be 15-20 dB below the threshold of the limiter in the beltpack, which means that it is essentially not doing anything.  Of course the performer will turn the volume on his/her pack up to compensate for the lower level and you've got a recipe for OW!

So, all we have to do is set the limiter to engage at the mixer or the transmitter so that it kicks in on loud noises, right?  Well, that'll solve the dropped mic problem.  But what it won't prevent is the [far more common] RF hit at the receiver that will happily use up every last bit of that extra 20 dB of gain, making your performer very unhappy.  Ask me how i know...

This is why it's super important to play close attention to your gain structure AT EVERY POINT in the signal chain.  The output compressor/limiter on your console should be tickling the lights.  The output meter should be safely in the "Yellow".  The limiter on the transmitter should be tickling the lights and the transmitter's input level should also be peaking in the "yellow".  And your receiver's limiter should only be a 2-3 dB away from kicking in when everything is at full tilt boogie.

That last point requires taking time to also adapt to whatever IEM driver your performer is using.  Driver Sensitivity varies significantly, so identical settings on two mixes do NOT equal identical volumes at someone's ears.  Taking the time during a rehearsal to make sure that each mix is set to an ideal gain structure and ideal limiter settings is time well spent. 

Now, to relate all this to Debbie's post.  I would say this.  If your transmitter input gain and limiter is set correctly along with your receiver's gain and limiting set correctly, you should be able to keep anything dangerous from happening to those mixes.  Doesn't mean they'll sound good, but that's another topic altogether.  I concur that in a situation like this, ideally you would still control at least the monitor mixes.  But regardless, i wouldn't turn over control of my transmitters input levels or limiters to anyone under any circumstances.  That's what's going to protect your band members, far more than anything that happens upstream from there.

Good Luck!


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Dave Garoutte

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2018, 09:31:04 pm »

Nice explication Brian.
Thanks.
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Debbie Dunkley

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2018, 10:06:05 pm »

Yes - very nice... thank you Brian and thank you everyone for your comments.
I'll try to contact the sound person ahead of time and explain that it will be much easier if l mix from my iPad as usual to give me control of iems and FOH levels and give the house 2 channels. 
I pay a lot of attention to gain structure throughout each signal path of my system and I'd prefer to rely on what I have than what someone else has.
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: IEM system safe levels in the hands of random sound guy.
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2018, 11:58:57 pm »

Yes - very nice... thank you Brian and thank you everyone for your comments.
I'll try to contact the sound person ahead of time and explain that it will be much easier if l mix from my iPad as usual to give me control of iems and FOH levels and give the house 2 channels. 
I pay a lot of attention to gain structure throughout each signal path of my system and I'd prefer to rely on what I have than what someone else has.

Many many small acts today mix their own monitors (often from personal devices) and send a split to house.  This to me is minimum.

You could also bring your QU Pac and do this or just mix the whole show and send a L/R to the house, problem solved.

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