Mixers, Speakers, Mics: Choosing a PA system & Setting It up The Right Way

Public address systems are especially important when addressing live events featuring a large group of people, such as live concerts, political rallies, church events, conferences, product promotions, and other such public gatherings. The key components of a good PA system include speakers, mixers, and mics.

To get the best audio from your system, you need to choose the best components and set them up appropriately. However, it’s not that easy to do this, especially for first-timers. Luckily, we have prepared a guide on how to choose a PA system and set it up the right way. Here is what you need to know.

Choosing Mixers

Signals coming from different instruments and mics require balancing, processing, and mixing together prior to amplification. This is where mixers come in handy. They comprise of multiple channels for connecting multiple devices. They accept components like preamps, amps, mics, signal processors, and other line-level components.

You can choose between analog and digital mixers. Each option has its own key features and benefits over the other. Analog mixers offer superb sound, especially when mixing for live performances. Most of them come with a 4-band equalizer for balancing tone for each component connected to the mixer. However, most analog mixers lack built-in mechanisms for controlling sound on all channels. Thus, analog setups demand additional gear for extra signal processing. This translates to more costs for setup, more cabling, and more challenges in troubleshooting.

On the other hand, digital mixers come with advanced technologies for sound mixing. They are ideal for events that demand more touring. Each channel in digital mixers comes with its own 4-band equalizer, gating, and compression. Each output comes with an equalizer for monitors. Thus, the key benefit of digital mixers over analog mixers is that they demand less gear when setting up, require less cabling, and are easier to troubleshoot. You can also control most digital mixers wirelessly, and some support wireless control via smartphone apps.

Choosing Speakers

Generally, a speaker converts electrical signals into vibrations that are heard as sound. Speakers vary in terms of size, shape, type, and model. When setting up a PA system, you can choose speakers by these aforementioned factors. Basically, the key types of speakers for PA systems are passive and active speakers. Passive speakers are typically unpowered. They require setting up using a standalone power amp to produce sound. This demands for more cabling and components.

On the other hand, active speakers are powered speakers. They have an inbuilt power amp, meaning you can connect them directly to a mixer. This reduces the amount of cabling and components required. Although active speakers allow for easier and simpler set up, they don’t allow a lot of freedom to move them around. Moreover, passive speakers allow for easier addition of more speakers, unlike active speakers.

When choosing speakers for your PA setup, consider the main speakers, subs, and monitor speakers. The main speakers are responsible for delivering most of the audio to listeners. Thus, if a venue is larger, you need more main speakers. More speakers demand a more powerful power amp. Subwoofers are necessary where low-frequency audio is required. Monitor speakers, on the other hand, are mainly used by the performer to monitor sound. When choosing speakers, also consider the size, power rating, and impedance.

Choosing Mics

For a performer or the person speaking to be heard by a large crowd, they require microphones. Microphones capture sound from a performer and musical instruments. Mics come in different types. They can be dynamic or condenser, wired or wireless, and headset or lapel. Dynamic mics are mics that don’t require any power supply. They are sturdy and have a simple design. On the other hand, condenser mics require power supply. Condenser mics are great for all frequencies but are prone to interference from structural vibration.

Wireless mics don’t require any cabling. Thus, you can easily move around with them, as long as you are within the range of transmission. Wireless mics operate through a transmitter for sending sound signals and a receiver for receiving sound signals. The transmitter is usually inbuilt. Transmitters are battery-powered. Some use rechargeable batteries while others use dry-cell batteries. Thus, you need to ensure the mic has enough power before performing or speaking to your audience. On the other hand, wired mics are connected to a receiver using a cable. They transmit sound signals through the cable. However, they limit a performer in terms of moving around depending on the length of the cable.

Headset mics are a type of mics worn on the head. On the other hand, lapel mics are usually attached on clothing near the mouth. These two types of mics can be used hands-free. Headset mics are mostly used when dancing to a tune or singing while lapel mics are used by presenters. However, these two types of mics are prone to feedback when using them with a PA system.

Setting a PA system the Right Way

When setting up a PA system, you need to ensure that you have chosen the right components. In case you are renting a PA system, you need to ensure that the components are in good condition. Here are some tips to setup a PA system the right way.

Choose appropriate locations: You need to select the best locations for the speakers and other components. For the best sound, place the speakers in front of everything else. For instance, the speakers should be placed in front of the mics to avoid feedback.

Set the height of the mic properly: When setting up the mics, set their height appropriately and ensure they are securely held in place.

Run the cables and connect components: Ensure the cables are run across the podium in a way that no one will trip over them. You can tape the cables for enhanced safety. Also, connect all the components appropriately.

Test the setup: Test the PA system using the mic. Ensure everything sounds well. Set the volume adequately and adjust anything that doesn’t sound well. Move the speakers around until you get the best sound throughout the venue.

By choosing appropriate mixers, speakers, and mics, you will be a step closer to getting your PA system right. Upon choosing the appropriate PA system components and setting them up the right way, you will ensure that your audience gets the best sound experience.

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TWB Editorial