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Is it better to buy or hire mics


Saxymusic82
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Hi,

so happy to find this forum and hopefully someone can point me in the right direction. I’m on the committee for a community theatre group. We do around 2 productions a year.

Up till now we have borrowed mics from another local group. But I wanted to look into the possibility of buying our own. So I just wondered if anyone had any best practice when it came to mics?

Is it a good investment to buy our own?

If so where is the best place to buy?

Would hiring be a better option?

If so where’s the best place to hire?

Any advice/suggestions would be very welcome.

Thank you 

 

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Allow for rehearsals and other possible funding events that you might want mics for. Depends if you have all of the mixing amps and speakers already that could be used or hired out.

a couple of SM58s are cheap, as said, tons of radio mics isn’t.

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It might be easier to give an opinion if we knew what sort of (& how many) mics you borrow. Do you borrow a complete sound system, or does the venue you use have its own sound system which you just plug your mics into?

If you have a regular sound-person he/she is the person to ask. I've worked with many amateur organisations where "the committee" have wasted often large sums of money on equipment which would never cover its costs, & was sometimes never used, because they didn't think to consult the people who would potentially be using it.

Edited by sandall
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1 hour ago, sandall said:

If you have a regular sound-person he/she is the person to ask. I've worked with many amateur organisations where "the committee" have wasted often large sums of money on equipment which would never cover its costs, & was sometimes never used, because they didn't think to consult the people who would potentially be using it.

Exactly the reason I insist on speaking with the users... before I start an installation.

I find schools are very good at buying something 'because another school has it' rather than listening to their teachers. I always charge for an extra day to the time worked in schools to allow for a return visit for this reason.

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For a school with a permanent auditorium/function space/hall - I find an installation of a couple of mid-range handhelds or a couple of handhelds and a belt-pack with lapel mic running through an easy to use DSP is often a good investment. As is installing some good antenna distribution if it's a hall. It tends to make the space usable for day-to-day "things" and then they can hire for events. It needs to be pickup and go though. I would never buy loose kit to sit on a shelf or rely on a system driven solely by a mixer unless there was a technician looking after the space. 

The rule of thumb I tend to go with is meet the requirements for 80-90% of the time. So, if you only use the space for a month or two of the year (total) - just hire what you need. If you use it for day to day assemblies, guest presentations etc and then there are a few major performances a year, then kit it out to deal with that day to day stuff. If you have a hugely active drama department that are running 4-6 large shows a year, each with a 2 week run - then you probably (a) are resourced to deal with the technical side of things and (b) able to justify kitting yourself out properly. 

Edited by mac.calder
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As an ‘amateur’ myself I do sound (and lighting) for a couple of local amateur theatre groups. Can you flesh out what you’re looking for and what skills you have in the group?

As you’re a theatre group I suspect you’re asking about lavalier or headset radio mics. How many?

What other equipment and skills do you have within the group? Do you have a person who looks after the sound? How skilled are they? Could they put together second hand equipment in a rack case and look after it? Do they have the skills and equipment to do simple soldering repairs?

What size hall? What size cast? What age cast? What type of shows? (musicals, plays?)

And firstly and more importantly do you *really* need them?

Edited by kgallen
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2 productions a year really means buying is a bad investment for anything where a warranty would be handy. Forget you are talking about mics, ask the question "why do you want to own something you use twice a year?" If you have an accountant in the organisation ask them what they advise for twice a year purchases? I bet they say hire. Doesn't matter if it's two hundred quid, or for radio mics 4 grand or so? Keep in mind that expensive radio mic systems can be wiped out in two years time by a Government change of frequency - it's happened before. Running costs for radio can be expensive. Your cast, through so many reasons, can wreck the headset mics of a radio system. Replacements will be VERY expensive. If you hire, you pay for these too, so it's a constant cost no matter how you fund them. Many people turn to low price headsets to cut down the running costs. If you spend a few hundred on a hire - a replacement mic bill might be manageable, but if you invest thousands, will the committee still be happy with regular repair budgets? 

Of course if all you need are a couple of stand mics, then they're much less money, and have a long life - so buying is sensible. Seriously though - ask your accountant (every group seems to have one). My view is that they're nice to own, and that's sensible if you doing a production every month, averaged over a year. For 6 outing or less a year, the warranty is pointless and they're a risk.

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I’m concerned about amateur groups ‘run by accountants’. In my experience they don’t want to spend. Anything. Amateur groups aren’t run to make a surplus beyond being able to fund their near term production programme. This can mean they stockpile cash instead of investing it in their society. I’ve been there several times. ‘We have no money’ yet have 5 grand sat in a 0.01% bank account. 
 

My main group bought 4 channels of Sennheiser EWG2 new in 2006 at a cost of £400/channel. We use them for two or three productions a year. Where required I supplement these with 4 channels of my own made up from second hand sets made up from eBay purchases over time. However for this extra 4 we then need to buy a shared license at £70/pa.

Hiring radio mics is not cheap. Our 4 channels would have cost us about 6 grand to hire over this time frame. 

Paul’s point about frequency changes is a good one to be noted.

However this is why questions along the lines of the ones I listed above need to be answered. If you only need a few channels, say 4 to 8, then if you have a knowledgable sound guy in the group then over time you could put together 4 to 8 channels of second hand EW G2 (or similar) at a fraction of the cost of new. This is what I did. I expect the 4 channels in Ch70 around 865MHz should be safe. The 4 you can get in around 830MHz with a shared license I agree are at risk. But quality equipment can be procured on a budget given some basic skills in the group.

If you ‘need’ 16 channels that is a whole different question.

I would encourage amateur groups to invest wisely and advisedly into their equipment stock over time. Not leaving their hard earned cash to sit and rot in a bank account. 

Edited by kgallen
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I Helpd an Amdram group for years and they had a similar situations where they hired in an average of 12 radiomics twice a year for their main productions then another once or twice a year they hired in 4 radiomics and although I dont work with them anymore back then they were interested in buying their own and I would manage them, they had a plan to find funding to purchase some and they had bought several in the time I was with them as for their big productions the cost would be around £700 per big production for just the radiomics so it was in their interest to purchase and they had a good working relationship with a local school which would have hired them for their production also so all the different times that they would be used a year would make it worth while.

what I would say is if you did buy your own is that you need one person who is knowledgable in technical equipment to manage them for you and to store them and to manage any possible hires you may have (good way of generating some income but b prepared for the costs of any possible damage that could be charged back to the hirer) and also buy some good quality equipment to start off with.

 

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