View Full Version : Mixer, Speakers, Mics ?
It's time to buy a pa system for our new bluegrass band -- guitar, banjo, mando, upright bass. I figure we'll be doing small to medium size gigs for a while until we hit the bigtime ( ha, ha) , like the local pizza parlor.
There sure is a lot of stuff out there to choose from!
Mind telling me what your band uses? Are the certain brands or models particularly suited for bluegrass music? HOw much 'power' are we gonna need? How large the speakers?
We are not a bluegrass band, but we do have mando, dobro, 2 guitars, and an electric bass. #We also have 4 vocal mics as 4 of us sing. #So here goes...
4 Shure SM-58 mics, Mackie 1642 VLZ PRO mixer, Peavey 2x31 EQ, Reverb(unknown) in effects loop, Mackie 1400i power amp, 2 JBL EON passive speakers, and 2 Peavey monitor speakers.
All of the acoustic instruments use pickups with preamps of some type before hitting the board, and my mandolin uses the fishman dual system going into a fishman blender before the board.
We are in the process of adding a BBE sonic maximizer, and replacing the EQ with one that has feedback detection. #Anyone have any feedback, no pun intended, on them?
When people ask what type of music we play, I always reply, "Acoustic!"
We are a 5-piece band. We've got 4 instrument mics and 4 vocal mics, Shure Beta 58's and 57's, respectively. The bass goes direct. My first choice for a mixer was Mackie with at least 8 channels, but we didn't want to spend that much. Instead we got a Behringer UB2442FX Pro 24 mixer and have been very pleased with its performance. Our power amp is a Crown CE2000, giving us plenty of juice for 300 person venues or outdoor events. We can bridge it for more power if we need to. We have a separate power amp for the monitors. We have Electrovoice ("EV") speakers, 200 W continuous power handling and use Peavey stage monitors. Our rack also includes a Behringer feedback destroyer, but since abandoning the single-mic approach in favor of individual micing, we can usually get by without it. We still have our AT-4033s in case we did want to do the single or double mic thing.
If I had to change anything, I'd swap out the Behringer Feedback Destroyer for a graphic EQ with feedback detection. I'd also upgrade the speakers for more power handling.
This is a good, reliable "traveling" system for a four-piece band. It's what we use most of the time and it hasn't let us down. Compact, but powerful enough for some outdoor gigs, hi-school gyms, etc. The shopping list...
Mackie 808M or 808S powered mixer, separate power amps and eqalizers for mains and monitors, will drive as many as four 8-ohm main speakers and four 8-ohm monitors if needed, rent or borrow bigger speakers and/or subwoofer if needed for special occasion
two Mackie C-300i un-powered main speakers w/ tripod stands (stands are important for "projection" of sound)
two monitors (currently using un-powered JBL-EON-10's, have also used less expensive SoundTech monitors)
Shure SM-58 mics for vocals, SM-57 mics for instruments (spend more if you like, but these are the old reliables)
pickup and D.I. box for bass fiddle, sometimes use small bass amp in addition for stage monitor only (using BassMax pickup mounted on bridge)
four tripod/boom mic stands w/ side clips for instrument mics (easier to transport than cast-bottom stands)
several plastic toolboxes filled with mic & speaker cords, clips, tools, spares, extension cords
Realistic Budget if starting from scratch...$3000
Yorkville MP8DX, this unit has it all: 8 channels, Phantom power, Eq, effects, amp for mains, amp for monitors. It's a work horse.
I see most systems described here are of the individual mic rock type setup. #There is also the traditional method of group mics and playing the mics by moving in and out. #We use two Superlux (Chinese version of Shure KSM27) one inch condenser mics $125 ea. A Small Behringer board $75 . A Peavey 400 watt power amp $300. and JBL 10SR's on stands. $500. Ocassionaly we also use a Beringer Feedback destroyer as well. #The sound is clean uncolored and very "acoustic". Suitable for small to medium sized venues. #Not knocking other systems but SM58's and 57's just don't cut it for frequency and dynamic response , The proximity effect on frequency response is also a real problem . #Great for amplified bands, but if you are an acoustic band just requiring uncolored sound reinforcement of your acoustic sound the set up is very different. The bass player plays threw their own small combo amp.
First and foremost, what's your budget? #There's a seemingly endless amount of gear, types of gear, etc that you can get, so a budget would be a good place to start. #I'll tell you what we're using.
Behringer 2442FX mixer. #We went with this because of price and options. #We can run our front of house sound from the board and send direct outs to the house board from 8 channels. #It also has a couple extra channels that don't have direct out capability. #When we started putting PA gear together, we were on a tight budget.
A few weeks ago, we were running that into a dbx EQ, and then into an Alesis Compressor, then to Mackie Powered mains. We were also using in-ears for our monitoring system. #However, last week our bass player just purchased the BOSE PA system (2 of these).
http://www.bose.com/control....dex.jsp (http://www.bose.com/controller;jsessionid=AP0dsSBBGblXD9kRmB8FDqW8nsnu Ans80UroW6oot6O20kAvbKQh!-1272298742?event=VIEW_PRODUCT_PAGE_EVENT&product=l1_single_live_music_index&pageName=/musicians/products/index.jsp)
If price isn't an option, I'd go for that, as it sounds amazingly acoustic, even while plugged in. #With this system, all you'll need is a mixer, mics, and the Bose PA. #You won't need any sidechain gear such as an EQ, compressor (etc) because its all built into the system. #And you don't need any monitors or in-ears because they stand behind you so that you hear exactly what the audience hears. But, unfortunately they aren't cheap. #If it were me having to buy the PA gear, I wouldn't be getting these because I can't afford it... But since our bass player can, I have NO arguement with him buying it http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
There are a lot of considerations when looking for gear, and many have been mentioned here, but I'll throw out a few thoughts to ponder on.
Portability: What sort of transportation do you have for the band and equipment? Do you want to buy a van or trailer for the gear? Bose has been mentioned by a couple of responders, and is probably the most portable system out there, fitting in a car trunk, but spendy. It also may not be adequate for some jobs. Then you end up needing bigger speaker cabinets, and you walk in with your 10 pound mandolin and case, and 500 pounds of sound reinforcement gear.
Costs: Who pays for it? Do you pool your money from jobs and the band owns it? Or do you each chip in an equal amount and buy it up front? Or do you each buy one or two pieces of gear, with the bass player owning the mixer and power amps, and the mandolin player owns the speakers, and so on. What happens when the guitar player's wife runs off with the banjo player? Who buys out who in those types of situations? Or what do you do when someone leaves the group, taking their equipment with them?
Microphones: If everyone buys their own, it is quite important that everyone agrees on what is necessary and gets the same type, to simplify equalization. I've been involved in groups with every type of microphone under the sun, and trying to balance and eq them can be a nightmare. The same goes for monitors. Matching gear is a lot easier to manage.
We have gone from each person using a Shure SM57 for their instrument and a 58 for vocals to using 2 Audio Technica 4033 for the whole band, with a small amp for the acoustic bass. One goal was to make the band "more portable," and to get by with a minimum amount of gear.
Over the years I have found it works best when one person owns the gear, and some sort of financial arrangement is made with the band for leasing or renting it, be it a lump sum or a percentage of job pay or however they choose to work it out. That way personnel can change without creating hardships for equipment replacement or the need to come up with a lump sum of cash for a buyout. I've been through every situation described above, and know what kinds of headaches can be created by each of them.
Just some food for thought. Don't get in a hurry to buy something, only to find out that it wasn't what you needed, or to have something better turn up a few days later. Good Luck.
Your so right about portability and cost Rroyd. Our system fits in the trunk of my car along with my golf clubs . Very compact and inexpensive yet high quality. Mandomania have a look at this website dedicated to acoustic sound reinforcement. Best of luck
For small & quiet venues we use two AKG-3000 large diaphagm mics instead of a full spread of mics, when we can get by with it. Trouble is, they don't work out in many of the places that we play. All too often, you can't get enough signal-to-feedback ratio for a practical level of volume. Same PA and speakers (minus the monitors) for one or two large mics.
Thanks for all the comments. Very helpful! What a great cybercommunity where people take time from their busy lives to help others out!
Here are a few "specifics" that were asked for:
1. Budget. HOw does $2,000 to $5,000 sound (nice pun!). We are neither youngsters nor starving artists, so we can afford some quality, but we would rather not pay for bells and whistles that we would never use.(But "never" is such a big word.)
2. Portability: A BIG consideration. The opposite side of the coin for not being youngsters. Oh my sciatica!
A few more questions:
HOw much power (watts?) might we need for those small and medium size venues. I have been looking at powered mixers from 200w to 1200w. Tweedle Dee says that 400w is enough to bring the house down; Tweedle Dum says you need the extra power so you run the amp at the low numbers and avoid distortion. Thoughts?
By the way, is there anything really wrong with a powered mixer? Is it mostly a matter of flexibility (modules) vs. convenience (one box) or is there some othe big issue I am not hearing about?
Finally, the issue of mics and feedback. Being a mature and somewhat backward looking, I kinda prefer the single mic style, but I am concerned about the feedback problem especially in those small venues where you are literally up against the wall. I was thinking of one AT4033 for the vocals (and banjo) and a separate dynamics for the guitar and mando. Any thoughts. Did someone say they use two AT 4033s!
Yep, we DID use two 4033s. #At first we used just one. We have a regular gig and I record most of them off the board so we can review how we sound and horrify ourselves. With the single mic, we just couldn't get everybody at good volume in the mix. #Mostly, this was our fault -- everybody in my band needs to pick and sing louder, and I couldn't get them to tighten up the choreography. So we went to two 4033s ala Del McCoury. That helped quite a bit, but I'm a shorty and hoisting my mandolin in the air to get it in front of the 4033 was a PITA. I didn't like the tinny sound when I couldn't get close to the mic. So then we hung a Shure Beta 57 off of one of the mic stands below the 4033 to catch the instrumental breaks. That arrangement did a good job at providing a good mix for the small venues, like our regular gig in a little bar. #But even so, it was the worst of both worlds -- we still had the feedback problems of the condensor (we were next to three walls, ugh) and some of the mixing difficulties of a multi-mic set-up. We used a Behringer feedback destroyer but that didn't always solve our problems especially at high gain and high volume, which we sometimes needed to be heard. Of course we couldn't use monitors with that setup either.
Alas, our banjo player still had lead feet and just wouldn't move into the mic, and pretty soon he started asking for his own mic, and that was that. We gave up using the 4033s and got individual mics for everybody. It's certainly more of a hassle setting up, but getting the mix right isn't too bad. You learn how to mix the folks in your band after a while.
About price - $5000 is more than enough! #
About portability - our PA isn't the best in this regard. I can get it all in my mini-SUV, including monitors, but we split up the PA equipment between two band members to make it easier on ourselves. We live with it. One way to make your system more portable is to get powered speakers instead of a separate power amp, and you won't need a big rack case to house your electronics. The downside is that it could be more costly to upgrade to more power later on. Alternately, a powered mixer approach can help in portability too, more on that below.
How much power? Good question. Certainly speaker design figures into it, since some speakers deliver more SPL for a given wattage. And especially with a single mic set-up, the volume and choreography of your band will impact the volume you can get out of your PA and thus your power requirements. A rough idea based on my own experience would be a 250 @ 8-ohm stereo power amp, fully cranked, would be barely sufficient for a 200 person noisy venue with a 1-mic setup. Individual micing would be a little better. Quiet coffee-shop venues should be no problem. You can bridge most power amps and almost double the power going into your speakers hooked in parallel, and that might be a good idea if you need more power and your speakers can handle it.
The rule of thumb on sizing your speakers to your power amp that I've heard is for the continuous power rating of the speaker to be about half the maximum deliverable power to that speaker. The reason is that you'll never be saturating the PA with a continuous level of sound like that, so you shouldn't ever be in danger of damaging your speaker, and you'll want the power headroom. Of course, if you let your system feedback under max power, that definitely will damage your speakers.
Someone did say something about not running your power amp at full tilt, and I think that's good advice. Besides, you'll probably start noticing an annoying hum when you run it flat out. Size your power amp bigger than you think you'll ever need.
There's nothing wrong with using a powered mixer. #If you really don't think you'll need to expand your PA in the future and the powered mixer has enough power for you, go for it. They are really convenient.
Again on the feedback with a single condensor mic -- if you're going to be playing quieter venues where you don't need much gain, it should be managable with judicious use of a graphic EQ or a feedback elimination unit. If you think you'll need to play in cramped quarters in loud places, you'll likely run into feedback headaches.
That's just my 2 cents based on my own experience. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
Again it comes down to weather you wish to mic the instruments individualy or as a group. When working with condenser mics as in the two mic technique you are playing on stage as you would in the living room. You are not using monitors. The microphones are picking up the way you sound as a group . The system you want is one that will reproduce that sound with no coloration. The limitation is how much volume you can get before feedback. There are two schools of thought reguarding volume . Compress the sound EQ out the resonant frequencies and overpower everthing. Or make the sound very clean with full dynamic range but quieter. A friend of mine from String band used to have a trick when the audience got loud he played quieter . If you are playing well the audience will want to here you and they will get quieter. I've tried it it works. '
If you are going with a condenser mic type system ( 2 Mic's ) don't mix in dynamic mics stick to one type. Powered mixers are fine they just lack future flexibility. I feel if you need a system for larger venues Rent it. You will not need it that often.
So here it is my pick for high quality inexpensive sound reinforcement. I would pick mostly Behringer gear as it is durable of high quality and value. Behringer B1 mics all the quality you need for live and can be used in the home studio $100 ea , for this price you may want an extra one. A behringer pmx2000 powered mixer (2x250 Watt)$300 or a UB1202 mixer $80 and an EP1500 power amp (2x700 watt)$300. As far as speakers go a large driver is not required as the Bass is threw it's own combo amp. generaly large drivers also due to their mass respond poorly to transient frequiencies. Eight aor 10 inch are fine tecnology has changed the need for large speakers . Remember it is the mids and highs you are going for . I like Electrovoice SX80BP at around $220 ea. Great sound high Spl and compact. Throw in $100 for stands and $50 for cables and you have you self a first rate small system for around $1000.:blues:
Our group uses vintage peavy equipment, circa 1980. A simple set up with a dinosaur Peavy mixer, Peavy 260S stereo power amp (we are retiring it this week)driving the SP3 mains, Peavy 150SH stage monitors, and a 400BH powered mixer to drive the monitors.We are upgrading as we go, or breaks as it goes. We sponsor a 3rd Friday show and jam so we use several different setups. Sure SM58's for individual mics and one or two Octava C012's for instument or sound reinforcement for our CAD E300 tube mic for single mic performances. We also started using a Sabine FBX feedback eliminator that so far works great. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
We bought a Yamaha 8 Channel Amp with two Yamaha 12 or 14" speakers, caint remember model# or power. This allows us to hook up 8 mics or just hook up the single AT 4033 we normally use for the whole band.
We use a ART tube amp for phantom power for the 4033. It's a pretty simple setup for under $1500, if I remember correctly. We used to use a Behringer Shark feedback eliminator, but rarely have feedback issues.