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Get Optimum Performance from Your Audio Gear

A little bit of knowledge about care, use and preventive maintenance can extend the life and maximize the performance of the gear you already own. Here, Shure’s Bill Ostry shares tips that will preserve your equipment and your budget.

Wired Microphones

  1. Keep windscreens on vocal mics clean and unclogged – clogged windscreens can reduce the performance of a microphone. Double check screens especially after female vocalists that wear lipstick.
  2. Double check that all contacts are clean – tarnished pins on an XLR connector can reduce conductivity and impair performance.
  3. Use quality microphone cables – cheap cables tend to have bad solder connections and shields that don’t hold up after repeated coiling and can become very noisy.
  4. Keep handheld microphones free of tape residue. Often times it is required to use gaffers tape on a microphone for one reason or another. Once the tape is removed some residue may remain and can contribute to the handling noise of the microphone.
  5. Do not tape over, cup or cover the windscreen or vents of the microphone. The directional (acoustical) characteristics of the microphone will become compromised and can lead to poor sound quality and/or feedback rejection.
  6. Microphone selection and placement can make all of the difference. For example: a microphone designed for vocal applications is likely to have a presence peak and would not be ideal for a bass drum or guitar cabinet.

Wireless Microphones

  1. Gain set-up is crucial for the proper operation of the wireless transmitter. Handheld transmitters can be overdriven by a vocal presenter if the gain is set too high and under-driven if the gain is set too low. Both situations can lead to poor end results. Always try to adjust for the talent of the day – not all talent are the same; some sing or speak softly requiring more initial gain and others are very loud and require minimal gain. Body-pack transmitters are frequently used with guitars that have a higher output and therefore require less gain (or more pad).
  2. Batteries: Use fresh batteries with a full charge for each event. Using rechargeable batteries is a great way to save money and landfills as long as you or someone on your staff is able to effectively manage them. Remove batteries from transmitters after each performance. This will keep you from using half-dead batteries the next time you need them and will also prevent an accidental leak from damaging your transmitter if stored for an extended period of time.
  3. Make sure that you have chosen a clean frequency in which to operate your wireless system. You can use the frequency calculator on Shure’s website to help determine which TV channels to avoid. If you still have questions, Shure’s tech support group is glad to help.
  4. Antenna placement and set-up is important. Try to keep antennas as close to transmitters with line of sight as is possible. Antennas can also be frequency band specific – don’t try to use an antenna from another system without double-checking the frequencies first. Make sure all connections are solid. For antennas, double-check the center pin on the BNC connectors to make sure it isn’t bent or broken. If you need to remotely locate an antenna, be sure to use the correct cable – not all coax cable is the same. Cable used for television will not perform the same as cable designed for use with antennas. Consult the Shure website or tech support group for assistance in picking the right product for your application should you have any questions.
  5. Many times a body pack transmitter can get wet from a performer (sweat). It is important to try and clean off the body pack and dry before storing. Using a hairdryer (set to low or no heat) is a great way to speed up the process. Storing BPs with silica gel desiccant packets also works well.

Monitors/Earphones

  1. Make sure that you have a good coupling between earphone and ear canal. The foam sleeves provided with your earphones are designed to expand in the ear canal and seal off the outside world. When a good seal is provided the earphone couples to the ear canal and they act as one providing maximum bass response as well as optimal clarity and isolation from loud stage volumes.
  2. When using earphones for monitoring, use both earphones. Performers that pull one earphone out during performance break the isolation and protection in that ear from the stage volume that using both earphones provides. Often the performer will end up turning the volume up to potentially unsafe levels in order to compete with stage volume. Both ears should be isolated throughout the performance and ambience can be added in via one or two condenser mics strategically placed on stage and fed only into the performer’s mix.
  3. Earwax is something that nobody wants to talk about, but we all have it and eventually it can clog up your earphones. Keep your equipment clean using the tools provided and you can continue to enjoy your product for years to come. Consult your product manual for proper care instructions.
  4. When using Shure earphones, if you prefer to use the yellow foam sleeves, be sure to check them regularly as they can harden over time and can become uncomfortable. Regularly replacing your old sleeves with new ones not only increases the comfort level, but also helps ensure a good coupling between earphone and ear canal. All other Shure sleeve options are washable and reusable, check the user guide for instructions on cleaning them.
  5. Check the cable assembly on earphones regularly. Should a cable become frayed or compromised, this can lead to harsh artifacts or no sound at all. Shure SE315, SE425 and SE535 earphones have a replaceable cable assembly.

Headphones

  1. Use the carrying pouch that came with your headphones when transporting them, and be sure to detach the cable (in models SRH440/SRH840/SRH750DJ) when you fold and store them. This will provide extra product and cable protection.
  2. Replace ear pads that are worn, not as comfortable or provide less sound isolation.
  3. If the signal is breaking up or you are hearing distortion, your volume level may be too loud. Prolonged high volume levels that create distortion could damage the headphone drivers. If you experience distortion at a lower volume, check your signal chain to determine the source of the problem.

Bill Ostry joined Shure in 2010 and has been professionally involved in the audio industry for over a decade. He travels the US and Canada as part of the Market Development team providing product education and support to end-users, customers and consultants.

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