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How to Choose a Sound System

Choosing a sound system is easy if you ask the right questions. The topics below are some of the things to consider.

 

Background Music

Retail and office environments generally don't need high output levels, however there are other things to consider. Even the smallest environments will need multiple loudspeakers in order to deliver a consistent sound level throughout the facility.You will also want to individually control the volume levels from room to room or outdoor space. Another nice feature is multi-zone mixing, like switching from the jukebox to the TV audio in the lounge when the game comes on, while at the same time soft music plays in the dining room. Talk-over paging can also be incorporated into a Background Music System.

 

Speech

Intelligibility should be the primary objective. Accurate sound reproduction at the listener’s ears should guide you. First you will need a quality microphone, either corded or wireless. Lavalier, headset, or ear-worn are popular choices for hands-free use, but by far the familiar hand-held or stand-mounted microphone is the most versitile.

 

Music

System requirements vary depending on what type of content and sound pressure levels that you need to deliver.

Vocals and acoustical instruments at moderate volume levels generally require full-range (100Hz - 20kHz) loudspeakers. The number of loudspeakers and their output level capability is determined by your audience coverage area.

Motion picture soundtracks and high energy music such as rock, hip-hop, and rap with lots of low frequency (30 - 100Hz) content, will require a subwoofer. Full-range speakers generally cannot reproduce the “low end” at high levels without risk of damage. Adding a subwoofer(s) will allow your full-range speakers to operate exclusively in their “comfort zone”. This greatly extends the overall output of the system, plus it sounds awesome!

 

Multiple Performers

How many and what type of performers will be in your event?

Most of our 6 - 8 input systems prove to be adequate for basic events; however, more elaborate setups are easily accomplished with an upgraded mixer with more inputs and outputs.

For special events, a separate console mixer can be plugged into a mixer input and provide you with all of the versatility that you need. The rest of the time the simplicity of the standard mixer will make for easier operation. Just remember that there is a learning curve to a console mixer, so for best results; read the owner’s manual, setup your equipment, and rehearse before the “big event”.

Will they need individual microphones or instrument inputs?

Another thing to consider in live sound events with multiple microphones is feedback squeal. For every doubling of the number of open microphones the maximum volume before you get feedback is reduced by 3 dB. So, if you have multiple microphones operating at the same time in a reverberant space, you will likely have feedback. Automatic mixers work great for boardrooms and stage acting performances. Proper microphone and loudspeaker setup is key to successful events.

Will they require stage monitor loudspeakers for musical cueing?

Stage monitor loudspeakers help keep your event performers in sync. Specify a mixer with a proper auxiliary monitor output(s) for best results.

What is the environment and audience configuration that you are trying to cover?

Make sure all of your listeners are within the loudspeaker’s coverage area. Confirm that the loudspeakers can produce the sound levels required without strain. See How to Set-up Loudspeakers and Care and Feeding of Loudspeakers ,for optimum results.

 

Indoors

The acoustics and general layout of indoor spaces greatly varies.

The system should be sized to provide adequate sound level to listeners in the back row. A system more powerful than needed for indoor events can always be turned down.

Setup your loudspeakers pointing away from any microphones. Avoid aiming them directly at reflective back walls, which could result in sound returning into the room and creating intelligibility and microphone feedback issues.

In order to avoid subjecting anyone to excessive sound levels, full-range loudspeakers should always be above the heads of the listeners in the front rows. Speaker stands or wall-mounts do the job well.

 

Outdoors

The distance to the furthest listeners, the coverage area, and the ambient noise are the key factors in an outdoor system.

If you are trying to reach listeners more than a hundred of feet away, specify high-output, long-throw loudspeakers for best results. Adding additional loudspeakers to cover a large audience works well. For example, on a football field, place a loudspeaker on a stand along the foot of the bleachers every 20 yards.

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