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Old July 2nd, 2015, 10:47 PM   #1
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Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

I film lots of weddings each year and I've been doing everything I can to get really good audio during the speeches at the reception. While I can usually get a feed from a DJ's sound board that is "usable", it is often not great because I have to raise the levels significantly in post. I use a Tascam DR-40 which has a "Line" setting and accepts 1/4" or XLR cables. Usually the DJ at weddings will have an RCA out or a 1/4" out that he can give me, but they almost always say they aren't able to adjust the levels without adjusting how loud his speakers sound. So I need to find a way that I can raise the volume myself without adding much noise into the audio.

In most situations, even when I turn up the input volume on my DR-40 to it's maximum it's still pretty quiet. When I edit in Premiere Pro, I always have to duplicate the track vertically about 3-5 times which adds quite a bit of noise.

Right now I usually use an RCA to XLR adaptor or a 1/4" to XLR adaptor going straight from the sound board to my DR-40. I would like to find out if there is a better way to record audio from the DJ's board so that I can get a clean signal that's loud enough that I don't have to raise it in post.

I will mention that I have tried using a Rolls DB25b with my Sennheiser SKP 100 G3 transmitter and sending the signal directly to my G3 receiver on my camera. One time this worked great...but every other time I've used it I've heard quite a bit of noise making the audio unusable. Is there a better way to use the SKP 100 than what I'm doing with it right now? If so, what is that?

The other idea I've had is to bring my Behringer XENYX502 mixer and send a signal from the DJ's board to the mixer then send it to my DR-40. However, I've been told this will introduce a good amount of noise and reduce the quality of the audio. Any thoughts on this method?

So please let me know some ideas for getting a clean signal from the sound board that is loud enough that I don't have to boost in post.

Thanks!

Mike
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Old July 2nd, 2015, 11:44 PM   #2
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

The main problem here is that the DJ doesn't appreciate gain structures. Each piece of the puzzle has to be set properly for everything to work as it should. He likely has self-powered speakers, and he cranks the volume up on them (because more is better, right?) That means that he doesn't have to send much signal out from his board to get loud audio in the house. But, that affects the other outputs, too. Specifically the one you want to record from.

The answer is, unfortunately, you can't fix it. The only thing you could do is to grab the microphone's signal before it gets into the DJ's board. That means a transformer-isolated splitter (Whirlwind makes very nice ones: Microphone Splitters - Support - Whirlwind) I worked at a studio with a massive 48 channel split. It had 3 stage box inputs, a full rack of 48 isolated outs, and an additional stage box with direct outs. Pretty slick, but also overkill. The Whirlwind IMP SP1x2 should do it.

HOWEVER: The DJ probably won't like you unplugging his mics, if he even knows where they're plugged in to begin with. If he's using more than one mic or source that you want to record, then you need your own mixer (or a multitrack recorder,) and more splitters.

Hope that helps!
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 12:15 AM   #3
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Yes, I agree with everything that Mr. Carlson said.

However, it seems odd that you had good levels from your Rolls DB25b only once.

The DB25b provides a very wide and continuously adjustable range of accommodation for incoming audio levels, from mic level up to line level, and even speaker level.

If you are really setting YOUR LEVELS properly (doing proper "gain staging" at least at your end) you shouldn't be seeing such consistently low levels.

If worse come to worst you could use auto-level just for the DJ feed. Assuming you aren't using the DJ's music (because you can't license it) Auto-Level may actually come in handy for random speeches.

And I agree that splitting every mic input is probably over the top in several dimensions.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 12:19 AM   #4
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

I don't think anyone has ever called me Mr. Carlson. Huh.

Anyway, there are a million DJs out there. And many different ways they can set up their system. And I doubt many of their systems are set up properly (with regards to gain structure.) That's why it worked well once, but not the other times. The DB25b only does attenuation, not amplification (I have a similar box from Pro-Co, and it's a great tool to have) which is why you got low levels.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 12:22 AM   #5
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Pretty much everything said is correct. Most DJs are knuckleheads. I know, I'm one of them. In theory, yes, like Edward said, the DJ *should* be running his slider/knob/volume/gain positions at "unity" so that they're all similar. If he's cranking up the speakers, he shouldn't have the mixer board very low, or vice versa. Too often DJs don't know that.

So, that leaves you with pretty much these 5:
*mic the person directly yourself (or mic the mic)
*split the XLR between the DJ's mic receiver and his board, like Edward mentioned. Here you get the signal before the mixer.
* The RCA/XLR "Record Out" or similar duplicate output so that you're recording direct from the board
* Run an XLR out from a DJ's powered speakers (I chose my speakers in part because they have a separate speaker volume, but then, I'm a rare prize)
* put a mic/recorder a few feet in front of the DJ's speaker

All have their issues. #2 and 3 require you messing with the DJ's gear, or getting him to do it. You can ask, and some will be helpful. Others got the job after a 3 hour training course, make $12 an hour, and are one of 40 anonymous guys working for a company. They may not know what anything is, or how it works, and will definitely say no. In a pinch, you could even check the headphone jack. Not all will have the mic feed, but a decent board might. I've done that at a church who had a very nice mixer board but that I couldn't get to the back of it.

Running out of their speaker is usually the most line noise/hum because of a few reasons, but it will be the most reliable, if you can't get the direct feed.

Putting a mic in front of the speaker puts you at the mercy of the DJ and his volume control. Don't be shocked if the level you set early is demolished because once things actually started up, he turned it up by 25% or so because he's not smart enough to realize 200 people in a room sounds different than 20 when he checked his volume before.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 12:24 AM   #6
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Ahh, the ol' mic-in-front-of-the-speaker trick. I forgot about that one. The "mic the mic" is good, too. I've seen that before on the news. I guess they didn't have a handheld mic so they clipped a lav onto the podium mic.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 12:41 AM   #7
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward Carlson View Post
The DB25b only does attenuation, not amplification (I have a similar box from Pro-Co, and it's a great tool to have) which is why you got low levels.
Well, the DB25b is a MIC-LEVEL OUTPUT device, so I maintain that there is no excuse for getting a level that is too low out of a DB25b. I have never had any problem with any of my DB25s in a wide variety of situations.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 12:51 AM   #8
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Assumedly if you give it something less than mic-level you'll get less than mic level. Since it isn't a powered device, I don't see how you could get a hotter signal out than what you put in. (You're assuming that the DJ's output is actually peaking around 0dB, which it probably isn't.)
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 01:19 AM   #9
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Well, if you have "something less than mic level", then you would plug it directly into a mic-level input, would you not? You wouldn't need something like the DB25, etc.

I'm not sure where you would even find "something less than mic level" in even an improperly operated DJ system.

I m must say that I've never encountered any situation where I couldn't either take the signal directly, or else knock some odd-ball level down to proper mic level with the DB25.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 03:31 AM   #10
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

I don't knoŵ whether or not you guys have problems I don't experience in the UK, but the only difference I can see is that you have a DJ controlling the speeches sound which is unusual here. You also seem to usually have a lectern for the speakers, which should make things comparatively easy. Which ever way you look at it, the best sound source is the speaker's mouth rather than the DJ's sometimes doubtful board output.

In the case of a lectern, why can't you simply put a voice recorder on the lectern, your mic will then be less than a metre from the speaker which should be fine with a uni directional mic, or attach the recorder to the mic as has been mentioned in other threads. If the speeches are at the top table, which is the most common in the UK, I simply use either a pair of voice recorders on the top table close to the speakers, or a single recorder with a split lead and two mics, or if they have a radio mic attach a recorder to the mic.

Roger
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 06:44 AM   #11
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

I agree with Roger. The most fool proof (DJ proof is you prefer) is to place the audio record at the speaker. While not perfect, and it will include some room noise and should provided reasonably consistent results., Perhaps have one channel recording 12 dB or so lower than the other to minimize potential for clipping.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 06:45 AM   #12
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

I don't have a DR-40, so I can't help with pointers to check that some setting there is keeping it from successfully getting something useful even if the input signal is low.

You should go over it using the manual and check very carefully. These small recorders have deep and confusing menus and it's easy for something totally unintended to be set.

On my H4n, having phantom power ON definitely harms the signal when using the 1/4-inch combo connectors as an example.

Also if unbalanced to balanced cable adapters aren't wired correctly, that can greatly cut the signal down. If you have unbalanced connectors, I'd simply use a short unbalanced to unbalanced cable.

You could also use the Rolls DB25b with the DR-40 set to MIC level input. I know you tried it before with your transmitter, but I also find it hard to believe the majority of boards even if set terribly would be putting out something less than mic level.

Using your Behringer board to boost the signal from the DJ should not cause a problem as long as you're plugged into the same power as the DJ equipment and you aren't sending phantom power back to their board. And that you're using a properly wired cable connected to the right place with the right gain of course. Your board almost certainly has cleaner gain than the recorder.

The added benefit of using your recorder placed near the speaker if you go that route, is you also get at least a little level of the crowd walla in between anything playing from the DJ. And it will be consistent unlike moving around with your camera's onboard mic.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 07:26 AM   #13
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

I can't see any advantage at all in taking your main audio for speeches from the DJ for many reasons. You are relying on the speaker using the mic correctly, the quality of the mic itself, the connection quality between mic and DJ board, either radio or wired, the quality and noise levels of the board, any extra hum or noise from other equipment plugged into that board, the connections between the board and your own system, and you are still worrying that the quality of your own Behringer mixer may lower the audio quality. I think that would be the least of your worries.

The shortest path is always the best, and a direct recording of the source through your own mic/s and recorder is by far the best solution, giving you complete control.

Roger
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 09:23 AM   #14
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Roger, here in the U.S. its very unusual for a wedding to use a lectern. Typical is people use the DJ or hotel's mic near the head table. Parents or other folks who aren't the Best Man, MOH, or B&G are often not standing behind the head table.

All that is a roundabout way of saying a recorder at a spot, like on the lectern, won't work in 99% of situations. The number of people also mean mic'ing each speaker isn't an option. Strapping it to the mic, maybe, and we've talked about that on this board before.

Basically, if the DJ knows what he's doing and has decent gear, you'll probably be fine using him. If its the hotel's mic, you can see if the receiver is in the room and then use an XLR splitter to steal signal (banquet manager is the best person to talk to).

The earlier in the chain you get your mic signal from, the less likely you are to have line noise or hum.

There is nothing to be done about mic handling noise other than, for me as an MC/DJ, I talk to the speakers before we start about how to properly use the mic.

-----
Personally, we usually try a combination of a recording from the DJ mixer and a directional mic to a camera or recorder near the speakers as a backup.

Even as a DJ who knows what he's doing (a little), I've had audio signal trouble. One facitlity, a town hall/community center had a noticeable hum in my gear even though I have gear to eliminate that. Nothing I can do about it since its their electrical, not my gear.
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Old July 3rd, 2015, 09:40 AM   #15
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Re: Trouble getting a good audio feed from DJs

Hi Robert, I mentioned the lectern, because of lot of people on the forum in the U.S., seem to mention speeches from a lectern. In the UK, I have never come across it in 30+ years, but my point was still the same, which is that the sound is coming out of the mouth, so the nearer you can get to it the better.

I would never mic a loudspeaker for speeches, because so many people have no idea how to use a mic and either overload it or speak too far from it. If you are wedding videographer and recording the speeches, you really should be able to record them without going through a chain of someone else's gear. If they are using a hand mic, then it is easy enough to attach a small portable recorder. Alternatively, if they are passing a mic around, they can just as easily move a small sound recorder to the table in front of them. I have never had a problem recording speeches with a couple of uni directional mics if all the speakers are on or behind the top table. It's also very easy to have a quick word with the speakers beforehand, to let them know what you would like, otherwise they will be completely oblivious of your needs.

Roger
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