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Viewing topic "Amplification Revisited"

   
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Posted on: February 09, 2016 @ 09:42 AM
kevin
Total Posts:  84
Joined  11-13-2003
status: Experienced

I’ve previously posted asking for input on live stage amplification. After that post I decided to keep my old amp until it conked out.  Well, it seems my old Traynor Bloc100 Keyboard amp is on it’s last leg. There is now an excessive hum and buzz that I can’t get rid of.  I was told this may be due to the amps age and that there are possibly caps leaking and other electronic issues causing the noise.

In preparation for the move to a new amplification set up I’ve been looking at going the powered speaker route. I have an Alto 12’ powered speaker here that seems like it may work for me if I use some sort of preamp. Right now, as an experiment, I have my S70xs running to a cheap 4 channel mixer then to the Alto.  I’m not running stereo. I’m using the L/mono output on the s70xs which definitely boosts the mids to much which is especially noticeable on the acoustic piano voices.  In order to pull those mids out I’ve also added a 31 band Ashly EQ to the chain.  Things are sounding better. 

So ... what I’m looking at now is either replacing the cheap mixer with an Allen & Heath Zed 10 or a Presonus Studio Channel One.  I only use one keyboard and run mono so channels are not a concern.  Any suggestions or input would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, I play in a seven piece horn rock band that can get a bit loud. The on stage amplification would only be for my ears to monitor my playing.

Thanks,
Kevin

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Posted on: February 09, 2016 @ 01:05 PM
5pinDIN
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You might not need an external mixer or equalizer, if all you need is to get some more gain and touch up the EQ. The S70XS Master Effects and EQ might be all that’s needed.

What mode(s) (Voice/Performance/Multi) do you use?

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Posted on: February 09, 2016 @ 01:31 PM
kevin
Total Posts:  84
Joined  11-13-2003
status: Experienced

I have all of my needs programed in Performance mode. Most of time I’m playing piano or organ and my “go to” piano is Rock Bright Grand. It’s in a Performance by itself. 

The RBG piano is very “machine” sounding in the lower register. The only way I was able to tame the mids on that voice was to add the 31 band EQ to the chain.  Even with the EQ it still has some “machine” tone. (sorry, that’s the best way I could think of to describe it) That’s why I think it might be easier to use an outboard EQ of some kind.  I’m just wondering if the parametric on the Presonus or A&H;would be enough.  I’m also experimenting with the Mono Grand voice.

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Posted on: February 09, 2016 @ 02:13 PM
5pinDIN
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Sound - piano in particular - is such a personal thing that I won’t make suggestions about what you might satisfy you.

However, you might want to look into what the S70XS offers in EQ settings. A Performance can have both 3-band and 5-band (Master) parametric EQ applied. As might be expected, frequency and gain can be set, but also Q. Many so-called parametric equalizers are actually semi-parametric, in that the Q is fixed. The Yamaha EQ is very flexible, and I’d be surprised if you can’t find settings to meet your needs. In addition, certain Master Effects could be used fully dry if further gain control is needed.

See pages 76-77 of the Reference Manual.

By the way, Master Effects and EQ can be applied globally in Voice mode, via Utility mode settings.

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Posted on: February 09, 2016 @ 07:38 PM
benj00
Total Posts:  113
Joined  06-03-2011
status: Pro

Hi Kevin,

I play in some bands with my MOXF and have run into similar situations. For awhile I was lugging a Traynor k4 around which sounded pretty good, but was very heavy and would distort sometimes. I switched to a QSC K10 and have had no issues with having enough volume and/or headroom, and it only weighs 30 pounds.

It also has a small EQ on the back where you can adjust gain for the two channels and also set the amount of bass response you want.I like this because it means I don’t have to bring a mixer to the gig. I would also follow 5Pin’s advice and spend some time with your Voices on the S70 and maybe increase the volume and/or gain. You can also EQ them to be a a little brighter to help cut through the mix.

~Ben

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Posted on: February 10, 2016 @ 07:01 AM
kevin
Total Posts:  84
Joined  11-13-2003
status: Experienced

First of all … Thanks for the responses! 

To 5pin,
You’re right about sound being a personal thing and you hit the nail right on the head in adding “piano in particular”.  Just to clear things up … in my original post, I wasn’t asking how to make my rig sound better. I was asking for input and suggestions as to what piece of outboard equipment would make it easier to fine tune things to my ears liking. 

Regarding your suggestion of onboard EQ… I have gone into the S70’s EQ’s but would rather use something outboard so that I can get to it on the fly.  Most of the time we do outdoor gigs. We’ve played under gazebos, on high stages, low stages, under concrete and steel awnings and in open fields. This makes it necessary (for me at least) to re-EQ from my rehearsal room settings quickly. We don’t usually get a lot of time before a quick sound check.  For me, using an outboard EQ, a small mixer or the Presonus Studio Channel One would make it easier to make these changes on the fly rather than paging through the menus on the S70 at a gig.

To Benj00,
I’m glad you mentioned, and gave your opinion, on the Traynor K4.  I was looking at them too but was afraid of just what you pointed out, weight, volume and distortion. I did buy a K12 last year but returned it, just not enough flexibility with EQ for me. However, since then I’ve reconsidered the powered speaker option (as long as I have some sort of outboard EQ options) and will take a listen to the K10 & K12 as well as Yamaha’s and EV’s versions. 

Again, the two outboard pieces I’ve been looking at on line are the Allen & Heath Zed 10 and the Presonus Studio Channel One. 

Maybe I’m just too picky but … hey … why not be picky? 

This is a great forum with very knowledgeable people. Thanks 5pin and Benj for your suggestions and input!  If you, or anyone else, have any more ideas I’d be glad to listen.

Kevin

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Posted on: February 10, 2016 @ 08:45 AM
5pinDIN
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kevin - 10 February 2016 07:01 AM

To 5pin,
You’re right about sound being a personal thing and you hit the nail right on the head in adding “piano in particular”.  Just to clear things up … in my original post, I wasn’t asking how to make my rig sound better. I was asking for input and suggestions as to what piece of outboard equipment would make it easier to fine tune things to my ears liking. 

Regarding your suggestion of onboard EQ… I have gone into the S70’s EQ’s but would rather use something outboard so that I can get to it on the fly.  Most of the time we do outdoor gigs. We’ve played under gazebos, on high stages, low stages, under concrete and steel awnings and in open fields. This makes it necessary (for me at least) to re-EQ from my rehearsal room settings quickly. We don’t usually get a lot of time before a quick sound check.  For me, using an outboard EQ, a small mixer or the Presonus Studio Channel One would make it easier to make these changes on the fly rather than paging through the menus on the S70 at a gig.

It wasn’t initially obvious that you needed to make EQ changes “on the fly”. My Motif XS and XF each have a dedicated MASTER Effect button - when held down for about two seconds it takes you directly to the Effect screen, and with one more button push you’re at the 5-band EQ - so it’s more convenient than with the S70XS. I agree that for your purposes an outboard equalizer makes sense.

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Posted on: February 10, 2016 @ 10:46 AM
cmayhle
Total Posts:  3081
Joined  10-05-2011
status: Guru

I fought with the task of getting good stage keyboard monitoring...especially in loud stage conditions...until I went quality and stereo (two DXR10’s on guitar amp stands in my case).

Hopefully, whatever direction you go with your new sound reinforcement, it will be in stereo.

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Posted on: February 11, 2016 @ 12:05 AM
benj00
Total Posts:  113
Joined  06-03-2011
status: Pro

Hi Kevin,

I’m not sure what the EQ capability of the S70 is but I’ve addressed a lot of my EQ concerns with the multiple EQ options on the MOXF. Here is a post I made in another thread regarding volume....

****I totally agree with the idea that for the Motif XF/MOXF to sound best it should be run in stereo to FOH and you should have two monitors so you can hear yourself in stereo.

That being said:

1. I’m lazy and I don’t want to carry two powered monitors and a mixer to most gigs. I just bring one QSC K10 and run my MOXF and Nord stage in mono to each channel. There is one post gain out on the K10 that I send to FOH or mixer.  I use the Ext. Sub crossover to cut some of the really low frequencies onstage (these still get sent out the post gain out) so I’m not stepping on the bass player when I play octaves, etc in my LH (on acoustic piano, EP, etc) or organ swoops etc. A lot of sound guys I know run a high pass filter on keys or cut a decent amount of bass/mid range out so it’s worth having a conversation with them if you’re already doing this with your EQ settings. I’ve seen some pretty famous acts with thin piano/keyboard sounds and this probably has something to do with this.

2. For club gigs, I generally don’t have room onstage for two monitors and a lot of times the sound is run in mono, so I’m usually forced to go mono anyway. Even for gigs with a pro sound company and backline, keys generally get one monitor and maybe one amp. I guess you could ask for two monitors, but is it realistic to expect a stereo send to monitors? More likely you’ll get two mono sends. **Obviously in a touring situation or with a band that always plays with the same sound guy, you don’t have to deal with this**

3. I remedy the phase cancellation and stereo effect issues by auditioning all my Voices (using one speaker) with the Melas editors. In the Voice editor it’s pretty easy to see which Elements are panned L or R and when a stereo delay is being used. Some of the more modern synth sounds are set this way and I just use my ear to decide if I need to center the elements or whether the L/mono summing works well enough. Some elements have an Alternating Pan effect which sounds great in stereo, but wacky in mono. The Monoaural Grand is my go to piano Voice, and I use the VCM Compression and EQ to brighten the sound which helps it cut through when the (overly) loud guitar and bass kick in. I have the Full Concert Grand (with the VCM eq gain raised a bit) available for quiet sections, intros, jazz tunes, but there is definitely some phase cancellation going on so I use it sparingly.

4. A couple of other small points: Most classic keyboards/synths are traditionally run in mono,so I’m assuming they are sampled that way, unlike almost all of the acoustic piano sounds. The effects will sometimes be in stereo, but the essential sound is still pretty crisp and dynamic running in mono. Obviously the stereo panned stuff sounds very cool, but things can also can sound pretty great with a flat stereo image. I’ve tried summing the Leslie insert effect on the Yamaha, I wasn’t happy with the result so in the end I let the L/mono send do the work. I did however slow the fast horn/ rotor speeds to around 5HZ or so as the faster speeds sounded unnatural to me even in stereo and especially in mono. The Yamaha basic organ samples are pretty good, but I think their rotary effect is the weak link in stereo or in mono.

5. I run all my sounds in Master Mode linked to Song/Pattern mode.
This gives me the ability to EQ the Voice itself in Voice Mode, then I can EQ each track in Song/Pattern Mode, and I can use the Master EQ if I’m still not happy. (I usually leave this flat) To me this makes most of the smaller mixers I would bring to a gig pretty redundant. I spend a fair amount of time making sure all my sounds
are loud enough and at the same volume and I use VCM compression in Song/Pattern Mode to help even things out. I’ll also compare sounds with the Nord Stage to check volume. So with the QSC K10, and my Voices set like this I rarely find myself in situations where I have trouble with volume.

6. This may be stating the obvious, but I always elevate my speaker so the tweeter is about ear level, and I keep it fairly close to me so I’m not blowing everyone onstage out. I also use a pair of custom musician earplugs to keep the frequencies pretty balanced.

Again, I’m not knocking playing in stereo, just pointing out there is a case to be made for playing in mono.****

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Posted on: February 12, 2016 @ 06:16 AM
kevin
Total Posts:  84
Joined  11-13-2003
status: Experienced

To benj00 – regarding your point #1&2;1) I’m used to carrying my heavy old Traynor, from the bottom using two hands so carrying around two smaller speakers shouldn’t make a difference for me.

2) We don’t do a lot of club gigs but when we do and are in a tight setup I put my Traynor on top of the bass players cabinet. I already measured and if I did go with two of the DXR10’s they would only hang over one inch on either side. No problem there!

The remainder of your post has some very interesting information on staying mono.

To cmayhle – I’ve done some experimenting and will post the results in a bit ….

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Posted on: February 12, 2016 @ 07:22 AM
5pinDIN
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kevin - 12 February 2016 06:16 AM

[...]2) We don’t do a lot of club gigs but when we do and are in a tight setup I put my Traynor on top of the bass players cabinet. I already measured and if I did go with two of the DXR10’s they would only hang over one inch on either side. No problem there!

The remainder of your post has some very interesting information on staying mono. [...]

Running stereo, but placing the two speakers in very close proximity to each other, really doesn’t have much (if any) advantage over running mono. It doesn’t matter much whether channel mixing is done via an electrical signal or acoustically, the result is similar, especially at any realistic distance from the speakers.

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Posted on: February 12, 2016 @ 09:12 AM
kevin
Total Posts:  84
Joined  11-13-2003
status: Experienced

To 5pin – Although it true that you won’t get the full effect of stereo when placing two speakers side by side, there was definitely a noticeable difference in tonal quality and warmth when I did. When running mono summed from the L jack on the S70xs the pianos, especially, sounded honky and hollow. Other players on line confirmed that running mono from the S70’s L jack boosted the mids heavily. This is why I originally hooked up the 31 band EQ … to pull out annoying mid frequencies. 

To All -
I did some experimenting yesterday using only gear I currently own. The “tests” below were done using four acoustic piano sounds on my S70xs as a base …Natural Grand S6, Bright Piano S6, Rock Brite Piano and Monaural Grand S6. 

Test#1 : MONO Starting from scratch, I removed my Traynor Bloc100k keyboard amp and replaced it with one Alto TS112a run directly from my S70xs.

Result: Not enough volume.  Muddy and “hollow” sound.

Test#2:  I added a Behringer 802 mixer between the keyboard and the speaker.

Result:  Plenty of volume with the addition of the preamp in the mixer.  I was able to tweak the eq on the mixer to get a bit of the mud and hollowness out but still not enough eq to get things where I want them.

Test#3:  I set the EQ on the Behringer flat and added an Ashly 31 band EQ between the mixer and speaker.

Result: The difference was immediately noticeable. With the use of the EQ Bypass button I was able to AB easily for comparison. With a bit of notching in the 200 and 400 range I was now on the right track … but still not there. 

Test#4:  STEREO – I added a second Alto TS112a and ran two lines from my keyboard to the stereo channel on the Behringer then separate lines, one to each speaker.

Result: Big difference. The pianos warmed up even with all EQ set flat on the mixer.  With a little bit of tweaking I was able to get the pianos very close to where I want them. 

Test#5: I added a stereo DBX EQ between the mixer and speakers and set everything flat.

Result: Not much difference by adding the EQ this time.  The three band on the mixer seemed to be sufficient. 

End Result:  Throughout the entire experiment the 12” Alto’s were a bit “tubby”.  My next step is to borrow a pair of QSC K10s from a friend and see how that goes.  If there is a big difference from the 12” Altos I’m going to try out a pair if Yamaha DRX 10s. If I can keep the rig down to two small speakers and a small mixer I’d be very happy with that.  I’ll post the results of the K10 and DXR10s next week.

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Posted on: February 12, 2016 @ 12:02 PM
5pinDIN
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kevin - 12 February 2016 09:12 AM

To 5pin – Although it true that you won’t get the full effect of stereo when placing two speakers side by side, there was definitely a noticeable difference in tonal quality and warmth when I did. When running mono summed from the L jack on the S70xs the pianos, especially, sounded honky and hollow. Other players on line confirmed that running mono from the S70’s L jack boosted the mids heavily. This is why I originally hooked up the 31 band EQ … to pull out annoying mid frequencies.

Depending on how many of my posts you’ve read, you may not be aware that I’m a proponent of running stereo. However, it might be good for me to explain a bit about mixing to mono and phase cancellation.

In the following, I’m not referring to two signals being “out of phase” by 180 degrees, which is typically due to the polarity of a mic or speaker being different than another. What I am referring to is minute timing differences between information in the two channels.

Output at the L/MONO jack (when no plug is inserted in the R jack) is a one-to-one mono mix of left and right channel signals. It’s done via switching contacts in the R jack. Because of that direct connection, any timing differences between the two channels are preserved, and will result in “phase cancellation” whenever signal peaks and dips don’t coincide from one channel versus the other. Those timing differences typically vary with frequency, and lead to changes in frequency response. The signal level at some frequencies will be diminished, and at others enhanced.

When instead a stereo signal is fed to two speakers, timing between the channels is not only determined by the electrical signal, but also by the physical distance to your ear. High frequencies have shorter wavelengths than lower frequencies, so that at any particular instant the point in the cycle of a wave you hear due to your distance from a speaker is affected more at higher frequencies.

When two speakers are placed next to each other and aligned front to back, and you’re positioned equidistant from them and far enough away so that you can’t discern a stereo image, then the acoustic waves will cancel to mono just like electrical ones do. If do you hear a difference between two closely placed speakers in stereo versus a mono mix, either you’re relatively close to the speakers, or they’re not at equal distance from you, or the signal level being fed to them isn’t balanced.

The above actually has a practical application  :-) . Due to our ears’ characteristics, a sound a few dB louder than another (depending on frequency) can mask another sound. Low frequencies more readily mask higher ones. Many stereo piano Voices are programmed so that the sound is from the perspective of someone playing - that is, the low notes (and consequently frequencies) are to the left, high ones to the right. You might find that reducing the level of Elements that contribute mainly to the lower notes, and increasing the level of the others, makes for a sound that mixes to mono with less need for EQ. In some cases, using just the R output with piano Voices can result in a good mono sound all by itself.

But I still prefer stereo…  :-)

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Posted on: February 12, 2016 @ 01:04 PM
benj00
Total Posts:  113
Joined  06-03-2011
status: Pro
5pinDIN - 12 February 2016 07:22 AM
kevin - 12 February 2016 06:16 AM

[...]2) We don’t do a lot of club gigs but when we do and are in a tight setup I put my Traynor on top of the bass players cabinet. I already measured and if I did go with two of the DXR10’s they would only hang over one inch on either side. No problem there!

The remainder of your post has some very interesting information on staying mono. [...]

Running stereo, but placing the two speakers in very close proximity to each other, really doesn’t have much (if any) advantage over running mono. It doesn’t matter much whether channel mixing is done via an electrical signal or acoustically, the result is similar, especially at any realistic distance from the speakers.

This is another reason why I ditched the Traynor and am not a fan of “stereo keyboard amps”. If you can’t discern a stereo image then you’re not really running in stereo. I would agree though that having two speakers in any configuration for piano sounds is going to sound better than running a stereo acoustic piano sample in mono. However, I think a good mono piano running through one speaker onstage is not a major difference. But again, I get it, two speakers spaced a decent amount apart with the Motif Voices is going to sound pretty great.

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Posted on: February 12, 2016 @ 04:14 PM
cmayhle
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kevin - 12 February 2016 09:12 AM

...If I can keep the rig down to two small speakers and a small mixer I’d be very happy with that.....

I am quite happy with that configuration myself!

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Posted on: February 13, 2016 @ 08:11 AM
kevin
Total Posts:  84
Joined  11-13-2003
status: Experienced

Ok – my friend dropped off a pair of K10s yesterday evening for me to experiment with.  Below are my findings.  The tests below are continued from one of my posts above ..

To begin I removed all amplification gear from previous tests and started from scratch.  Also know that throughout all testing, gain structure was taken in to consideration and set correctly at all stages.  (see my post from Feb 12, 09:12 for the voices I used).

Test#6:  MONO – One cable from the S70sx’s L/M output directly to one of the K10s. 

Result:  Low output. Muddy tone.

Test#7:  MONO – One cable from the S70sx’s L/M output to a channel on the Behringer 802 then Main Out from the mixer to one of the K10s.

Result:  Plenty of volume!  Even with the mixers EQ set flat the tone was cleaner than when not using a mixer. A bit of tweaking got the pianos sounding pretty good … good enough (for me) to use live. I could work with this set up live.

Test#8:  STEREO – Two lines out of the S70xs, L&R;to channel 1 & 2 on the mixer. Two lines from the mixers Main Out L&R;, one to each K10.  The speakers were set up side by side (I know) on a short stand about 8-10’ behind me to my right slightly turned away from each other. The horns of both speakers were at just above ear level. Pans were set at middle 12 o’clock then opposite of each other at about 10 o’clock. 

Result:  A definite noticeable difference. The S70xs came to life. It’s stereo voices sounded great!  By EQing out some low and boosting mids and highs a touch, not only did the acoustic pianos come to live but the organs, strings and synths also sounded more full and rich. Panning to 10 o’clock is about as far as I’d go. 

Test#9: Just to see if the addition of a second speaker was what added the major difference I went back to the Mono set up from the keyboard to the mixer then daisy chained the two K10s together.

Result:  Things were louder but definitely not as warm as the stereo setup. 

Summary:  I’ve always run Mono on stage because it was easy. One cable from my keyboard to a Radial DI box then to my amp and I was done. Sound guys also liked me because they wouldn’t have to run a second line.  After last night, even though I think I would be ok using one K10 and running mono (and in some cases might), I’m sold on stereo. Although it’s true that full stereophonic sound is not achieved when placing two speakers side by side, I could hear a definite difference from running in mono. The difference was so much more pleasing that I know I’d play better. 

As for the FOH … I’ve read some keyboard players saying that they want to hear what the FOH hears. My issue with that is that we’re all at the mercy of the FOH engineer. He or she is going to make you sound as they want you to sound.  That’s why I bring my own monitoring amplification. Also regarding FOH, I’m going to add a Rapco Horizon STL-1 Stereo Line Direct Box to the chain. This would allow me to run my stage rig in stereo or mono to FOH. For small club gigs I would also have the option of bringing only one speaker and running mono is space were an issue. 

Lastly, I think it’s important to note that I am not a “jobber”. At this point music is a hobby for me. I play in only one band so it’s not about lining up quick in and out gigs to make money. I now play just for the love of performing live music. With that said, I totally get that most jobbing keyboard players might say “why carry more than you have to?” or “with one speaker I’m in and out quickly”.  This wouldn’t be an issue with me. I’d be moving from one heavy amp to two very much lighter speakers. The mixer would be sitting on my S70x’s right side making it way easier to tweak tone than run back and forth to my amp.  My setup time would remain the same and I’d and get a sound that is so much more pleasing to me on stage.

cmayhle – I think this is the configuration for me too. 

My plan now is to audition the Yamaha DXR10s then choose between them and the QSC K10s. 

My apologies for being so long winded. I hope my posts and the responses here help others make informed amplification decisions.

kevin

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