General questions on PAs...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by invader3k, Feb 13, 2005.

  1. Hey everyone. Right now our guitarist is looking at upgrading our PA system. Right now he has a set of circa 1970s Peavey towers and monitors, with a decent mixer. He is looking at Carvin equipment...but is debating whether to go with two way or three way speakers. Should they be powered, or is that not necessary?

    We don't usually play huge venues or anything, but sometimes do outdoor shows (think about 100-200 people or so). He's looking at about $2000 for a complete package (speakers, monitors, and mixing board with about 16 channels). Obviously, it would be mainly for the vocals, but we want to be able to run our other instruments through it if needed (especially my bass amp, since I just use a Peavey 115 combo). Also, is Carvin considered to be pretty good, or are there other brands worth considering? I don't know a lot about PA systems, so any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
  2. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    carvins are ok. i do a lot of sound but passinwind is one of our real pa experts on the forum. i personally would stay away from powered speakers and go with regular cabinets and poweramps. (carvins poweramps are actually pretty good for the cash). I dont like powered cabs for a few reasons. first, i havent liked the sound of most of them and i think they tend to be under powered, 2nd, they are heavy, but mostly, it's a practical thing. With those you are looking for power all over the stage and running extension cords everywhere. a real pita. As far as 2 way or 3 way mains, that's really dependent upon your budget. If you want to run without subs (to save space weight and money spent on more cabs and another poweramp) just make sure that the mains you get can handle the bass guitar well. If you go with carvin they should talk to you on the phone and point you in the right direction. Unless you're willing to spend a ton of money, yo won't be getting monitors that can handle the bass, so your amp will be all the monitor you or amyone else gets. If the budget is really tight at this point, i woudl reccomend keeping the monitors you have and using the extra cash to invest in the best mains and poweramp(s) you can.
  3. Thanks for those answers. I think I am agreeing with you about staying away from powered speakers. Something that worries me about those is "what if the amp in the speaker goes?" Then you have to replace the whole thing, as opposed to substituting another speaker, or using another power amp.

    I'm not worried about running bass through the monitors...I think we'd pretty much just run vocals through the monitors. We do want to make sure the mains handle bass well though. Our guitarists' current speakers don't even have crossovers, that's how old they the highs and lows aren't there very much.
  4. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    Going 2 or 3 way depends on the woofer size. A woofer larger than a 12 has poor off-axis response, so if you are going to a 15 make sure it's a 3 way. The better option would be a two way with ten or twelve inch woofers pole mounted above subs.

    In their price range Carvin is as good as the others and better than many.

    Powered versus not? If you're a real gear head and are able to understand and operate a discrete system then that's what you want. Since you're here asking these questions I assume you're not, so go powered for simplicity.
  5. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    i do a lot of sound but passinwind is one of our real pa experts on the forum.

    I dunno about that, but I try to talk a good game. :cool:

    I agree with Bill about using a 12" or 10" 2-way over a sub being preferable to a 15" 2-way standalone that uses 1" compression drivers, or a piezo tweeter. I've yet to hear a cheap 15" 3-way that I like.

    I have used plenty of Carvin PA cabs, but I generally prefer Yorkville, Yamaha, or E-V if "cheap" is mandatory. You really, really, need to listen for yourself though, which works against Carvin unless you live near a showroom, or know someone with a system. The Carvin amps are good value though, as IvanMike says. You might want to lurk over at for a while; check out the Lounge forum there, which is set up for guys in your situation.

    $2K is a tough price point for your needs. I'd look at a used complete system that you can try before you buy.

    Personally, I don't think that amps and speakers are supposed to live in the same cabinet, whether it be a combo amp, PA speaker, or whatever. The major exception is tube guitar amps, where the subtle feedback factor can be very cool. Lots of people disagree of course, but how would we have a forum if that weren't the case?
  6. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I'd go with Mackie before Carvin. You should audition some SR-1530 3-ways. There aren't any Carvins that can come close. I've had mine for over 5 years and never had a problem with them.
  7. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Those are the least expensive 3-ways I've heard that I like, but I certainly haven't heard everything that's out there. It's gonna be tough to fit those into his stated budget though. :meh:
  8. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    +1 on the 10" or 12" over sub(s) recommendation. Whatever you decide, don't get sucked into the theory that 2x15" cabinets are the way to go... They're heavy and unwieldy to transport, most don't go low enough to eliminate the need for subs if you're going to run kick and/or bass through it, and most don't provide sufficient support in the upper mids.

    Just my 2cents.

    - Ugly.
  9. Tritone

    Tritone Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    Santee, America
    I totally agree. If you can afford it, go with Mackie. We just switched over after years of using Carvin, and it was like lifting a blanket off of the speakers. Total clarity. I don't buy into the "what if the powered speaker goes down" theory. How many bands carry an extra PA power amp?

    Don't get me wrong, I still think Carvin makes the best bang-for-buck PA speakers, but after going through at least 10 of their power amps over the years.......

    Just my 2 cents...
  10. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    none, but if one of the power amps dies, or a channel of your board or snake dies you can always run both mains off of one side and as many monitors as you can off another side of one power amp. etc etc :p
  11. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    How many bands carry an extra PA power amp?

    Tons, if you consider how many run stereo mains and a separate amp for monitors. Even if they don't, what's easier to borrow or rent for gigs while your unit is down: a powered cab, or an amp or non-powered cab, depending on which part failed?
  12. If I could offer my comments....I don't have experience with coliseum-level PA's but I do provide sound for a working party band, doing small to medium size bars, private parties, and outdoor events.

    There's many things to consider. I'd love to have a full coliseum-size setup, triamped with a zillion watts. But there's limitations, starting with:

    -Money. I've got probably $3500, maybe $4000 in my setup. I could easily spend a lot more--but considering the entire band took in only $450 last night (and for a bar around here, that's pretty good), it's hard to make my money back.
    -Physical size. The PA must be stored here at my house (I have a locked room and it's jammed full), then loaded into my truck (it's a tight fit, even into a full-size pickup bed with top), then fit onto a bar stage that's usually the size of a postage stamp.
    -Weight. I've got to load and unload everything at the house, usually by myself. My 3 way mains weigh 100 lbs each. Look at the music catalogs, some of the big subs weigh 150 lbs each. Got any roadies to carry this stuff and set it up? and at 2 in the morning the stuff is twice as heavy.
    -Setup time. Last night I had less than an hour to get everything ready, not easy working around the band who's setting up there stuff too. Sound check was the first song. More equipment=more setup time. Cables take a lot of time to untangle and run and plug in.

    I usually just run vocals, acoustic guitar, fiddle or keys if present, and maybe a little electric guitar through the PA. Occassionally a dab of cymbals or snare but this band has a hard-hitting drummer.

    Their bass player can easily carry a room with just a G-K head and a 4x10 Avatar cab. IMHO there's no need to run bass through the PA....
  13. Some great practical points here.
    Our lead singer owns/hauls the PA in his trailer.
    At set up and tear down, everyone in our band
    has definite responsibilities. This helps a great deal with time.
    We can be up and running with full PA, lights, and our own stage
    gear in about an hour, including spot light, fog machines,
    strobe lights and 4ft. black lights.

    We run vocals, and ALL instruments through the PA.
    As far as monitors go, we run vocals, and saxophone, period.
    Make sure you get something that you can haul, store,
    and cover the spaces you'll be playing.
  14. notanaggie

    notanaggie Guest

    Sep 30, 2003
    I would flat-out stay away from almost ALL 2-way speakers.

    The cheaper ones are disco "thump and sizzle" speakers....and suck bigtime. Automatic big "smile" EQ curve.

    The good 2-way speakers are really expensive.

    Th three-way speaker if properly designed, is really good-sounding, and handles power well. No driver has to cover areas it isn't good for.

    If they are a little heavier, OK, maybe you gotta pay to play.

    If they are good, you can cover a bar with two, aside from directivity. An outdoor show might take 4, and maybe need subs.

    Powered speakers are nice, and often sound better, (but NOT always). But its true that the options of recovery from problems are less, and you run twice as many cables to each one.

    I used to do outdoor gigs with a pair of the old Klipsh LaScala spekares, powered by a Phase linear covered well, for 70's stuff.
    Wouldn't cover for Seattle, most punk, etc, etc.

    That's a point,even if you need it "just" for vocals, it will need to be good. Sucky distorted vocals are nasty, and vocals eat up power amazingly fast.

    I remember the old sound check vs show deal......singer kinda warms up easy at sound check.....and then tickles their tonsils with the mic while screaming during the show......
  15. Jim York

    Jim York

    Oct 27, 2004
    Bill didn't mention it but a pair of his DR250a mains atop a pair of Tuba 24 subs is a better system than any commercially available speaker system for less than $3k, and building them yourself you can come in at less than $800. They're what my band uses, we replaced a JBL Eon 1500/JBL 18" subs system with them, and they're far superior to the JBLs. Check them out on his site at, chat with other owners on his forum, and if you can't build them yourself check the Builders link at his site to see if there's someone near you who can build them for you.
  16. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    I can really relate to your points, Bill. I have a lot more into PA than you do, and I can just barely carry the whole thing in one van load, without any lights or subs. Also, I can't carry a bass rig at the same time, so I never use my nice PA for my own playing gigs. :bawl:
  17. Tritone

    Tritone Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    Santee, America
    Well.....that's not technically carrying an extra one is it.... :D. Anyway, for us it just came down to sound, convenience, and weight. The Mackie system easily won out on all three. We even went with Mackie SR350's for our monitor system, that way we could use one if a main went down (so I guess in a sense, we are carrying extras!). I don't think it'd be harder to rent a spare Mackie, but it'd probably be more expensive....I hope we never have to find out ;)
  18. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Whatever works, bro. :cool: I have several friends who use powered Mackies, a few with Eons, and a few more who use the Bose thingies. They are all happy, and think their setups are way easier to use than mine. Your system sounds well thought out for your needs. I have to make my system fit with dozens of different bands and situations, and powered cabs or mixers just don't feel right to me for that.
  19. tubster


    Feb 5, 2003
    Southwest Spain
    We've just been shopping too but as yet have not finalized on what to get.

    As for speakers, we'd like EAW or Turbosound for non-powered (powered too but they are just a pile of $$$). Heard an amazing small system with a DB Opera small powered sub and EAW 129 2x ways on sticks with a small Mackie desk and QSC PLX power - amazing clarity and power for its size.

    After much auditioning, we reckon that Yorkville were the winners with both passive and active systems. Check 'em out !

    Good big stuff always beats good little stuff but there have been so many advances since we bought the last PA, it is worth spending the time checking out what has been mentioned here.

    Money no object - EV Plasma 2 - wow!
  20. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    I've been known to say that very same thing. Did you check out any of the Unity series?