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PA vs. Bass rig for big rooms

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by thewanderer24, Feb 7, 2006.

  1. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    One of the bands I've been playing with for the last 6 months or so just got a booking agent that seems to be the real deal. He can book us into some big and hard to get into places.

    In the past everytime I've played somewhere bigger than made sense for my Bergie HT-322, I'd have the house PA for support.

    Some of the stuff that this guy is talking about booking us into are not only really big rooms, but would NOT have house PA support (i.e., we use ours). He came and saw us at a gig this past weekend, and commented that we need to have the bass pounding in the chest of the guy in the back of the big room the moment he walks through the door. And that we're not there right now.

    The HT-322 is WONDERFUL, but now I apparently need more volume. The question is, is there a difference between the way PA speakers are made to "throw sound" to the back of the room, vs. a Bass cabinet? Would we get better results getting PA stuff to handle bass? or adding more bass cabinets for me to run myself?? Me thinks there is something about PA that makes more sense, but I don't know why or what we need.

    I really want to hear your guys thoughts on this. The band leader is about to upgrade the PA, but he's waiting for some inputs from me on bass related stuff.
  2. Fuzzhead


    Sep 26, 2005
    It shouldn't be up to you to provide bass volume large enough for huge rooms, if they are that big you should have PA support, just DI your amp and let the soundguy balance it. Your man obviously loves bass, but too much or boomy bass really blurs the mix IMO, and makes the whole mix louder than it needs to be.. I say upgrade your PA and if the bass isn't cutting it, try a decent soundman. As long as you can hear it fine on stage, and can stand alone in small to medium rooms, you're doing your job. Besides, how are you gonna mix your volume when you're onstage? Guess and wait for someone to tell you you're too loud? That'd be real pro.
  3. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    I hear you. I guess what I am really asking, is what does a PA need to have to really be able to fill a room with bass in terms of Subs, amps, etc? Assume a couple hundred loud drunk people. I don't know much about PA's, and I know I can't mix a big room from the stage.
  4. theshadow2001


    Jun 17, 2004
    My band plays some big enough room. We use 3.6K watt HK projector PA with 2x18 subs and 1x15 mid high on each side. We always try to get that big kick drum sound that you can feel thumping in your chest. The same idea I suppose to that of night clubs (which we do some gigging in as well) When your agent says you should have bass pounding you right from the back he could easily mean bass locking in with this pounding kick. Its tricky enough to get physical punch from subs with bass alone and it varies from room to room. But if you lock with a thumping kick drum you'll be elected.

    If you start to play large rooms trying to fill the room from stage is a bad idea its going to be a nightmare to mix. The sound is going to vary quite a bit all over the room. Where as a good quality PA will probably be better at dispersing the sound evenly through the room especially if everything is miced and well mixed. Your amp will cover the stage and let the PA do the work.

    When you start to play larger venues the PA starts to get more complicated. Things like graphic eq's for the room, monitor mixes, eqing each monitor, gates, limters and compressors all becomes more important and you wont be able to get away without it like in some smaller venues with a smaller PA.

    We do all our own sound without an extra sound engineer but thats mainly because our drummer is an excellent sound engineer. It's vital that you have someone who knows how to work the equipment properly and is competent in doing so. A good sound is very important and can reflect well on a band.I recommend getting the Largest and highest quality PA that you can (of course I would, this is TB after all!)if it happens that you will get regular well payed gigs from this agent and that your playing rooms without house PA regularly enough to make it more econimcal to buy instead of rent.

    Im sorry but I could talk about this for ages which I just have :rollno:
  5. You've got an agent that's working for you....now you're going to need to upgrade the P.A. if you're going to play those venues.

    Fact of life.
  6. naughtry


    Jan 31, 2004
    NYC / D.C.
    yeah, a thumping kick plus bass is what came to my mind. Having the bass too lound gets old quick and makes me want to leave the room after a few songs.
  7. RyansDad


    Jan 31, 2006
    Tolland, CT
    My band has a PA and it does a great job sending the sound all over the room, even in larger venues. BTW, by "larger" I am obviously referring to larger clubs and bars; anything like large hall or arena and you are talking about a whole different dimension. If you are dealing with a place that large, forget it; you would probably need professionals with mucho grande equipment and knowledge.

    More often than not, I play my rig much quieter at shows than at practice. I just want enough volume so that I can hear it. For the audience, let the PA do its thing and let your sound guy earn his paycheck.
  8. jdlwareagle


    Nov 13, 2005
    Mobile , AL
    Another option to consider before your band lays down alot of money for a bigger PA is to rent a sound company to do sound for shows that require more than you've got . The convenience of just showing up with your stage gear instead of renting a truck/van/trailor and dealing with more equipment and lights is many times cost effective . Check locally for sound companies that do this . Most will have scaled pricing for different sized PA setups . Plus you could negotiate cheaper pricing by offering the sound company a string of gigs you're hopefully about to get from the agency .
  9. CrackBass


    Aug 10, 2004
    smallish gigs will be fine without pa support on the bass/guitars etc.. you can upgrade your rig to handle most anything but you will run into problems. first a good pa will disperse your sound more evenly to the audience. (the guys really paying your salary) second if you run enough sound from your rig to compete with a big enough gig, and assuming your guitarist does the same, the stage mix gets really dense and then you have to crank the vocal monitors. then you fight feedback and even if you can deal with all of it, you will still talk to someone durring your first break who will tell you your bass is too quiet (and another guy who says it's all he can hear, and some one else who thinks it's just right)

    i made that mistake for years and i had a rig loud enough to play outdoors unmiked. you can do it, and a band can do it if they're tight. like i said i did it for years, but the first time you go direct through a good pa, (along with everyone else in your band) will really open your eyes (or ears whatever) the clarity on stage is so much better. you can hear what everyone is doing so it just gets in the pocket much easier.

    i still have to play a gig here and there where my rig carries all the bass, but given the choice i'll always go direct. (depending apon venue and style of music of course)

    upgrade your pa and the whole band will sound good. especially the kickdrum which is probably what your agent really wants to hear
  10. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    It comes down to this - Plain and simple - Your rig on a big stage is for you. If the stage is really that big, then your rig is nothing more than a sending unit for your bass to the monitor mix and to the FOH. Your rig is mainly for you and whomever walks in front of it. The PA should handle filling the room. In my band we run 94dB off stage. Anything more than that, the PA does it's job. I do run 850 watts on stage into 3 cabinets. 2 under my SWR Bass Head and I run a SWR Bass Monitor back to the drummers for some extra bass to them. Even though we run bass through our in-ear monitor system and it runs through the house, the monitor provides dynamics for the drummers.
  11. Larzon


    Jan 15, 2005
  12. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    ok guys, i agree with all of you. My question is really what do you think is needed in a PA to handle the needs of pushing the bass and kick drum?
  13. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Well how does it work now? I assume you have a PA for vocals. Some 15's for mains and some kind of monitors. It's always good to have a decent PA. If you get into a large enough room depending on your cab and head set up you will be limited.

    A simple not very expensive solution would be to purchase a crossover and sub. You can get a simple crossover for not a lot of money...$150-$300. Then get a sub of some kind and amp to power it. I would think a good quality single 18 and a good power amp would be plenty. I think you could do the upgrade for around 750.00-1000.00 and have a sweet thumping PA.

    Also an extra amp and 1 sub is not that much to haul around. Set your crossover to around 100-90Hz, put the sub on the floor right in the middle of the stage...then eithier mic your cab or get a decent DI box and your in business. Your drummer would bennifit too because the kick drum would thump in the sub and you would have enough lows to fill any room.

    If you want any specifics shoot me a PM and I can recommend gear and how to set it up.
  14. joegeezer


    Mar 9, 2005
    Northern Wisconsin
    Avatar Club#12 Eden Club Lucky# 13--USA Peavey Club#37 Carvin Club#5
    Upgrade the PA to what you can muster up for cash, and include a Peavey Kosmos, in the purchase. It will wake up everybody.
  15. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    A bass processor? Is it like a sonic maximizer/bass synth?

    Have you used one?
  16. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    We have a couple of these...


    Cerwin Vega 18" Folded Horns, with seperate, dedicated EQ and compressor for drums and bass only.

    They have their own casters and a bar along the back to grab onto. You just tilt it back and roll it in (or out). Easy to haul around.

    Made a huge difference in our sound. Tight, crisp bass and drums (especially kick drum) with good definition. Not muddy at all.

    We get a ton of compliments from other bands who hear us. And people will feel the bass before they even set foot in the door, without it being overly loud...and definitely not muddy.

    The real key in obtaining tight low end is using a seperate EQ and a compressor, dedicated to the low end only, giving it it's own seperate mix.
  17. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    Thanks guys. Now we're getting to the meat of it.
  18. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI

    Is the compressor and EQ built in? How does it work? Sweet!
  19. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    No, the Cerwin Vegas are just 18" loaded, folded horns that pump out some seriously low end.

    We have a seperate EQ and compressor in our PA rack that is dedicated to the low end. Most bands will just have one EQ and sometimes no compressor.

    By using a seperate EQ for the low end only, and adding a compressor, we are able to get that "punch" everyone feels in the chest, without getting too loud or boomy. We also have a crossover and we make sure that only the deepest frequencies are hitting the Cerwin-Vegas. Treat them like subwoofers, not full range speakers. They are what will define your low end.

    Man, when I'm on stage and the drummer and I hit a note, I just feel it in my whole body...even when were not real loud. You can feel the low end in the entire club.

    The idea is to get a clean low end mix, by isolating the frequencies that give you that "punch" without having other frequencies (that aren't need for that) filling the room. It's those unneeded frequencies that create muddiness, like when you don't use an EQ strictly for that purpose and you turn up the volume.

    The compressor keeps the frequencies you do want from getting out of control in the room. Combined, the EQ and compressor...give you "controlled" bottom end without having to get overly loud. This allows your guitars/keys/vocals to ride on top without blasting the crowd with too much volume.

    One last thing...what most people percieve as being too loud is actually just distortion in the PA (aka - muddiness). You can have a PA cranking at pretty high decibels without the crowd percieving it as being too loud...if it's "clean". Conversely, a band can be playing at a lower decibel level and still seem annoyingly loud only because the PA sound is distorted. It's the distortion, more than the actual volume that causes ear fatigue (though too high a decibel level for too long a time will do that too) and it's really ear fatigue that makes people in the crowd think you are too loud (for the most part...again very high volume will still cause it too, if it's to excess).

    We get that punchy low end, and yet everyone we talk to says we sound great, and they can really feel it...and yet they can still have a conversation with others while we play (as long as they aren't in direct line of the PA...like right in front of it anyway).

    Treating your low end as a subset of your sound, and mixing it seperate really gives you that "punch" that you can't get when it's not controlled on it's own. Simply using a crossover doesn't do the trick. You really need to isolate those "punch" frequencies and get ONLY those boosted in the low end. Think in terms of getting the drummer's kick drum and your lowest notes to be really solid in the PA first, before you even set the mix for the rest of the band. Too many bands skimp on mixing the drums correctly (specifically the kick drum).

    And believe it or not...the more kick drum you can get into the mix (tight and controlled) the less you have to push up the bass. People will percieve the bass as being punchy because the kick drum provides the lowest frequency punch to your bass notes.

    Get those subs (or an equivalent) and experiment around with it.
  20. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    If you're going to play the big places, you need to be comparable with the other bands that play there, or you won't be permitted back.

    I suggest you go there on a night when one of the "regulars" is playing, and see what they are using. That will give you an idea of what you need. If you aren't ready to match up with them, don't accept a gig there, or you'll never get back in.

    Where I'm at, most bands use rented PA for the big places. Every once in awhile I'll see a brand new band play one of these venues and use their own small PA, and even if they're good they are never seen in that venue again because the sound levels didn't fill the room with QUALITY sound.

    Best of luck to you!