Does your sound system lack clarity, punch, or volume but you can’t afford to spend the thousands or 10’s of thousands on a new system? Here are 4 ways you can drastically improve the quality of your system if you are on a tight budget. .
1. Digital Signal Processor
A digital signal processor or DSP is a must-have piece of gear for any pro audio system. The DSP provides processing and flexibility between your mixer and amplifier. It also offers protection to both your amplifier and speakers and allows them to operate at their optimum level.
- What the DSP does:
- EQ – Parametric and digital graphic EQ’s for tuning speakers to the room
- Crossover – Sends low frequencies to the subwoofers and high frequencies to the main speakers
- Compression/limiters – Protects the system from a clipping (distortion)
- Feedback suppression – Helps identify and eliminate feedback
- Delay – Add delay to match the backline or add delay to speakers that are place further back in the room
If you don’t have any DSP on your current system, adding one might only cost between $500 to $2000, but will sound like you just installed a whole new sound system.
2. Tuning the room
If you have a DSP or even just a graphic EQ your sound system can be “tuned” to the room. The process of “tuning” the system, is for optimum matching of the speakers to acoustical characteristics of the space. If the system is not properly tuned, the full potential the sound system will not be realized.
Most likely this process should be done by a professional. A good professional has the highly trained ears and the sophisticated frequency analyzing software to measure the acoustical characteristics of the speakers and the room they are in. For only a few hundred dollars this can bring your system to life.
3. Improve the input source
Buying and installing a pro audio system is expensive. In wanting to save money some people opt to buy cheap microphones and direct boxes. This is a huge mistake. It doesn’t matter if you spent a $100k on a sound system, if you are using a $25 radio shack mic that sound system is probably going to sound like an AM radio.
The same rule is true for direct box’s. You might say “a DI box just changes a 1/4 inch plug to an XLR plug what’s the big deal.” It is a big deal. A DI box does a lot of things.
- Converts a high impedance signal to a low impedance signal.
- Turns a unbalanced signal to a balanced signal
- Reduces a strong instrument or line level signal to a mic level signal suitable for connection to the mic input of a mixing console
- Isolates electronic equipment on stage from the mixing console, which can help eliminate interference and noise caused by ground loops.
- Blocks phantom power sent from the mixer so it cannot interact with the device connected to the DI’s input.
To do all this the DI box has to have a transformer in it, and not all transformers are the same. Get a good quality DI box to preserve the tonal quality of the signal going into it.
Not sure what microphones and direct boxes you need? Contact a professional. You don’t want to waste your money on an inferior product.
Your sound system is a tool, and a tool is only as good as the person using it. If you, your staff, or volunteers don’t know how to set up proper gain structure, how to use the equalizer on the mixer, or don’t know what phantom power does then it’s time to get some training. You might have to bring someone in who is more knowledgeable to spend a day training, or you might have to send your volunteers off to a training seminar. But good training is worth every penny.
So before you think you have to have a new sound system try one or all of these ideas to save big and sound awesome.