’91 BMW 318is Upper Oil Pan Replacement

11 Dec

WARNING: This post has nothing to do with audio. If that’s all you’re here for then carry on. However, when I was searching for similar guides online when I had to perform this procedure, I found very little information so figured I should contribute what I have since learned to the grand how-to database that is the Internet.

As the title suggests, I recently had to replace the upper oil pan on daily driver, a 1991 BMW 318is. This car is surprisingly hard to find consistent documentation on regarding repair procedures for, as it is a bit of a Frankenstein. This is the last year BMW used the e30 body style for the US 3 series before switching to the e36 in 1992 (I think there may be an exception for the convertible which stayed e30 into 1992, but whatever). Anyhow, the 318i was originally based around the venerable M10 4-cylinder engine. Having been in production since 1962, the wonderfully designed M10 was clearly showing its age. In 1988, BMW replaced the M10 with the M40. Being a 4-cylinder, SOHC engine, the M40 was very similar in output to the M10, so not a very exciting change other than being a more “modern” engine with features such as hydraulic tappets (I’m simplifying this history quite a bit, but you get the point. If you want a full history and description of every BMW engine variant, wikipedia has a surprisingly rich amount of info on the topic).

In 1989, BMW seemed to realize the 318 could be a lot more fun with a little added excitement under the hood. Enter the M42, a 4-cylinder DOHC 16 valve engine. While I haven’t actually read this anywhere, it seems BMW had planned this engine for later vehicles (the e36 chassis), but decided to go ahead and throw it in the e30 and introduce the 318is starting in 1989. Why do I think this? If you look at any e30 repair manuals–Chilton’s, Bentley Publishing, etc.–you will not find even a mention of the M42 (nor the M40, for that matter). So the lucky owners of the e30 318is (and the 1988-92 318i) get to reference two breeds of repair manual: e30 manuals cover the suspension, electrical and body while we must consult the e36 manuals for engine maintenance and repair. So that’s fun.

The M42 features a two piece oil pan, lower and upper, with paper gaskets between the two pans and between the upper pan and the crankcase. Among what seems like a gazillion bolts holding the pans in place are six bolts inside the upper pan holding the front of it to the crankcase. Due to extreme temp changes and vibrations, combined with low torque specs due to the aluminum’s rigidity, or lack-thereof, these bolts often come loose, allowing the pan to shift and lose its seal, sucking air into the oil pickup. That’s bad. Your oil pressure will drastically drop and the engine will be starved for lubrication. You can probably figure out what happens next.

Anyhow, I decided to take my lower pan off to check these bolts. About half way into removal, I notice some of the bolts were not stock and even a completely different size. The ones that were stock came out way too easy and had thread shavings in them. Uh oh. Great…my upper pan has stripped bolt holes and the previous owner just shoved bigger bolts in and/or overtightened others. Awesome. Well I was already invested in this so couldn’t turn back. Got the pan off and checked the upper bolts. Some good news, all were perfectly tight. I’ve heard horror stories of people finding these bolts just laying in their lower pan, so I got lucky there.

Well, after much deliberation, I decided to try and helicoil the stripped bolt holes to get the lower pan back on. Having never done that before, I was quite pleased with myself after successfully repairing 6 of the 16 holes. After patting myself on the back, I put a new gasket on the lower pan and proceed to mate it to the upper. Oh no…

It was only once I got the lower pan up there and all the bolts in finger-tight that I realized a spot on the upper pan gasket mating surface was warped. Looks like someone had whacked it with something and there was no way this was going to seal. Upon further inspection of the old gasket, it was clear the previous owner had botched this job by just squirting a bunch of RTV gasket sealer in there to keep it from hemorrhaging oil.


You can see the jacked up mating surface on the lower left. Not to mention the cracked corner top left.

Okay, no way around it. Upper pan needs replacement. I began scouring the internet for a step-by-step guide. Lots of vague information like, “oh, it’s easy, just lift the engine and pull it out,” which was less than helpful to a relative M42 n00b. The big problem is that the upper pan straddles the front sub-frame, so there’s no room to get the pan out without something moving to free up space. The e36 manual had a procedure listed, but it involved dropping the front subframe which didn’t exactly sound fun. I consulted some friends and the Reddit community (r/e30) and decided to try lifting the engine.

I rented an engine hoist ($20 a day from General Rental here in Springfield, MO) and enlisted my buddy Orin, who knows very little about cars but is always in the greatest of spirits (thanks, Big-O!), to give me a hand.

First thing was to prepare the engine to be lifted. We needed to lift it about 6 inches to get this thing out, so a few things had to be removed. Firstly, the hood, as that was kind of between the lift and the engine, y’know, this BMW is still from the glory days of front-hinged hoods. You’ll have to drain your washer fluid to remove the hose that runs from the pump to your hood for the windshield jets. After that we removed the clips holding the radiator fan shroud. You can just leave the shroud floating there, it just needs to be able to move a little so the fan doesn’t run into it when lifting the engine. The dipstick tube also needs to be removed. Mine was incredibly bent down inside the pan (damn you, previous owner!) and was quite the chore to get out. Orin had the idea to use a long screwdriver inside the tube to straighten it out, which helped greatly. Once you remove the bolt holding the tube to the engine, it should just pull out with some convincing. There should be an o-ring where the tube enters the upper pan. Mine was missing it (argh!), but yours should have it, so make sure you pull that out, too, as you’ll need to put a new one in upon reinstallation. Lastly, loosen the engine mounts. Completely remove the bolts holding the two engine mounts to the subframe, as these mounts will move enough they will completely leave their mounting locations, and those suckers are like $90 a piece, so you don’t want to rip them. I also loosened the two mounts under the transmission where it meets the driveshaft, as I figured that would move some, too, and didn’t want to rip the mounts. Those you can just loosen to the ends of their threads and leave the nuts attached.

Now we didn’t do this until after we lifted the engine, but you should also remove the power steering pump mounting brackets, as they attach directly to the upper pan. There’s a tensioner bracket and then a bolt that holds the pump itself to the pan. Once removed, just use a bungee cord wrapped around the pulley to hook it to the alternator bracket and let it hang there out of your way.

Lifting time! There’s a handy little lift point at the front of the intake manifold. Use common sense and be careful (I’ve obviously left out some parts at the beginning like make sure the car is on jack stands, have your E-brake on and chock the rear wheels, etc. etc., but I figure if you’re tackling this you’ve been under your car before and should know better). We lifted the engine until the rear of the intake manifold ran into the plastic housing at the top-rear of the engine bay just under the windshield, as that’s as far as we could take it without removing anything else.

Remove the rest of the pan upper pan bolts including the two that hold the oil sump inside the pan. All are 10mm hex bolts except for three 10mm star bolts that bolt the transmission bell housing to the upper pan. Don’t forget the two 10mm hex bolts inside the bell housing. You’ll need a skinny little wrench extension to get the wrench in there around the sway bar.

With the engine lifted this much, the upper pan should slide out pretty easy. Watch out once you break it free from the crankcase–some leftover oil was sitting in the middle of mine and poured all over me when I first pulled it off. Once free, slide the pan forward and out over the subframe.


Removing the upper pan revealed a delightfully clean crankcase.

You’ll see there’s a little rubber plug at the rear of the upper pan that keeps gunk out of the transmission bell housing. Remove that and install in the new pan. Put a new gasket on the upper side of the new upper pan using a very small bead of gasket sealant. This is also a good time to clean all of the upper pan bolts to make sure the threads are in good condition and ready to be used again. With the gasket on the upper pan, I then applied another small bead of sealant around the top side of the gasket where it mate to the crankcase. That stuff sets up fast so once you get the bead on you want to get the pan back in quickly. Carefully sneak the upper pan back in over the crank case making sure not not nick or tear the new gasket. I decided to use some blue threadlock on the upper pan bolts as they only get torqued to 89 in-lbs (about 7.4 ft-lbs) and bad things happen when they fall out, especially the bolts inside the pan. I left the sump and its two bolts off until we got the dipstick tube back in, just to give us a little more wiggle room

Now put the engine back on its mounts so its not just hanging there while you work beneath it. Re-tighten the engine mounts to 31-ft lbs. Now you can also reinstall the power steering pump. You’ll need to remove the threaded stud that holds the belt tensioning nut from the old pan and put it in the new one. Once that’s done the pump goes on pretty easily. Torque the power steering mount bolts to 16 ft-lbs. Now you can reinstall the dipstick tube. Put the new o-ring on the tube (there’s a little lip that it rests against from the bottom) and just slide it down into place and reinstall the mounting bolt at the front of the engine.


New upper pan (without sump installed) with dipstick tube.

After you reinstall the sump and gasket, also torquing to 89 in-lbs, you’re now ready to close up the bottom of the engine by reinstalling the lower pan. Same deal with the gasket…clean mating surfaces and install the new gasket. There are lots of opinions on gasket sealer, but again, I used a very small bead around the gasket on both sides. Mate the lower pan to the upper and put in a bolt in each corner to make sure it’s straight, then go ahead and get the rest of the bolts in finger tight before torquing once again to 89 in-lbs.

At this point you’re pretty much done, just put the fan shroud back on its clips, reinstall the hood and drop the car. If you haven’t done so already, put in a new oil filter and fill the engine with oil (another controversial topic among the M42 community, but her in Missouri, I feel Mobil 1 15w50 fits our climate and this engine well).

The car fired up beautifully and the oil pressure light went off after a couple of seconds, with the chattering valves quickly calming to a purr once the engine had circulated that synthetic liquid gold. While the car idled and reached operating temp, Orin and I continued to walk around the car, peeking under the engine to spot any leaks, but saw not a single drip. I’ll keep a close eye on the oil level and the garage floor, but for now, it seems that all is well and time for a drive.



Scenes from the Broadcast Trailer

27 Oct

One of the things I find truly fulfilling about my line of work is the variety of situations and events I’m tasked with handling. Recently, I was enlisted by the fine folks at Hite Media Services to handle the broadcast mix for Springfield, Missouri’s only late-night TV talk show, The Mystery Hour.

It was quite a trip getting out from behind the usual spot at front of house to set up shop in the slick control room trailer Hite Media has set up for such events. My world was based around a Behringer X32, a pair of nearfield monitors and an LCD display connected to a switcher allowing me to pick my view of the stage inside.

In one evening, three episodes are filmed, each with a variety of special guests, skits, interviews and a musical guest to top it all off. Episodes debut on Saturday nights in Springfield on Fox 5 at 9pm.  Following is the most recently released episode, featuring music from SPiNRaD at the 19 minute mark.

NOTE: I’d like to mention that while handled the broadcast mix on the record side, I had no control over the house mix and audience mics. For this taping, the house mix was loud enough to make its way into the lavs and audience mics, and this can easily be heard in the final product. Also, the audience mics are mixed in during post, which I am not involved with. I would prefer less audience and room sound in the mix overall, but you be the judge.

“Best Sound Ever”

29 Sep

A note set on stage by a patron at yesterday’s gig:


It’s the little things…

What’s in my work bag?

22 Aug

As an Eagle Scout, I take great pride in being prepared for whatever comes my way. I take this notion very seriously, especially when it comes to my professional endeavours. Today I present some of my secrets to being prepared as an audio engineer out on a gig.

I present to you: What’s In My Work Bag

Big Bag Packed

On the outside it looks like your average backpack. I prefer the discrete styling of this Dakine commuter bag. It features lots of pockets, padding and is easy on the eyes without screaming “steal me” to the sticky fingers that could be lingering around the job site (though I still always tuck it away somewhere for safe keeping). And now for what’s inside:

Big Bag Contents

  • Top row from left to right
    • Radial JDI – My favorite DI box–durable, transparent, versatile and a “merge” button that allows you to convert a stereo source to mono using the “input” and “thru” jacks (great for laptops!).
    • Audix D6 – The microphone I can’t live without–kick drums, floor toms, bass cabs, low brass–in my opinion nothing compares.
    • Business cards – Never know when you’ll meet your next client or need to enter a free-lunch raffle.
    • Pocket knife
    • Lanyard/laminate access pass
    • Electrical tape
    • Drum key – Handy to have in case the drummer forgot/lost/doesn’t have one.
    • Various Sharpies and ink pens
  • Middle row from left to right
    • “Eudaly’s Magic Bag of Tricks” – Description later in this post.
    • Laser range-finder – Great for measuring stages, figuring delay times, setting trim heights, etc. as long as you’re indoors–the sun greatly outshines the laser; will eventually upgrade to a more versatile option.
    • Multi-tool – This usually lives on my hip while on site, but stays in my backpack between gigs to ensure it’s always on call.
    • Snark clip-on acoustic tuner – Like the drum key, this is a cheap, easy lender for the absent minded guitar player.
    • Foam earplugs – Always good to keep “freebie” earplugs around for when that friend/co-worker/etc. has no ear protection.
    • Etymotic earplugs – At $10 a set, these are the most comfortable, best sounding earplugs I’ve found without costing so much you’re always afraid of losing them.
    • USB flash drive – Full of various console configurations/show scenes, stage plots, and audio files.
    • Petzl Zipka headlamp – This little guy is bright, fits in your pocket and the retractable headband fits around all kinds of stuff–wrap it around your hand, a ladder, clip it to a curtain–wherever you need light.
    • Magnetic hook light – These are cheap (~$5) lights with a magnet and a hook on the back–again, it goes just about wherever you need light. Great for slapping on the back of an amp rack.
    • Work gloves – Gotta protect those digits!
  • Bottom row from left to right
    • Apple MacBook Pro w/ charger – Loaded with both OSX and Windows 7, as well as all your favorite audio system control software (Lake Controller, Wireless Workbench, System Architect, Line Array Calculator, etc.).
    • Apple iPad w/ USB charger and both 30-pin and Lightning cables for cross compatibility – Like the laptop it’s loaded with console controllers, audio calculators, Grand Theft Auto III (for when you’re waiting on the truck) and of course, pre-show music.
    • Shure SRH440 headphones – These cans run around $100, sound great and have survived a few hundred shows at this point–great value.

Now let’s dive inside the affectionately named black mystery pouch, “Eudaly’s Magic Bag of Tricks.”

Little Bag Contents

  • Top row from left to right
    • Pair of F-MM XLR Y-adapters – In case you need to split a couple of channels. Ideally I would also have some M-FF, but the XLR gender changers also seen in the photo help keep my options open.
  • Middle row from left to right
    • 1/8″ TRS to dual XLR adapter – For getting that super awesome pre-show music, audio from a presentation laptop, or audio from just about any modern handheld device into your desk.
    • 1/”8 TRS to dual RCA with added 1/4″ TS adapters – For the same as above, in case you’ve got a desk with RCA or 1/4″ stereo inputs–also works great with the JDI’s merge function mentioned in the big bag.
    • Business cards – Again, for free lunch raffles, potential clients and a little added security if you misplace your bag and someone needs help returning it to you, the owner.
    • Assorted batteries – Without batteries, your meters, lasers, wireless microphones, etc. are useless.
    • Sound Tools XLR sniffer/sender w/ indicator cheat sheet – This handy little tool is great for testing snake channels, patch bays and XLR cables that are already stretched out across the stage. Can also help indicate if phantom power is present and even act as a battery phantom power supply when you stick it in line using the above Y-cable in the chance you get a console without supply.
    • Etymotic earplugs – Yes, I carry a spare set. Gotta protect my babies.
    • SPL meter – This cheap A-weighted meter helps keep things at the appropriate loudness after long days of festival mixing/system tech-ing.
  • Bottom row from left to right
    • The bag this all lives in, duh.
    • Male-male XLR turnarounds – Sometimes you’ve got to get weird and run a send through a return, combine some com systems–you really never know when these will come in handy, but they always do.
    • Female-female XLR turnarounds – <see “Male-male XLR turnarounds> …only these are the girl ones.
    • Female-female NL4 coupler – For when you’re out of long cables, but you’ve got two short ones. 
    • Yellow electrical tape – Always handy to have a bright color for labels, console tape, etc.
    • Sharpie – For writing on your yellow electrical tape among other things.
    • Pen-style clip-on magnetic LED light – A very bright, very compact light that fits well in your pocket and has multiple ways of attaching to your dimly lit work area.

So there you have it! It should be noted this toolset is constantly evolving, but that’s one of the great features. All of this stuff fits in the big bag with room for extra clothes for those outdoor gigs (rain jacket, baseball cap, sunglasses, long sleeve shirt), a solid state recorder, extra microphones–whatever I might need on a show-by-show basis. Top it all off with a litre or two of water in the side pockets and you’re ready for backpacking merit badge, or at least the next show.

As with most things in life, a little pre-planning and preparation for those unforeseen circumstances can be the difference between a not-so-good day and the best day you’ve ever had.

Have a recommendation for what to add to the bag? Hit me up on the Contact Page

Not the size [of your console], but how you use it.

31 Jul

Who says you can’t get great sound from a minimal setup? It’s all about the right tool for the job.

At the start of the summer, I had the pleasure of providing production for DEEZOfest in Harrison, Arkansas for the fourth year in a row. It’s a small festival at a pretty little park on the river featuring a plethora of talent local to the Ozarks. One of my personal highlights from the event was the late afternoon set from Slapdash Science. The four piece, instrumental rock group has played the festival for several years now and always brings a riff-powered Millennium Falcon for attendees to board on a 45 minute journey through an asteroid field of only the hardest rocks.

Following is the board mix of the final song of their set:

What you’re hearing was recorded straight from the console’s tape output into a Tascam DR-40 solid state recorder. Post processing was minimal, in Logic I placed a slight 50Hz bump in the EQ to compensate for what was lacking from the kick and bass guitar in the main mix due to the subs on aux setup at the show and dropped the SSL master bus comp plug-in on the main output with minimal compression to smooth things out for general playback before bouncing to MP3.

The point is, the set kicked ass and sounded great, even with a fairly small system. The PA featured some powered D.A.S. mains, Mackie SRM450s for wedges and a Mackie Onyx 1640 at FOH with limited outboard gear (one dbx 166XL dual channel gate/comp and a Lexicon MX400 dual engine FX unit). Mic package consisted of the usual live show offenders: Shure SM58, SM57, Audix i5, D4, D6, ADX51, Sennheiser e604, e835. Here’s a picture of the stage, not from the Slapdash set, but from earlier in the day:

A shot from one of the early sets at DEEZOfest 6.

A shot from one of the early sets at DEEZOfest 6.

Don’t get caught too up in the “must have” gear. Get caught up in music and knowing how to use the tools at hand. You’ll have a good time.

The Festival Experience

12 Jun

For many, summertime translates to one thing: festival season. I’ve attended my fair share of festivals as a paid guest, and worked a few smaller, one-off style “festival” events, but this summer presented me with the opportunity to work a stage at one of the more prolific summer music festivals, Wakarusa.

This year marked the 11th year of the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, and the 6th year at its current venue atop Mulberry Mountain, just outside of Ozark, Arkansas. I had attended Wakarusa as a guest a couple times in the past and greatly enjoyed the scenery, variety of musical acts and the quality of production. In those years I always entertained the idea of how great it would be to actually play a part in making the machine tick, but figured those opportunities were often few and far between.

Though as they often say in this industry (and, well, every industry), “it’s not always what you know, but you know.” Sure enough, sometime in early May I received a call from a professional acquaintance asking if I was interested in filling an A1/FOH role at Wakarusa’s Outpost stage, for which his company was providing audio. Having been preparing for this moment since entering the industry professionally, I jumped on the opportunity and agreed to cover the gig. The job consisted of a load-in day and three show days with load-out immediately following the conclusion of the final performance.

I arrived at load-in to meet my rig for the week: 16 JBL VerTec VT4888 tops, 8 JBL SRX728 subs, a couple of JBL architectural series cabs for front fill, Crown Macro-Tech and iTech power, a pair of dbx DriveRack 4800s and an Avid SC48 digital console (there was plenty of other gear for monitor world, but seeing as my job related to FOH, I’m going to refrain from covering MONS details). Thanks to some hard working stage hands, in about three hours we had the rig flown, snakes run, console tipped and I was ready to make noise (despite having to load in through some soft, semi-muddy ground, which I might add didn’t exactly get any better as the week progressed).


At the end of load-in day, lighting guys hard at work focusing.

At the end of load-in day, lighting guys hard at work focusing.

Show days were long. Our stage started loading in the first act around noon each day in preparation for a 2:30PM show time. I was unfamiliar with most of the acts on the bill, and only two of the 18 acts on our stage for the week were traveling with FOH engineers, which left me with the challenge of creating an appropriate, unique and engaging mix for each act in only 30 minute change-overs. 30 minutes to meet a band for the first time, decide what mics to use where/how, interpret what the band’s sound in the house should resemble then make it happen. No problem, it’s what I love doing. There truly is something magical about turning a stage over time and time again, moving from one act to another, with completely different sonic signatures. For this FOH guy, it’s the most fun to be had with clothes on. I lost count of how many times I was behind my console, grinning from ear to ear, proud and thankful that I could lend my abilities to make this event happen.

FOH at Wakarusa's 2014 Outpost Tent

Show day 1, about an hour before the first act took the stage.

So the on-stage action kicked off at 2:30PM every day and rolled right along (on-time, I might add) until our scheduled programming ended for the day 4:00AM. I love a stage that runs on time, and again, thanks to our fantastic stage managers, deck hands, and the rest of the behind the scenes staff, we kept every act on-time. Okay, I’ll confess, I think there were one or two acts that started maybe 5 minutes late, but thats a pretty good score if you ask me. When you’re dealing with that many artists, trying to travel to and from the festival grounds among 20-some-thousand attendees, unpredictable weather and all that comes with an event of this scale, it can be a challenge to keep the show running smoothly, but we accomplished exactly that.

Break Science as seen during their Thursday night 12:30-2:00AM set. In addition to our audio and stage crew, the lighting team was seriously on-point.

Break Science as seen during their Thursday night 12:30-2:00AM set. In addition to our audio and stage crew, the lighting team was seriously on-point.

Regarding the gear I was tasked to work with, the experience was fantastic. I’ve spent more time mixing on 4888s than any other box, so I know well what to expect from them. Given the proper deployment, processing and power, a VerTec rig can really shine, and that’s exactly what the rig did. The SC48 is also easily my favorite console–it’s fast, ergonomic, takes up relatively little space, sounds good, has lots of flexibility, and probably my favorite feature: you don’t have to look at the screen to use it. Unlike many other digital desks, the SC48 features on-surface displays, pots, switches and faders for nearly every essential function. If you don’t want to look at the screen and dork around with the mouse/trackball, you don’t have to. This is invaluable in such a fast paced setting as this, as every unnecessary movement adds up to wasted time–time you can’t afford to lose without impacting the quality of the show.

Back to the PA for a quick note. You’ll notice from the picture above, our trim height was fairly low considering the amount of cabinets we had, and there is a lot of tent material close to the top of the hang. When I first fired up the rig to start tuning, I left all amplifier gains at unity. Each left/right main hang was wired in four zones of two cabinets each. If you’re looking at the hang, zone 1 would be the top two cabinets, cabinets 1 and 2, zone 2 would be cabinets 3 and 4, zone 3 would be cabs 5 and 6 and finally zone 4 was the bottom two cabs, 7 and 8. My first action was to shade back the HF and MF drivers in the bottom zone, to lessen the “rip your face off” effect that comes from standing two feet in front of speaker hang at show volume. The 4888s are a 3-way cabinet–low-mid, high-mid and high. Leaving the low-mid section gained at unity to maintain the low-frequency coupling and pattern control of the array, I experimented with gaining back the high-mid and high frequency sections, first starting with a 3dB reduction, then moving to a 6 dB reduction, eventually settling on -5dB. This helped greatly in reducing the perceived “harshness” if you’re one of the front row show-goers that happens to wind up in front of a hang.

Now regarding the top of the hang. Again, if you look at the pictures above, you’ll see the top cabinets are pretty close to tent material on the outsides of the stage grid. With the nominal horizontal dispersion of the 4888 being 90 degrees, there’s no doubt a lot of MF and HF program material exiting those top cabinets is immediately splashing off the tent, causing excessive reflections, smearing and other nasty stuff that doesn’t really help the cause of audio clarity. After lots of walking the room checking for front-to-back coverage and consistency, I opted to completely mute the mid-high and high-frequency sections of zone 1 (the top to cabinets), again leaving the 12″ LF drivers at unity gain to maintain that low-mid coupling, directionality and punch. The difference this made was very significant. Due to the trim heights and grid design, the rig had to be hung in such a way that those top cabinets were just pushing HF over people’s heads anyway, and in stead of taking some system designer’s approach of “well we hung all these boxes, so we better use ’em all,” taking a few minutes to experiment and find out what I really needed to cover the area (and cover it well) greatly improved sound quality. Yes, it’s okay to turn down sometimes.

A couple of other notes regarding gear, this was my first time with a set of EV N/DYM 468 microphones. Fantastic for horns, auxiliary percussion and various pieces around a drum kit, I hope to own a few of these soon. Paired with the LP Claw, you can find all sorts of fun, discreet ways to mount these mics in tight places you wouldn’t normally be able to squeeze other options. Also, the original Shure SM91 (SM, not Beta) is almost too easy. When I realized we had one in our mic drawer, it didn’t go away until load-out. With the exception of a few kick drums missing a port-hole (which I managed to make sound pretty good with an Audix D6 on the reso head and the newly beloved N/DYM 468 clawed to the the snare stand pointing where the kick drum beater meets the batter head) the SM91 gave me all the punch and bottom end I could ever want, with, in many cases, zero EQ changes on the channel strip.

Of course, all shows must end, as ours did at 4AM on Sunday morning (Saturday night?). Despite not receiving the “fresh” stage hands we were promised, and dealing with a much muddier area than we had for load-in, we got the rig out in a couple of hours, just in time to see a beautiful Ozarks sunrise.

Sunrise as seen from behind the Outpost tent.

Sunrise as seen from behind the Outpost tent.

Festival season really is a magical one. Thousands of people from all backgrounds gathering to work, play and perform brings a sense of unity rarely felt at one-offs. If any of my colleagues are reading this, I want to say thank you for everything you did to make this experience educational, fun, successful and truly unforgettable. It’s hard to sum up such an experience in a single blog post, as I could have been writing the entire length of the event and still left out some details, but some things you just have to see for yourself.

We worked hard, but don't worry, we made time for fun, too.

We worked hard, but don’t worry, we made time for fun, too.

Show Season Returns!

23 Apr

As is usual in this industry, the first quarter of the year is a good time to recollect and rejuvenate one’s self in preparation for the always busy Spring and Summer season. Spending much of that time in pre-production for upcoming events has kept me away from the blog (that’s the excuse I’m going with, anyway) but things are back in full swing with shows popping off left and right. It’s been a fantastic year so far and I’ve been thankful to find myself behind a console more often than not.

Time spent honing my craft is always a pleasure, and I’ve got several side projects and experiments which deserve a write-up sooner than later. For now, though, I leave you with a picture from yesterday’s show.


Fiesta Rig

Gear Only Goes So Far

7 Jan

It’s now 2014 and of course that means I’ve been spending some time listening to cassette tapes. Yes, you read correctly. Now my reason for writing this is not to jump on some analog soapbox, as you can already find plenty of similar discussions around the internet, so please keep reading knowing that I’ll keep the preaching to a minimum.

The cassettes I’ve been listening to (while also making digital backups) happen to be some of the first recordings I ever “mixed.” Magnetic proof of the beginning of my audio career. To my surprise, these recordings, despite my lack of experience/gear/money/space/knowledge, are still very listenable today. Of course I have a bit lot of nostalgia associated with the material, but I feel the recordings were very successful in what they were intended to accomplish. We’re talking a few teenagers in some less-than-hospitable environment (think unheated, detached garage in the middle of February) thrashing away into a handful of $5 vocal microphones and a cassette deck.

Without getting long winded, this listening experience made me realize how silly it is when people (myself included) spend too much time, money and effort worrying about what gear they use to record and create. With all the shiny options out there with their thoughtfully coined promises of better results, it is easy to get distracted. However, in looking back over my catalog of personally recorded projects, some of my favorite examples were completed with the most limited of resources. Don’t get me wrong, I love fancy gear and my modern recordings sound more “pro” as my access to such gear (and experience using it) improved, but gear was never the sole force standing between me and a successful take.

Doing a job with the right tool can no doubt make or break the results, just keep the obsession in check. Always take time throughout the creative process to step back, look at the situation and ask yourself, “does this really make it better?”

In closing, here’s a quick snippet of a song my friend Cameron and I (we called ourselves “Allergy Bowl”) recorded for the soundtrack of a short film we created in our 10th grade Latin class. We needed to record a short intro song for the first on-screen appearance of the Roman army. An evening in Cam’s garage, our instruments, a cheap mixer, and three or four microphones was all it took. We didn’t have access to a digital recorder or DAW, so we recorded straight to a consumer-grade Sony DV Handycam. Here we are, ten years later, and while it’s definitely rough around the edges, the recording is still successful in its intent.  Stay focused.

Kids and Chemicals

23 Sep

We left off covering some bands I’ve had the pleasure of working with and the microphone choices that made their sound possible.  While I did my best to include video of the musician/microphone combos, a brief lapse in judgement left me omitting one very unique example.  

Kids and Chemicals is gearing up to release an EP on October 8th featuring five new tracks.  “Pale Horse” is currently available for pre-order on CD and limited-edition, purple cassette.  Both options include an immediate download of a single track of your choice and digital copy of the EP (MP3/FLAC/etc) upon release.

In honor of the upcoming release and to provide you with yet another audio/visual sample of microphones at work, I leave you with a clip of Kids and Chemicals playing the track “Out My Window” at the Gillioz Theatre.


Pictures of Microphones

15 Sep

I love pictures of microphones.  I could browse the web for days just looking at and reading about various mics.  There are so many different kinds with a variety of applications and sonic possibilities.  In browsing the photo album on my phone, I realized I have gathered a decent collection of shots featuring collections of microphones I’ve used on assorted gigs.  While I wish I had been more consistent in taking these photos and collected pictures from every show I’ve mixed, I would like to showcase a few in today’s post.

First up, the photo that started it all.


I started taking these pictures after a Springfield church chose the Gillioz Theatre to host their annual holiday variety show.  When striking a stage, I always start by pulling all mics (and clips, if stored with) from their stands and putting them in one place so I can keep watch and get them back to their homes as quickly as possible to avoid the possibility of any microphones “walking off” in the rush of load-out.  It was something about the sight of this chair-full of microphones that prompted me to whip out the camera-phone and snap a picture.  My pile makes it a bit hard to see all the models, but I believe this night’s package, which as with all the following selections were selected by yours truly, featured the following:

  • Audix D6 (kick)
  • Audix D4 (floor tom)
  • Shure KSM137 (drum overheads–the Gillioz is a very live room and I often would choose to not close mic toms)
  • Shure SM57 (guitar cabs)
  • Shure SM58 (vox)
  • Shure Beta 58 (vox)
  • Shure SLX2 wireless handheld with Beta 58 capsule (emcees)

This show was quite some time ago and, as most church bands do, featured a wide variety of instruments and players, so I don’t remember the exact input list.

Now let’s look at a photo from Delta Sol Revival playing First Friday Live at the Gillioz Theatre.


I’ll do my best to reconstruct the input list (audience mics added for recording purposes):

  1. Kick – Shure Beta 52A
  2. Snare – Shure SM57
  3. Overhead L – Shure KSM137
  4. Overhead R – Shure KSM137
  5. Aux Snare – Shure Beta 57A
  6. Aux Percussion – Shure KSM137
  7. Bass Direct – Radial JDI
  8. Bass Cab – Shure Beta 56A
  9. Keys L – Radial JDI
  10. Keys R – Radial JDI
  11. Guitar – Shure Beta 57A
  12. Sax – Shure Beta 58A
  13. Aux Vox – Shure SM58
  14. Lead Vox – Shure SM58
  15. Audience L – Shure KSM137
  16. Audience R – Shure KSM137

This package was comprised completely of the Gillioz Theatre’s house inventory, which is obviously all Shure.

Next up, mics used for J-None’s First Friday Live performance.


For this show I supplemented some of my own mics to compliment the theatre’s Shure package.

  1. Kick – Audix D6
  2. Snare- Shure SM57
  3. Hi-Hat – Earthworks SR20
  4. Rack Tom – Sennheiser e604
  5. Floor Tom – Sennheiser e604
  6. Overhead L – Shure KSM27
  7. Overhead R – Shure KSM27
  8. Guitar – Sennheiser MD421
  9. Tracks L – Radial JDI
  10. Tracks R – Radial JDI
  11. Aux Vox – Sennheiser e835
  12. Lead Vox – Shure Beta 58
  13. Audience L – Audix ADX51
  14. Audience R – Audix ADX51

You’ll notice I always use the Shure SM57 on snare.  I just can’t argue with the results.  The KSM27s worked okay on for overheads, but lacked a bit of the pattern control I prefer to create a wide stereo image.

The next feature is from one of my personal favorite Springfield, MO bands, The Bootheel.


  1. Kick – Audix D6
  2. Snare – Shure SM57
  3. Rack – Sennheiser e604
  4. Floor – Sennheiser e604
  5. OHL – Audix ADX51
  6. OHR – Audix ADX51
  7. Bass Direct – Radial JDI
  8. Bass Cab – Audix D4
  9. Guitar SR – Audix i5
  10. Guitar SL – Shure SM57
  11. Drum Vox – Shure Beta 56A
  12. Aux Vox – Shure SM58
  13. Lead Vox – Shure SM58
  14. Audience L – Shure KSM137
  15. Audience R – Shure KSM137

This is when I fell in love the Audix D4 on bass cab.  This was also my first time using the Beta 56A for drum vocals, which worked really well as Warren, drummer for the Bootheel, adds a lot to the music with his harmonies, but also hits incredibly hard, which can be difficult to work with in the mix.  The Beta 56A provided good rejection of the drum kit and with a little HF rolloff on the console EQ, kept extra cymbal bleed to a minimum.  If I could do this again, I’d move the Shure KSM137s to the kit, as I’m not sure I like the ADX51 for overhead use.

Moving right along, here is the package used for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin when they opened for Neon Trees at the Gillioz.


For this show, I opted to omit the overheads. As the opening act, SSLYBY was set downstage of the proscenium opening and main drape. I felt there was no need to reinforce the cymbals as I knew the room would take care of that and some bleed would inevitably make it into the vocal channels.

  1. Kick – Audix D6
  2. Snare – Shure SM57
  3. Rack – Sennheiser e604
  4. Floor – Sennheiser e604
  5. Bass Direct – DI in head
  6. Bass Cab – Audix D4
  7. SR Guitar – Heil PR40
  8. SL Guitar – Sennheiser MD421
  9. Vox 1 – Shure SM58
  10. Vox 2 – Shure SM58
  11. Drum Vox – EV N/D857B

This was a great mix–and only 11 channels!  I’m a big fan of large-diaphragm dynamics on guitar cabs.  The cab on which I used the Heil PR40 is one I had worked with before and was always challenged to keep it from sounding harsh.  The PR40 tamed the tone nicely, requiring no console EQ other than a simple high-pass filter.  The EV on drum vocals worked beautifully.  SSLYBY likes to switch places on stage, moving from instrument to instrument between songs, and when one particular member sings behind the drum kit, it can be quite the challenge to get his vocals to stand out in the mix.  He sings softly and plays hard.  My dad gave my this N/D857B when I was about 12 years old, and it has been in my collection ever since (honestly, I’d say it started my collection).  I had it with my that night and decided to give it a shot.  The hyper-cardioid pattern rejected all the stuff I didn’t want and the mic’s response curve worked great for his vocals.  My only complaint is that EV no longer makes it.

Here we have a photo from Kids & Chemicals playing First Friday Live.


Kids & Chemicals is an electronic group backed with live drums.  This freed up the resources to go a little crazy on the drum mics, which I am always happy to do.

  1. Kick In – Audix i5
  2. Kick Out – Audix D6
  3. Snare Top – Shure SM57
  4. Snare Bottom – Sennheiser e604
  5. Hats – Earthworks SR20
  6. Rack – Heil PR40
  7. Floor – Sennheiser MD421
  8. OHL – Shure KSM137
  9. OHR – Shure KSM137
  10. Tracks L – Radial JDI
  11. Tracks R – Radial JDI
  12. Vox w/ FX from stage – Shure SM58 > Focusrite Saffire 2i2 > Radial JDI
  13. Crowd Address – Shure SM58
  14. Audience L – Shure KSM137
  15. Audience R – Shure KSM137

I really liked using the Sennheiser e604 for snare bottom as it required no stand in an already crowded space.  The Heil PR40 and Sennheiser MD421 on toms were great.  Also, the Earthworks SR20 just feels right on hats–very fast and articulate.

Finally, a shot from the last band I mixed at the Gilly, Plaid Dragon.


  1. Kick – Heil PR40
  2. Snare – Shure SM57
  3. OHL – Shure KSM137
  4. OHR – Shure KSM137
  5. Bass – Radial JDI
  6. SR Guitar – Sennheiser MD421
  7. Center Guitar – Audix D4
  8. SL Guitar – Shure SM57
  9. Acoustic Guitar – Radial JDI
  10. Ukulele – Radial JDI
  11. Synth – Radial ProDI
  12. Upright Bass – Radial JDI
  13. Violin – Shure KSM137
  14. Aux Vox – Shure SM58
  15. Drum Vox – Shure Beta 58A
  16. Lead Vox – Shure Beta 87A

The Beta 87A for lead vocals belongs to Inge, the lead singer, and sounds wonderful on her voice.  The D4 helped add some meat to her small, single 10″ guitar amp.  I had owned the PR40 for a while at this point, but had never tried it on kick, which all the studio rats rave about.  As you can tell from previous input lists, I’m quite partial to the D6, but Plaid Dragon is a bit “unconventional” so I felt it was an appropriate time to get a little crazy myself.  The results were excellent and I look forward to using the PR40 on kick again when appropriate.