Good sound with small PA

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Proton90, Sep 24, 2020.

  1. Proton90


    Sep 28, 2016
    Hey folks!

    We are putting together a wedding band where I will assume the mantle of sound guy. I have a basic training of PA systems and analogue mixers with some outboard stuff, but I constantly educate myself on modern digital mixers as well, while also running a project studio recording and mixing my own songs. However I have little “street experience” when it comes to live mixing ( a couple of occasions with an acoustic duo, and a big band where I played bass with the mixer next to me), and our first rehearsal was not really stellar in terms of sound.

    The room itself was also inadequate, large squarish space with no dampening, plus a plain tile floor. The PA was a Soundcraft EFX12 mixer and two 15” Energy active speakers. The problem (besides the awful sounding room) was that even though I know this mixer’s bells and whistles and have an understanding of gain staging, EQ and all that stuff nothing seemed to work as I wanted it to. No matter how I tweaked the EQ I could not coax a decent tone out of any of the sources, the whole band sounded lackluster.

    The EQ section on this mixer is as follows:

    HF band: shelving EQ with 15 db boost/cut @12 kHz or above - I find no use for this as it only makes vocals too sibilant

    MF band: Swept Mid EQ 150 Hz - 3.5 kHz, no adjustable Q - only cutting does any good with these, everything else seems to cause awful sounds. I tried a boosted sweep across the whole range, but I could not pick out one problematic frequency, every setting brought up some new abomination. Eventually I ended up cutting low mids on most channels.

    LF band: shelving EQ with 15 db boost/cut @80 Hz or below. I used these as HPFs on vocals as there are no dedicated filters on the mixer channels.

    My question is this: how do you approach mixing and EQ when using such a mixer, and is it even possible to make a band sound decent with only this gear?
  2. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    The first thing you usually do is adjust the output bus eq to the room. Play known source music and adjust until it sounds good. Then you aren't fighting as much on each individual channel.

    Did you that?
    DirtDog, Downunderwonder and s0c9 like this.
  3. Proton90


    Sep 28, 2016
    There is no output EQ on the mixer, only a master LR insert I could use to hook up a outboard graphic EQ, but we don’t have that. But playing music through the system will be helpful, as I may tweak the EQ on the speakers accordingly.
  4. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Since your using a a pretty basic analog mixer with only a 3-band EQ, you're very limited. The channel strips don't even appear to have HPFs.

    So I guess the best advice, would be to get a decent little digital board and learn how to use it. The first digital board I used was a Yamaha O1V, and I was totally stunned by how much better my mixes sounded.

    The following is probably not very useful with our current board...maybe you will find something useful.

    At some time before the performance it's extremely beneficial to ring the system for feedback. This will make a pretty significant improvement unless the room is extremely live. There are always multiple problematic frequencies and you should generally try and cut the worst 4 or 5, in addition to doing some basic tone shaping. Unfortunately it's not always possible to ring the system because you need to clear the room and put in ear plugs while you do it. Also you need to careful as you can easily blow your horns. You need 31 band graphics or several bands of fully parametric system EQs to do this.

    When applying EQ you actually want to use cuts more frequently than boosts. Applying a boost is more likely cause feedback or push something in the signal path to clipping. You can use boosts, just be mindful of what you are doing.

    When doing indoor gigs, it's often necessary to do some significant carving in the low mids. The vocals and many instruments fight for space in this range, and it is also a range that tends to build up into a diffuse field. Apply a broadband cut with the system/output EQ. Also use frequency slotting on your channel strips, so each instrument has it's own space where it does not have to fight to be heard.

    On boards with variable high pass filters (HPF), I suggest applying them to every channel. Clearing up the clutter in the low end is one of the most important things you can to to add space and clarity to a mix. Run the HPF up until it start thinning out the sound and then back it off a tick. In some instances you want to thin out the sound a bit. You can use an HPF on low frequency instrument too. At the very least consider running the HPF up near the cutoff of the Main PA array. For example if you have subs that are flat to 50hz, you might run the HPF on bass and kick up to 45hz.

    One of the cool things about many digital mixers is it allows you to visualize what your EQ curves look like. My vocal EQ curves tend to look something like this.
    Some vocalists seem to really like a lot of lows on their voice, but this tends to muddy up the mix and make the vocals incoherent.
  5. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Philosophical approach, not technical: Lead vocal is King (even if it's a female voice)! Everything else is accompaniment. Set the lead vocal up to where it needs to be in terms of level and intelligibility and bring up everything else underneath it, just enough to contribute but not dominate. Start levels at -infinity & bring them up from there only as needed. When the lead vocal drops out & another instrument takes a solo, boost the solo instrument to the lead vocal level for the duration of the solo.
    RHF likes this.
  6. Good advice and don't be afraid to cut the lows on the channels. A graphic eq is pretty cheap and you can download a free frequency analizer on your phone to see what the heck needs to adjust on the FOH output (bus). I suspect right now they can't give away analog graphic eq's.
  7. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    some good advice here. Personally I say digital as soon as you can justify it. Soundcraft ui-24r is my favorite. Behringer xr- 18 and mixing station software is Ok.

    more important is a good wireless rig for your bass. During sound check, I'm out front with an ipad. My band mates are trained to keep on going if I drop out to adjust. A couple of times a gig, I'll go back out for a reality check particularly if there are large swings in audience size. The fact I can mix with an ipad and get out front with the wireless is critical to me.

    You do have to learn how to do this and be as unobtrusive and non-stalking as possible. Some guys with a wireless... try not to be them.
  8. Proton90


    Sep 28, 2016
    Thanks for the feedback, guys!

    This post was created merely to find out if the problem lies in me first and foremost, or if it’s just the lack of proper equipment that caused this situation.

    As most of you advised, we will opt for a digital console as soon as possible, my bet is on the Behringer X32 Rack + a SD8 stage box for ample I/O, remote control and future expandabilty.
    jon mccumber and Wasnex like this.
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    :thumbsup: Check out @s0c9 's signature for some great info on setting up this type of system with wireless connectivity.
    s0c9 and musicman7722 like this.
  10. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Wow!! Exactly what I've been running for my own band the last couple of years! :thumbsup::thumbsup:
    Get a decent dual band router.. I'm using the Archer C7
    Then look in my sig (as @Wasnex suggested) for a link to a guide on how to set it up to your advantage!
    Wasnex likes this.
  11. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Dealing with a budget-conscious desk and cruddy room...gotta love it. We've all been there. That being said, you should be able to coax something useful even under the most dire of circumstances. Some random musings:

    *Set your individual mic channel gains with PFL & bargraph.

    *Not familiar with the active speakers. Post a link, please.

    *With high & lows flat, do a cut & sweep with the mids until you find the sweet-spot...probably 400-700.

    *Attenuate the lows by 3+ dB.

    *Experiment with the Lexicon FX...they're pretty good. For vocals, you best bet is a short delay (studio) or, if you're feeling brave, delay cascaded (serial) into a reverb. Check FX #29.

    *Consider adding a graphic EQ and/or BBE Sonic Maximizer. Folks are ditching rackmount peripherals for next-to-nothing.

  12. It all starts with your speakers.

    What I would suggest is get a DBX Driverack, EQ your system, and EQ your speakers flat, outside in a hayfield on a calm, quiet day, far away from any buildings or reflective surfaces; Save this as a baseline setting. You can tweak things faster from the baseline setting in different rooms to adjust for an even response.

    Cheaper speakers often are deficient and cannot be brought anywhere close to being flat. If that's the case, it's a lost cause.
  13. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 24, 2021

Share This Page