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advise on PA setup

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advice on PA setup

I am looking for some help with putting together a PA for small to medium (pub/club) venues. Aim is to maximise quality and simplicity as we do not have a sound engineer.

PA must amplify main vocal + 3 backing vocals, 3 horns and 1 keyboard. We have chosen not to run gtr, bass or drums through the PA and will not use subs.

We hope to have the front of house covered with a 12/4 mixer, a Yamaha P3500s amp and S112 cabs as well as a Behringer equalizer, dbx feedback processor and an old Rane compressor.

In particular, we don't know what to do for monitoring:

- amp and passive wedges (what power and speaker size?)

- active monitors (power/size) ?

- small monitors like TC voicesolo or Galaxy hotspots (are they good enough?)

- what minimum processing do we need for the monitors, Eq, compressors, etc?

Suggestions on monitoring but also comments/tips on the rest of the system and general experiences and tips are welcome!

Cheers

Karl

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In-ear monitoring is also an option. Headphone amps and some discrete earphones would do the trick. That would save you a lot of backache and pennies because they don't need to be wireless. It also maximises quality and simplicity since you can use the same monitor set-up at rehearsals allowing you to keep the same settings (with minor adjustments) for each gig.

Otherwise you'll need EQ and, since you seem to be going down that route, feedback suppressors for each mix.

I prefer not to use compressors on monitors if possible as it allows the performers to alter their performance dynamically giving a more even mix out front. Personally I find anything less than about 600W per monitor is a minimum but that's for generic systems, you might find that you need less, depends on how loud your backline is compared to how loud the vocalists are.

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This is very useful advice thanks, we are now looking into in-ear monitoring for the main vocals.

By the way, do i sense from this

Otherwise you'll need EQ and, since you seem to be going down that route, feedback suppressors for each mix.

that you are not a fan of feedback suppressors?

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No, not a fan. feedback is generally a sign that something has been set up badly, gain structure, system controller etc and it makes more sense to find the source of the problem and deal with it there rather than applying a "sticking plaster" solution.

I can see why it might make sense from the point of view of your set-up though.

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I think that is too complex a setup for someone who is not used to operating PA systems.

In ear monitoring requires every instrument to be mic'd up and is highly unforgiving. There is no way it would be cheaper when you account for the cost of in-ear monitoring systems for each band member as well as additional microphones. The cheaper in-ear monitoring systems also don't do a very good job at blocking out external noise.

Feedback is primarily casued as a result of room acoustics. Point your PA speakers away from the walls and you will be less likely to get it.

The type of monitors to get and how to use them really depend on your band and layout on stage. I would be tempted to say on the size of stages you are likely to play and concidering how little of the band you are poutting through the monitors, it would not be wise to start with a large number of monitors or monitor mixes.

The number of wats is fairly irrelevant as it doesn't measure how loud the system is.

The EQ on your mixing desk should be sufficent for your needs. Just turn down the bass on vocals and piano (if you have a piano player used to playing in sunday school i.e bottom heavy).

There is a reasonable learning curve attached with using compressors. If you were to start using one, try putting it on your lead vocal. Set attack time ~20-40ms and don't make the ratio too heavy. If you get better at using them then you will be able to adjust to suit but you don't really get a very accurate impression of how it sounds from the stage.

You might wish to put a little bit of reverb on your vocals but don't get carried away with this as you don't want it to be too obvious.

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I think that is too complex a setup for someone who is not used to operating PA systems.

In ear monitoring requires every instrument to be mic'd up and is highly unforgiving. There is no way it would be cheaper when you account for the cost of in-ear monitoring systems for each band member as well as additional microphones. The cheaper in-ear monitoring systems also don't do a very good job at blocking out external noise.

IEM does not require every instrument to be miked up, either that or every single IEM mix I've ever done has been wrong. I'm not talking about wireless IEMs either so the cost is a headphone amp or three, some decent in-ear phones and some cables. Whether they have a lot of noise rejection has absolutely nothing to do with the cost of the IEM, just the moulding which goes in the ear.

Bear in mind I also said that if they rehearsed with the system they could fine tune this "highly unforgiving", "complex" set-up at their leisure.

Also note that I put it forward as a matter to consider, not the best or only way to do it.

Feedback is primarily casued as a result of room acoustics. Point your PA speakers away from the walls and you will be less likely to get it.

Not in my experience. feedback is generally the result of a system being wrongly set-up ,bad mic positioning, the band playing too loud for the equipment available or the equipment just being a bit gash.

The type of monitors to get and how to use them really depend on your band and layout on stage. I would be tempted to say on the size of stages you are likely to play and concidering how little of the band you are poutting through the monitors, it would not be wise to start with a large number of monitors or monitor mixes.

I would say it's best to have as many different mixes as required, it avoids what I call the "upward spiral of noise" where one person can't hear themselves, asked to be turned up, then someone else can't hear, continue ad nauseum/speaker failure

The number of wats is fairly irrelevant as it doesn't measure how loud the system is.

But it's a good benchmark when you're dealing with gear of roughly the same quality

The EQ on your mixing desk should be sufficent for your needs. Just turn down the bass on vocals and piano (if you have a piano player used to playing in sunday school i.e bottom heavy).

Apart form the fact that a 12/4 mixer is unlikely to have more than 3 shelving filters I fail to see how you can give EQ advice without hearing the system and the band going through it.

There is a reasonable learning curve attached with using compressors. If you were to start using one, try putting it on your lead vocal. Set attack time ~20-40ms and don't make the ratio too heavy. If you get better at using them then you will be able to adjust to suit but you don't really get a very accurate impression of how it sounds from the stage.

You might wish to put a little bit of reverb on your vocals but don't get carried away with this as you don't want it to be too obvious.

Wow, I agree. Another point about reverb/FX being subtle, in between songs any heavy effect sounds awful so unless you're switching them off subtlety is the order of the day.

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IEM does not require every instrument to be miked up, either that or every single IEM mix I've ever done has been wrong. I'm not talking about wireless IEMs either so the cost is a headphone amp or three, some decent in-ear phones and some cables. Whether they have a lot of noise rejection has absolutely nothing to do with the cost of the IEM, just the moulding which goes in the ear.

Bear in mind I also said that if they rehearsed with the system they could fine tune this "highly unforgiving", "complex" set-up at their leisure.

Also note that I put it forward as a matter to consider, not the best or only way to do it.

Not in my experience. feedback is generally the result of a system being wrongly set-up ,bad mic positioning, the band playing too loud for the equipment available or the equipment just being a bit gash.

I would say it's best to have as many different mixes as required, it avoids what I call the "upward spiral of noise" where one person can't hear themselves, asked to be turned up, then someone else can't hear, continue ad nauseum/speaker failure

But it's a good benchmark when you're dealing with gear of roughly the same quality

Apart form the fact that a 12/4 mixer is unlikely to have more than 3 shelving filters I fail to see how you can give EQ advice without hearing the system and the band going through it.

Wow, I agree. Another point about reverb/FX being subtle, in between songs any heavy effect sounds awful so unless you're switching them off subtlety is the order of the day.

What he said.

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Although your advice was valid I thought it best for someone who is not used to operating a PA system to start with something simple. Especially if you are going to be mixing from the stage, as part of the band.

I suspect they woudl stuggle to use any sort of in ear or headphone mix without every instrument going through them? Possibly not the drums but I suspect you will get complaints about people not being able to hear what they want if they don't have the everything through their headphones.

My experience with it has been.... give someone a wedge monitor, if they can hear the lead vocal, the drums and their own instrument they can usually cope with that. Give someone a pair of headphones and there will be a never ending list of requests of what they want changed in the mix.

There is also the issue of how it looks to the audience. Depending on the type of earphones you get (and the cheaper ones generally aren't moulded to your ears or otherwise good at cutitng out external noise) and the hairstyles of band members. If you have a wire forbidding you from moving around the stage it also might impact on your stage presense.

Also, most bands (i've worked with) consist of multiple cheapskates and if you ask them to spend 80 on a set of half decent earphones, they may object.

It also means you feel further away from the crowd. You quite possibly wont hear any clapping, singing or cheering from the audience unless you use ambient mics.

I said the EQ was probably adequit becuase I don't think it would be wise to bring in external EQ unless you have more time and experience of how to use it.

They might be able to get reasonably good at using their system if they also use it for rehearsals but that really depends on where they rehearse and the time they have available. From my experience, people tend not to be very understanding if you spend a lot of time fiddling with settings at a band practice.

Maybe they should concider it but I would suggest leaving it to a later date until they are familular with the rest of their system.

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