Static Electric Discharge and AES50 – Audio peeps BE AWARE!

Las Vegas, Nevada; a city of extravagant fun; a great city in which to work! It is also a very dry place, which makes its ballroom environments very susceptible to the buildup of static electric charges. Turns out, folks, that AES50 is very vulnerable to being knocked out by Static discharge. Scenario follows:

Standard, small-scale ballroom setup in a 300’x 400′ room. Carpetted floors, Moderate-height ceilings, dry air, shuffling feet, no bueno. 8 channels of wireless, M32 at FOH, DL251 at BOH, Midas/Klark Teknik 100m Ethernet Reels w/ Ethercon Connectors (unshielded).

Load in, sound checks, rehearsals, all went off without a hitch. Come the morning of show, I start to get intermittent pops from my console. The pops could be anywhere from soft RF-Dropout type sounds, to a full on gunshot over my system. The sound turned out to be a momentary loss of sync between the Midas DL251 and the M32. The volume of the pop was lessened by changing the clock sync between the 251 and to M32 to be local to the M32. My assumption on which is that the console would not lose overall clocking with the stage box dropouts. Getting to the point – the drops were a result of static discharge – the product of the following factors:

  1. Extremely low humidity
  2. FOH run on carpet (not flown)
  3. 1500 shuffling feet

Before we decided that the problem was, in fact, static electricity; we changed the console and stagebox (replacing M32 and DL251 with an X32 and a Behringer S16). We also ran different Cat5 cables (shielded Tact5 this time). The only factors remaining to be changed were 1. the console file (file had to be transferred in order to make console swap in an orderly fassion – console was changed at lunch break) 2. FOH Power – which was not a potential problem, as Lighting console was sharing power and experienced nothing out of the ordinary. The console file was built from scratch, again, that evening and the following day our session began and we still had the same problem.

Frequency of dropouts increased with the number of audience members who decided to take a seat or stand up against the wall where the FOH run was, and every single variable had been changed. That’s when we turned our attention to the static – heretofore written off as a lazy assumption until all other factors had been dealt with. We did some research and found the following thread on Prosoundweb.

http://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,143428.msg1333430.html#msg1333430

I recommend reading through as much as you can, as the progression of events, solutions and reversals to those solutions; are very interesting and informative.

Comments or common experiences welcomed.

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