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Rookie Mistake? .. Naw, Just Got Lazy.

There may have been one time in the history of man when an intermittent problem corrected itself, but I doubt it had anything to do with audio.

99.999999% of the time, Intermittent problems only get worse. So, when I encountered one last Saturday night while setting up to DJ* a wedding, I fought the temptation to hope it would go away, and began the rigorous task of trouble shooting.

Having set up portable audio systems for band and DJ work more times than I care to remember, whenever there’s a problem of this type, I can usually get beyond the initial annoyance of the situation by just reminding myself, “It’s most likely a cable or connector.”

And that’s true. Most of the time, it is a cable or connector-even when it appears otherwise.

For example, in this particular case, the first indication there was problem showed up when I tried to use my wireless mic unit. Not only was it only on one channel, but the other channel was horribly distorted. Then it came back and all was fine. Then it went away again.

I began with the usual routine and tracing the signal from the mixer through various pieces of processing gear to the speakers, but with the big hand on the clock rapidly advancing to the time I was suppose to be doing introduction, it began to look doubtful that I would be able to locate the problem and find a work around in time. So, I decided to by pass everything and go straight from the mixer to the subwoofer (which provided the outputs to the main speakers).

With mere minutes to spare, I got everything up to speed and sounding fine.

So, what was the rookie mistake? Actually, there were two and it all started the previous Saturday.

Working a similar gig with another DJ, the venue had us placed on stage, which elevated us above the dance floor. As a result, we decided the elevation was perfect to cover the crowd and that speaker poles were not needed. Bad call. Had we used the poles, we could have prevented one of our speakers from taking a stage dive. Even though the speakers were placed well back from the edge of the stage, and we were keeping an eye on them, it only took a few short minutes pumping out a tune particularly heavy on bass to cause it to walk up, and over, the edge. Fortunately, the speaker (A Yamaha DXR15) survived fine and barely skipped a beat (the face grille did require some collision work).

Assuming all was well, we packed up at the end of the night. What I didn’t think about (and shoulda known better) was that when that speaker went over the edge, it stressed that cable just enough to cause internal damage somewhere between the two connectors (which where fine). And that’s what led to my problems this past week.

So, the moral of the story is, and this happens all the times when using portable gear, “When you have an unexpected, ‘catastrophic’ event that could potentially damage a cable or piece of gear, be sure to set everything up and test it out before you take it back out.” When in doubt… replace any suspect cables and make sure you trash the ‘bad’ ones.

 

* As mentioned previously (and having been flamed for frequently), yes, along with playing in bands when the opportunities arise, I also DJ –  So, no opologies to my musician friends, I just find it a much better environment for testing and evaluating gear.

About the author

Bruce Bartlett

Audio Engineering Society member Bruce Bartlett is a recording engineer, audio journalist, and microphone engineer (www.bartlettaudio.com). His latest books are "Practical Recording Techniques 6th Edition" and "Recording Music On Location."


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