A Story of Audio … and Taxes

So, let’s talk about audio and taxes. It doesn’t seem like they go together, does it?  Hang in there with us and you will soon see what we mean.

Our team specs a variety of audio consoles used in theaters, in high schools, and in colleges.  Without dispute, the single biggest mistake we come across after these consoles have been in place for months is that there still is no content.  

No Content. That Is a Problem.

We find, over and over again, there are no templates being used. There are no libraries saved . (If you are drawing a blank on what those are we will explain.)  This scenario is all too familiar. Your typical digital console has an input channel and there are all sorts of  things you can with it. You can turn gates on and off. You can turn compressors on and off. You can play with EQ’s. Yes, there is all kinds of things you can do with it.  And that is the rub. What should you be doing with it? 


So, let’s get back to this “taxes” thing.   When you think about your console, you have a lot of different things you do with it in a year. 

You do theatrical productions.

You do lectures.

You do concerts.

You host lectures.

And every time you do one, you have two choices. You can have the settings saved to start your next performance out, or you can start from scratch again and again.

Save The File. Do It Now.

Now, here is the income tax analogy. Every year you have to calculate and pay your taxes, or the government will come after you. There are a number of online services you can use that will do the work for you. You just go to their app, type in all your  stuff, it then tells you that you owe a million dollars so that you can simply write a check and all is well. Or go to jail.

Or, there is another choice. If you know how to use Excel, you can build a complete tax calculating program yourself on an Excel spreadsheet.  

That probably would take a painfully long time but you could do it. You would just have to take all the formulas and all the required information and build your own tax filing program. Then every year you do you want to do it again from scratch?  Is that the best use of your time?  

Should You Start From Scratch EVERY Time????

Well, just like it is smarter to let an expert create a tax filing program for you to use, the console designers built in ways to create and save settings  so that the technician does not have to construct it over and over again. 

You can save a show to the hard drive of the console and bring it up to be tweaked and reused again and again.  A template can be made to use for the next show, with custom adjustments made for that particular event, and saved for use again and again. 

With little effort, a new version of the event can be fashioned instead of starting from “square one.” When it comes to consoles in high school and college auditoriums, this is virtually what we see happening. The audio engineer creates a show that works well and never saves that content to the library or scene libraries. He doesn’t make a template to start with when it is time to design the next show, either.  Nothing is saved.  Absolutely, nothing!

It’s what we see people doing in all sorts of venues.  

What They Should Do.

Every venue  has various microphones all of which need specific  EQ and settings to use on a the sound  system in that particular  room.  For this  discussion let’s  talk headsets for theater.

Pick a channel, get the gain set, and EQ the mic to taste and to avoid feedback. Add compressors, gates etc….. to get the sound and dynamics you want on that mic.

Once you get a channel set up and sounding good, save it in a library file.

Set the file save so you are saving the gate, EQ, the compressor and all of these features to that particular channel library.  Now, if you had a dozen of these headsets and were going to be doing a theater production with them, you could go back and populate a bunch of channels by just pasting the library channel in. Every channel  would start out sounding exactly like the one you saved.

Now that may not seem like a big deal, when you think about bringing a channel up from scratch. It’s not as huge a deal in a studio environment, but in a live environment where you’ve got gain before feedback and room acoustics to deal with it is. You want to be sure any channel you make live is safe and sounding  at least OK (i.e. neutral.)

Then you ( or someone less skilled than you) want to create a show and be sure that when you start out with each actor in your tech rehearsal, you’re not creating feedback and having problems start out with  by using a  preset for the headset.

There are some other things you have to think about. Make sure your belt pack gain structure is the same. It’s the same type of headset, all of that stuff, but you then can take a dozen people, throw them on stage at a tech rehearsal, and you will be able to turn all of their mics on and off without any potential for sudden feedback or gross errors.

And then you  can work on tweaking their individual voice sounds.

So that’s the real purpose of a digital console is to take the skill set of somebody else and use it to bring up what you want to work on.

So let’s talk about some of the options you have for these kinds of things.

So what we’re going to do is switch from a headset to an SM 58, which is set up with no EQ it’s just flat at a 6” working distance. You can also save one with EQ for a 12” working distance.  You can also save it for “lips on mic” with appropriate  EQ and gain changes for each.

Then set up a chorus with AKG C414’s or whatever mic  you like, and do the same. 

These become starting points for various mic types and uses.

So as you create libraries, when you get ready to do an event, you can say, okay, I need these mics for choir. So I’m going to bring up the,  AKG C414, put those into some channels.

And they’ve all been preset to be safe for what you’re trying to do.

So  the thing I would recommend, and this is for  anybody who has a digital console, is you need to find a way to rehearse scenarios with live sources, create presets for channel libraries, whole console templates, etc…..  

Define whatever types of events you may do repeatedly and create these preset scenes and  libraries. Get them set up so that when you’re preparing for your next event, it’s not a matter of starting from scratch.

Kind of like doing your taxes, the easy way is to start with a template someone else has made. 


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