LIVE SOUND 101: Speakers
As I stated in the last Sound 101 segment, you have to have certain components in order to have a successful sound system. Successful for me, is that the patrons in the crowd can walk away and say, “Damm that system is bangin!” You do not want people in the crowd saying anything negative because negative news travels much further and widespread than positive news. So, in order to get the acceptance of the crowd, you must have the right speakers. And what I mean by the right speakers is by having dedicated tops and bottoms, not other way around that, especially if you play EDM music. If you play Drum&Bass, Dubstep, Breaks, etc…. there is no party without the subs, BASS is the name of the game!
Besides having the low frequency thump, the music must also be clear and detailed without fatiquing the ears. There is nothing more annoying then a loud system that hurts your ears to a point where you have to wear hearing protection. The whole idea of the live sound experience is to enjoy the music, not to cover your ears because you are concerned the sound system might damage them because of the lack of balance. This is usually because either the sound engineer is not paying attention, or the dj/performer is adding too much treble within their own mixer, set-up, etc…. So it is solely up to the sound engineer to have the monitors which the performers hear sound close to what the audience is hearing, if not, this issue will occur. The other fundamental problem that no one can get around is speakers can only play so loud before they become distorted. This distortion is what usually causes the ringing high pitch noise that hurts your ears. The only way to get aound this is to add more speakers and play them at a lower decibel level.
As you can see, this is a properly portioned sound system. There are 4 tops (Highs/Mids) and 8 subwoofers (Lows). Since bass frequencies are much harder to produce, the rule of thumb is that you need double the subs of the number of tops you have. These are JBL SRX series speakers, which sound really good. At about over $1000 dollars per suboofer, and close to that per top, you are looking at a $10,000 dollar sound system, if you include all the wires, amps, and other processors that you need. Depending on how much you make, this might be reasonable, but for most others, it is pretty steep.
Now we got that ratio: 1 top per 2 subs = indoor parties 1 top per 3 subs or more = outdoor parties. The reason why we need more subs for outdoor parties because with all that open space, bass waves cannot bounce off anything solid so bass is harder to reproduce.
So now we know how many speakers we should have, now what type do I buy,
VENTED or HORN-LOADED
The JBL set up you see in the figure above are VENTED speakers, which basically means it has a tuned port. HORN-LOADED speakers look much different. As you can see, you cannot see the speakers at all. That is because the speakers are inside the enclosure. My personal opinion and preference is to us HORN-LOADED speakers. I just like the sonic characteristics of how the speakers sound. When I first started doing sound systems, I used all VENTED enclosures for the simple fact that it was much cheaper on the wallet and that it was not as heavy as horn-loaded enclosures. But after my experience with the FUNKTION 1 Sound System and others, I decided to go strictly HORN-LOADED.
If you are a DIY (do it yourself) person, carpenter, audiophile, and/or basshead, building your own custom sound system would be the best way to go. I personally have built multiple sound systems for personal use and for event promoters. I have been building and designing my own prototype speakers for almost a decade now. If you want to start building your own speakers, make sure you follow the plans you use, especially what speaker to buy. Many builders try to use different speakers and of course the results are not the same. Many of these builders have built multiple prototypes and tested them before they put out the designs. Build your boxes with braces and a lot of glue and cover it with carpet! I tried using that paint enamel for speakerboxes, but they always get scratched, so I prefer carpet. I can tell you from experience, if you can build your own speakers, it will save you a lot of money and you will get the sound you want. Below I will give you helpful links to various websites where I have purchased equipment and DIY speaker building projects, Mike from SpeakerCity, here in Burbank, California has help me put together many systems and he can definitely move you in the right direction.