screaming in a sound proof room

One of the most annoying things is when someone builds something new and thinks of everything, covers all bases and ensures the layout is accurate and well thought out.
The only problem is they don’t actually do that job well.

I blame two people for this current issue
the council and the installers of the system.

The situation.
In working and helping the new built primary school at their school show I came accross some of the most baffling issues i have come accross in a while. The school has an dinner hall with room for about 120 people. It has a stage at one end of the hall. It has a sound system built into the room. It consists of 2 yamaha road series speakers (i think 12 inch) so not to bad. There is a small wall mounted cable run with 4 XLR femal inputs for microphones. These run to the sound room which is one floor up in the back wall.

Problem One – control room
The control rooms is long and narrow, along the back wall. It has two tall narrow windows angled into the room which has the event happening in it. They are both double glazed, creating a sound proof control room. Good. unfortunately the windows are also permanently installed into the space. This means that you cannot hear the live sound in the control room naturally.
Unfortunately there is no form of monitoring within the room. It is a SoundCraft mixer amp as pictured below.
The mixer and amp build in has several outputs to facilitate monitoring. (Including a Stereo Phono recording output, stereo headphones output, stereo monitor output, and stereo main output on the front of the unit and two Speakon and jack amp outputs on the rear of the unit.)
The speakon connections go back into the wall to power the speakers in the room.
The jack amp outputs are suitable but probably carrying to large a load for near field control room monitors.
The Headphones output gives you a blast of the monitor mix so we can count that one out.
The monitor output is controlled by a separate knob on each channel, so the mix would not be as the main room so we can discount that one. (the monitor and Headphones mix can also be switched to not include any of the build in effects which the unit has.
The main output mix is already used as the feed for the Loop system so cannot be unplugged.
The record output gives a phono out for linking up to a tape player or minidisk or similar and is of the main output mix. It is the only one available for using to solve this problem.

The solution
We rummaged though all the cable boxes and stuff we could find in the sound booth room and the computer room, and attempted to find a phono lead. Eventually we had to send someone out to a local church to “borrow” one. When we got it we hooked up the recording output to the record input of a small coomber unit. giving us the in room monitoring we needed.

The problem 2
the leads are remarkably short on this installation making it quite hard to move the stack in order to see the stage. Due to the height of the music stack it is virtually impossible to see over it. (The Stack consists of CD player, Loop System, Soundcraft gigrac, and Coomber 6120.) all piled on a desk I was working with two young ladies who couldn’t see over the stack. Having something in a school children cannot use due to bad design seems lazy.

The solution
we moved the stuff about and made room on the desk so we could all see the stage.

Problem 3
The speakers were behind the stage this creates a new problem, as a performer you want to hear yourself but as naturally as possible. Hearing your own voice a quarter of a second late coming form behind you can be unnerving for the best. The Speakers on the back wall mean when you lift the microphone you generally have two issues,
1 – you speak quietly and cannot hear yourself, the inexperienced performer, then raises their voice for effect at the same time as the sound man seeks to increase gain creating a horrible loop which is just right for feedback to raise it’s peircing voice.
2 – you speak loudly and boom out deafing yourself, and the inverse of the above happens.

Now the only difference with moving the speakers to the front of the stage on this situation would be that the feedback is harder to get.
This is due to no stage monitors for performers to hear themselves.

The SOlution.
I don’t think their really is one. without spending money.

For the day to day running of the school and most school assemblies the set up is currently satisfactory. a microphone which at speaking level is audible. A sound booth which is secure and looks in on the room.

The problem just comes when you attempt to use the equipment for more than a normal primary school everyday usage like a school show.

I guess the problem is the reason you need the equipment in the first palce is for school shows or the like. outwith that in a primary school that level of equipment isn’t really needed.

me. I blame the council for specifiying the equipment and the installers for not pointing out the roblems and attempting to solve it with the clients!