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Are we bored yet?

The question is not "whether or not it occurs", but rather "is the occurrence relevant?" Theoretically dropping a single grain of sand upon the ground will shift the earth's path in an equal and opposite direction. This we know and can calculate with extreme levels of perfect prediction, but should we actually concern ourselves with walking so softly for fear of knocking the earth from orbit? Relevance.

Is the battle against global warming relevant? Is it winnable? Is it truly that surprising that humans of power become infatuated with conquests whether they be our president, a golfer or mechanic? Go stop go stop go stop. Heroes and fools and the difference is only whether we agree with the obsession at hand. Does it really matter if we skip a meal or a red light, make our bed or change the oil in our car?

And as perplexing as it seems the common thread remains 'is the occurrence relevant' "to me?" And of course the perspective of ramification must be taken into account.

And speaking of relevance. Lets take a dive into the insignificance of the world of sound and the meaningless focus on one of the few things in life that vanishes when you hit the 'pause' button. Stopping time gives a perfect picture and perfect silence. Sound is and requires time. Sound is serial while vision is parallel. And live sound is just about as serial as it gets. And pondering over the years the many ways to optimize that ever so complex and enjoyable connection between the music as it is created and the the ears immersed in absorption, I have found that my importance is magnified by the less I need to do. The perfect piece of audio gear is so transparent that it's existence is never heard. Hmmmm, I wonder if in the bigger picture I count as a piece of audio gear?

Anyway, regardless of your opinions on those matters, I thought I would share some things I have unraveled that may be helpful in to sound humans piloting audio now that I am increasingly getting my head around around my natural reluctance to be on video. I am finding the visual medium much more effective in communicating certain concepts for the exact reasons that sound is so challenging to explain. So here is a bit about my approach to mixing live shows.

and lately one of my favorite things to do has been working on little projects like the NL4 an NL8 testers as well as a whole bunch more. Here is a bit on the very first in the series:

And since speakers and dynamic mics are exactly the same but just differing sizes, that means just a voltage presented to a speaker makes it move, moving a speaker makes voltage. Here is video showing how to use that aspect to check continuity of a speaker with any piece of metal big enough to reach both terminals

Ha! It is all about boredom avoidance and perhaps maybe a bit about not forgetting the things that are enjoyable to remember.

On some other fronts, Coachella is coming up fast and last I heard Rat has 7 semi's heading to the desert. Heck, I did not know we even had that much gear. I do know I agreed we buy a Midas Pro6

16 more K1, I actually think Rat is the first company worldwide to put in a second order for the Maserati of sound systems. And speaking of sexy rides, check out the new Rat truck

that is 3000 pounds lighter which means we can actually get 10,000 pounds of gear in a bobtail without being over weight, I mean how crazy stupid is the whole box truck thing? 26,000 pound weight limit and 20,000 pound trucks on 32,000 pound capable chassis. So We were like, "Hey, how about we order us up a light weight truck and nearly double the capacity?", Pure rocket science I tell ya, though nowhere near as good as it could be if the truck makers were half as on the ball as the speaker manufacturers.

And so, now off to pretending I know the business side of things. (Don't buy it, I am just a knucklehead sound guy in disguise!)

Two years ago January, Rat saw nothing but haze in financial workload future and went into that caution mode when danger is abound, as will Rats do. I can say it is refreshing to see blue skies ahead as it seems the bumpy roads are behind us, at least for the time being. So then I thought to take a gander at a not really related angle but interesting none the less. Hey, just to get some perspective and relevance on all the chatter and did a google search on "national debt by year" and this came up:

I don't know what will happen next but I have a pretty good idea and my bet is that the national debt will slow its Bush era acceleration while domestic product increases and we see something like the Truman, Carter, Clinton reversals over the next several years. But hey, though I could be wrong I found this a comforting in some odd way. I guess the question remains, about relevance and what to concern ourselves with, meanwhile never forget that random ignorant panic is always an option.:)

Cool cool, enough for now. I hope to get back to my less serious more wandery self soon enough as it looks like I may have a new sound gig that I am excited about. But that will have to wait. And most of all I truly hope that the info I am sharing is as useful or interesting as the responses I get make me happy.



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Carlos Arellano on :

Thank you Dave!!!! I have learned so much from u!!!! u r a great mentor!!! all the best to u!!!

tan eddie on :

thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge & experience

JBsoundguy on :

Very interesting video. If I have enough VCA's I'll try that this Saturday when I mix a live concert. Until then I hope you don't mind me re-posting your video (giving you due credits of course) to help out some of us guys who mix in the church setting to be a good tool for them.

Chr. Güssmer on :

Interesting: I'm used to mixing vocals just like you describe in the strategy-video, but almost any soundguy I meet does compression in the channel inserts. unfortunately there are very few analog consoles that let you control group faders by VCAs (afaik the big Midas and the Crest X-VCA)

Dave Rat on :

Well you actually do not need VCA's that control the groups as you can almost as easily use your master output faders instead and achieve the same result

daniel on :

How does the group mixing work if you use an aux sub? If I send K and S to a mono group for compression, would it sound alright to send the K input to subs, but not the compressed group? because I don't want to send S to the subs. Or does that defeat the whole purpose?

Dave Rat on :

The way I deal with the Aux sub with a group comp setup is I use an 11'th comp on the aux sub insert. This adds that same kind of advantage by balancing the bass guit sub and kick sub levels.

Steve on :

Hey Dave, I just watched your mixing strategy video. Thanks for the great insight. Do you actually go without individual channel compression, or is your group compression strategy the layer that sits on top of the individual channel compression.

Dave Rat on :

I use some channel comps like for an especially 'loud/soft' singer to moderate his/her output level. Or if a particular keyboard, guitar or other instrument has too much differential between the loud and soft parts. I guess you could look at it like "The channel comps are 'fixes' where as the group comps are 'balancers' I try an minimize my channel comps, for Peppers I use a pair on acoustic guitar, one on Flea to mellow his occasional super loud chatters he does for fun. Oh, and there is a few parts where one of the techs comes on stage and plays keyboards and the variations a bit more than I want to see so I use a pair on that as well.

Ken English on :

Ahhh, so that's why you like the compression linking abilities on the Pro6. That makes a huge deal of sense, and makes that board an even better digital option... Thanks for the videos! Ken

Stuart91 on :

Firstly, thanks. I don't think many people would have the guts to freely give away their "trade secrets" on YouTube! I like the thinking behind this setup. Two questions: 1) Do you think that this kind of control of dynamics is more valuable in arena-sized venues, where you have lots of late reflections to muddy up the sound? Would you take the time to do it this way for a club-sized show with an unfamiliar band and minimal soundcheck time? (I'm also interesting in the issues surrounding aux subs that Daniel has asked about above) 2) How well does this method work on digital consoles? Does the latency from compression cause problems when the compressed and uncompressed signals are recombined on the main mix bus?

Dave Rat on :

As far as giving out 'trade secrets,' I thought about that a bit over the years as I started doing the blog and sharing things like the double hung PA, the orgasmatron/vortex and other concepts I have worked on or or come up with. I am very much of the 'open source' mindset and am fully comfortable 'practicing what I preach.' And while I believe both are great companies, I follow the Google rather than the Apple business model. As far as application of the method, I use it in all size venues It works with digi boards but it is hard to find one that hacs group comps not linked. Inserting analog comps is fine but u need to be sure to run all channels through the iserts to avoid latency issues.

JD on :

Just watched the Rat Sniffer video; I want one! Have you ever thought of making your own 48V power supply? Almost exactly the Rat Sender, but with a male and female connector either end, so that it can be plugged in-line, rather than having to use a Y or Z cable to make it work. Also, I've made a super quick and dirty variable half-wave squasher plugin for my usual DAW. I'm keen to do some 'directional audio cable mythbusting', to let people hear what a directional cable would really sound like. Would you be interested in sharing the results, or even participating in the research a bit?

Dave Rat on :

I love the directional cable idea. I could do the analog version and put a diode in an RCA cable. Show Dc passes one way and not the other. Then "give 'er a listen" and ooooh and ahhhh about how great it sounds. Offer them for sale for the bargain price of $1900.00 each for the analog and digital pair. On a more serious note, sounds like a fun Youtube subject to video and maybe we can offer the free JD unidirectional cable corrector plugin download as well.

JD on :

Put some nylon braiding either end, say that it improves the 'airyness' of the cable's sound and you can at least double that price! Actually, nylon braiding is wonderful stuff, great for making tails and breakouts... Will find someone willing to have their music savaged, and get my youtube face on. Be interesting to hear how the inherent non-linearities of the diode create a different sound to the plug-in. Maybe we should agree on the music to use?

Big Mike on :

Thanks for the info. I cant wait to try your group/compressor mix. Keep em comin!

Ronsonium on :

I know you're gonna be rocking coachella. Stuck watching the live webstream though. What stage are you running? Sweet truck and board.

Dave Rat on :

Rat Sound did PA for all five stages. It went really well. Now it's time to setup stagecoach. and everything moves, including the main stage and all 12 delay clusters.

Jared Bartimus on :

Are the guitar L and R inputs because of an effects pedal, multiple guitars, or something I am missing?

Dave Rat on :

I almost always try and achieve some sort of stereo-ish sound on the guitars. Using two differing mic types and panning them out. Using differing distances to the cabs, or adding some slight stereo effect to the guitars and returning that effect into the guitar groups all require a stereo group.

Jakob on :

Hello Dave, I dont know if this is the right spot to ask, but you were making a mikrophone switch box to switch between lead and spare vocal mic. Do you use a 4 pole switch to shorten pin 2 and 3, or do you use a dpdt? Maybe you want to make a video about that box because I think its one of the most underestimated tools in the arsenal. All the best, Jakob

Dave Rat on :

I will be making those again soon along with quite a few other cool For a sneak peak, check out

Nathan Hulse on :

Hi Dave (or anyone that may know), I'm one of these bands that occasionally mix and set from stage when no sound company is hired by promotor. This compression setting for the various groups would be a great way of managing the mix during a show. My question is apart from the ratio and I'm guessing a quick attack time, what sort of release time would you be using. I'd imaging not to quick to avoid the sound pumping. Look forward to a response. Cheers

Dave Rat on :

I use a fairly fast release time, somewhere in the range of 10 times the attack time. Also, I do not use a lot of compression. I try an have everything hitting 1 to 3 db at normal levels and 6 or 8 db max. Any severe limiting, if needed, should be done on the channels. So since I am not using tons of reduction, the attack and release settings are pretty forgiving and you have some room. Just for simplicity sake, I usually set all my subgroup comps exactly the same and use a tone to calibrate thresholds. and then run the tone louder to calibrate ratios.

George D on :

Dave, say I had your 3 vocals with bg vocals panned L/R and the lead vocal panned center. Example works with guitars or any of the stereo groups. L vocal goes hot hits the compressor and the Vocal Sub L group backs off relative to Vocal Sub R. Won't my centered lead vocal apparently pan itself to the right while the compressor is engaged? Is this only a theoretical problem but not really audible in practice due to the brief timings involved?

Dave Rat on :

Well, first of all, in a live situation, typically one would not hard pan a vocal to one side or the other due to the resulting imbalance where audience to one side would hear the panned vocal much louder than the audience on other side. But, lets take a deeper look at that scenario anyway. If the background vocal is panned hard left and the lead vocal panned center, lets look at perceptions from the audience angle, when both sing. On the left side, you would have lead vocal and backing vocal mixed and assuming you have your lead vocal set 3db hotter than the backing vocal, the left side see a correct balance. On the right, you have only lead vocal, so other than the lack of backing vocal, you are fin there. From the center, yes, the lead vocal would tend to slide to the right slightly when the backing vocal came in but the overall vocal to instrument levels would stay intact. Conversely, with channel compression, that same scenario would result in the lead vocal staying centered and additional vocal volume added to the left when the the backing comes in meaning your vocals are now louder on the left. To solve this you can either a) turn down the left vocal master resulting in a similar scenario as the group comps, b) turn down the backing vocal making it less audible, or c) do nothing because you want the off center vocal. In the case of "c" wherein you want a strong off center vocal or any other instrument for that matter, then one would route that input direct to the L and R circumventing the group comps. I do this occasionally, one example is with the Chili Peppers on the song Blood Sugar Sex Magic when I use an Eventide H3500 as an autopanner on the guitar right after the 2nd and 3rd chorus'. The subgroup compression dilutes the extreme panning effect I am looking for so I bypass the subgroup compressor inserts for that song. Typically though, unless you are mixing Pink Floyd or a band with extreme panning/effects, the advantage of the group compressors helping to keep things from straying to the extreme outsides, is an advantage

George D on :

Dave, thanks for the reply. I guess I hadn't thought that all the way through. I don't typically hard pan anything in stereo, true so unless it were panned toward the extreme you may have something to compress both sides and mitigate the effect I'd worried about. When I do pan more to the extreme I make sure I have something handy to setup a cross delay effect so I don't lose it from one side. Lately I'm mixing mostly in SAC and the included Studio Delay easily handles cross delay effects. Thanks for the added tip on bypassing with autopanning and similar stuff. Love the technique in concept and I can't wait to try it out. Got a gig with Richie Furay this weekend and maybe I'll have time to set it up.

Matt on :

Very informative, cheers Dave. Interesting too that I've always preferred to compress groups. Really frustrates me that the cheaper compact digital consoles don't allow this... Well my Tascam doesn't

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