Countryman E6

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Using the Countryman E6 with the T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine

Why Choose the Countryman?

It is always a good idea to start with a phone call to the manufacturer, and with Countryman, you will find a helpful staff who clearly believe in their product. The first decision that has to be made is whether to go with the Cardioid or Omni patterned E6. Countryman explains that one key difference for live sound is that the cardioid pattern mics are more susceptible to extra noises like wind and handling, as compared to the omni. They recommended the directional version for use with volume levels that would be common in a rock and roll environment and the omni version for most other applications.

The second decision point is to determine why a head worn microphone makes sense for you. For many performers, there may be a desire to break free from the confines of a microphone stand and go for more mobility, while retaining a consistent sound. True, a singer can always use a hand held microphone, but if they need their hands, this option won't work. While there are many head worn microphones available to provide a solution for mobility, the Bose L1 introduces an interesting dynamic that warrants a close look at the E6.

Performing with the L1 means the stage is less cluttered and the space between the performer and audience is opened up in a way that is more warm, personal, and inviting. Where this, more direct, connection between the performer and audience is valued, it is a natural step to eliminate the microphone and stand as well. This is where the E6 comes into its own. It is so unobtrusive that it will almost completely disappear on the singer, and once the music begins, the audience will forget the microphone and simply hear the performer singing to them.

Setting the Microphone's Position

The E6i is a more flexible version that is better suited for adjusting to multiple people who wear it, but if only one person is using the microphone, the E6 is much more stable than the E6i and can be worn close to the face more easily. The closer the boom is to the face, the more invisible it will seem. However, be careful if you are using the directional version as contact with the boom will be amplified. The omni is much less susseptible to this and can even be worn with the boom touching the face almost all the way down to the capsule.

Following Countryman's fitting directions is pretty straightforward, and it feels more stable on the ear than you might expect. Of course, if you tend to move your head quickly, you will want to purchase the stabilizing accessory that goes behind the head and around the other ear. You will have to work with the positioning to get it back far enough to prevent breath noises, particularly from the "f" sounds that direct wind out the corner of the mouth. To test for this, try saying "face" (while smiling) during a sound check. If you get a blowing sound, then you need to place it further back.

Gain...To Feedback, or not to Feedback

Feedback...basically, in order to get the maximum gain, place the microphone as close to the sound source as possible and as far from the amplification system as possible. When distance cannot be altered any more, what else is left to do? There are several options available to you, particularly if you are using the T1 with your Bose L1. The parametric equalizer and ZEQ are both tools that can be used to squeeze a few more db out of the system.

In larger and more open rooms, feedback will be less of a problem than with more confined spaces. Hard surfaces will be particularly problematic, especially if there is a low ceiling. In these types of rooms, a rug placed under and in front of both the L1 and B1 will help significantly, but if you play a variety of venues and you are using the E6 Omni, do yourself a favor and scout the venue and / or bring a backup microphone.

Here is the process I used for a starting point with the E6 Omni: First, I sat myself down in a chair about 2 feet in front and facing away from my L1 (model II). The T1 was on my lap, and I was wearing the (now adjusted) E6. I began by following the Bose Manual's instructions for gain staging. Then, I turned it up till I could hear myself through the tower.

The E6 omni comes with three caps: one with a flat response, one with a small bump at 15000 and one with a large bump at 15000. I put the flat one on and set the Tonematch preset to "Headworn Mics." It sounded a little boomy, so I turned down the Low zEQ setting to -6.6. This improved things, but there was still a lot of sizzle on the high end, so that got adjusted down to -2.8...nice. This is an abbreviated version of the process, btw...the actual fiddling took a good deal of time and experimentation, even with different presets.

Now it mostly sounded like me, only louder (that is my objective), so I started ratcheting up the gain and noticed a high ring and some obtrusive sibilance, so I used the parametric EQ to adjust and ultimately set it at: Level -11.2, Freq 13407 and Width .51oct. That also seemed to help with some of the sizzle. To further address the sibilance, I used the De-esser set to Threshold -25.5 and Gain .2db. Ahhh that sounded nicer, but now it was too much like me...I wanted it a little fatter (not much), so I added a very slight amount of chorus2 set at Mix 14% and Depth 73%. Then I added reverb at Mix 12% and Brightness at 7% (reverb type is Large, Time 2.20s, and Bal 50%).

At the peak volume I could obtain (two feet in front of the L1), the main volume was set at 1 o'clock and the E6 gain was set around 3 o'clock. I was pleased, to say the least, but it probably isn't enough volume for the rockers among us. For my own purposes, I can't imagine needing to be louder where I didn't have a lot more room on stage. That is the key, though. How does it do in actual performance?

Performing with the E6 - L1 Combo

I was anxious to see how it sounded, and at our first gig, I was very pleased. I have gotten in the habit of turning the volume up, just enough to feel "pushed" or "supported" by the L1 (don't know how else to describe the feeling). That volume level seems perfect for most venues. Larger venues need a little more "push", but with the L1 doesn't need to feel as loud as the stage volumes of some groups. For a large gym, there was no problem whatsoever, and the combo sounded fantastic.

The next gig was in a basement...a long, wide, and low room with pillars every 15 feet or so. Loud fans were blowing, so the noise floor was high. This was a true nightmare room. The omni-directional E6 really is sensitive to the room environment, and this room was ideally situated to feedback. The ceiling was about 8 inches above the L1, and the walls and floor were a fabulously reflective concrete. Reverb and Chorus had to go off here, because they would only muddy things more. Even so, the system in this configuration was easy to get to feedback. This meant a little tweaking with EQ, but when it was all set up so that I was "pushed" by the sound coming from the L1 and the reflections from the audience's side of the room were kept at a minimum, it sounded great.

But Can it Get LOUD?

We used the combo in another nightmare room. It had hard floors and a medium low ceiling (about 3 ft above the L1). It was short and wide, but the floor proved the biggest problem for feedback. I placed a rug directly in front of both the L1 and B1, and this knocked down the reflections so that it wasn't much of a problem at all. In fact, we managed to have the system cranked higher than ever at this venue. It was the first time I have played with an electric drum kit, and the drummer had a big amp that he had turned up incredibly loud.

I tried to talk him into turning down, but the event planners wanted loud, so they asked me to turn up to match the volume of the drum...ok...no problem. After the first night we received comments about the loudness (it was VERY loud - to the point of uncomfortable). The drummer liked it, but it was definitely too much. After fielding complaints about how loud it was, we decided to turn down, and I asked the drummer if he would like to hear his drums through the L1. We set it up, and the sound was far superior (even with only one B1) and was more than enough for the small room. We left him plugged into the L1 the rest of the week and turned it down to more humane levels. Lots of good audience comments after that.

The volume that can be achieved, even with the omni version, is more than sufficient in most situations, and if you are looking for clear and transparent vocals through the L1, the Countryman E6 deserves a look. --Tpryde3 18:45, 15 October 2008 (EDT)