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Thread: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

  1. #1
    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    Default Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Hi everyone,

    I'm currently in a band where I play mandolin, mandola and tenor banjo and switch between them quickly. Each have pickups that currently run from a Fishman pre to a Fishman amp. The issue is that they each have fairly different EQ needs: The mandolin needs a low cut to remove pick noise, the mandola needs a mid cut to remove some extra honk, banjo needs both, etc. We don't have any crew, and I'd really like to get away from having to make those adjustments manually each time I swap instruments. What I want to find is a footswitchable three channel pre, preferably with separate EQ strips - anybody know of such a thing?

    I realize there are other ways of setting up a rig like this, but we play small stages, and with three instruments on stage, I'm already a bit cramped, and trying to avoid putting too much on the floor.

    Christian
    Christian McKee

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    Musical Director, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    If you can swap a main cable between instruments, then you might consider the TC Electronic G-Natural pedal. You can hit the tuner switch to mute the signal when swapping instruments, and call up several different patches with foot switches. Each patch can have its own EQ, volume level, and effects setting. It's a very clean-sounding unit with great effects quality. It has a boost switch too, which can be useful for solos.

    This is the only pedal-type preamp I'm aware of, that can instantly switch between different EQ settings. However, as a programmable pedal, it's something that's best used in "set and forget" mode at the gig. It's not easy to make small adjustments on the fly.

    I used one of these pedals for a while, but now I'm using a compact 4 or 8 channel mixer on a chair or small table at the side of the stage. It's used as either a sub-mixer for the group before going to the house PA, or as the main PA mixer if we're providing the system. For the clip-on mics I use, it's just a much easier setup, and it's also better for making adjustments, either during sound check or between sets.

    So that's another approach to consider -- a small mixer where you can just leave each instrument plugged in, with separate EQ on each channel. Since you're using pickups you will still need an impedance-matching preamp ahead of the mixer for each instrument, unless the mixer includes "High Z" input channels. Don't go direct from a pickup to a line input on a mixer.

    The lowball approach might be to set up a pedal board with separate EQ pedals and some A/B switchers (or combiners), but that would take up more floor space than the G-Natural pedal, and it wouldn't sound as clean.

    Or, you could ditch the pickups and just play all three instruments into an external mic.


    I think about doing that myself every once in a while, instead of the side mixer and clip-on mics I'm using. But it's nice to have some EQ control for each instrument, and also the freedom of movement. So I'm sticking with this approach for now.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Christian,
    Check out the Mackie 802 VLZ3 mixer. It is a compact mixer with instrument/line and XLR inputs on 3 channels. Each channel has separate input trim and EQ, and the mic pre's are pretty good. Each channel also has a "mute button", so it is easy to ensure that only the instrument you are playing is "live".

    I have used this mixer for several years. I plug an acoustic guitar, mandolin and resonator into the Mackie 802, and send the main output to a single channel of the house mixer. Lets me have local control of my instrument gain, levels and EQ, and only uses one PA channel. I don't know if that setup would work for you, but it might be worth considering.

    Best of luck,
    Steve

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Rane MAP33! It's what I use. Gonna cost you, though.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    A note about that Mackie 802 VLZ3 mixer -- it has standard line inputs, so if you're using a passive pickup you'll need an additional preamp (LR Baggs PADI or whatever) before going into the line input. If you're using an active pickup system you can go direct to the line input without suffering any degradation of the pickup tone.

    My favorite tiny mixer is the Allen & Heath ZED-10FX, similar to the Mackie but it has a sweep (semi-parametric) mid EQ which is very useful for acoustic instruments. Two of the four main channels have High-Z inputs so you can plug a passive pickup in directly, without a preamp for buffering the signal. There is a slightly less expensive ZED-10 version if you don't need the onboard effects section. It's one of the few tiny mixers that has an internal AC power supply, so it doesn't use a wall wart for power. I use this for small duo gigs, like a wedding we did last weekend. Great little mixer.

    The only thing I don't like is that it lacks channel mutes, because that space is taken up with recording monitor functions. I wish it had mutes, but I just set up the gain structure so my instruments are all at 12:00 o'clock on the knobs for playing, and I roll off the ones I'm not using. On many gigs I leave all my instrument mics live, and it's not a problem, but that wouldn't work if your stage volume is high.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    The Rane MAP33 is a very cool unit. Discontinued though... a little too far ahead of its time, I guess.

    I'm surprised nobody else has entered this product niche. The G-Natural pedal is really just one-half the solution for multi-instrumentalists. Individual patches are great, but it lacks multiple, switchable inputs on the front end.

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    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Martin, that Rane unit looks like a great bit of kit, but I'm a ways from justifying rack gear on stage at the moment. I'll look more closely at the TC electronics unit, I saw that when doing some initial searches but didn't realize I could do the kind of one-stomp EQ change you're describing. That might work. And as nice as it would be to play good instruments into good microphones, I won't touch a rig like that until I have someone to run it AND the monitors for me. Too much hassle and earache, and my little fourpiece is too loud (even without a drummer!) for that to work anyway.

    Christian
    Christian McKee

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    Musical Director, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Apparently Rane did make a remote-control unit for the MAP33, so if you managed to find one you could, hypothetically, put the actual unit anywhere, as long as it wasn't too far away to plug in. I do not have a remote control for mine, lamentably.

    How long have you been playing with OMO?
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Talk to Orchid Electronics in the UK. They custom build for a lot of pro musicians, and their products are designed for heavy gigging use. The good news; they are not expensive, and building something to your exact requirements is about the same price as pro quality 'off the shelf' products from the big manufacturers. Link; http://www.orchid-electronics.co.uk/
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    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve260 View Post
    Christian,
    Check out the Mackie 802 VLZ3 mixer. It is a compact mixer with instrument/line and XLR inputs on 3 channels. Each channel has separate input trim and EQ, and the mic pre's are pretty good. Each channel also has a "mute button", so it is easy to ensure that only the instrument you are playing is "live".

    I have used this mixer for several years. I plug an acoustic guitar, mandolin and resonator into the Mackie 802, and send the main output to a single channel of the house mixer. Lets me have local control of my instrument gain, levels and EQ, and only uses one PA channel. I don't know if that setup would work for you, but it might be worth considering.

    Best of luck,
    Steve
    While this is good for some people playing small pub gigs and cafes etc, as a working audio engineer this setup irks me somewhat at festivals.
    Multiple instruments deserve separate channel treatment and being the one who is supposed to have control of things like that it gets frustrating having such different instruments coming down the same line, being unable do do much with any of them as any changes will affect all instruments. The fact that people tend to do this with cheap signal destroying units is cause for further frustration. There is a perfectly good 32-48 channel console worth tens of thousands of dollars, with a competent engineer operating it, and people make the choice to use a $100 POS "minimixer" and restrict the potential for much tweaking for optimum results.

    I think the fact that it would be very hard to control the Mackie VLZ with your feet would make the G system a good choice here. Like FP said, you should spend some time setting up your scenes and dialing your instruments in before gigging with it.
    Hereby & forthwith, any instrument with an odd number of strings shall be considered broken. With regard to mix levels, usually the best approach is treating the mandolin the same as a cowbell.

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    its a very very long song Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    There are any number of pedal type signal processors that are for electric guitars mostly. I would set up EQ patches on a ZOOM or Korg or Digitech preferably with a volume pedal or a mute for switching instruments. Then just have a separate channel with appropriate EQ settings for each instrument.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Jim makes a good point about programmable pedals for electric guitar players. These would be the larger, multi-function kind. That widens the options and you can probably find one of these for less money, but take a close look at the EQ and make sure it's flexible enough. And make sure you're not paying for a ton of effects you won't use. The effects in the G-Natural pedal are limited, but it's the basic stuff many acoustic players use (when they use effects at all), and it's TC quality in the effect chain.

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    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Oh, that upsetting the festival engineer were a problem I had more often. I'd really like to get to a place someday where I can play direct with a good monitor engineer, and let everyone else worry about the rest.

    Martin, I've been playing cello with OMO since the beginning of this year. The hard part is bringing my sight reading up to par, including learning the bass clef, and catching up with everyone. For example - we have a concert in June that consists of familiar material to everyone but me... It's a great time, though, I'm quite enjoying it.
    Christian McKee

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Yeah, it would be nice to have room for three separate channels to play into, and a sound tech who's attentive enough to take note when you switch.
    Quote Originally Posted by taboot View Post
    Martin, I've been playing cello with OMO since the beginning of this year.
    Cool ... well, we have something in common then, since I sat in on one of their gigs in 2010, and wound up on the live recording. Is Bill still at it?
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Yeah! I thought that was you in some of the pictures from a few years back, neat-o. Bill's still playing, and playing well. There are three cellos counting Stuart and myself, three mandolas and an army of mandolins...
    Christian McKee

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    Musical Director, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Rane MAP33! It's what I use. Gonna cost you, though.
    The MAP33 was an interesting unit, Martin, and you are lucky yours still works.

    I had one for exactly the same application--switching between mandolin, octave-mandolin, and guitar. I toured Europe and the states with it for a year or two. I found the sertup interface very clunky to work with, although once it was programmed it was pretty effective. I didn't have a footswitch, either, so I had to toggle between the presets with the unit itself.

    Unfortunately mine blew up on stage in Seattle one night. I took it to the RANE factory the next morning--right up near Everett or Mukilteo--but after a few hours of their engineers tinkering with it they couldn't figure out how to get it working again and they were anxious to buy me out of the device, which was apparently causing them a lot of problems across the boards. They discontinued it very soon thereafter.

    They ended up trading me three new AP13 units for the defective MAP33. Not as simple a solution, but much more of a workhorse approach.

    Very shortly after that episode I went back to an SM57 on a stand and haven't looked back.

    If I were to go the direct-line approach again I'd just hog three channels in the board. Too many problems expecting a single channel--no matter how flat and "neutral"--to sound great with three different input profiles. There are always tweaks to be made at the front-of-house board, and what works great for the mandolin isn't necessarily what works best for the guitar. I find a mic much more forgiving that way, and I can usually make the adjustments at my end by where I position the instrument relative to the diaphram.
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  17. #17
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    seems lots bump up from 2 to 4 Mic channels and the throw in a couple line channels,
    and a stereo RCA jack to use the CD player in set breaks for sound fill..
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    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Don't get me wrong, this was the first part of what I said and still stands.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Milne View Post
    this is good for some people playing small pub gigs and cafes etc, .
    Just be able to recognize when to hand over control.
    Hereby & forthwith, any instrument with an odd number of strings shall be considered broken. With regard to mix levels, usually the best approach is treating the mandolin the same as a cowbell.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    Only two inputs, but looks promising:

    Radial Tonebone PreZ
    http://www.tonebone.com/tb-pzpre-using.htm

    I'm very curious about other solutions. Often I'm playing mandolin, resonator, and tenor banjo. Generally, festivals and venues with pro sound. Is it best to have an individual DI/preamps for each instrument?

  20. #20
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Three channel instrument preamp for stage?

    mostly even numbers.. 2,4,6,8,12,16 etc..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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