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Will a smaller PA system cut it for cover band playing larger bars?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by OTBass, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. OTBass


    Jan 2, 2012
    Cleveland, OH
    If you don't feel like reading this whole post the bottom line is:

    Do smaller PA systems (still with some decent wattage) actually work for bars of medium-large size?

    The guy in my band who owns the PA is leaving because he went and knocked up his wife. He has offered it to us for sale, which I'm sure we could get a good doing but I don't know if I really want it. Our PA system is rather cumbersome and I've always wondered if we could get by with less. Here's a quick rundown of what we're working:

    Two 2x15 mains run by one power amp
    Two 1x18 subs with a power amp
    Four 1x12 monitors with a power amp
    One rack case for the power amps

    A 2nd rack case with:
    The mixer
    Two graphic EQs
    Feedback destroyer (Doesn't seem to work that well! :)
    Probably something else I'm sure about.

    I've always wondered if we could make due with one of those bigger powered mixers and two 1x15 speakers? Maybe one sub?

    Forgive me I'm not super well versed in PA systems as I wasn't the owner of ours and have never been the PA guy in the past. I'm just looking for ways to scale it down.

    The bars we play are larger places but not arenas or theaters, if anything we're told to turn it down. I don't know too many people who go out to see a cover band and are like "Wow these guys aren't loud enough."

    Once we played this TINY stage/bar and used our monitors as mains. The one guy's dad (who is at every show) said it was the best we ever sounded. Food for thought.

    FYI we are a 5 piece cover band with guitar, bass, drum, keys, vocal. If that helps.

  2. Hi.

    Short answer: Yes, a smaller setup would definitely "cut" it.

    A bit longer answer (with questions):

    What's Your budget vs. what the tried and familiar PA rig would cost?

    Will the careless former PA owner be willing to sell You only the parts you want/need?
    If not, will You be able to sell the un-needed parts with a reasonable "profit"?

    If You have to buy the whole lot, are you able to buy additional parts to make a scalable rig to suit different gig requirements?

    I for one wouldn't "downgrade" from separates system to a powered mixer+passives, but I would consider ditching the unpowered mains and using active cabs.

    I've never been much of a fan of 215 mains, and nowadays it just doesn't make sense. To me anyway.

    With the kind of PA You're using, I'd leave my bass amp home for sure.

    If You tell us the asking price, and the makes+models of the amps and cabs, people would be able to offer more detailed suggestions.

    BTW, covering what excactly, pop, rock, reggae, jazz, metal...?
    Makes a world of difference.

  3. What little I can tell you from the info provided is the first thing you can do is dust the subs and the power amp running them. Not needed and sometimes not even desired in small clubs.

    For the time being you can get by with your mains but I would seriously look for some horns to couple with them or other cabs with an array of smaller speakers. You'll need a crossover for the horns or a cab with smaller speakers if you plan to run them with your mains.

    Keep your power amps. Most powered mixing boards aren't that good. Keep your monitors. As you pointed out, in a very small venue they make great mains. You'll need the two EQ's. One for the mains and one for your monitors.

    I've never used compression on a PA and I have no idea what a feedback destroyer is. That's what the EQ's are for in most setups. You should probably have an effects unit to add reverb or delay to the vocals.

    Based on your needs you can do without the subs and the amp to power them. You can sell those and use the money elsewhere. If you find later on you want a sub get a single 15" powered sub and just run the bass and kick through it.

    Our band played smaller and medium sized clubs for years with a setup just about identical to what I've suggested you can make do with. I don't know anything about the brands of equipment your using or how much power you're running and this is just a rough outline of what you might do to downsize your current PA a bit. Others may give you some different ideas but I know from experience what I suggested will work very well.
  4. First, that feedback destroyer can be discarded. Sell it and replace with another graphic EQ if you need it on another send, or a verb unit as suggested by soulman.

    You could always ditch the 2x15 mains and replace them with pole or stand mounted 1x15+horn or 1x12+horn cabs. I'd keep the subs assuming you have a crossover in the rack, but that would probably be the second place I'd make a cut if downsizing. And possibly go down to one sub if you really don't want to haul two.

    Oh, and +3 on not getting a powered board, based mostly on personal preference.
  5. badstonebass


    Jun 7, 2006
    DON'T ditch the subs if you are playing any thing other than folk music IMO.

    Here is my "minimum" PA for a rock, country, wedding and or cover band IF you want to sound GOOD.

    2 1x15 mains
    2 1x18 subs
    power amps
    16 ch mixing board
    2 EQ

    Any less and you will be neglecting the sound of the drums... especially the KICK. The idea is NOT to blow peoples hearing out, the idea is to have a full, professional sound.
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    One power amp is running both subs?

    I don't know about that. What's the wattage of that amp? Rule of thumb is one power amp per sub unless you've got super efficient subs or ridiculous wattage in that one power amp.

    I think you've got enough cabinets to cover most bar gigs but I question whether the wattage is sufficient.
  7. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Big, fat, huge +1. Nothing sounds worse than a live band without proper subs and you'll be risking the health of your other cabinets as well.
  8. Jake Saint

    Jake Saint

    Dec 31, 2011
    Mine Hill, NJ
    i second a few others on the question about the amp... but i would say to just ditch the whole thing, and look at some used QSC gear. i run sound in a medium-large venue, with a quad set of QSC K10's, and a pair of Ksubs, all self powered, and they are FAR more than i need... i've run a pair of bass guitars through 'em and never had a problem.
  9. Marko 1

    Marko 1

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    I'd definitely keep the subs, and replace the 2x15" tops with 1x15" tops, at which time you can run both subs and mains with one amp.

    My QSC power amp happens to have a 100hz crossover built in, and it's very convenient to run the two subs on one channel and the tops on the other.

    I do not agree,

    A decent amp putting 300-500w per channel at 8-ohms will power most subs fine with one per channel, but so many do seem to think it's good to bridge amps and overpower subs when it's not necessary.

    For a small bar rig, two 8-ohm cabs (subs & tops, however configured with a crossover) per channels works fine.
  10. Marko 1

    Marko 1

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    And no, you don't necessarily need a large/loud system. Most bar patrons aren't there for a concert, or for the express purpose of hearing you.

    Don't drive what you have into clipping, and keep the dance-floor volume adequately hot.

    The patrons who want to hear it better will come closer, and the rest will appreciate being given the option.
  11. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    On the other hand I've done a lot of gigs where the PA is only for vocals. As long as everybody has a grip on their own volume it can work fine in a medium sized room. My little PA is fine for rehearsals and we've used it out on the street for Nat'l Night out and the like. For bigger things we can rent.

    Here in Minneapolis all the bars have their own PA. Owning a large one ourselves would be a chunk of money wasted. If you travel out of town the story changes dramatically.

    In town: a cover band can't find a gig. The bars won't have them. All of the venues own a PA. There's no money to be had.

    Out of town: an original band can't find a gig. The bars won't have them. The band have to provide their own PA and lights. You can get paid ($80 - $100/man/night), which is good because it will be 4:00 AM or later before your head touches your pillow.

    Being in town, I have no plans to invest in more PA. My small powered head and four 12" three way speakers have been fine for when I need a PA. I sometimes sub for cover bands playing out of town. It's fun and it feels good to get paid, but honestly there are much easier ways to earn money that I'd rather play in town, which means originals and no pay.

  12. AdamR

    AdamR Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    Bethel CT
    The last cover band I was in was getting away with 2 powered mains with 12s in them and 2 1X12 floor monitors. Usually vocals only. once in a while we would mic guitars also. Never drums or bass.

    Im looking to put my own PA together. It will have 4 floor wedges. 2 powered mains. Never thought about adding a sub. Thats a lot of PA to haul around.
  13. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    If you're worried about hauling a lot of gear around, one of the best things you can do for your band is to dump the floor wedges and go IEM. It's not a cheap option but there are so many benefits that if your band is working steadily at all, it really should be considered.
  14. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    I dunno man, I'd say a band with the subs cranked way too loud is equally bad.
  15. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    I beg to differ, having played hundreds of gigs without subs. That being said, we only run vocals through the PA, as I play with a heavy-handed ex-metal-band drummer with a loud kit and a guitar player with a tube amp that "doesn't sound good unless it's cranked.". We always get tons of praise about our sound, and the most common complaint is that we get too loud.

    Of course, if you've got mics on the drums or are running bass, keys, etc. through the PA, you'll have to get a sub.

    We just got a portable sub system for the first time because the drummer is going to add some e-drums and such.
  16. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Speakers are way more efficient these days. You can definitely work with smaller components! In fact, I'm trying to get my band leader to downsize! Nothing worse than us old cats still trying to move around a heavy, cumbersome system! We're using dual 15 mains when we don't need to. Single 15's or even 12's, on poles, will suffice. I'm also trying to get him to split our large rack into 2 smaller ones! This way, we can avoid having to rent a van to transport all this crap every gig!

    Now if I can get him to ditch his Fender Rhodes Suitcase [heavy sucka]...........
  17. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I run a yamaha emx5000 board. Has 500/ side into 4 ohms, which I use for 2 monitor mixes. 1 stereo 15 band for eq on those. Mains run off a Driverack PX. A plx2402 for 2 or 4 fearful 12 subs and a pair of QSC K10's on poles for tops. Works great. It is as small and light as I've been able to get while retaining moderate volume outside. That Yamaha is a remarkable board when you consider the investment. Reasonable power, extremely reliable, nice and clear. I spent 450 or 500 used, here from the GFS years ago and put another hun into a decent case for it. sweepable mid, 2 effects sends and 2 aux sends / ch. Very flexible routing on the power amps, a mono send with variable freq lpf... Unreal for the dough.
    That board basically cuts a 4 space rack out of my setup...
  18. OtterOnBass


    Oct 5, 2007
    I'd buy the subs and monitors and use the monitors as the mains. PA is about dispersion and getting good sound, and speaker cone diameter affects that (Smaller cone = wider dispersion.) Who wants to carry subwoofer-sized mains that perform worse? Subs don't exist to increase volume, but to fill in the bottom end of the sound spectrum that is very demanding, like bass and kick drums.

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