Getting started with your wireless in ear systems
Set the gain structure for the wireless in ear systems.
For the source signal use a CD into 2 channels of the console or pink noise from the console oscillator out. If the console oscillator has a tone generator, use 100hz instead of pink noise.
Set the output meter for the mix to 0db with the source, match the input meter of the in ear system to 0db the gain structure is now set that when the mix output hits 0db the input of the in ear system should do the same. Do this for all of your wireless mixes.
Check the artist earpieces.
Using the CD or Pink noise listen to each artist mix with the artist’s earpieces to make sure they are working correctly. If they are a two way earpiece cover the high sound bore, listen to the lows then cover the lows and listen to the highs. I do this with a Q-tip cut in half, it is about the same size as a sound bore. You can use anything the right size just don’t stick it deep into the canal as you can damage a filter.
After checking that the components work, listen to the ears and wiggle the cord at the plug, y junction and at the connector into the earpieces. If the cord is intermittent and replaceable, change the cord. Clean any wax out if the canals and wipe with an audio wipe to sanitize. This should be done before every sound check and show
Check the RF integrity of the wireless systems.
Walk the performance area with all of the wireless receivers and check for interference and dropouts. If there is any interference or dropouts check that the antennas are connected to the transmitter and that the antenna on the belt pack is in good shape. Also make sure that if you have an antenna combiner that it is on. If this doesn’t work try changing the frequency on the system to find a better frequency. Make sure that you know and write down all of the wireless frequencies that are being used onstage and in the building. This includes wireless vocal microphones, guitar transmitters and hearing impaired systems. Make sure that no 2 units are on the same frequency. After all of this if you are still having RF problems you may need to use an RF scanner to set up the RF frequencies. Some of the wireless in ear systems have these built in to them, if so read the manual to learn how to use the scanner. The company winradio makes a very cost effective scanner for a PC. Their website is www.winradio.com Once you use this tool you will never want to use wireless gear without one.
Now you should be ready to mix, here are a few tips for vocals.
If you are using wedges and ears, “Y” the vocal mics.
If you find yourself in the situation where you have to use wedges and ears on a stage one of the most important tricks that I use is to “Y” the vocals that are used in the wedges and ears. The same microphone goes into to two channels. When you are putting a vocal microphone into a wedge or side fill inevitably you will have to cut feedback frequencies. If you send this vocal microphone with the stage EQ to the ears, the vocal will sound dull in the ears. Feedback is not possible in the earpieces so there is no reason to cut these frequencies out of the microphone.
When you insert an earpiece into the canal and it seals, you get what singers call head voice. The low and low-mid frequencies become predominant. This is why you see an artist put a finger in their ear, so they can hear themselves pitch in a loud environment.
The way we can compensate for this is to eliminate the low frequencies from the vocal microphone being sent to the ears. I personally hi pass the vocals at 200 hz. Start your mix with the artist by bringing up the vocal until they hear themselves clearly. You should strive to blend the vocal microphone with the head voice, try not to over power the head voice. Mix the instruments and other vocals under this vocal, If you start with the instruments it is very easy to get the mix too loud.
Watch the vocal volume at the ear.
I have seen this happen to many times, the artist continues to have you turn up their vocal in their mix until they can sing very easily, too easily. They start to pull the mic away from their mouth and it becomes a roving overhead, and the mix becomes very smeared because of it. The FOH engineer struggles to get their vocal on top of the mix without feedback. The vocalist dynamics become non-existent. When this happens you have to communicate with the artist to come to a happy compromise. The artist will need to project enough to give the FOH engineer enough input but not so much that they have to strain. I sometimes have the artist take their earpieces out and sing with the band so that I can get a real level on the console. Then I have them put the earpieces back in and give them a touch more so they can push a little less.