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Author Topic: High School Auditorium sound system  (Read 18536 times)

Anthony Forchielli

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2013, 01:04:02 am »

I am often hired for audio rental and operation for musicals at high school and when i arrive find a brand new system that had just been installed.  It's often great components that just aren't right for the function of the school.  Speakers that are behind the front of the apron of the stage (causing feedback with lapels or theatre mic's instantly), an astonishingly bizarre lack of graphic eq's on the mains and a strange patch system at FOH.  It's just bizarre to me.  Why wouldn't there be a graph on the mains? Why is there a 40 channel premium audio desk sitting at FOH wired with fire alarm cable as XLR to the stage?  Because they mark up the high price components and go cheap on the installation and cabling.  I've gotten sick looking at invoices i see school's pay for these installations. 
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2013, 01:20:52 am »

I am often hired for audio rental and operation for musicals at high school and when i arrive find a brand new system that had just been installed.  It's often great components that just aren't right for the function of the school.  Speakers that are behind the front of the apron of the stage (causing feedback with lapels or theatre mic's instantly), an astonishingly bizarre lack of graphic eq's on the mains and a strange patch system at FOH.  It's just bizarre to me.  Why wouldn't there be a graph on the mains? Why is there a 40 channel premium audio desk sitting at FOH wired with fire alarm cable as XLR to the stage?  Because they mark up the high price components and go cheap on the installation and cabling.  I've gotten sick looking at invoices i see school's pay for these installations.

Systems in most schools are designed to be used with microphones on lecterns.  And they are designed to be as fool proof as possible.  Reducing the amount of fiddly bits means less training and after-sale hand holding.

The rest, installation materials and methods... eh... I've seen some odd things over the years and I've seen things done right. 
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2013, 08:46:23 am »

an astonishingly bizarre lack of graphic eq's on the mains and a strange patch system at FOH.  It's just bizarre to me.  Why wouldn't there be a graph on the mains?
In all of my installs I have NEVER put a graphic eq on the mains at FOH .

That is just ASKING for all sorts of problems.  If the system is setup properly-then the operator should be able to do a fine job with the console controls.

Now granted I have seen all sorts of just stupid things that were sold as a bill of goods to take the customers money.

Such as DSPs that are used a piece of wire.  Not a single thing in them-no eq-no highpass-no limiter no nothing!.

I guess just having it in the system is "supposed" to make it better.

Some friends of mine just replaced a system in which the speakers used were just fine-they were just used improperly.

They redeployed the cabinets AND TUNED IT and the customer was amazed at the difference.

It was a system with full range cabinets and subs-with delay rings etc.  The ONLY processing block in the DSP was a low pass on the sub.

At least they did THAT!  No delay no nothing else.

Don't blame the tool if it is not used properly.
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Mark McFarlane

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2013, 04:34:06 pm »

What's the problem with the existing setup? 
...

I had a local school 2 years ago ask me to recommend replacement speakers because their current system sounded horrible. I went to visit and listen. Noticed the Bose speaker processor in the rack not connected to anything. Went home, soldered up a couple cables, hooked it up, and the problem was solved.  1 hour of work.  They are still happily using the system.

Got called in 4 years ago to a performing arts /movie theatre because their system sucked.  Partly the same problem, they bought a QSC DSP (spec'd by the system designer) to run some massive 3-way QSC speakers, subs, and surrounds.  A really nice speaker system,  The DSP was in the rack, and the tech always turned it on every morning (it was on his todo list).  The only cable connected to the DSP was the power cable. Screwed up by the installer.  Been that way for years.  I had the theatre management contact the contractor and they said "its just fine as it is, we put a dolby processor in the projector room and we used an RTA to tune the speakers".  The projection rooms sends L,R + surround cables.  Full range was being sent to each of these massive 3-way systems (parallel daisy chained at the speakers) + sub, no crossovers, no time alignment,... "but it's fine".

Hire a pro to first make sure the current system is (a) set up properly, and (b)  operated correctly.  A large percent of typical problems lie here.

If that quick visit doesn't fix the problem, hire the consultant to gather full requirements from all the various users of the gym (principal speech, pep rally, concerts, ...)  You MUST do this before even attempting to consider what equipment to get.

One huge benefit of a using consultant (that doesn't sell hardware or do installations) instead of a contractor is the consultant works for you and places your needs first. A contractor is typically not your champion.  The consultant will act as your champion and, if you desire, project manager through the contractor evaluation, purchase and installation process to make sure what you get imatches your requirements.

For the record, I am not a systems consultant, but I have huge respect for guys like Brad and I understand why their business adds significant value.

Like any other project, the basic steps are: requirements, design, implementation, testing, & training.  Do a bad job on any of the steps and you are screwed.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2013, 04:40:01 pm by Mark McFarlane »
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Ed Walters

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2013, 01:06:45 pm »

Now granted I have seen all sorts of just stupid things that were sold as a bill of goods to take the customers money.
Such as DSPs that are used a piece of wire.  Not a single thing in them-no eq-no highpass-no limiter no nothing!.
I guess just having it in the system is "supposed" to make it better.

+1000

One of my big customers became my customer after wrangling for a year with the original contractor on a $1.1M install. Every room that had a sound system had a Crown PIP IQ3 dsp in the amp(s). Every single one was straight wire, no processing. We added it up; at dealer cost, they had well over $20K in unused DSP in the building.  Funny how after tuning the rooms, using the DSP that was already there, the bad sound just went away.....and ten years later they still call me first when they need new gear, or something fixed, or whatever......

Ed Walters
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2013, 01:27:47 pm »

+1000

One of my big customers became my customer after wrangling for a year with the original contractor on a $1.1M install. Every room that had a sound system had a Crown PIP IQ3 dsp in the amp(s). Every single one was straight wire, no processing. We added it up; at dealer cost, they had well over $20K in unused DSP in the building.  Funny how after tuning the rooms, using the DSP that was already there, the bad sound just went away.....and ten years later they still call me first when they need new gear, or something fixed, or whatever......

Ed Walters

I made a service call to a Native American casino after a lightning strike "reset" the DSP.  I was able to retrieve the settings, do a factory restore of the unit and manually enter the settings.... but while tracing the signal wiring I found a number of devices installed in the racks whose only connections were power cords.  No signal wiring at all in the back.  I estimated that the original contractor sold them about $10k worth of devices that did nothing except burn a pilot light.  We debated throwing them under the bus, and in the end I wrote up a report for the casino and never heard anything back.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

g'bye, Dick Rees

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2013, 01:37:01 pm »

I made a service call to a Native American casino after a lightning strike "reset" the DSP.  I was able to retrieve the settings, do a factory restore of the unit and manually enter the settings.... but while tracing the signal wiring I found a number of devices installed in the racks whose only connections were power cords.  No signal wiring at all in the back.  I estimated that the original contractor sold them about $10k worth of devices that did nothing except burn a pilot light.  We debated throwing them under the bus, and in the end I wrote up a report for the casino and never heard anything back.

I'm going to make a speculation regarding the phrase in bold letters.

I have more than once made a deal to repair, upgrade, tune and adjust an installed system, payment to be for repairs, purchase and my hours.  The repairs and purchases were always covered, but occasionally they'd just decide that since the stuff was in place, they didn't need me to spend any more hours on finishing the job. 

Pointing out the fallacies involved in purchasing gear which would not be utilized made no difference.  Be it church, synagogue, school or casino, idiocy is not dependent on denomination, tribe or education.

They'd reach a certain point and just no longer respond.

I no longer do anyone any such "favors"....   
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2013, 01:47:39 pm »

I'm going to make a speculation regarding the phrase in bold letters.

I have more than once made a deal to repair, upgrade, tune and adjust an installed system, payment to be for repairs, purchase and my hours.  The repairs and purchases were always covered, but occasionally they'd just decide that since the stuff was in place, they didn't need me to spend any more hours on finishing the job. 

Pointing out the fallacies involved in purchasing gear which would not be utilized made no difference.  Be it church, synagogue, school or casino, idiocy is not dependent on denomination, tribe or education.

They'd reach a certain point and just no longer respond.

I no longer do anyone any such "favors"....

This install had been in place for 4 or 5 years by the time this all happened.  My guess is casino management or tribal leadership decided there was nothing to be gained by engaging the original design/build contractor.  The install had been accepted and paid for.

There was no additional acoustic value to be had by actually connecting the devices.  They were there to fill rack space and pad the contractor's bottom line.

Our local voters approved a big school bond issue that paid for lots of needed repairs and neglected upgrades to our school's performance facilities.  Because the audio portion came under the electrical subcontract, there is a fair bit of decent gear that is not set correctly or at all.  The audio subcontractor installed everything, "sound" came out of the speakers and all the pilot lights in the rack are on.  Mission accomplished.  Normally I'd look at this as a way to sell proper alignment and optimization services, but the school district has no money for that because "that was done under the bond program."  Well it's all FUBAR, but because sound comes from the speakers it was accepted.  Some of the installs were done by a reputable firm and their stuff sounds much better.  Not sure who the electricians found to do some of the other schools, but they sound only marginally better than the 40 year old systems they replaced.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Tom Bourke

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2013, 03:21:00 pm »

I'm going to make a speculation regarding the phrase in bold letters.

I have more than once made a deal to repair, upgrade, tune and adjust an installed system, payment to be for repairs, purchase and my hours.  The repairs and purchases were always covered, but occasionally they'd just decide that since the stuff was in place, they didn't need me to spend any more hours on finishing the job. 

Pointing out the fallacies involved in purchasing gear which would not be utilized made no difference.  Be it church, synagogue, school or casino, idiocy is not dependent on denomination, tribe or education.

They'd reach a certain point and just no longer respond.

I no longer do anyone any such "favors"....
I have been on a different side of this.  I use to work for a school and installed several sound systems for them.  Typically I would go for decent gear and less of it.  Example our auditorium had passive EV cabinets as a cluster, single QSC amp, and a shure dual channel DSP.  It fit the room and the needs perfect.  After it was no longer in my care they started having problems.  "blown speakers" was what they said.  I went back several times, each time some one had gone in and routed around the DSP for a show and then wired it back in with the booth delay feeding the main cluster.  I also found that some one had added a narrow boost at 10k to ALL the channels, presets, and scenes in the digital console.

I could go on and on but the point is, even with a properly installed system, some one can come threw and "know better."  I saw many instances of equipment I had wired and tuned correctly, with security locks, sitting in a rack with nothing wired to it.

Now that I have moved on I get a call every once in a while from that school asking my opinion on some proposal to fix some system I had dealt with.  One guy even told the principal he did not know what one of the boxes I installed was and should be replaced with something better!  It was a fannless industrial computer controlling the VOIP paging system and he thought it should be replaced with one of the VOIP boxes that it was infact feeding because he knew what they where!
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Mike Caldwell

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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2013, 09:13:30 pm »

Since the audio and for that matter the video portion of a school bid generally falls under the electrical portion of a bid job some electrical contractors have hastily added a AV department to their operation to pick up that work. One around here has been good for my business as I go out about year after the building is finished and take care of the problems, some examples are:

Cafeteria does not sound "right"
- Installer checks it and says everything meets spec
- I check it and with a couple check one two's in the mic I can  tell about half of the speakers are not working. Everything looks good at the amps, go up to the speakers and and find they are turned off via the tap selector.

System make loud pop when turned off (this is with a power sequencer)
- Installer said the DSP was the problem and needed replaced.
- Power amp was plugged into the first stage of the power sequencer, DSP was fine it just needed programed it still had the factory default program loaded and in full bypass.

Music room system playback sources don't sound good.
- Each of the stereo playback sources had been wired into an XLR connector with one stereo channel to pin 2 and the other stereo channel to pin 3. Talk about phase cancellation,depending on the source material the sound ranged from very thin to non existent to somewhat OK but with the vocals completely canceled out!

A few times I've seen non isolated RCA jacks on a metal plate fastened to a metal box and conduit, wired direct to CAT5 cable running a 100 feet or so from a school gym back to the amp room and they wonder why it never really worked right.


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Re: High School Auditorium sound system
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2013, 09:13:30 pm »


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