We are having trouble with our monitor speakers, what can we do to fix this?
Monitor problems in church sound systems are a very common concern. They provide a great opportunity to destroy the sound for the congregation and create feedback. The problem is usually that the monitor speakers are too loud. This causes the monitor sound to feed into the room, which messes up the main sound in the church. It can also cause feedback.
The Affect Monitors Have On Main Sound:
With a properly tuned, professional church sound system, the main speakers are electronically balanced to provide accurate sound in your room. The sound from a good constant directivity speaker system gives even frequency response throughout its front dispersion angles. Beyond these angles, the high and mid frequencies roll off to almost nothing. The low frequencies however are hardly reduced at all. This means that you get a lot of "muddy bass" sound from the back of the speakers. If the monitors are loud enough, this sound will destroy the quality of sound for the audience, especially in the front rows.
A Contributor to Feedback:
Feedback is caused by sound coming from the speaker into the microphone, back into the speaker, back into the microphone .... until it reaches the level of feedback. This can be caused by the monitor speakers more easily than the main speakers since they are usually closer to the microphones. For more information on this, please refer to our section on controlling feedback in your church's sound system under Sound Advice.
Properly Adjusting Monitor Mixes and Volumes:
Here is what usually happens. You start mixing the sound for the musicians and singers, then someone says, "I can't hear the piano". Obviously, the thing to do is to turn up the piano in the monitors. Now someone says, "I can't hear the guitar". So you turn the guitar up on the monitors. Then "I can't hear the leader's vocal". So you turn up the lead vocal. And so on and so on ... You get the picture.
What you really need to do is determine if the reason they can't hear an instrument is because it is not loud enough, or because everything else is too loud. Often it is the latter. The solution is to keep the monitor levels down low. Don't let them get too loud. Once they get too loud, all you have is noise and feedback. You have destroyed the quality of sound for everyone.
Keep in mind that monitor speakers are intended to provide a reference for people to keep in tune and in time. They will never give you the mix of sound which people in the congregation are hearing. Do you need to feed all the instruments and singers into the monitors, or just the ones which will provide this reference?
Different Monitor Speakers:
As with all speakers, there are different qualities of speakers. There are however three general types of monitors. They can be described as following.
Full Range Monitors
A full range monitor is usually a two way speaker with a woofer and tweeter. It has full range frequency response to reproduce the low, mid and high frequencies. It therefore gives a you a full and reasonably accurate sound.
The advantage of the full range monitor is that it sounds good. The disadvantages are that it is a large speaker and it contributes to muddy sound for the congregation. Because it reproduces the low frequencies well, this bass comes out the back of the monitor into the congregation. For this reason, you need to be very careful not to let the monitor sound get too loud.
A good Full Range Monitor Speaker is the...
JBL Full Range Monitor:
The JBL JRX112M is a wedge shaped floor monitor. It uses a 12 inch woofer with a 90 x 50 degree constant directivity horn. This gives you good full range sound with high efficiency (99db at 1 watt at 1 meter). It will handle 250 watts continuous (1000 watts short term). This is more power than you need for any church application. You will get feedback long before you reach the maximum.
As mentioned above, the purpose of a monitor speaker is to give the musicians and singers the reference sound they need to keep in tune and in time. They will never hear the quality of sound which the congregation hears. For this reason I prefer to use a reference monitor.
A reference monitor is a small speaker which can sit on the floor, keyboard, or often a microphone stand. It provides clear mid and high frequency sound, with intentionally rolled off low frequency. This gives clear sound to the musicians and singers without producing too much sound out the back of the speaker.
The advantages of the reference monitor are that it is a small, less conspicuous speaker, it can be located closer to the people using it, and it produces less sound out the back. The disadvantage is that it has poor bass response.
A Compact Reference Monitor which we use on a regular basis is the...
Galaxy Hot Spot Compact Monitor:
The Galaxy Hot Spot is a very efficient, compact monitor speaker. It's high impedance and high efficiency make it ideal for multiple monitor situations. The unit can sit on the floor or mount on a microphone stand for close use. The frequency response is tailored for reference monitor application. It has a rolled off low frequency making it poor for general sound reproduction, but good for a vocal monitor. The Hot Spot VC has a built in volume control.
The Hot Spot is also available in a Powered Monitor / Portable PA version
Galaxy PA6X Compact Portable PA / Powered Monitor:
The Galaxy PA6S is a compact portable PA system / Powered Monitor. The unit is approximately 6 x 6 x 11 inches, and weighs only 13 pounds. It has a built in speaker and 148 watt amplifier. Inputs include an XLR balanced microphone jack with phantom power and a 1/4 inch phone jack for instruments or monitor feed from a mixer. The PA6S has a 3 band equalizer and separate volume controls for each of the 2 inputs. It also has a speaker out jack to allow you to add a remote speaker to the system.
This technology is very popular in professional shows, and is an excellent solution for Church monitor problems. It consists of earphones with wireless belt pack receivers for all the musicians and singers. This method completely eliminates the sight and sound problems associated with floor monitors. There are no feedback problems, and no monitor sound gets into the room. It also ensures that each person hears exactly what they want with excellent sound quality.
In order to be fully effective, each person should have their own complete monitor system consisting of a radio transmitter, belt pack receiver and earphones. This way they can be provided with exactly the right mix for them. If the keyboard player needs more keyboard on their monitor, you simply adjust their mix without affecting anyone else's.
Although these systems can be a bit more expensive than a floor monitor system, they are coming down in price. By the time you add up all the floor monitor speakers, cables, amplifiers, jacks and wiring, there may not be as much of a cost difference as you might have thought. When you consider the fact that they can solve all your monitor problems, and make everyone happy, they become a serious contender.
As with all professional sound equipment, we are constantly testing new products. At the present time, I consider the Shure PSM200 to be the best in terms of cost / performance.
Shure PSM200 Wireless In-Ear Monitor:
The Shure PSM200 is a relatively low cost Wireless (or wired) Personal In-Ear Monitor system. It operates in the UHF band and provides good quality, reliable, interference and dropout free sound. The system consists of a radio transmitter with two separate inputs, a belt pack receiver and earphones. One input on the transmitter can be used for a general monitor mix, and the other input can add more of the individual user's instrument or vocal. The belt pack has its own volume control and the earphones come with several different ear tips to ensure that they are comfortable for everyone. Although you can operate as many receivers as you wish on one transmitter, this defeats the possibility of giving each person what they want.