Economical solution to double my body mics?

Painterspoon

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Location
Near Peterborough, Ontario
I'm directing a production of Les Mis at my high school starting in February, and our current system is a 16-channel Allen and Heath board that we connect to our 13 Sennheiser body mic packs. Our snake has 16 XLR cords. So there go 13 of our 16 channels right off the top. I have been through the nightmare of backstage mic tradeoffs with every show we've done and I would like not to have to do that again, because Les Mis will be a disaster going this route. Is there a way to incorporate another system, maybe one that can plug into one channel in the board but come with its own individual volume controls? I think standalone systems like this exist - I'd love to be able to just tack on 16 more body mics into one channel on our board, but maybe I'm dreaming. I just can't rely on ambient mics to adequately pick up chorus without picking up our live pit orchestra more.

Someone please tell me that this is miraculously solvable...
 

jkowtko

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2007
Location
Redwood City, CA
Not the slickest solution, but what I have done in the past is simply to piggyback another board onto the main board ... run all wireless into Board 1, then the output of Board 1 (mono, pick L or R channel, the mics are mono so it doesn't matter) can feed into Input Channel 1 of the main board. if you are running digital boards you will lose the DCA grouping capability, but it sounds like you might be using an analog board so there really shouldn't be any drawbacks to this other than a slightly higher noise floor.
 

Painterspoon

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Location
Near Peterborough, Ontario
Not the slickest solution, but what I have done in the past is simply to piggyback another board onto the main board ... run all wireless into Board 1, then the output of Board 1 (mono, pick L or R channel, the mics are mono so it doesn't matter) can feed into Input Channel 1 of the main board. if you are running digital boards you will lose the DCA grouping capability, but it sounds like you might be using an analog board so there really shouldn't be any drawbacks to this other than a slightly higher noise floor.
Thanks. I'm trying to wrap my head around this. I find it hard without images so I have a couple of clarifying questions...first of all, yes - the board is analog.
I'm getting mixed up between "main board" and "board 1".
How do I run all wireless to board 1 if I only have a max 16 inputs - or are you suggesting a secondary panel of mics that only plugs into one channel?
I'm sorry I'm not clear on this...I'm just not comfortable with audio, but alas, I'm really all I have at my school.
 
Joined
Feb 18, 2016
Location
Nebraska
I agree with jkowtko, a sub mixer would be the easiest solution.

You mentioned a snake. Are your wireless mic receivers at stage? I have mine in a rack that sits at FOH. I use external paddle antennas (also at FOH) to reach the stage. Makes it much easier to monitor the wireless mics.

LOVE my Sennheiser wireless systems, btw! AND my A&H mixers!
 
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Painterspoon

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Location
Near Peterborough, Ontario
The box and power supply are at stage. The receivers sit back with us at the "tech table" so we can monitor battery levels and communicate with stage crew if we need to fix an issue. So no - not at stage.

I will have to figure out this sub-mixer solution. In the meantime, what should I buy to augment my existing mics, without blowing too much money? The Sennheisers I have would be reserved for leads as they sound awesome, and an additional set I get would be cheaper and given to chorus/non-leads. Is there a 16-mic kit that is easy to just throw in?
 

FMEng

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Mar 31, 2008
Location
Tacoma, WA
Don't buy more mics, rent them. In order for 26 mics to operate properly together, it will take top tier systems, which you likely cannot afford. The issue is not the number of channels they can tune. The issue is how selective and free of intermod the systems are. Whether your existing ones will play nice with more is a question. I suggest renting all 26, and having the vendor deal with the frequency coordination, so that they'll all work well together.

It's not impossible, but one person is going to have a difficult time mixing that many mics on a basic, analog console with a sub mixer. Consider a team approach, or switch to a rented, digital console, and give the technician many days to get up the learning curve of a totally unfamiliar, digital console.

Maybe having a couple of crew assigned to manage mics swaps isn't such a bad idea.
 

Painterspoon

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Location
Near Peterborough, Ontario
Don't buy more mics, rent them. In order for 26 mics to operate properly together, it will take top tier systems, which you likely cannot afford. The issue is not the number of channels they can tune. The issue is how selective and free of intermod the systems are. Whether your existing ones will play nice with more is a question. I suggest renting all 26, and having the vendor deal with the frequency coordination, so that they'll all work well together.

It's not impossible, but one person is going to have a difficult time mixing that many mics on a basic, analog console with a sub mixer. Consider a team approach, or switch to a rented, digital console, and give the technician many days to get up the learning curve of a totally unfamiliar, digital console.

Maybe having a couple of crew assigned to manage mics swaps isn't such a bad idea.
Definitely food for thought! Thank you!
 

steine

Active Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Location
Denmark
As I am situated in Europe, and thus different rules regarding frequencies, I will keep a bit away from the precise planning of these.

How ever:
If you allready have 13 Sennheiser as I understand it, you could get a sub-mixer / second analog mixer and rent say 16 other Sennheiser mics, mix those on the second console and run the main into a channel on your main console.
Have leads on the main console and only ensemble on the secondary will give you a single fader to mute the ensamble.
OR mix the ensamble as male/female by panning them har L/R, then run both L and R to the main console, on two channels and you will be able to ride the two ensemble sets individually (in lovely Ladies, turning etc)

Reason I suggest renting more Sennheiser is simple: you can specify the band your present mics are using and then get the additional ones in a different band.
If lucky you can get a complete channel plan for all 29 mics ensuring no IM (Inter Modulation) at all.

--- come to think: what do you have as console for the band then ?
 

steine

Active Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Location
Denmark
The channel count for Sennheiser is based on a single band and "safe" parameters.

I have a plan for their G-band (566-608MHz) in my location right now with 37 IM free frequencies (until March 2020 when I loose part of the band to Broadcast and fall down to 29 frequencies)
But if I took their A-band (516-558) as well, I should be able to fit at least 50+ channels IM free.

Reason I suggest to rent more of the same brand is simply to maximize the inter operability of the units.
 

TheaterEd

Renaissance Man
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Renting mics and an additional board definitely seems like your answer here. I did Les Mis a few years back with 17 microphones. Every person what mic'd for every line they had. I believe I had a 3 person crew backstage working mic changes, but It can be done.

For me, it was worth it to do the mic swaps rather than have a board op that can keep track of that many analog channels.
 

ACTSTech

Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Location
USA
Running two sound boards isn’t ideal, but I’ve done exactly what you are wondering. What you need is exactly what you asked about, two sound boards. Run lesser used mics into the “second” sound board, then run that sound board‘s out into one channel on the main sound board.

This has a million kinds of disaster written all over it, but if you’re careful, especially with the levels, it can ease the headache. Again, you need to look at cost, whether more mics and more frequencies will live together, and other things people have brought up.
 

DrewE

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Location
Vermont
If you look around, you may be able to find (either for sale, for the taking, or for rent) a single sound board of a sufficient channel count for not much money. This is particularly the case if you're willing to use an analog mixer, as there are many forlorn analog mixers kicking around as people have upgraded to digital mixers.

A week or two ago I happened upon a 40 channel Yamaha PM1800, packed in an enormous flight case, for $400 in a local thrift shop. It appears it had previously been used by a very good local amateur theater organization (the Lyric Theatre Company here in Vermont, not to be confused with any other Lyric theaters). I suspect there's a very good chance it works fine, or at worst requires only some fairly straightforward repairs, though it was of course sold as-is. I had to tell myself that I personally had absolutely no use whatsoever for a mixer anywhere near that large, nor storage space for a flight case that may very well not even fit in my car.
 

Rod Reilly

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2017
Location
New Jersey
I am a bit biased .....since I rent and sell wireless systems and digital mixers ....
No one can run more than 16 channels simultaneously in theatre in an effective way (well not many anyway).
  • Renting wireless makes sense if you do not regularly run more than 16 channels
  • Managing the RF mapping on anything above 24 channels is a nightmare even with all the software tools and analyzers - we only recommend Shure digital systems over UHF for large rigs now - it's just so simple and they will map themselves with amazing accuracy
  • Before spending money on wireless systems, spend it on a decent Digital Console - $2500-4500 gets you a workable solution
  • At more than 16 channels, digital boards with good scene cue save and recall is a must - moves all the work from live shows to pre-show rehearsals and makes running the live show a breeze
  • We use and recommend Soundcraft Expression/Impact/Performer boards for cost effectiveness (Joel I love the A&H boards too and have sold a few) and they have the simplest to up date cue list system
  • Digital boards do have a significant learning curve if you have only ever run a simple analog board - so if you rent one, rent it for a week or so before the first tech day - with a script in hand and the directors notes you can pretty much set up the basic scenes before you mic up - we recommend using French Scenes as your Cues - anytime an actor enters or leaves the stage, that is a cue (we leave all actors live if they are on stage).
 

EdM

New Member
Joined
Jun 18, 2019
Location
Massachusetts USA
I will have to figure out this sub-mixer solution. In the meantime, what should I buy to augment my existing mics, without blowing too much money? The Sennheisers I have would be reserved for leads as they sound awesome, and an additional set I get would be cheaper and given to chorus/non-leads. Is there a 16-mic kit that is easy to just throw in?
This Youtube video should help:

This outfit rents mics primarily for stage productions. I have no experience with them but they're on my list to contact regarding our mic rental needs.:
http://www.bodymics.rentals/
 

Rod Reilly

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2017
Location
New Jersey
Hey Ed ... thanks for the soundout. Thiink PainterSpoon is in Canada - I can't tranship into Canada without spending a fortune on Customs Brokers etc
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
Yeah based on user listed location @Painterspoon is near Peterborough Ontario, not exactly CLOSE to me but a lot closer than most of the rest.

It's been a while since we've heard back, I hope you got this all sorted. Let me know if you still need help, ;) if I can't help I certainly can point you in the right direction. I certainly have friends in your neck of the woods.
 

josh88

Remarkably Tired.
Fight Leukemia
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Jan 26, 2010
Location
Ypsilanti, Michigan
I've mixed shows with 24 wireless mics and a pit with 30 inputs. With DCA's and such it's entirely possible to effectively mix a show that large in theatre. The current Once tour has 40 channels of wireless just for their instruments.

I would keep the pit/any other mics on a sub board and put all the wireless on the main board personally and rent more if you need them but I just did Les mis last year with 16 wireless for the cast, so its doable with a small amount or if you're willing to swap mics during the show.
 

Painterspoon

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Location
Near Peterborough, Ontario
Hi everyone!

Sorry it has taken me awhile to respond. Life happened for a bit.

I've decided to purchase three more Sennheisers which would top me off at 16 and take up all 16 cables in our snake and use up all the channels on my main board. I'm also going to be purchasing another smaller Allen and Heath to use as a sub mixer in Les Mis for chorus and pit mics. I have decided to just keep it capped to 16 Sennheisers, as I've had good luck with them for the most part...except when the kids drop them, return them with the mic cord "wrapped up nice and tight", or decide that folding the antenna over is okay...

If anyone has any advice for mic'ing chorus (which I've NEVER had success with...I've hung condensers, hidden them in fake plants, and they never seem to pick up the distance they need to pick up without hearing that tinge of feedback coming in)...I'd love to hear chorus mic'ing tips!

My next post will about set design and where to logically hide the pit, comprised of about 20 people...
 

steine

Active Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Location
Denmark
I usually have an off stage chorus placed on 3 to 4 mics, depending on the numbers and voices.
(1 x Sopranos, 1 x Alt, 1 x Tenor and 1 x bariton/Bass.... or different depending on off stage singers)

Onstage I have been able to hide PZM mics (usually Beta91 or PCC160) close to their main positions.
In a setup of Oliver (Twist) I had a barrol right in front of one position, with a B91 hidden behind it... would have loved it on top but it was used as a seat a few times.
A second B91 was placed on a wall right by a shelf with cups.

As both was around 4-5 meters behind the stage front (guess your term will be upstage), I simply delayed the inputs around 3 meters worth, that helped me bringing the chorus in sync, as well as more gain before feedback.

Then again I usually have 32+ wireless, so I do not need the onstage mics as often these days. ;)