Technique: Creating One "Heil" Of A Live Mix
By Chris Marion |
In this current series of articles concerning the venerable Bob Heil and his contributions to live sound reinforcement, we’ve spent a great deal of time talking about the speakers and amps that Bob adapted for his live rig. His priority in design and configuration was always intelligibility – the ability for the listener or attendee to hear and distinguish the various components of the live performance. There is no more important signal source in live audio than the microphone. Whether it’s reproducing the human voice or various instruments, it’s important to choose the right microphone for the right task. Regardless of the quality of your PA rig, garbage in is still garbage out.
Once Bob Heil left live sound in the ‘80s he turned his attention to the manufacture of microphones - first in the arena of his first love, ham radio. Then, at the behest of long time friend Joe Walsh, he focused on commercial microphones. He understood that designing the right microphone took blending his knowledge of frequencies from years of tuning and maintaining the thousands of pipes on the Wurlizter Organ with the technical abilities garnered from ham radio operation. Through years of innovation in microphone design and creation, Bob Heil continues to impact live sound in an all-new way. True to form, he has a microphone (or two) for every stage position. He makes my job of putting together one “Heil” of a stage microphone setup incredibly easy.
A well-designed vocal microphone has a diaphragm built to capture the operative frequencies of the human voice – 80 Hz to 1100Hz (F2 to C6). It also has the right polar pattern that prevents as much feedback as possible and delivers more of the singer’s voice. Heil offers several phenomenal designs for this task. I can testify firsthand in regard to the functionality of Bob’s vocal microphones because all five vocal positions in Little River Band feature Heilsound microphones.
The PR 35 is the flagship vocal mic in Bob’s fleet, featuring a large 1.5” shockmounted, humbucking voice coil to ward off unwanted handling noise and electronic interference. This design provides amazing off-axis noise rejection. This translates to more of the singer’s voice being picked up by the microphone and less of the guitar player’s 110 dB of amp volume.
But, the PR 35 is just as much at home on a guitar cabinet, with a smooth flat response throughout its range. The shockmounting in the design also minimizes low-end feedback. We have three of these vocal mics across the front of our stage and two being used for reproducing the lead guitar amplifiers.
PR 31 BW
The PR 31 BW is a little 4” powerhouse; an all-purpose microphone that LRB uses at my keyboard position as well as the singing drummer’s position. With its astounding -40dB off-axis rear rejection, it is a dream come true with guitar amps and crash cymbals all around me. I would recommend this mic for any live application where space is tight and bleed is an issue.
The Fin is Bob’s take on the classic Turner microphone but with superior, modernized Heil electronics. It features a large, low-mass diaphragm element driven by a powerful magnet. This translates to rich sound that is accented by a cool blue LED. when hooked up to phantom power.
It’s worth mentioning that all of the aforementioned vocal mics also double as effective instrument mics. The PR 30, with its low-cut roll off switch, makes for a phenomenal guitar amp microphone. It will take the high output volume of an amp without being overdriven to distortion. But let’s take a look at some specific Heilsound microphones for specialized instrumental duties.
The PR 48 is a specially designed kick drum mic with a 1.5-inch diaphragm sealed in a vulcanized shockmount. It has a built-in low-pass filter that bumps up the frequencies where the kick drums resonate the most. It will easily handle up to 148 dB of SPL and is housed in a sharp-looking black steel chassis with red screens.
With a large dynamic cardioid and its ISO BAND isolation mounting, the PR 22 is a sound man’s dream for snare drums. With special porting and phasing plug design, most noise to the rear of the mic is eliminated. The PR 22 can take a full on snare hit without overloading.
The older cousin of the PR 22, the PR 20 makes for a phenomenal hi-hat microphone with -30 dB of rear rejection and a frequency response of 50Hz to 18kHz. It will also take the peaks of cymbal frequencies with a maximum SPL of 145 dB.
With its -35 db rear rejection, the PR 28 serves phenomenally well in the role of tom mic. It isolates the input smoothly and also features a dual-suspension element to limit unwanted vibrations. Like its cousins, the PR 28 also handles an impressive 142 dB of SPL.
The PR 30 features a large diaphragm that is perfectly designed for overhead cymbals. With its large capacity to handle input, it withstands sound pressure that would literally shred the typical ribbon microphone. With the humbucking coil, the PR 30 is an excellent choice to run noise-free even surrounded by electrical sources and stage lights.
When you consider the design and innovation that has gone into each microphone in Bob Heil’s line, you can see that he has not created his products in a sterile lab or assembly line. These products were more often than not born out of listening to musicians and sound engineers and finding out what they really needed. As a matter of fact, you’re likely to meet Bob, like I did, at a sound check. Tell me the last time you saw a CEO from a major live-sound company at your sound check. From the early days of building a mic or two for Joe Walsh and then sending the prototypes out with the Eagles, Bob Heil has attempted to create products that meet the specific needs and demands of the live stage show. He’s the everyday guy hanging out backstage, albeit probably with a snazzy pair of blue suede shoes and a Ben Sherman shirt. Who says a mad scientist can’t dress well?
It’s been such a pleasure to interview Bob and then spotlight some of the products that we use every day. While this may have sounded like some sort of infomercial for Heilsound, it’s really just a testimony to products that I see working regularly and dependably. These are great products and they are created by a smart, hard-working fellow. As always, tour “intelligibly,” my friends.
For a closer look at these and other Bob Heil products, visit the Heilsound website.