New Cuer Series – Equipment

What about hardware? Well, technology has moved on there, too. A lot of old-timers lug around enormous Hilton amps (sometimes with turntables!) and separate speakers. Unless you’re cuing at the Royal Albert Hall, this is probably unnecessary. I use a Behringer B108D powered speaker in a 4500 square foot, high-ceiling hall and it’s nowhere near its limit (Behringer at 50%, mixer output at 50%, computer output at 40%).

Some of the other equipment you’ll need you may be able to buy used from a retiring cuer. Here’s what you’ll need:

Mixer. This “mixes” the inputs from the PC (left and right channel / music and cues), and any microphones you have to produce a “single” output. Actually, two outputs with independent volume controls – one for your amp or powered speaker and one for your hearing assist radio transmitter. To make it even more complicated, most mixer are set up for stereo output – right and left channels are mixed indepedently. The old Hilton amps actually have stereo inputs – there’s essentially a little 2-to-1 mixer inside the amp.

The Behringer powered speaker, however, has a monaural (single channel) input. Which means one channel of you mixer is essentially useless (unless you put an external 2-to-1 mixer between the main mixer and the powered speaker). Here’s what my standard mixer setup looks like [replace this picture]:

From the left, the first two inputs are special inputs for microphones (microphones have lower level outputs and so need “pre-amps” in the mixer). You may need two inputs – one for a cuing mic and one for a teaching headset mic.

The next two are standard inputs. Notice that each of these has a top and a bottom input. The top is labeled “L” and the bottom “R” (Left and Right stereo). Since my output is monaural, I’m only using the R inputs (I could just as well have used just the L inputs).

Also notice that all of the balance knobs (second row of knobs from the bottom) are set to 100% Right – because I’m just using the Right channel.

The laptop is plugged in using a stereo splitter cable like this. The small (1/8″/3.5mm) end plugs into the laptop’s stereo headphone jack and the cable splits this into Left (white band) and Right (red band) 1/4″ plugs that go into the mixer. For simplicity, I plug the Left plug into the left-most of my two inputs and the Right plug into the right-most.

The final two “columns” are the outputs. I used the first one (counting from the left) for my Williams T17 Hearing Assist transmitter (this, like the powered speaker, is a monaural device). The final output goes to the powered speaker. Each has its own volume knob (bottom right in the picture).

I found the Williams hookup tricky. The mixer outputs are differential (“balanced”), whereas the Williams unit is expecting a single-ended (“unbalanced”) signal. The solution is to use a “stereo” TRS cable like this one. This effectively splits the differential signal into two separate “phono” cables. Plug either one into the Williams unit, and you’re good to go.

Cuing mic. After talking to a number of experienced cuers, I brought an Electro-Voice ND76S. It has a mute switch right on the mic, which seems useful. I can’t comment on it much as I don’t use it much.

Headset mic. This I use all the time. I have an inexpensive Fifine K068 dual headset mic setup (no longer sold – similar to this) and it has worked well enough. When I grow up, I want to have one (or two) of those lovely Samson Airline mics, but they’re pretty pricey and the Fifine works well enough for now.

Williams Hearing Assist transmitter. Sooner or later, probably sooner, you’re going to need one of these. This is definitely something you want to buy from a retiring cuer or caller if you can, because they’re shockingly expensive – more than $700. That’s more than all my other equipment combed – much more.