Whether you’re looking to build a setup for jamming in the garage or ready to take your show to the live stage, you’re going to need a good PA system. While you can probably make due with renting out a fully equipped studio for practice sessions, having your own gear will go a long way in helping you achieve a better sound in the long run as well as giving you more opportunities for gigs. Not only will you have far more time to fully understand a system you own yourself, you will eventually run into venues that require you to bring your own live sound accommodations. Today we’ll be looking at exactly what you’ll need for your own stage-ready PA system.
The heart of a PA system, the mixer is where you’ll be controlling most of your band’s sound. The first thing you’ll need to decide on is how many channels you’ll be needing. Each microphone will need its own channel as well as any instruments or amps you’ll want to plug in. It’s a good idea to have a mixer with a few more channels than you’ll initially be using in case you need a few extra to accommodate more microphones, amps or instruments down the road. Your typical mixer comes with EQ and preamp controls for each channel as well as panning, dials for effects, phantom power and a few other settings and options. Some mixers even come with built-in effects.
If your mixer doesn't come with built-in effects such as reverb or compression, a signal processor would be a good investment. While reverb and compression are the most common choices, there are numerous different processors available that can add all sorts of effects and controls to your PS system.
The next item you’ll definitely need a live stage dynamic microphone. Just like guitars, mics have their own tone so it’s a good idea to try out a few if you can and see which fits your vocalist’s sound best. Check out our Live Stage Dynamic Microphone article for a few of our favorite models that won’t break the bank. You’ll also want an XLR cable to be able to connect the mic to the mixer.
Now you’ll need a couple of speakers to turn all your signals into actual sound. Before you go out and just buy any old set, you have to decide whether you’ll be needed powered or unpowered speakers (also known as Active or Passive speakers, respectively). Active, powered speakers will require external power in order to operate while passive, unpowered speakers simply use the power supplied by a signal connection. For most situations, unpowered speakers are recommended. Not only are they usually more affordable, they also tend to weigh less and are more durable. But before you go out and buy just any pair of speakers, you also have to consider what type of power amp you'll be using as well.
We're not done yet but unfortunately, that's all the time we have left today. Come back next week when we'll be detailing everything else you'll need for a pro-grade PA system!