Setting Up the PA System Before the Show

After the sound crew have brought equipment into the performance area, they will need to position everything, connect it together, and supply power to it before the sound-check.

Set-up will proceed more quickly if the house lights and stage work lamps remain on throughout, and if the performers and their backline equipment are not already on stage. It is also useful if a rough stage plan and channel list are provided before the event (see the notes on preparation), so that the crew can set up, connect and line-check most of the microphones before the performers arrive.

In setting up, the main (front-of-house) system will be dealt with before the stage (monitors, microphones and band equipment), and hardware (console, amplifiers, speaker cabinets) will be put in place before cables are connected. However:

Loudspeaker Position

The position of loudspeakers is important in a production.

Ideally the audience should be able to hear the sound from the loudspeakers directly (rather than reflections of it). This means that loudspeakers covering the midrange and all higher frequencies need to be directly visible from any audience position. To make use of their full frequency range and volume they also need to be placed forward of the performers. Generally the floor is a better location for the bass speakers than on the stage. The mid/high frequency speakers are better placed in a higher position (with the stands on stage, rather than on the floor), as this will result in a more even dispersion of the higher frequencies.

Our own smaller mid-high speakers are normally supplied with brackets that enable them to be angled downwards, as raising the speakers and angling them downwards can improve the sound. We can provide frames to fly speakers from any suitable fixing points, if a venue has them. This can yield further improvement. If you are able to provide mounting points and would like us to fly the speakers, please let us know.

If the audience is not going to be seated throughout the performance, care may be needed to keep the audience away from the speakers: standing too close to speakers can cause hearing damage, and knocking them over can damage both the speakers and anyone who might be underneath them (see safety).

Console Position

You wouldn't expect a photographer to do a very good job if he couldn't see what he was trying to photograph. A sound-engineer is doing a similar job with his ears to what a photographer does with his eyes, yet it is amazing how many people seem to think the best place for the console is the worst spot in the venue to listen from. The front-of-house mixing console needs to be in a position where the sound-engineer can hear exactly what the audience hears. He also needs to be able to see the performers. This means that the console should be in a typical audience position: preferably between half and three-quarters of the way back, and towards the centre (although a position slightly off-centre - more typical of most of the audience - is often preferable).

The following console positions (which noticeably affect what the engineer hears) are to be avoided, if at all possible:

The most common difficulties with having the console in an audience area are:

If you are hiring a PA system from us and think any of the points raised here are a matter for concern, please talk to us about it.

Normally - barring cable routing or other difficulties - our own initial set up can be completed in about one-and-a-half to two hours. As soon as the performers have come in and set up their own backline equipment (it is usually better if they do not do this until after we have completed our initial set-up), we can place - and if it is still necessary connect - our microphones and stands. This can take anything from a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on the size and complexity of the band. We are then ready for the sound-check.

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