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Need help with setting up vocal monitor in rehearsal space

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Radoslaw Andruszkiewicz:
I need help or further suggestions for vocal monitor setup in a rehearsal room. At the moment it goes only against a guitar amp (I sing and play guitar), and that is a 30W / 2x12, which I like cranked; I also wear -15db ear plugs. While of course it is not necessary to play this loud by myself, I will want to join a band at one point, and to my ears that guitar amp at max volume is roughly how I remember my last drummer's volume (before I played bass only, and the drummer wasn't a hard hitter).

My current vocal setup is Shure Super 55 > DBX 286a channel strip (used only as a preamp with 80hz filter, no other processing) > DBX 2031 31 EQ / limiter > EV ZLX 12p. Mic direct into EV produced feedback pretty early, at volumes I can still stand without ear plugs. So I purchased the EQ, and made my attempt at removing feedback points in order to turn up the EV louder to the point I can hear it with ear plugs too. But I ended up turning all the high frequency sliders down, and once I got this muffled sound under 'control' so I could turn up the volume to where I heard something coming up also with ear plugs in, I reached the limit of the system; either the preamp's, EQ's, or monitor's clipping indicator began flashing.

Is there anything I can do here, or am I asking for too much to have a guitar amp cranked, wear ear plugs, and still have a monitor wedge running at audible volume?

Caleb Dueck:

--- Quote from: Radoslaw Andruszkiewicz on July 25, 2021, 04:44:05 PM ---Is there anything I can do here, or am I asking for too much to have a guitar amp cranked, wear ear plugs, and still have a monitor wedge running at audible volume?

--- End quote ---

Move the cranked amp into a room or iso cab, with a pair of nice mics (say, a ribbon and a condenser).  That will give you the tone of the amp, and allow you and others to hear it as the audience will eventually hear it.

That eliminates the root problem (excessive stage wash), and allows you to have a wedge you can hear clearly.  Plus it means your vocal mic isn't picking up a small amount of vocal plus waves of stage wash. 

Ditch the graphic EQ, those don't have a place in a vocal chain. 

Go with a good wedge, like RCF NX12SMA, FBT Ventis 112MA, or better. 

Have the vocal(s), instruments, and everything go through a decent digital console- whatever you plan to use live.  MR18 or better, A&H SQ, etc. 

Luke Geis:
Well...... It's complicated. I have used the EV ZLX before as a monitor and I think it did great for a low-cost monitor. In my case, it also required very little work to get loud enough to have the limiter kick in well before feedback was an issue.

I think there are three things here you can do. The first is to get a vocal mic that is a little more stable. The Shure Super 55 is not my favorite mic... I usually cringe when I see one. They are more for looks than anything. An SM58, an Audio Technica ATM510 or AT2010, or some other more standard microphone will help a little bit I think. Next is to have a mixer, preamp, or DSP device that has simply gain, High-Pass, and a parametric EQ.

With monitors and vocal-only support, it is often best to High-Pass them as high as you practically can. This for me usually ends up around 140hz to 160hz. Next is to have a few parametric EQ filters that you can use to get rid of the problem frequencies only. This will usually end up being around the speaker's crossover point. So 1.6khz to 2khz, is often where you get feedback first. I find I usually don't have to cut much once the first major feedback mode is dialed back. If you find that you have feedback that you chase around with EQ filters, it is often because you just have nowhere left to go. In this case, I take a different approach.

If you just can't dial out the feedback, or enough of it, then you need to dial out what it is that makes the monitor unclear, muffled, or simply not able to cut through the noise. Going with a thin and bright monitor often helps in that case. When you wear earplugs, you get bone conduction in your ears. So you hear a lot of woof and bass more from the bone conduction and having a woofy monitor won't help. The earplugs also cut a lot of the highs out from your ears. So reducing the highs in the monitor definitely won't help. In essence, what you are trying to do is find a way to make what you can get loud be as loud as you can so that it fits in the sonic space that is not being used.

After all that, a Two Notes Captor X is the best thing since sliced bread. You can tame down the SPL, use it for recording, or going straight to FOH and monitoring! It is a great way to get what you want and reduce stage volume.

If what you are after is the visceral experience of a cranked amp and " HOW YOU FEEL " on the stage/performance space, then you need to step back and think about who all this is really for. If you are playing to entertain people, then you have to change how you play to suit the best possible result for your fans and attendees. If you only care about how you feel, then that is fine too, but remember it will affect your fans and the quality of sound. What sounds great to you on stage doesn't always present well in the crowd. As a musician, you have to find that balance between playing for your happiness and the crowd's best sonic experience. Louder is not always better. Often quieter with the ability to be louder is.

Patrick Tracy:
You may need to think about placement and orientation. The corner of the ceiling and back wall can form a retro-reflector (if the surfaces are untreated and you're set up square the the wall), sending sound back down a parallel path and right into the mic. The corner of the ceiling and two walls is an even better retro-reflector. Try placing the wedge a little off center and angled slightly back across the center line of the room.

Also, you need to be aware of the polar pattern of your mic. The Super 55 has a supercardioid pattern, so it has a pickup lobe 180 off axis and rejects best at about 120 off axis. Place your wedge and orient your mic accordingly, being aware that reflections into the main lobe of the mic also matter.

Lowering stage volume is a time tested way to reduce feedback in the monitors and improve the audience mix.

Radoslaw Andruszkiewicz:
Okay, I will say first that I did not have a perfect sound from the monitor, then cranked the amp, and then got feedback issues; what I did is I tried to get as much volume as possible just with the vocals and through the wedge, ended up with weird EQ settings, and then played the guitar amp for comparison. So let's say from now on the guitar part is non issue, either it's the correct volume or direct, or something similar. If I get a great sound / mix, and ruin it with a cranked amp, I will ask on a different forum ;-)

I assumed that since Super 55 is just a Beta 58 in a vintage looking enclosure it will be okay, but changing the microphone is the first thing I'll try. I have access to a Sennheiser's MD421 U5 and E835. Yes, I'm aware of different pick up patterns, so I made sure the 55 is angled towards the speaker, also I used the HF unit as my center rather than the middle of the speaker.

I'm reading now here on the forums, that many of you find the ZLX somewhat limited in volume, so I guess investing in a different speaker is an option, hard to say now what budget. I checked your suggest models; RCF sound s(and looks!) amazing, but really pricey, FBT seems bit more within reach.

Why is 31 band EQ not suitable in a vocal chain?

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