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Author Topic: Dealing with a quiet pastor  (Read 328 times)

Phil Zastrow

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Dealing with a quiet pastor
« on: March 17, 2023, 12:28:27 PM »

I've been researching and not finding many recommendations.  We have a small to mid size sanctuary. Using 2 Iconyx IC16-RN arrays. Our pastors are using Countryman E6 W5 headset mics. Our younger pastor projects very well. The issue is with our senior pastor. His voice has gotten quieter over the years. It's gotten to the point that increasing gain on his mic is causing feedback issues. We are using a Behringer XR18 for mixing. I've tried EQing out the feedback bands but am at the limit.  Are there any other recommendations with mixing that could help this issue? He's been approached regarding speaking up, but that has been met with resistance.

TIA
Phil
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Ike Zimbel

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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2023, 01:03:20 PM »

I've been researching and not finding many recommendations.  We have a small to mid size sanctuary. Using 2 Iconyx IC16-RN arrays. Our pastors are using Countryman E6 W5 headset mics. Our younger pastor projects very well. The issue is with our senior pastor. His voice has gotten quieter over the years. It's gotten to the point that increasing gain on his mic is causing feedback issues. We are using a Behringer XR18 for mixing. I've tried EQing out the feedback bands but am at the limit.  Are there any other recommendations with mixing that could help this issue? He's been approached regarding speaking up, but that has been met with resistance.

TIA
Phil
For starters I recommend using high-pass and low-pass filters to limit the bandwidth that the mic will pick up. Try something like 150 Hz high-pass and 3 KHz low pass. If you are using up a lot of your Eq bands taking out high frequency squeals, you are basically wasting those filters because there's no content in the man's voice up there. Ditto if you're EQ'ing out LF rumble. The HPF may need some adjustment to make sure that you are not taking out usable program and "warmth" but you can probably get pretty aggressive with the LPF.
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brian maddox

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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2023, 01:51:00 PM »

I've been researching and not finding many recommendations.  We have a small to mid size sanctuary. Using 2 Iconyx IC16-RN arrays. Our pastors are using Countryman E6 W5 headset mics. Our younger pastor projects very well. The issue is with our senior pastor. His voice has gotten quieter over the years. It's gotten to the point that increasing gain on his mic is causing feedback issues. We are using a Behringer XR18 for mixing. I've tried EQing out the feedback bands but am at the limit.  Are there any other recommendations with mixing that could help this issue? He's been approached regarding speaking up, but that has been met with resistance.

TIA
Phil

Physics is a cruel taskmaster. As techs our first instinct is to fight back with technology, but there are always limits to what technology can do.

There's a well worn saying around here. "the loudest sound at the microphone wins". If your Pastor has a quiet voice and the amplification of his voice is louder at his microphone than his voice is, you're going to have feedback issues. A great exercise in these situations is to stand right next to your pastor and have him speak through the system. If you're hearing more of him from the PA than you are from him standing right next to you, you're going to struggle to get much more level out of the PA without feedback issues.

So, assuming the PA can't be moved and that it can't be replaced with a system that has better pattern control at a wider frequency range, you're left with what I call "soft" solutions rather than tech ones.

Humans are very adaptable to different volume levels and we tend to "acclimate" quickly to whatever volume we are presented with and that becomes "normal" and we equate volume changes from there to be quiet or loud regardless of what their actual SPL is. This can be leveraged in situation like you're describing if you're clever about it.

Take a look at what volume you are running the various elements of your service at and see if you can lower the volume levels in certain sections, especially the sections immediately preceding the Pastor's message. The changes need not be drastic. 2-3 dB can be a huge help if you're teetering on the edge of feedback. You'd be amazed at how quiet you can actually run your PA during a message and have the intelligibility for the room still be completely acceptable. A simple test I often do is to stand in the back of the room and see if I can repeat what the person is saying word for word without difficulty. If I can, it's loud enough, even if it doesn't "feel" loud enough.

Now if you're in a church that relies on "fiery" preaching, you may be in a different place. But again, paying close attention to the volume level that you are setting as "normal" can make the more energetic parts of the message seem much louder than they actually are and create the same effect.

To be clear, I would focus on lowering the level of the whole service if possible regardless of who is speaking. So even when you have your "louder" Pastor, make sure that the level I the room is very similar to the level of your "quiet" pastor. Again, you're trying to move the hearing threshold of the people in the room so that their "normal" is lower.

Final word: This trick only works if you're subtle about it. The second it's clearly noticeable someone will say "I can't hear" [even when they can] and you'll be forced back to exactly where you started. You may want to do this progressively over the course of several weeks with each week being just a little bit quieter overall than the previous week. Maybe just .5 dB at a time. After several weeks of this you will have bought he headroom you need to ameliorate your gain before feedback problem.

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Brian Jojade

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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2023, 02:35:50 PM »

Both posts are solid advice.  Limiting the bandwidth of the audio can be HUGE.  Making sure you're not trying to cheat physics of the 'loudest sound at the mic' rule is critical as well.

Now, another trick that is an option is adding distortion to the signal. When you add distortion, it adds energy to the signal, but doesn't impact feedback levels.  It's surprising how much distortion you can actually add and it still sounds intelligible.
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Matthias McCready

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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2023, 03:01:59 PM »

I've been researching and not finding many recommendations.  We have a small to mid size sanctuary. Using 2 Iconyx IC16-RN arrays. Our pastors are using Countryman E6 W5 headset mics. Our younger pastor projects very well. The issue is with our senior pastor. His voice has gotten quieter over the years. It's gotten to the point that increasing gain on his mic is causing feedback issues. We are using a Behringer XR18 for mixing. I've tried EQing out the feedback bands but am at the limit.  Are there any other recommendations with mixing that could help this issue? He's been approached regarding speaking up, but that has been met with resistance.

TIA
Phil

Hey Phil,

Here is my recommendation: say, "no." We can do this, nicely, by simply adding a boundary.  :)

When feedback occurs it is independent of the person speaking; it is dependent on the location of the speaker vs the microphone, volume level, and microphone used.

Essentially that level of gain before feedback, lets say "16dB of amplification" will amplify that person 16dB louder whether they whisper or yell. It is independent of them.

While it seems you have done this step already, ring out your mic. To do this I place the mic where the speaker speaks from in a similar orientation. Turn the system up until you get your first ringing frequency, and pull I that frequency back. A few notes for this process:

1) I would recommend using a separate EQ from your channel EQ (ie on your X32 insert a graphic EQ or send this channel through a group before it hits the PA). This way the channel EQ can be kept to focus on the tonality of the voice, and as long as you are not adding gain with your EQ moves you never have to worry about having to remember which cuts where made for feedback points vs tonality.
2) Any changes you make here will not make the source sound better; so don't go to town here.
3) Once you find your first few feedback points, you have hit the point of diminishing returns. Ringing out a mic often nets 3 to 6dB of additional headroom, that is it! More cuts usually equate to an overall reduction of gain, rather than finding those few problem frequencies, and at an extreme detriment to the tonality of the source.

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Once you have rung your mic out, gain the channel so that you can "peg" the channel fader to +10 so that it can be achieved without any feedback (ie if the mic was 1dB louder feedback would start). Why? Is this the best gain staging? No... But it gives you a solid and fixed boundary, "sorry pastor, this is all the volume I can give you, I wish I could give you more, but the fader is up all the way." You are nice, sympathetic, and understanding... and you have also (nicely) said, "no."

---

Sure you could throw money or gear at this problem, but that is finding a solution for a symptom rather than the problem.

---

Hope this helps,

MATH
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Mike Caldwell

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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2023, 12:33:55 AM »

At least he is using a headset mic!!!

Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2023, 12:44:46 AM »

This is a copy and paste from something I wrote a while ago, it differs slightly from Matts method.

The technique that I use for EQing a system is Ė I EQ the system for linearity, in other words what goes in is what comes out. Or as close to that as I can get. I use a software program called SMAART. This can be done by ear also but not as quick and as accurate as when using SMAART. I will assume that you do not have SMAART.

So to do this by ear - I would usually play a bunch of different tacks from different CDs that I am very familiar with the way they sound. What you are trying to do here is to get the system to accurately reproduce the way the CD sounds. While playing the CD I then would listen for the things that donít sound quite right. I like to only cut frequencies when doing system EQing. To pinpoint the offending tone sometimes it helps to boost the suspected offending frequency when hunting for the right one. So boosting the frequencies to make the bad sound stick out more. Sometimes you find that it isnít the one you thought and you need to try another one. This means bring up the control of that frequency and if its not the right one bring it back down, when you find the frequency you are looking for you would then cut that frequency, how much depends on what it sounds like. I like to be conservative but you can get the feel rather quickly as to how much of a cut to make. When you are all done using this method you should hopefully find that you havenít hacked the EQ to death. Also try hitting the bypass switch to see the difference with the EQ in or out of the system. It may be a very minimal difference.

I then insert (on the vocal Mix Bus) an EQ and EQ that Mix Bus for gain before feedback. The way I do that by ear is to have a vocal mic on stage that is on thru the system (thru the vocal Mix Bus) and I put another mic into another channel thru the vocal Mix Bus back at the mixer. I then, while using my voice at a decent level, slowly bring up the mic on stage till it starts to slightly ring (while I am making various noises and talking) I then find that frequency and cut it a bit and continue this till I start to get multiple frequencies ringing at the same time. This is usually the point at which you canít get any farther without hacking the EQ to death and screwing up the sound. All this while I am paying attention to how my voice sounds. This is to give your vocal mics the best GBF (Gain Before Feedback) that you can reasonably expect. If you do this without exciting the system with your voice you will be surprised at the frequencies that pop up when a person gets on stage and talks into the mic. I find most micíed instruments donít usually have a problem with gain before feedback and playback (CD) and instruments donít need the additional EQ that the vocals do.  When more EQs are available you can breakup what needs to be EQed for GBF and do them in each Mix Bus.  If you try to do a best gain before feedback EQ on the whole system you take the life out of playback and a lot of instruments. Now of course this is assuming you have that kind of flexibility to the system.

(For church)
If you were doing the church system using lavaliere mics on the preacher/speaker and handheld or in stand mics like the SM58 for the singers, I would route each of these types of mics to its own Mix Bus. In other words you would have a wireless lav Mix Bus and a singing Mix Bus, and if you want to you can put the instruments in whatever Mix Bus you have leftover. It depends on how many Mix Bus that you have. I then EQ each vocal Mix Bus separately. Then the channel EQ on the mixer can be used for tonal shaping for each mic.
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2023, 07:50:06 PM »

A few more tricks, in no particular order:
  • Sometimes a few milliseconds of delay can overcome feedback issues. Sound travels around 1100 feet per second, so you can figure that 1 millisecond of delay is functionally equivalent to moving the loudspeaker 1 foot further away from the microphone. More than about 12 milliseconds of delay begins to be noticeable, so I wouldn't do more than that. With delay, you may have to change your EQ profile.
  • You might be able to move the pulpit/lectern/pastor a few feet front/back/left/right. That will often change the feedback profile. Of course, this doesn't really work if your pastor moves about the stage.
  • Move or change your loudspeakers. Were they installed with the LAR ("Looks About Right") method, was the placement calculated according to room measurements and propagation patterns, or were they modeled in something like SMAART? If LAR was used, speaker modeling and changing the placement might be a worthwhile investment. Again, moving the speakers will change the EQ profile.

Most modern equipment is pretty linear in terms of gain. That is, the gain control -- regardless of where it is -- shouldn't color the signal appreciably. 6 dB of gain in the wireless bodypack should have no different effect than 6 dB at the mixer preamp, or 6 dB of channel faders, or 6 dB of master gain... though you'll want to take as much gain as you can early in the chain to reduce the inherent noise that you amplify and maximize your headroom and resolution at the channel faders.
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Re: Dealing with a quiet pastor
¬ę Reply #7 on: March 28, 2023, 07:50:06 PM ¬Ľ


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