When most of us think of chapels in Las Vegas, the images that come to mind are of the drive-through wedding variety with an Elvis impersonator officiating. But here’s the real secret that Sin City isn’t even trying to keep on the down low: it’s full of churches, and according to msncbc contributor Chris Rodell “…lots of them. Mosques, temples and synagogues too – representing vibrant faiths from all over creation.” The fact is, there are over 500 churches (compared to its 35 wedding chapels) for the city’s nearly 600,000 residents and 37.3 annual visitors, with over 40 faiths represented.
One of them is International Church of Las Vegas, a multi-cultural congregation with four locations (and even a virtual iChurch) in Las Vegas. It is at the ICLV’s Summerlin worship center, the spiritual home of 4,000 congregants where most of the church’s major conferences and events take place, that we find James Elizondo. His day gig is “rock and roll audio dude” at Vegas’ HAS Audio Productions (clients include Fergie, Lady Antebellum, LL Cool J, Aretha Franklin, Snoop Lion and about a zillion others, along with venues like the Sahara Hotel, House of Blues, New York New York, MGM Grand and … well, you get the idea) but he still finds time to volunteer at ICLV as its head audio engineer.
Here is a man who loves the Lord and Shure KSM9 microphones (both the standard and the HS version) though not exactly the same way. Here’s the back-story:
“Several years ago, it was time to make a mic upgrade at the church. I proposed KSM9s because all the research I had done told me that it was the most B to the A microphone on the planet. I ended up with three hard-wired KSM9 mics for my primary vocal and two of the fancy champagne-colored UR2s with KSM9 capsules on them for my primary speakers.”
Before long, ICLV’s Pastor bore witness to the mighty power of the KSM9, preferring it to any other RF mic within reach. The church’s traveling Worship Leader didn’t leave home without it. James liked it, too: “From an engineer’s standpoint, the KSM9 has pretty much become the bar to me when it comes to wired condenser microphones.” Why? “It has all the attributes that you expect from a condenser mic – that really pretty and smooth high-end, for example – but unlike some of the other vocal condensers, it has a really really good amount of low-end, really really good feedback rejection. It’s easy to use in wedges and with in-ears here at the church. Between wired and wireless, I was using about 5 KSM9s on any given Sunday.”
Shortly after the KSM9HS made its debut in late 2012, James got his hands on one and swapped it for out his Worship Leader’s standard KSM9. Remember now, this was the same Worship Leader who had been on the KSM9 for about four years and was totally in love with it. “With the HS, I ended up using the hypercardioid pattern because my singer said he liked that pattern even better than the supercardioid pattern that we’ve been using on his KSM9.”
Pickup Patterns of KSM9 Models
Most resistant to feedback, best for single sound sources in loud environments.
Most popular pickup pattern, isolates ambient sounds and resists feedback.
Extreme isolation, high gain before feedback.
Wide, even pickup, capable of capturing a group of instruments or vocalists.
With a choice of four polar patterns between the two mics, we asked James how he decides which one to use. “You’ll find a unique situation for any of the polar patterns. Vocalists are accustomed to using whatever mic is put in front of them – and it’s often something like an SM58. But for the engineer, it becomes a matter of making adjustments on the back end with EQ or whatever.
When you start using the KSM9 – either one – the fact that you can actually switch the pattern even before you start to EQ means you can tailor the mic to its unique situation, depending on how the vocalist holds the mic, how the person sings or maybe even the timbre of his or her voice.
The mics we have at the church are set on various patterns depending on the vocalists using them. You can’t do this in real time because you have to remove the grille to flip the switch, so beforehand, I’ll switch the patterns based on who’s singing. I’ve experimented with all the different polar patterns on all of our singers, so I know ahead of time which ones to use.”
Clearly, James finds both KSM9 mics praise-worthy. Here’s where we landed: “If you’re in the market for a good high end condenser mic and can swing it, buy a pair – a KSM9 and a KSM9HS. With both, you’ll get just about any kind of polar pattern you’d need to adapt to any situation. In my opinion, these mics are the cream of the crop when it comes to wired condenser microphones.”
In a city teeming with top-name musical acts from the predictable Cher and Celine Dion extravaganzas to the more surprising Boz Scaggs, Cage the Elephant, Pixies and Smash Mouth shows – the town knows how to rock and does it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That drive for performance excellences goes for the churches, too. According to one audio volunteer, “One thing we don’t gamble on here is sound quality.”
Read a Church Production KSM9HS 2013 review here.
And here’s a ProSoundWeb road test.