Dave Horn

Dave Horn

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011 05:13 PM

Familiarity breeds respect

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Editor's note:  This is a repost from Seth Godin's blog of February 13, 2011 that was sent to me by a long-time client and friend, and signed "with respect."  I was flattered that he chose me to acknowledge this way, and I thought that I'd share Seth's thoughts with you about the importance of relationships. 



It's nice to sign a letter, "sincerely yours," but far more powerful, I think, to sign it, "with respect." It says something compelling about the recipient, something earned.

I realized the other day that I'd been working with the trio of Megan, Corey and Gil at Squidoo for five years, since we founded the company. And that I've been with Anne, my trusted bookkeeper, for more than ten years, David at GTN for almost as long, and Lisa, my agent, for more than seventeen. In an amazing bit of time travel, I've been doing projects with my friend Red for more than thirty.

Over time, you don't just come to trust valued colleagues like these, they also earn respect. Once you understand someone's sensibilities and goals, it's natural to see the world through their eyes and to embrace their motives and tactics. Once you've seen their work under pressure and in quieter moments, you get a sense for what they believe in. In a world of quick projects and short engagements, this sort of relationship is priceless.

It's easier than ever to start relationships that can turn into ones like these. Just as hard as it has ever been to make them last.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

It's February 2011 and this was a typical headline that we were writing last year.  For those who don't know or don't recall, the FCC banned the use of wireless microphones in the 700 MHZ range (698-806MHZ) effective June 2010.  I won't rehash the issue, but you can find more information about those changes by clicking here.  In short, if you're still using 700MHZ wireless microphones, you're supposed to stop, by law. 

Last week, I met with a church about some improvements to the existing sound system.  To my surprise, they had several wireless systems, almost all of which were in the 700MHZ band.  I asked the primary sound person how they were working, and he said, "They're not working as well as they used to, but I hadn't thought much about it." 

The reality is that both Verizon and AT&T have turned on their 4G towers in the Columbus area, and both own large chunks of the 700MHZ radio spectrum.  Big wireless broadband transmitters versus little wireless microphone transmitters equals wireless microphones that don't work, or that don't work "...as well as they used to..."  If you're currently experiencing interference on your 700MHZ wireless microphones, there's a chance that you could be interfering with public safety and/or wireless broadband transmission. 

I realize that some of you don't know that you're supposed to stop using the microphone systems.  I also realize that you may not want to make the change since you have a significant amount of money tied up in what you have. 

One of these days, you'll have to stop, simply due to the fact that your systems won't work reliably due to outside interference.  And as a friend of mine says, "Cheer up; it's only going to get worse."  700MHZ wireless services are just beginning their full rollout. 

We have solutions.  If you'd like to discuss next steps for migrating away from 700MHZ to other frequency bands, please give us a call today. 

As we move ahead, the world of wireless communications will continue to become more difficult and dicey.  Take a look at these promising solutions from Line 6 (2.4GHz) and from Audio Technica in the new I-band (470-506MHz).  In most areas of the country, they should remain well away from the action, so to speak. 

Monday, February 07, 2011 03:18 PM

It's too loud - you're not too old!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
 
Between my first two years in college, I spent three years on the road with a band as the sound technician. The mid 80’s were the heyday of “Christian rock” and I can’t count the number of times that someone snarled and told me that the sound system was just too loud. 
 
Even though I didn't like the band, I longed to be bold enough to buy the Kiss tour t-shirt that said, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” across the back. I knew that a Kiss shirt would be a worse idea than the backside message, so I never did it – but I thought it often. 
 
The reality is that in today’s churches, it’s often too loud, but not just for the congregation. It’s most often too loud on the platform or stage which forces poor quality sound and higher-than-necessary sound levels for everyone else.
 
One of the primary issues affecting sound quality in churches is the volume wars between the platform musicians. More bass, more guitar, requiring more bass, which makes the drummer play louder, which requires more guitar and then more vocals. 
 
If you’re having issues with the volume being too loud for the congregation, the worship musicians and tech team have to find a solution because it’s certainly not the congregation’s problem.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 01:27 PM

The Best Products of 2010

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The Best Products of 2010  
-Now you get to figure out how I explain "best." You might be surprised.    

A
s I've been thinking about winding down 2010, I decided to put together a list -- The Best Products of 2010.  I don't think that I've ever done that before.  

Maybe this is true of all lists of "best" products, but what you'll find is that these products are all exceptional in their own right, but few are actually the very best at what they do.  Truth be told, few of us can afford the very best.  

So how is this a showcase of the "best"?  Am I am idiot?  Do I just not know what's good and what's not?  Or is there another reasonable criteria by which "best" can be defined?  I like to think that #3 -- another reasonable criteria -- is what you'll find below.  

The Methodology:  I spent 30 seconds thinking about what we sell, those who buy it, what real world users have the most success with, and what stands out as an exceptional product at its price point.  I think that first impressions are important.  

Here's the list, in no particular order.  Actually, it's very close to the order that these items came to mind.  

1.  Audio Technica 2000A Series wireless microphones.  

Quite simply, I think that the Audio Technica 2000A series of wireless microphone is the best value in wireless microphone systems.  

It's not even close to the best we sell, but it's better than anything from any manufacturer that costs up to $100 more -- and in the $300 price range, that's a big deal.  

The 2000A series features 10
-channel automatic frequency scanning, a metal receiver chassis for durability and better reception, and detachable antennas so that you can combine your antennas into a professional antenna system when using multiple systems.  

I have a friend who pastors a church of about 4500 weekly attendance.  The 2000 Series is good enough for him, and that church can afford to use anything it wants to.  

With the
Audio Technica 2000 Series, you won't find a better wireless for up to $100 more.  That's why it's "best."  

2.  Allen & Heath ZED-24 Mixing Console.

16 microphone inputs, included USB recording with free software, made by Allen & Heath, $699.95.  

Doesn't that say enough?  This is my favorite small audio mixer, hands down.  
It has all the features you'd expect plus some.  

If my own church needed something like this, the
ZED-24 would be my first choice -- period.  

3.  Heil PR30 Microphone.  

OK, call me crazy.  I have to admit that this list wasn't the actual original "10 Best."  I had to remove two other Heil microphones to make this year's "10 Best" more representative of the breadth of what we offer.  The PR-28 and the PR-22 should be here, too.  

If I had to have only one microphone for everything -- and I mean everything
-- it would be the Heil PR30.  Actually as of today, it might be the brand new PR31 since it's shorter in length, but I digress.  

One of our clients and I discovered that the
PR30 was a great choir microphone.  It has tremendous rear rejection (the ability to not "hear" everything else around it), just enough sensitivity, and its large diaphragm is somehow makes things sound both warm and shimmery.  It's just a great sounding microphone.  

Use it on a guitar amp, as a drum overhead, on a piano, near a Leslie organ speaker, as an old-school vocal microphone, for voice-overs, on saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and more.  

Think I'm crazy?  Just this Fall, Charlie Daniels switched over to 100% Heil microphones on stage, and he's not the only one.  Users like Stevie Wonder, Joan Baez, Carrie Underwood, and others make their living with Heil microphones - and they buy them.  Most artists get theirs free.  

4.  Sanyo PLC-XP200L Large Format Video Projector.  

Big money, big color, bigger performance.  7000 ANSI lumens, QuaDrive 4LCD performance, horizontal and vertical lens shift.  Hang it.  You'll be wowed.  End of story.  $9995 MSRP.  

There's not another area of technology where more specifications are fudged than video, especially the cheap stuff.  Manufacturer's specs are "massaged" by marketing departments to make you think that you're getting something you're not. That "something for nothing" mentality is alive and well in America, and if you're not careful, you'll get burned.  

Both we and Sanyo couldn't sell any of these if it wasn't noticably better than the cheap stuff.  
Call us to order one, or two. Restrictions prevent us from advertising the selling price on our website.  

Sanyo PLC-XP200L
-- prepare to be wowed by the color accuracy, color depth, and stunning clarity and brightness.  

5.  Renewed Vision ProPresenter.  

I'm a hardware sales guy; I don't like software, but ProPresenter 4 made me change my tune.  

Maybe it's just me, but software is a pain in the tail.  Conflicts, crashes, dissatisfied users, Mac guys (like me) complaining that the really cool software is for PC only.  

And then along comes ProPresenter 4 - for both Mac and PC.  (insert angels singing here.)  Finally, a software product that I can sell and not have to worry about.  

Software is 100% not returnable due to piracy issues, but that flies in the face of everything we hope for at Truth Seeker/Geartechs because I want you to be satisfied with what you get.  

ProPresenter 4 is the result of several years of development by the crew at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA.  Renewed Vision's team has ProPresenter way ahead of the pack for worship presentation software.  

With its easy set-up of worship slides, cross-platform (Mac/PC) compatibility, elegant integration of live video and motion backgrounds, on-the-fly changes, wide, wider (and even wider) screen images, and more, you'll find that ProPresenter is exactly what you need to take your visuals to the next level.  

ProPresenter 4 is $399 single-user, and $799 for a Mac/PC site license.  Download a demo copy of ProPresenter 4 here.  


6.  Line 6 XD-V70 Digital Wireless Microphone Systems.  

We can barely keep these systems on the shelf.  With all of the fallout from the FCC-mandated changeover in wireless microphones this past year, Line 6 appears to have come to market at just the right time.  

Featuring systems that operate in the 2.4GHZ range, Line 6 has moved wireless microphone use into an area that is far, away from digital television.  Any system can be used in any area of the world with no restrictions.  

The XD-V70 handheld system features microphone modeling, so that you can choose which type of microphone sounds best -- at the flip of a switch.  

The systems also feature automatic frequency selection.  Just turn the system on, and it picks the best available frequency.  

The Line 6 XD-V70 systems are extraordinarily well-built, include rack kits, and have antenna pass-through connectors so that you can use multiple systems with just one set of antennas.  And they sound great, too.  


7.  Presonus Studio Live 24:4 and 16:4 Digital Mixers.  

Two products; one rave review.  

Since my first use of a mixer in 1983, I always wanted something that would store all of my settings, so that I wouldn't have to write them all down before the next band played.  I used sheets of paper with pictures of knobs, input lists, and any variety of other ways to "recall" the previous mixer settings.  Sound checks and switchovers took forever.  

Analog mixers can have hundreds of settings (buttons, knobs and faders) to restore when switching between bands, worship services with different styles, plays, chidren's musicals, cantatas, etc.  That's why church tech teams are pulling their hair out right about this time of year.  

All digital mixers have some level of settings recall.  No more fighting with input lists and paper drawings.  Just push "Recall 27" and mix #27 comes right back, automatically.  Imagine not having to do anything more than move the faders back to a lighted indicator in order to get your mix back.  Pretty spiffy, 'eh?!

Presonus isn't the only one making digital mixers, but they're the ones doing it with the right feature mix and at a price that isn't supremely out of reach of most churches.  

Add to that included Studio One Artist Recording software and a Mac or PC , and the mixer becomes a multitrack recording station for your church service or event - right out of the box!

The Studio Live 24:4 is $3299.95 and the Studio Live 16:4 is $1999.95.  

Each has compression on each channel, and on the outputs. Presonus hardware compressors cost about $100 per channel.  If you'd need that many compressors, it's almost like getting the digital mixer free.  Think about it.  

8.  Audio Technica U851R Piano Microphone.  

An accidental discovery.  This conference table microphone sounds great on a baby grand piano and it costs $199.95 -- the least expensive good piano microphone that I know of.  

The
U851R
is the perfect choice when you don't have a lot of money for a more expensive solution.  

Try it; you might not think that you need a more expensive solution.  

9.  SurgeX Surge Suppression.  

2010 was the year of the lightning strike for our clients.  Some were protected, some weren't. For that reason alone, SurgeX as a company, gets a spot all to itself.

This year, we saw one church fix lightning damage only to have to fix it again.  That's almost unbelievable.  
Apparently, lightning can strike the same place twice.  

We know another church that sits out on top of a hill, in a clearing. Lightning struck nearby and wiped out lots of of office equipment, but the audio and video gear survived.  Why?  Proper surge suppression.  

You're living in the world of false economics to cut corners when it comes to power conditioning and surge suppression.  If $4.99 (or even $49.95) power strips protected as well as
a $279.95 FlatPak or a $499.95 power SurgeX power conditioner, SurgeX couldn't be in business, and we'd never sell any.  But we sell them, and their owners sleep well at night.  

Lightning strikes and critical data failures generally happen just once.  Then, you get smart and make sure that they don't happen again.  

SurgeX is simply the best that money can buy.  To read more than you ever wanted to know about surge suppression, click here.  

10.
Heil RC35 Replacement Capsule.

I tried really hard to not repeat a product line, but when I decided to give SurgeX its own listing, I had to wrap this year's "10 Best" up with the one product that may be the game changer for Heil, and for you.  

I'll let you try and return any Heil microphone
, if you're not 100% satisfied.  That's how confident that I am in the product line in general.  With the hundreds of Heil mics that we've sold, the funny thing is that I've only ever had two (just two) microphones returned from people who didn't like them.  Of course, those people were crazy or couldn't hear correctly, or something.  Kidding, of course.  

The RC35 is a
screw-on replacement capsule for any Shure or Line 6 Wireless microphone.  The user list starts with Carrie Underwood.  She has a great voice, terrible microphone handling technique (keeps her hand too close to the head of the microphone), and is extraordinarily popular right now.  Every time you see her with a wireless microphone, the RC35 capsule is the star of her sound.  

She uses Shure's best wireless system with a Heil RC35 capsule. Why?  Because that combination works better than anything else.  

When money's not an object and people like Stevie Wonder, Joe Walsh, and Charlie Daniels choose all Heil microphones, and Carrie Underwood's tech team chooses hers, it can't be for any other reason.  

The
Heil Sound RC35 is just $259.00 - 1/3rd the cost of other companies' best microphone.  

---

Product Line of the Year 2010 -- Heil Sound

Monday, December 06, 2010 11:02 AM

How do I plug this thing in?

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

9:16AM, Sunday, December 5, 2010. 

Church starts at 9:30.  Up walks the guy doing special music to close the service with his iPhone in hand and asking that question, and expecting a sound check, too.  He was supposed to play the piano and it had been ready to go since a little after 8:00, but that's another story that I won't share here. 

What's a sound technician to do?  His song was the final illustration of the pastor's message, so we had to find a way to get things plugged in.  Well, it should have been easy.  An "iPod cable" with 1/8" stereo mini plug on one end and pair of quarter-inch phone plugs on the other and we'd have been all set.  But we weren't able to find a cable like that since someone had "borrowed" it. 

"And you can't play the piano?!," I ask.  No. 

Hmm...  Okay, let's see what we can do. 

More and more, I'm seeing iPods and iPhones used as music sources for accompaniment.  There are a couple things that you can do.  One is to use the infamous iPod cable at the console.  That's the easy way, but don't forget that you can also use a laptop or computer audio interface to convert the 1/8" output to XLR. 

Rapco LTI-Blox

Rapco LTI-1

That's particularly handy, especially if the muscian wants to control the iPod or iPhone from the platform/stage. 

When using an iPhone for audio playback, make sure to set the phone to Airplane Mode in order that when the phone rings (even if in Silent Mode) that the song isn't interrupted.  But who would ever get a call during the worship service? 

Thankfully, I don't speak from experience on that one.  Just a word of caution. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 05:49 PM

The Hand of Providence

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." --Psalm 100:4-5

Wishing you all God's best this Thanksgiving season!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 01:14 PM

But I can’t turn it up any more than that!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
But I can’t turn it up any more than that!
 
At lunch today, a friend was sharing about the sound system at the church he attends. He said, “I wish that they’d do something. At the worship team rehearsal the other night, every time the sound guy turned the system up to a reasonable level, the sound became distorted. It’s bad.” 
 
He emphasized that the worship leader really likes the sound to be louder and fuller, but when he asked the sound guy to turn it up, he simply shrugged and said, "I know what you like, but I can’t turn it up any more than that without distortion."  
 
I asked if my friend if he had any idea what the issue was. He shrugged and said that he assumed that it was a blown speaker, but that he wasn’t sure – and that the problem had been going on for months. 
 
Seriously? 
 
I’ll grant you that sound systems aren’t a requirement for God’s message to be effective, but they can certainly be a distraction to the worship experience if they’re not working correctly.  And why would you want to put up with that? 
 
My friend went on to describe the speakers as “a series of little, square-ish, boxes with what looks like a homemade mounting bracket – like home audio speakers.” 
 
Ouch. It’s a good bet that the speakers are blown from being turned up to the point that they would have been effective in your living room (while being used in a room that’s probably 60-80’ deep). And the words “homemade mounting bracket” should be enough to make anyone take pause. 
 
I know that audio systems can be a mystery and that budgets can be limited, but putting the safety issue related to the mounting brackets aside, I have a hunch that a new pair of speakers to replace the “series” at that church could make a big improvement for less than $500. 
 
That’s not to say that $500 would purchase an ideal or complete solution in this case, but most anything would be better.  It’s not to say that all of the equipment in the system is working properly, but I’m still stumped by why churches put up with bad sound when a fix might be as simple as a few adjustments or the replacement of a bad component.
 
If you don’t know where to turn, call us. Technology for worship is what we do. And if you’re in an area of the country that’s not terribly close to Columbus, OH, we know dealers in different parts of the country and might be able to pair you up with someone close by who can come check things out. 
 
Whatever the case, don’t think that your problem is so big that you can’t afford to do something about it. The answer may be simpler than you think. 
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 09:54 AM

But does it really need to cost that much?

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

In the past month or so, I have had three conversations with technical laypeople - those who observe and enjoy the use of technology in the worship setting, but have no idea what it costs. All three attend churches with seating capacities of over 1250 people and all offer multiple worship opportunities, but I think that there's something here for all of us.

Having heard about the technical systems of a large midwestern church, I was excited to stop by while I was visiting a friend. To be truthful, I was rendered silent as I approached the platform area from the back of the worship center. I'm a gear guy, but this place had it together. In short, they had the best of everything - audio, video, lighting, projection, and it was integrated with obvious thought and engineering. The installation was a masterpiece.

We spent just a few minutes inside the building and as we were leaving, I commented on the two large LED screens and how well the displayed image looked. I asked my friend if she could venture a guess at how much they cost. Her estimate told me that I had opened a can of worms.

Her guess was maybe 10% of the actual cost and led to more questions. After hearing that the display screens cost as much as a very nice house - each - she didn't offer the standard response of "Do you know how many poor people we could feed with that?" But she was still floored and asked whether it was necessary. A day later, she asked her friend (a staff member at the church) if she had any idea of the cost. The other friend did and confirmed my numbers.

Two weeks ago, a local church opened its new worship facility to its members for a pre-tour and another of my friends was excited to share about the space in the lobby, the style of the facility, and the feel of the facility overall. Since the church is near to Columbus, she asked if I was familiar with the project. 

She said, "I'll bet that they spent $50,000 on the sound system. It's pretty awesome. I'll bet that you would have liked that sale." Little did she know that the system cost 10-times that much.

A week or so later, a third friend and I were driving when he said, "Can I ask you something? I just found out that our church spent $250,000 on that 'thing' that controls the monitors. What do you think about what? And they have one at the back that's just as big, and another to record the service. I assume that they all cost about the same amount of money."

He went on to say, "I know that you make your living selling this stuff, but does it really need to cost that much?"

Knowing the technology business and the size of that church (about 2500 members), I'd be very surprised if they have $750,000 tied up in three mixing consoles, but the issue here is perception.

In any organization, decisions are often left to those "in charge" and those who have the expertise to do it the right way. In at least two of the settings, the amount of money spent was perfectly appropriate in order to serve the facility and the congregation.

I'm somewhat at a loss to address questions like these, but as technicians, worship leaders, pastors, and church administrators - those who make the decisions about what's necessary to communicate the gospel in a technical sense - as we spend money, we need to ask ourselves "But does it really need to cost that much?"
 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Five years ago, our church bought new projectors.  Wow, they looked great!  As a matter of fact, one still does - now. 

I often get questions about how long a projector lamp lasts.  Manufacturers claim 2000-5000 hours.  Do the math.  That's a heck of a long time, if you use your projector four hours per week - the average amount of use in most churches. 

From over 15 years of selling projectors, I can tell you that if you're one of the "lucky" ones whose projector lamp lasts 2000 hours that you'll have an awful-looking picture by the time you get there.  Color accuracy and brightness will have faded dramatically long ago, and contrast will be almost meaningless.  At 2000 hours of use, your image will be dull and lifeless, and generally useless.  If you'd like to see how bad your projector's image could look, visit any restaurant where sports are shown and where projectors are used like televisions.  12 hours of daily use, 364 days per year = less than six months to 2000 hours, and those establishments generally run them that long.  

Let's get back to the story at hand.  After installing our projectors, one of the lamps died about two years later.  I replaced it immediately and noticed that the brightness, sharpness and accuracy no longer matched between projectors.  After two years and maybe 400 hours of use, the brightness of the original lamp had faded noticeably when compared to a new lamp. 

Until just a week ago, our church was using one projector with an original lamp and one projector with a "new" lamp (now three years old with about 600 hours of use).  I was just about ready to replace the 5-year-old lamp (with about 1000 hours of use) when it stopped working on its own.  The image was still usable, but its brightness was noticeably different from the lamp I had replaced at the two-year mark and the image quality was just missing something. 

I, again, replaced the blown lamp right away and discovered that my "new" lamp (now three years old with a maximum of 600 hours) didn't look nearly as good as the brand new lamp.  Imagine how bad the 5-year-old survivor would have looked by comparison. 

Projector lamps don't go from 100% brightness to blowing up overnight.  It's a slow fade that you won't notice until you put a new lamp in your projector - usually when the old lamp stops working.  If you have 500-1000 hours of use on your projector, you should probably consider a replacement lamp to ensure optimal performance. 

As much as I've enjoyed the ability to compare brightness of 2- and 3-year-old lamps to new ones, I think that I'll break down and change the other lamp so that both lamps are new.  I'll save the old "new" lamp for a spare, and in a few years, it might just match the others as they fade away. 

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to Open DNS.  In our use of Open DNS here, we've noticed two things.  Our site Geartechs.com loads more quickly (and all other sites for that matter), we're able to have network protection from Phishing and Malware (among other things). 

Open DNS can filter content with your own whitelists and blacklists and/or general levels to prevent access to certain types of content on your church or home networks. 

Best of all, you can use Open DNS Basic free.  Click here for more information.  

Page 5 of 7