So you have an event and are excited but you need to rent sound… Be it a small party, corporate event, wedding, concert or “fill up the venue”, do not to worry as we have great sound hire advice for you. This post will take you through the key things to consider and ask your technical partner to make it all come together.
So what Size PA or Sound System do I need?
This will mostly depend on the size of your venue, the amount of people in the audience and whether you will have a band/live instruments or a DJ. For a small venue and a crowd of 100 people or less, a small PA of 2 speakers will do. Depending on the amount of bass you prefer, you can also add subs for punchier low end frequencies. As your venue size increases you will have to add more speakers. You can view the different recommendations as per this link. Being outdoors will require a more powerful PA or more speakers. Take note that more speakers don’t automatically mean better or louder sound! Your technical partner should be able to advice you accordingly, just be sure to specify all the above mentioned factors.
So what is a Mixing Desk/Console and which one will work for me?
The mixing desk or console is essentially the heart of the sound system and can make or break the event. It controls the volume of all the instruments and microphones plugged into it. The desk also controls the levels sent out to the different outputs or speakers. For the correct fit, count how many microphones, instruments or other things you need to plug into the desk. This is referred to as the amount of channels needed. The more things you need to plug in, the bigger the mixing console/desk you will need to rent. You should list everything you would like connected and your technical partner should advise you with the rest.
It is also worth considering the fact that bands will need Auxiliary outputs for their monitor mix. Simply put, these are special outputs that are used by the band to hear themselves and have their own mix separate to what the audience is hearing. The average band may need 2-6 Aux Sends, so its best to ask the band for this information. Mixing desks fall into 2 categories: digital desks and analogue desks. Analogue desks are widely used and are still very prominent with digital desks gaining popularity. The sound technician or the band will be mainly determine whether you go digital or analog.
So what are the different Microphone Options?
With microphones these are the options that you can choose from:
• Wired microphones – These are the normal microphones with a chord that connects to the mixer. They are perfect for backing singers and look neat when put on mic stands
• Wireless handheld Mic – The user will typically hold this mic or it will be put on a mic stand. It is perfect for speeches, roving mics for the crowd question and answer sessions and also for lead singers. There are no messy cables and the microphone can move around the room.
• Wireless Lapel – These mics clip on to the speakers dress or shirt. They are perfect for hands free but the audio can get affected when the speaker speaks away from the mic. This typically happens if they talk looking to the left or right.
• Wireless Headset/Countrymen mic – The speaker wears this mic over the ear and its perfect for speeches and the MC. The mic will always be on the chin of the speaker so the sound will always be great.
So how to I prepare for a Band or DJ?
When preparing for a band you need to determine if they will be bringing their own instruments or will you have to provide for them. We typically refer to instruments as backline. Basic backline includes a drum kit with cymbals, bass amp, lead amp and keyboards. The musicians are the ones who usually bring their own guitars but it is always worth while making sure that this is the case… You don’t want to find out that you are misaligned at the event. The band will need monitors. Monitors are speakers that are placed on the floor or on stands for the musos to be able hear themselves.
When preparing for a DJ, determine if will be coming with their own CDJs or DJ controller? This is up to the DJs preference whether they want CDJs or Controllers. The main difference is that CDJs are stand alone and the DJ can insert a USB or CDs into them and mix. With the Controller, all the music is on a laptop and the controller is actually controlling software on the laptop. Don’t forget the DJ will most likely also need a monitor so make sure to also include this in the discussions with your technical partner.
Power Plugs and Back Up Power
All sound equipment requires power. So once you have the equipment also check if you will have enough power points at the venue. Consider the number of power extension cables needed to power the equipment, and prepare them accordingly. Ensure to fully charge the batteries of all battery powered equipment. For non rechargeable batteries, always put in a fresh set of batteries before the event starts.
Depending on the type of venue you are using, it is always worth while to consider alternative backup power should the main power fail at the venue. It is best to rent a stand-by generator for big events if there is no other back up power supply. The power rating of your generator will depend on the size of your PA and the power demands of everything that you are plugging in. So list everything that the genie would need to run and get your technical partner to advise on the size to go with. If you have an intimate audience you may want to have a small Bluetooth battery powered speaker on standby. This will enable the show to go on whilst the venue and the techies work on restoring power. This speaker is also a great option for small gatherings and house parties.
Other Cool things to consider.
Once you have bedded down the sound you may also want to consider things like lighting, stage, trussing, LED screens, LED banners to add some colour and elegance to your event. The type of equipment will depend on the need you are trying to fulfill and also the look and feel you are going for. An idea would be to Google pictures and use them as references when engaging your technical partner to ensure that you are on the same page with regards to expectations.
I hope that the above shed some light as to the key things to consider when you are thinking about hiring sound for your event. The key thing is to get a knowledgeable partner who will also advise you on the nuance components that are usually the hidden details. For big events it is in your best interest to outsource this service to pros so that they deal with the stress of technology and putting it all together.
Qualified Sound Engineer and all round technician.
Thembi is the founder and MD of 10B’s Connection House with over 15 years experience in the industry. She totally loves sound, lighting and audio visual technology. She is passionate about client centric service and putting on a spectacular show.