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Fiddle with clip-on condensor mic plugged into the L1 Model 1

For fiddle players who prefer the freedom of a pickup or mic clipped to their instrument, plugging direct into the L1 Model 1 power stand may pose special challenges. In spite of all, "bow scritch" and a certain "snark" only they know, may come blasting through with the same crystal clarity as the good stuff - the warm, woody tones of a well-seasoned fiddle.

Short of a Model I or T1 preset to address the issue, this article presents an outboard gear solution that has worked for several years now for our band, an acoustic Celtic trio. Our fiddle player uses a Crown GLM 200 condensor clip mic, plugged through a small rack box of dual outboard gear. Dual, since the same gear, other side, is shared with her Hammered Dulcimer.

Condensor mic? Isn't that a no-no?

In general, dynamic microphones are recommended for use with these systems, for their smaller envelope and feedback-resistant qualities. Yet, we reasoned, the Crown GLM 200 is so tiny, with a tiny little envelope aimed directly at the fiddle's soundboard. So we went for it and yes, the musician must take care not to inadvertantly point the fiddle mic toward the L1 speakers. During sound check it is key to direct the L1 properly, test where one will be playing, and most importantly, where one will place the fiddle when not in use. Typically using a hanger clipped to her mic stand, our fiddle player may also place her fiddle carefully in its case on the floor, if feedback is too present. (Possible other solutions include: a mute switch of some sort, or naturally, a T1, which has channel mutes.)

The Rack and Processors

In a 4 space SKB x-rack (shallow), I put in top-down order:

  • ART dual preamp
  • DBX dual 15-band EQ
  • DBX dual compressor/limiter
  • Furman power conditioner

In back (inside the box), the preamp's dual audio outs (one per side, i.e., one out for the fiddle, one for the HD) are plugged into the inputs of the dual EQ, whose outputs are in turn plugged into the inputs of the dual compressor/limiter, whose outputs go direct to Channels 3 and 4 on the L1 Model 1 power stand. The three units' power cords are plugged into the Furman, so there is but one power cord to plug in to our band power strip (next to to the L1's, of course).

Plugging in and gain/output

In front, the musician plugs the fiddle into the 'fiddle side' of the dual preamp. Generally, gain and output are set at about 3 o'clock. A good whack on a loud note on the dulcimer will send the gain needle jumping to the red now and then, with no clipping. The corresponding Channel 3 input is set at 2 or a bit past, to minimize gear hiss.

Settings for EQ and compression

EQ settings for the fiddle can vary a bit with each gig. The notch to remove the 'scritch' is readily apparent and never changes. What most needs adjusting is the high end, e.g., to enhance 'airiness', or smooth harsh highs. Between 2.5k and 6.3k there is a special tonal range that bears checking each time; it can make the difference between a flat, 'snarky' sound, and a more open, natural acoustic sound.

In Closing...

We hope one day to run the fiddle through a T1 Tonematch, which has all these capabilities and more (plus the channel mutes!). But until then, this little rack setup makes the most of our HD/fiddle player's Bose Model I.

    • A note regarding those occasions where we must play through house systems: another benefit to this setup is its portability. Gone are the days of long sound checks, because now we have our sound check in a box! Typically, the sound person will request that we reduce the gains on the preamps, usually to 12 o'clock.

Pictured: Rack box in use at a Banshee in the Kitchen gig.