Why is sound so important for live events? What seems like a self-evident question is actually one of the most important ones you will need to ask if you are looking to produce any live event. Given that poor quality sound is one of the easiest ways to disappoint an audience, it pays to make sure you get your next audio production right.
If you’re new to the world of professional event audio, it can feel like a daunting place to find your feet. But, you do not need to be an experienced audio technician to get started. With a firm grasp of the basics, you’ll be better equipped when it comes time to plan your next event – and to assess your professional sound rental needs.
In this article we will explore the key elements that make up sound systems, and how – with the support of professional sound rental providers – you can dial in the flawless, high-quality audio that connects with your audience.
Sound: The most important element of any live event?
Sound has, for millions of years, helped humankind make sense of the world around us. Our auditory senses have developed to facilitate intricate communication, movement and our perception of space. Sound is an integral part of our human journey. It is what connects us to a time and place.
Today’s live events rely on sound (and great sound design) to deliver immersive narrative experiences – and professional sound systems are the electric heart of these experiences. Without a high-quality sound system, whatever state-of-the-art visuals or performance content your event features will be somehow lost in translation. Yes, great video, imagery and visuals can be striking, but it is sound, glorious sound, that takes us somewhere else.
What is a sound system?
Sound systems are electronic systems made up of microphones, amplifiers, loudspeakers and other audio equipment. They are used to raise the volume of a voice, sound or musical input. While the quality of audio equipment will vary depending on the components used, professional sound systems are engineered to deliver high-end sound design and performance capabilities for long periods of time.
All about wireless lavalier microphones
Microphones convert sound vibrations into electrical signals that are then amplified and projected to an audience by a loudspeaker.
- For intimate settings, like meetings or conferences, discrete, wired lavalier microphones (also known as clip-on microphones) are the best way to transmit voices with minimal fuss.
- In busy, noisy settings, shotgun microphones are your best bet. They are great for reducing ambient noise, as their pickup angle is much lower than omni-directional microphones, allowing you to place them further away from your speakers.
- If you are in need of increased on-stage flexibility, wireless microphone systems that come with omni-directional microphones, bodypack transmitters and receivers can help capture quality sound without restricting body movement.
- If your event requires microphones for a variety of musical instruments, it is vital to use the right microphone for each instrument category. This will help capture the unique sonic voice of each instrument.
Wireless microphone systems by Sennheiser
Our technology partner Sennheiser offers wireless systems for all types of events from conferences to stage productions, allowing performers and speakers to engage their audience with confidence. Their line up of wireless microphones, transmitters, receivers, and in-ear monitors grant optimal sound control and the freedom of movement, combined with the highest audio quality for any event. Find the wireless microphone system that matches your needs below!
Loudspeakers, or speakers, are mechanical devices that convert electrical energy into audio energy and project that audio as sound we can hear. Without loudspeakers, audiences simply wouldn’t hear a thing.
- Passive loudspeakers are speaker cabinets that require an external amplifier to power them. They are highly versatile and are great for crafting precise sound experiences.
- Active loudspeakers contain an amplifier built into their cabinets. Active loudspeakers are a great option for smaller events, since you will not need to source additional amplifiers to power your passive cabinets.
- Point source speakers are loudspeaker cabinets you can place at any single point of your venue to direct sound where it is needed most. Point source speakers give you a great deal of placement flexibility and are perfect for a wide variety of events and venues.
- Line array hangs consist of several loudspeakers grouped together. They are typically hung up in front of an audience to direct sound down and into the crowd. Line arrays are great for musical acts in larger venues as they boost the volume of a performance and help technicians shape the audio output.
- Column array hangs feature multiple long, narrow loudspeakers optimized for projecting the human voice. Audio technicians most often suspend them in large, open spaces to keep sound from being dissipated up and away from your audience.
The right loudspeakers for your event will heavily depend on the size of your venue, the size of your audience and whether the event is taking place indoors or outdoors. The subtle nuances of loudspeaker design and setup are best left to a qualified sound rental technician.
Loudspeaker systems by d&b audiotechnik
d&b audiotechnik is a leading manufacturer of state-of-the-art loudspeaker systems that embody the qualities that the company is best known for: technological developments, system integration principles and construction quality, as well as top-of-the-line service. d&b loudspeakers are globally used in rental and fixed installations for live events of all sizes in conference halls, theatres and other performance venues, houses stadiums, houses of worship, etc. Discover which of their loudspeaker ranges work best for your event below.
Massive line array loudspeakers hanging at a concert at the Oslo Spectrum, by Konsertsystemer LLB
Subwoofers are loudspeakers that duplicate and project the low-level bass frequencies that regular loudspeakers can’t manage. Because they are quite powerful, if you are running an event in a smaller venue, you will probably only need a single subwoofer within your sound system. For louder musical performances, like rock concerts, or audio-intensive events in larger venues, you may need extra subwoofers.
Amplifiers are the beating electrical heart of any sound system. They work by turning small input signals – voltage, power or current – into larger output signals, essentially increasing the volume of the original sound.
The power of an amplifier is measured in watts. Unsurprisingly, wattage can have a significant impact on your event’s sound quality. If your amplifier doesn’t have enough wattage for the size of your venue, you risk your audience struggling to hear the audio. Too much wattage can cause your audio to become distorted and harsh. For small meetings or conferences, you will not need high-wattage amplifiers, 20 to 40 watts should be enough. If you are hosting a multi-stage rock festival or stadium gig, you will need all the wattage your technicians can provide, we are talking 100,000 to 400,000 watts.
Audio switchers allow you to switch between different audio inputs, changing the output your audience hears. Audio switchers make it possible to craft dynamic audio productions based on simultaneous inputs. They are a great addition to more complex AV productions where you require the tight control of audio outputs.
Audio mixing consoles
Audio mixing consoles allow sound technicians to process, mix, adjust and combine signals from multiple sources before sending those same signals to your loudspeakers. By giving the technician the power to adjust audio settings and volume levels individually, mixing consoles help the audience hear the right sounds with the clearest possible signal.
It is important your audio mixer has enough channels to manage all the inputs your event will require. At the top end of the scale, some consoles can manage up to 100 inputs at once, while smaller consoles will manage a handful. Your needs will vary depending on the complexity of your event production.
Mixing consoles by Yamaha Pro Audio
Yamaha is renowned for the outstanding sound quality that can be achieved by its wide range of professional audio mixers. Yamaha’s analog consoles, as well as its digital audio mixers – the TF, CL/QL, RIVAGE PM, and DM3 series – are the optimal choice for multi-channel audio mixing for not just for live, but hybrid and virtual environments as well. Learn more about Yamaha Pro Audio’s digital mixing consoles below!
Yamaha DM3 digital mixing console
Sound equipment for different events and venues
No two events or venues are alike. Every conference room, stage, theater, music hall, and arena comes with its own unique layout and acoustics. Thus, each event needs a customized approach to sound system design and installation to give the audience the high-quality audio experience they’re expecting.
Added: Your sound system will be determined by some general principles – the size and shape of the venue, the size of the crowd, the type of event, whether it’s being held indoors or outdoors and the logistical needs of the production. Beyond these principles, we recommend following the advice of a technician from your professional sound rental provider.
Meetings and conferences
For most small meetings and conferences with ballroom setups, you will need a simple sound system that is big enough for the room you are hosting your event in. As conferences expand into multi-room and large venue productions, you will need to scale up your sound system with more microphones, speakers, amplifiers, audio mixers and related infrastructure to make sure that every member of your audience has the optimal sound experience. It is also important to factor in the acoustics of your venue into the sound system configuration.
Small music clubs to mid-sized venues
For musical performances or events requiring high-volume audio, you will need to adapt your sound system to the size of the venue and the complexity of the performance. For most small clubs up to mid-sized venues, you will be looking to use high-quality loudspeakers in stereo with a subwoofer and the appropriate number of high-wattage amplifiers. You will also need a mixer with enough channels to support the number of inputs you will be using, somewhere in the 12-24 channel range. Additional gear, such as graphic equalizers (EQs), can also help your technicians dial in the right sound by removing specific unwanted frequencies.
Large indoor concerts, theaters and arenas
Once you are looking at filling larger indoor theaters and arenas, you will need a sound system that gives you total sonic control. At this venue size you are catering to at least 1000 people – so power and quality is non-negotiable. You will need an extensive loudspeaker, subwoofer and amplifier arrangement, along with the corresponding power supply to ensure continuous performance. Your audio mixer needs to have enough channels to cover all your inputs and a high-quality EQ is a must if you are looking to control the tone of the audio.
Music festivals, stadiums and open-air events
For festivals, stadium shows and open-air events, your sound rental needs can be quite overwhelming. These large-scale events often feature vast stage arrangements and large audiences, so you will need to project sound across much greater distances. This means your sound system needs to be very powerful, rugged, reliable and able to perform under the most testing elemental conditions. You will also need to factor in the complex logistical requirements needed to support such an event, such as cabling and power supply. For events of this nature, we recommend working with a professional sound rental provider with experience at such venues.
Sound rental: To rent, or not to rent?
Unless your event’s venue has an in-house sound system, you’ll need to buy or rent the appropriate sound equipment. Given the high costs involved with purchasing professional sound systems, as well as the technical nature of operating them, renting from a qualified end-to-end service provider is likely to be the most viable option.
Professional sound rental providers, like the members of the AV Alliance, supply a complete range of sound rental services for all types of live events. When you rent from a trusted provider, they will not only supply the right gear for your event, they will transport it to the venue, install it, operate it and then take it away once it is all over.
Renting is a cost-effective, bespoke solution that ensures your events are powered with flawless audio that delights your audience. Great sound, after all, sits at the bedrock of all great live events.
With members in 50 countries and a network of warehouses in more than 100 locations around the world, the AV Alliance provides state-of-the-art AV equipment, as well as highly skilled technical crew and project managers for events of all types and sizes.
If you would like to learn more about the types of audio solutions and equipment our network provides, we invite you to get in touch with us and find out what our AV Alliance members can do for you and your event!