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Compressing live PA vocals

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I know this is not about Logic, but, I also know there is a huge amount of diverse knowledge here.

I sit in with a local group when there rhythm guitarist, who works out of town, is away.

They have a Mackie PA, board and speakers.

They also have a Peavey dual rack mount compressor, and a Peavey effects unit. Neither are even plugged in.

They would like to get more out of their vocals, which can be either male of female lead vocalists, and a couple of harmonies.

When I looked at their board, the first thing I noticed is that are running the 3 band EQ flat. (3 band EQ, sweepable midrange, low cutoff switch @ 75Hz.)

I started to look up some stuff on compression on a live PA, and there seems to be strong opinions for and against.

Do any of you have experience with this.

If so I'd love to hear what you have to say.

This is the lounge, I'll buy the beer :D

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As far as I have seen, using compression live is more of a stylistic choice. A lot of times you want as much dynamic range as possible - also, the vocal is one fader you usually have your finger on most of the time anyway as a FOH engineer.


If you need to get more out of the system before it feeds back, then a graphic EQ on each monitor is the ideal way to go.


But some things you can do right off the bat are:


  • check the main speaker placement (mic always behind them!)
  • make sure the connector of the mic generally faces the monitor (180° on the cardioid)
  • cut everything below 100Hz on vocal mics
  • you can get a "poor man's monitor EQ" by Y-splitting the mic and having one channel for the monitors, one for the mains. Use the swept EQ on the monitors channel to cut problem frequencies. If you don't have an XLR Y-split you can loop out of an aux and back in again, or use the old "jack half inserted" trick on an insert to get a direct out, which you can then feed into another channel.


Now we're entering roadie territory, so there had better be some beer, otherwise we might be in trouble :)

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Thanks for the advice.

I would love to get them to dump the effects unit and get some graphic EQ. I just can't see them using a Flanger or karaoke much.

Your right, our roadies would always drink all the beer, seemed to have more time to get the girls to.

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Getting rid of the FX/Compressor shouldn't be too much of a hard sell if they're never plugged in!


The Behringer (yeah, I know, I know) graphic EQs are actually not too bad and are cheap! They have some sort of feedback detection system built-in but I'm not too sure how well it works...

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