How to Stream Your Service with Pro-Quality Sound
The world has changed, suddenly and unpredictably. But we’re human beings, and we’re pretty good at adapting. With the shutdown of large gatherings becoming the norm for at least the near future, Houses of Worship have adapted by streaming services online—so they still get to spread the Word, while not spreading a virus. Although many of the challenges involved in vocal intelligibility for streaming are the same as a live event, there are also some differences. These five tips are good practice in general, but we’ll also underscore some that apply more to streaming.
1. Reduce Low-Frequency P-Pops
Aside from not sounding good, those low-frequency pops can cause distortion. They can also reduce headroom, which results in lower average levels. Your first line of defense is good mic technique: Don’t “swallow” the mic. As a good rule of thumb (literally!), stretch your pinky and thumb as far apart as possible; the distance between them represents a good distance between you and the mic. Next, make sure that any highpass/low cut filter is enabled on the mic (if present), and in your mixer’s EQ. Finally, use a pop filter. The sE Electronics Pop Screen and Gator GM Pop Filter (Fig. 1) are popular and inexpensive.
The sE Electronics Dual Pro Pop uses a novel design that combines two filters—one has a standard fabric mesh, while the other has a metal mesh. Being hinged, you can use one, the other, or move one on top of the other when you need extra pop protection.
2. Control Your Dynamics
A good compressor/limiter controls volume peaks that could cause distortion, as well as gives the voice a higher average level, which makes it more intelligible. The Galaxy Audio DS-CP25 (Fig. 2) is well-suited to the task because not only is it a standard compressor/limiter, but it also includes five bands of parametric EQ to tame the frequency response.
Even better, the DS-CP25 offers multi-band operation, which splits the audio into three bands, each with its own dynamics control. For example, you can compress a booming voice while leaving the higher frequencies alone (or adding light compression to them). Or, compress only the higher frequencies, to “de-ess” the vocal by controlling sibilants. The DS-CP25 is housed in a 1U rack-space housing, so it’s an excellent candidate for a permanent install. It also stores up to 20 presets, which allows optimizing the sound for different people who might be using the microphone.
3. De-Ess Your High End
Streaming tends to have a problem with high frequencies, so you want to avoid spraying sibilants into the audio—even more than usual. However, there’s no need to use a dedicated de-esser, because the DBX 286s (Fig. 3) is a complete vocal processor with mic preamp, compressor, de-esser, enhancer, and gate.
Although it lacks the Galaxy Audio DS-CP25’s multiband operation, ability to store presets, and digital control, the DBX 286s is easy to set up and use. It’s pretty much all the processor you need to optimize voice.
4. Control Your Acoustics
It’s important to stream your voice without having it accompanied by room noise, reflections, leakage from other sounds (HVAC, air conditioning, etc.), or any other sonic interference. Room reflections can be particularly problematic; in a live setting, the reflections are diffused into a space but when streaming, the reflections compete with the voice. The Aston Microphones Halo (Fig. 4) is almost like a portable acoustic booth. You probably wouldn’t want to use it with video, because you couldn’t really shoot the speaker from the front. However, for an audio-only stream, the improvement in acoustic isolation can enhance intelligibility.
5. Adjust Your Equalization
Whether an outboard unit, or the equalizer within a digital mixer like the QSC Touchmix series, PreSonus StudioLive series (Fig. 5), or the Yamaha TF5, equalization can make a big difference for vocals. There are no “rules,” because EQ needs to be tailored for specific voices and specific microphones. However, there are some universally useful tips.
- Your streamed sermon will likely be heard on a smartphone or tablet. The frequency range of smartphones helps vocal intelligibility, because it’s optimized for voice. Nonetheless, before streaming to the public, test the sound over a mobile device to make sure the words are intelligible.
- A low-cut filter is good for reducing pops, but to keep the sound from being too thin, you can add a slight low-frequency “bump” just above the cutoff frequency. This gives a richer vocal sound (Fig. 6).
- A little bit of EQ boost in the 3.5 to 4 kHz range can increase intelligibility if needed, but note that the ear is most sensitive in this frequency range. Too much of a boost will sound harsh.
- Sometimes, a slight dip in the 250 to 400 Hz range can reduce any “muddy” qualities, and tighten up the vocal sound.
The voice says the words that people want and need to hear, so make sure it’s clear, intelligible, pleasant, and translates well over mobile playback systems such as smartphones. To help accomplish those goals, call your Full Compass sales professionals, whose 40 years of experience can help choose the right gear—and recommend the best techniques—to accomplish your desired result.