Feedback is not always bad.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

by Mike Sessler,

Audio guys are taught to fear and loath feedback. We have parametric EQs, notch filters, magic boxes and feedback eliminators, all to keep feedback from rearing it's ugly head. The mix could be great, the lighting perfect and the song words spot on, but if the pastor's mic runs into feedback, you feel like you've failed. For most of us feedback=bad.

But Is It?

The feedback of which I speak in the opening paragraph is of course, the electro-acoustical kind. The mic picks up it's own signal, it goes through the amplification loop and repeats, ending in a high-pitched scream. And I agree, that kind of feedback is bad. But not all feedback is. In fact, sometimes, feedback can be very helpful.

Getting Better All The Time

Any sound engineer worth his salt should be striving to get better all the time. But how do we get better? How do we know if we're making progress or just making things louder? One really good way to get better is to get some feedback. By asking others to critique our mix, we will learn valuable insights and hopefully, get better. The challenge is, we're so trained to avoid feedback (the bad kind), that we tend to avoid all feedback (the good kind).

Now, it can be humbling to ask for feedback. I've done this in the past, and sometimes go home feeling less good about my skill level. However, after the sting wears off, and I've processed the feedback, my mixing usually gets better. It's easy to get caught in the trap of thinking we have this thing figured out and continue to do the wrong thing over and over again.

Read more: Feedback is not always bad.


I don't know.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

by Mike Sessler,


I see this all the time. People speaking authoritatively from a position of ignorance. The internet is awesome for this. Just check out any of the online forums or groups. And pick a topic - any topic. I of course see this in church tech groups, but it exists everywhere. I also see it in every day life. I'll hear someone make a fairly definitive statement that obviously comes from a place of no knowledge or background. But boy, are they convinced they're right. My mom used to have a magnet on the fridge that said, "My mind is made up - don't confuse me with the facts."

What does this have to do with being a technical leader in church? Quite a lot, actually. I've removed a large amount of equipment from various churches over the years, and I'm sure it was all installed confidently. That is, whoever installed it was confident in their choice. Even if that choice was not based in any kind of knowledge or experience. Even if it didn't work. At all. That wastes a lot of money and undermines trust in our profession.

Mr. Know-It-All

Why does this happen? Well, I think there is an unnecessarily engrained concept in most of us that we have to be right all the time. And we have to know everything about our jobs. Now, the truth is, it's impossible to know everything about a subject. And if you ask people that have been doing a particular thing for a long time, they will likely tell you that the longer they do it, the more they realize they don't know.

Read more: I don't know.


Two keys to sound systems that behave well.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Two keys to sound systems that behave well

When designing a sound system, physics still applies, no matter how hard I might wish that it wouldn't.  Many venues that we work in have low ceilings and comparatively far distances to the last row of the seating area.  Think of the typical 1970's Nazarene church -- long and low, and it could be built inexpensively with standard wood trusses and asphalt shingles.  60' from front to back, 10' side wall height, 14' roof peak. 

The Inverse Square Law says that sound pressure level (SPL) or acoustic volume drops 6 decibels (dB) every time you double the distance from the sound source.  If we measure 94dB at four meters from the speaker, the SPL will be 88dB at eight meters, 82dB at 16 meters, 76 dB at 32 meters, etc. 

When designing systems, if we're asked, what we hope to find is a room that's about twice as deep as the ceiling is high.  In that type of space we can keep the SPL difference to about 3-4dB over the seating area with conventional speakers.  Note that in the example above, there's a 12dB difference for the person sitting 13.2' from the speaker and the person sitting 52.8' away. That's why the 1970's Nazarene church style building is a tough place to install a sound system, and to do it well (not to mention inexpensively).  That difference is 12dB represents more than a 50% apparent reduction in acoustical volume.  

That halving of volume is not a big deal, if you want people to be able to sit in relative audio comfort at the back of the room, but more often than not, the audio technician (who typically sits in a corner in the very back of the room) adjusts the SPL to his taste making the acoustic volume much louder (read as "too loud") up nearer the platform or stage. 

Unfortunately, system performance is close to the last thing that many churches and other performance venues discuss prior to design and eventual construction.

Read more: Two keys to sound systems that behave well.


Tone versus stage volume - an epic battle, and an easy way to solve it

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Headload-34Delivering great tone at low volume. 

One of our system designers is working on an article entitled "How Loud is Loud Enough?".  It will be published in the next week or two. 

We find, especially in smaller churches with contemporary worship, that the battle between what we'll call stage volume and overall volume in the house is often an issue.  Instrumentalists need more volume in order to feel their instrument or to get the best tone from their amplifier.  And there's truth to that.  And that need for volume drives listening sound pressure levels higher than they need to be for worshippers.  It's a very real conflict in smaller rooms. 

In order to get that full tone, many musicians build or buy isolation boxes for their amps and/or place the amps in another room so that they can get the tone they want and to not overpower the house sound system.  There's an easier way, and a less expensive way. 

The Radial Headload is a combination load box and attenuator that handles up to 130 watts RMS of continuous power and peaks of 180 watts. To use the Headload, it gets placed between the amplifier head and the speaker cabinet, allowing the guitar amp to be driven hard while reducing the output level - thus quieting the stage. 

The headload utilizes Radial's JDX Reactor direct box which captures the signal from the head plus the reactive load from the speaker cabinet for a more natural tone.  The Headload is also equipped with a Radial Phazer – phase adjustment tool. This lets you time-align the JDX direct feed with the microphone to deliver natural tones, or when pushed to extreme, create over the top effects. The JDX direct output may also be tailored to suit with a 6 position voicing switch to select from various cabinet emulation presets and fine tuned using a 2-band EQ to tame overly bright amps.

The Radial Headload V8 (8 Ohm version available now) can be used with or without the guitar speaker cabinet to help you get the precise balance of tone and volume that you need.  $899.  It might just be the product that allows everyone to have what they need. 


Make a big impact for less than $500

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

"We've looked everywhere.  Someone must have 'picked up' the wireless microphone."  Not the words I wanted to hear five minutes before the service.

Our church hosted the Judson University choir on Sunday.  The platform had been cleared, and everything was set up the night before, except our lone handheld wireless microphone.  That's the microphone that the choir director requested to allow him the freedom to speak from different places. I couldn't find it during set-up, so I texted a couple people, one of whom said that it was in the pastor's office, so I didn't sweat it.  But the next day, we still couldn't find it. 

Like many of you, I'm the volunteer media team leader at the church I attend.  We work with a fairly limited budget, and it appears that I need a new wireless transmitter. Ugh!

With limited budget money, our purchases have to be spot on. 

We get daily questions about how to best utilize specific amounts of money, and the answers to the "how to" questions are particularly critical at amounts under $500.  

Here are some specific ideas.

Read more: Make a big impact for less than $500


Page 2 of 19



What others say

Had a chance to hook up and listen to the speakers last night. They sound phenomenal in the room and hopefully will sound every bit as good once we get them mounted.

Thank you so much for your help. Based on the sound and considering the price we paid, I feel like I stole something.

Philip McCorkle