A Sound Way to Set Up Your System

There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a speaker fumbling with a microphone, trying to turn it on, hearing that screeecccching feedback sound, or not being able to hear the event at all.    When it comes to sound, microphones and speakers, there’s more to it than renting a system and setting up equipment.  Between the acoustics and the size of the room, there is a science to having the best sound available (hence the term “audio engineering”).    Here are three tips for getting the best sound for your event.

Choose the Appropriate Microphone: Many people like wireless mics so they can walk around as they talk.  However, if presenters are tied to a lectern, then wired mics are fine (and much less expensive).  You also have to think about how close the presenter is to the mic. Why?  Mics are optimized for the proximity to the sound being amplified.  The further away from the sound, the more sensitive the mic.    For example, rock singers use mics that are close to their mouths, but presenters with lecterns are about a foot away from the mic.

Place Your Speakers Properly:  First determine if you need speakers that are intended for music, or the ones that are optimized for speech.  Then you have to establish where and how far the placement of the speakers should be around the mics, stage and audience. If the speakers are behind the microphone, or close to it, you end up with “feedback”, or that terrible squealing sound.  How does it happen? Feedback occurs when a  microphone feeds a signal into a sound system, which then amplifies and outputs the signal from the speaker, which is picked up again by the microphone.  It’s this continual loop and forms the “squeal”.

For a large room, second or third sets of speakers may be necessary and they must be on a “delay”.  Since sound travels at 1126 feet per second, each set of speakers that set back in the crowd must be electronically delayed to match the sound coming from the stage.

Adjust for the Acoustics:  Each room has its own acoustics: some great, like Carnegie Hall, some not so great, like a train station.  This is where the science of audio engineering comes into play.  A Sound Engineer has a set of tools that allow the sound to be adjusted in a number of ways:  leveling the mic, eliminating low end sounds, feedback, etc.  Each of these variables is adjusted for each zone (speakers, auxiliary equipment, monitors, etc.)  Remember that the structure of the room plays a large part in the acoustics.  Soft surfaces , with draping, carpeting and soffit ceilings, absorb sound and form acoustically- friendly environments.  Then there are the hard walled rooms like train stations, where brick walls and windows are common.  In this type of room the sound isn’t absorbed but instead bounces around the walls, ceiling and windows – a very non-friendly sound environment.

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the importance of professional sound system at your event.  Sound glitches can leave you stressed and your guests scurrying for the door. For more information on how to get an awesome sound system, click here for a guide to “Good Sound”.

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