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. The term PA or public address means different things to different people, for example a PA rig is a common term for a high power amplification system used for performances by artists and bands. Public address and sound reinforcement are terms used for amplification systems used for other purposes. From earliest history, man has felt the need to communicate with others, both singly and in groups. It has been group communication however, that has presented the difficulties as it has been limited by the limited number of people that can be conveniently assembled within earshot of the speaker. Whenever a very large crowd had to be addressed in earlier times, the only way to do it was with relay speakers, who stood within earshot of the speaker and repeated what he had said at suitable intervals. Others within hearing distance transmitted the speech even further until it reached the edge of the crowd. These speakers were usually arranged in concentric circles, with the original speaker at the centre. There were
frequent pauses and delays, and errors would be passed on and added to. Today amplification systems enable gatherings of all sizes to be addressed with ease under varied circumstances. There is increasing demand for such facilities, from clubs and small local halls, to large sports stadia, from single speaker meetings to multi speaker conferences, for stage plays and musical events, for indoor assemblies and outdoor. The main requirements of any public address or PA system where speech is being amplified are that the programme material must be heard comfortably by all the audience or public present, and that the speech is easily intelligible. Naturalness is a desired quality and in instances where speech reinforcement is required, if everyone present can hear clearly without being aware that amplification is in use then the installation can be claimed as successful. It may not always be possible to achieve complete success in this direction especially in large gatherings; however the system should be as unobtrusive as possible but always second to providing intelligible reproduction. It may be worth discussing the difference between public address and sound reinforcement systems. The terms are somewhat self-explanatory, sound reinforcement is used to enhance the natural voices of speakers where they would otherwise be
insufficient to reach the whole audience. Examples of this type of system would include a church or place of worship and a lecture theatre. Public address however is where the public is to be addressed, in other words the audience is large and spread over a wide area, which prevents being reached with the natural voice. Often the speaker will be remote from the listener as in the case of a station announcer or factory public address system. Audio Levels:Voltage,Gain and the Decibel A basic characteristic of any audio signal is its amplitude, measured electrically in terms of voltage or acoustically in terms of sound pressure. When assessing the loudness of a signal, the amplitude or pressure is converted to a decibel value. The decibel scale gives a relative number referenced to a certain voltage or pressure. For example, 0 dBV is a popular standard reference for audio levels, and represents one volt. Note that amplitude is expressed as a voltage, while level (or loudness) is expressed using a dB scale. When working with audio electronics, levels are commonly divided into three ranges: mic level, line level, and speaker level. Mic level is the smallest signal. Microphones and other passive transducers
such as sound. ranging from a fraction of a volt (during quiet periods) to several dozen volts depending on the output rating of the amplifier. with a nominal level of 0 dBV. The dBV scale is not the only one used for audio levels. sound is very dynamic in nature. Line level is hundreds of times greater in voltage terms typically ranging from several millivolts up to around 1 volt. A typical nominal operating level for a microphone output would be -55 dBV. Both gain and attenuation are commonly measured in decibels. Of course. An important function of amplifiers is providing the gain needed to raise signals from mic or line level up to speaker level. to another. and simply means an increase of the voltage or power. you are likely to see large fluctuations from moment to moment within that range. such as electricity) produce signals ranging from a few microvolts to a few millivolts. The historical predecessor to these two scales is the original dBm . The opposite of gain is attenuation. Another popular reference scale is the dBu.775 volts. where 0 dBu represents 0. if you read it with a meter during operation. so whatever the nominal operating level of your signal is. Gain is another word for amplification.(devices that convert energy from one form. Speaker level is the strongest.
the range of sys tems available for different applications is enormous. Recorders are available in many different forms. etc. . 2. where 0 dBm represents one milliwatt. It is made up of two t ypes of component: . all electronic audio systems are ba sed around one very simple concept: To take sound waves. The electrical signal from the microphone is very weak. which are heard by human ears. which creates wa ves of sound (acoustical energy). The process begins with a sound source (such as a human voice).e. The two types of transducers we will deal with are microphones (which convert acoustical energy i nto electrical energy) and speakers (which convert electrical energy into acoustical energy). The next diagram shows a slightly more elaborate system.Signal processors -devices and software which allow the manipulation of the sig nal in various ways. including magneti c tape. Naturally. optical CD. A very simple sound system is shown in the diagram below. Other scales you might encounter include dBW (referenced to one watt) and dBµV (referenced to one microvolt).Transducer -A device which converts energy from one form into another. then convert them back into sound waves. it incr eases the amplitude). convert them into an electric current and m anipulate them as desired. which includes: .Amplifier -A device which takes a signal and increases it's power (i. The loudspeaker converts the electrical signal back into sound waves.001 watts. or 0.scale. However. and must be fed to an am plifier before anything serious can be done with it. These waves are detected by a transducer (microphone).Record and playback section -devices which convert a signal to a storage format for later reproduction. 3. The most common processors are tonal adjusters such as bass and treble con trols. computer hard drive. These scales are seen mostly in the radio broadcast industry. . 1. 4. . which converts them to el ectrical energy. Sound Systems Working with audio means working with sound systems.
The audio signal from the transducer (microphone) is passed through one or more processing units. The 3-part audio model One simple way of visualising any audio system is by dividing it up into three s ections: the source(s). Note that there are also two alternative outputs: A headphone socket (which drives the sma ll speakers inside a headphone set) and twin "line out" sockets (which supply a feed for an external audio system). 2. . etc. left/right stereo balance. and amplifi ers.The source is where the electronic audio signal is generated. each containing two s peakers. For our purposes. Outputs: There are two speaker cabinets (one at each end). or a "playback" source such as a tape deck. Sources: There are three sources -two tape machines and one radio aerial (techni cally the radio source is actually at the radio station). This could be a " live" source such as a microphone or electric musical instrument. Processors: Includes a graphic equaliser. 3. The signal is amplified and fed to a loudspeaker. The stored signal is played back and fed to more processors. so that it can be heard by humans. This portable stereo is a good example of a simple system. . CD. The signal is fed to a recording device for storage.The processing section is where the signal is manipulated. 4.1. .The output section is where the signal is converted into sound waves (by loudsp eakers). we will include the amplifiers in this section. . which prepare it for recording (or directly for amplification). processor(s) and output(s).
Now imagine a multi-kilowatt sound system used for stadium concerts. Although th is is a complex system, at it's heart are the same three sections: Sources (microphones, instruments, et c), processors and speakers. IMPEDANCE Impedance refers to the way a device reacts to the application of electric curre nt. The device will exhibit varying amounts of resistance and either capacitance or inductance. For our purposes, the resistance is most important. In keeping with common practice, when we say impeda nce we will mean resistance. Impedance, in this sense, refers to how much resistance the device presents to t he free flow of electricity through it. At a given drive voltage, the lower the impedance of the receiving d evice, the higher will be the current flow through it. This is important to know when working with amplifiers, because if the load impedance presented by the speakers is too low, it may draw so much current that the ampli fier will overwork itself and deliver distorted sound, overheat perhaps even burn out. Impedance is measured in ohms, named for Georg Ohm, who first described the set of electrical relationships now known as Ohm s Law (see fig. below). Every device will have both an input impe dance (also called the load impedance) and an output impedance (also called the source impedance). The input impedance of an amplifier could range from 600 ohms to 10,000 ohms, or even higher. A typical sp eaker impedance may range from 4 to 16 ohms.
The Ohm's Law chart remains one of the most useful formulas to use in the audio world, especially on 100v line speaker systems when calculating speaker and line loads in conjunction with an impedance meter like the ZM-104. The main parts of a PA system There are five main parts to any PA system: 1. The Ohm's Law chart remains one of the most useful formulas to use in the audio world, especially on 100v line speaker systems when calculating speaker and line loads in conjunction with an impedance meter like the ZM-104. The main parts of a PA system There are five main parts to any PA system: 1. Microphones, DI boxes and other sources 2. A mixer 3. 4. Power amplifiers Speakers 5. An arrangement of cables to interconnect the equipment The place of each of these parts in a simple system is illustrated below. (More complex systems may include additional components such asradio microphone systems, graphic equal isers, active crossoversdynamics processors outboard , and effects, as illustrated late r on this page.)
With the exception of the With the exception of the cabling, these five main par ts each have their own descriptions elsewhere on this website (follow the links in the list above), so on this page we will concentrate on how the parts are interconnected to create a complete system. Once connected, the audiosignals will follow the path indicated by the white arrows in the illustrat ion; this path is called the 'signal chain'. In some systems, some or all of the power amplifiers are internal to the mixer o r are internal to the speakers: . A mixer that includes power amplification facilities is called a powered mixer or a mixeramplifier. This arrangement restricts the distance that is possible between the mixer and the speakers, because of the need to keep speaker cables as short as possibl e. Additional separate power amplifiers are often needed, except in the very smalle st systems. . Speakers that include power amplification facilities are called active speaker s. Some systems use a mixture of active andpassive speakers, e.g. monitors active and pa ssive front-of-house vice versa). speakers (or For further details on amplifiers and speakers see the Amplifiers and Speakers p age. If you have not already obtained your equipment, or you are looking to replace i t or extend it, you might find these links useful: . PAforMusic microphone selector . Notes on choosing a mixer . Amplifer and speaker selection for required sound level Connection of microphones and instruments to the multicore Systems in which the mixer is located remotely from the stage usually employ a m ulti-core cable to provide for signal interconnections between the stage and the mixer location. This is usually referred to as the 'multicore' (or 'snake'). At one end, the multicore has a box called a'stagebox'; this end is located (surprise!) on the stage. At its other end, the multicore ha s a suitable means (described in the next section) for its connection to the mixer.
These are cables specifi cally designed to handle microphone-level female signals. so for such arrangements this section can be taken to describe the connection of microphones and instruments direct to the mixer. and usually have a XLR conne ctor at the end which connects to the microphone and amale XLR at the other end (see the diagram below). the interconnections between the microphones and stagebox are made using balanced microphone cables. and must not be confused with (which are also sometimes equipped with XLRs. . These microphone c ables may be extended in length simply by plugging two or more of them together.Smaller arrangements in which the mixer is located on-stage generally do not use a multicore. These are screened speaker cables cables. so for such arrangements this section can be taken to describe the connection of microphones and instruments direct to the mixer. Assuming that you have a mixer having Smaller arrangements in which the mixer is located on-stage generally do not use a multicore. but use unscreened cable). Assuming that you have a mixer having balanced low impedance microphone inputs ( which is the normal case) and have microphones to suit.
where a microphone is not used). For unbalanced signal sources such as direct feeds from keyboards and guitars (t hat is. the effect would be a reversal of phase. and vice versa). Regarding which source to connect to which channel of the multicore. often starting at channel 1 of mixer. is for the mixer-end of the cable syste m to be equipped with a multi-way connector. Microphone cables as described above are then used to make the balanced signal c onnections from the DI boxes to the stagebox. The cable con ductor that is connected to pin 1 does not carry any signal . which converts the signal into a balanced one suitable for travelling the distan ce to the mixer. short cables are used to connect from the patch bay to the mixer inputs. left to right across the stage. it is usual for line channel 1 of the multicore t o connect to 1 of the mixer. It is common practice for the drum kit microphones to be allocated to the channe ls in a 'standard' order. and so on for the required number of channels. often used with patch bays. In systems without patch bays. Although the cable would appear to work correctly if the connections to pins 2 a nd 3 were reversed (so that pin 2 at one end connects to pin 3 at the other end. These are typically fo llowed by the other instrument channels. sound so urces local to the mixer (tape. In this case. then the sources must be connected to the stagebox in the same order that you want them t o appear on the mixer. An example channel allocation chart is shown below. it is useful to allocate the vocal channels (and sometimes instrument channels) in the same order as the band layout. A jack-to-jack cable is usually used to connect the unbalanced signal from the instrument (or its backline amplifier) to the DI box. a metallic mesh or foil whose purpose is to shield the two signal-carryin g conductors from interference. or which may connect to the mixer via a patch bay. a DI box should always be used.this conductor is the 'screen' (o r 'shield') of the cable. An alternative arrangement. The electrical signal from the microphone is carried by the two cable conductorsconnected to pins 2 and 3 of th e XLRs. Connection of the multicore to the mixer The mixer end of the multicore is usually equipped with 'tails' having XLR conne ctors which may plug directly into the mixer. etc. then the vocal mics. To enable channels to be rapidly located for adjustment during performances. see the sec tion below. CD.Note that it is important that these cables are wired correctly. If the multicore channel numbers are to correspond with the mixer channel numbers. for you to ada pt to your .) are connected to its higher-numbered channels. Where a patch bay is used. which is usually undesirable.
some distance in front of t he speakers. When the power amplifiers are separate from the mixer. In the case of a powered mixer or a mixer-amplifierpower amplification . (In such cases. t hen you can ignore this section as the connections between the mixing and power amplification parts of t hat equipment are internal to it. their power amplification facilities are provid ed within the speaker enclosures the powered speakers. (For example. When the mixer is located at a good listening point. however. If no additional amplification facilities are required.) Connection of the mixer to the power amplifiers In the case of powered speakers. the speakers connect direct to the speaker o utputs of the mixer . it is usual to locate the power amplifiers close to the speakers (rather than wi th the mixer). line-level inter connections must be made to carry the mixed signals from mixer to the power amplifiers.own requirements. . if your mixer has spare stereo channels then an electronic keyboard instrument could be connected to one of these.see'Connection of the Power Amplifiers to the Speakers' for how to do this). facilit ies are provided within the mixer unit.
. on the stagebox. This arrangement is called multi-ampingactive . a graphic equaliser capable of handling both the left and right channels is required. Additional graphic equali sation may be needed for the monitor returns. In larger systems. ). Large systems usually have separate speakers for the various audio frequency ran ges (sub-bassbassmidhigh. Between the mixer and the cables to the power amplifiers is the point at which a graphic equaliser is usually connected. Likewise. XLR connectors are generally used for the returns. is very important that thecrossover frequencies of the unit are correctly set to match the range of each type of spe aker. it is essential to ensure that the various outputs of the crossover are each con nected to the correct amplifier. and requires a uni t called ancrossover at the amplifier-end of the return cables from the mixer. T his unit splits the full-range signal from the mixer into the correct ranges of frequency to feed each amplifie r. Connection of the power amplifiers to the speakers In the case of powered speakerspower amplification . and each of these speakers then has its own dedicat ed power amplifier(s). To get the best overall result. but they are male rather than female. The returns are often balanced circuits that are carried through the same multicore and stagebox that carries the microphone and DI box signals to the mixer. to enable the tonal balance of the final mix to be tailored to the speakers and the acoustics of the room. unbalanced connections (typically using jack connectors) are somet imes used. Balanced XLR -XLR cables (just the same as microphone cables) are used to connect the returns from the st agebox to the power amplifier inputs. . For a stereo set-up. In such cases the signal paths from the mixer to the power amplifiers a re known as the 'returns'.in order to keep the speaker cables short and so avoid significant loss of power and sound quality. and that the crossover output-level controls and amplifier input-level controls are also corr ectly set. their facilities are provid ed within the . In cases where the power amplifiers are located adjacent to the mixer (such as w hen the mixer is on-stage). the graphic equalisers may be connected into the returns via a patch bay. but in larger systems a dedicated returns multicore and stagebox is used. and to avoid damaging the speakers.
usually jack.speaker enclosures.particularly to the power amplifiers (and to li ghting systems. for example. mid etc). See the Amplifiers and Speakers page for further guidance on this subject. to avoid unnecessary loss ofpower and to maintain a high damping fa ctor. if you get it wrong there's a danger of damage to the amplifiers or speakers . XLR or Speakon connectors. if used). and the consequent of electric shock.or both. For further information on safety see the Safety page. RCD). This will usually include: . Particular safety precautions are required for systems located outdoors or in ot her hazardous areas (see. Keeping the mains cabling (whether for PA or not) spaced as far as possible fr om signal cabling. Care must be taken in the cabling arrangements to ensure that mains interference does not enter the audio signal chain. passive speakers and DI boxes. It is always recommended to keep the cables between power amplifiers and speaker s as short as possible. it is essential that mains supply arrangements are made in a safe manner. if you have slave speakers connected to the powered s peakers then what follows is equally applicable to those interconnections. especially on long cable runs. most PA equipm ent requires a source of mains power. to avoid damage to the speak ers it is essential to ensure that each amplifier is connected to the correct type of spea ker (sub-bass. . Due to the highvoltage risk involved. especially in l arge systems. if subjected to the heavy currents drawn by speakers. Additionally. Taking into account all the necessary factors when deciding how amplifiers and s peakers are to be selected and interconnected can be quite a complex matter. bass. In a multi-amped system (see the previous section). damaging power amplifiers or even starting a fire. If all the speakers are of this type then you can ignore thi s section as the connections between the power amplification and sound-producing parts of the spe akers are internal to them. Powering the PA equipment from a separate mains outlet(s) (preferably a separa te mains distribution circuit) to those used by interfering equipment (such as ligh ting).the conductors in these types of cable are often quite thin and may overheat. Mains power connections With the exception of microphones. Do notbe tempted to use instrument cables or microphone cables for t his purpose . These connections require the use of cables having a suitably heavy gauge of con ductors and fitted with the kind of connectors needed to suit the equipment . it is essential to ensure that the mains power arrangements are ad equate to supply the required amount of current . . However. What's more.
and running interfering equipment from a different phase (if the supply capacity is adequate for this arrangement). In this arrangement. . there are two distinct arrangements of systems used . Using the same phase for all PA equipment (including any on-stage equipment). Using balanced audio lines wherever possible. typically adopted by bands of up to 4 members when performing in small venues. but in by whom it i s operated. Keeping devices that contain audio transformers e. especially amplifiers and video mo nitors. the mixer mixer-amplifer(or ) is located on-stage and the responsi ble . System Arrangements From a PA perspective..tho ugh the real difference lies not in the nature of the system itself. . When the person operating the system is alsoa performer in the band.g.passive DI boxes microphon e (and splitters) away from mains-powered equipment. The two arrangements are: .
it suffers from the problem that even if a reaso nable mix can be achieved initially. Nevertheless. how much this really matters depen ds to a great deal on the acoustic expectations of the audience. probably making small adju stments during the rehearsal and possibly during the performance. .person will set up the system prior to the rehearsal. as although it has the advantage of avoiding the costs associated with another person. (Even the initial entry of the audience can signifi cantly affect room acoustics from those which existed when the system was set up.) This is not necessarily a matter of skill. the responsible person cannot properly manage the sound throughout the performance to take account of dynamic factors such as a growing or increasingly noisy audience. This is something of an "economy" arrangement. it's simply that a person who is located behi ndthe frontof-house speakers and is primarily focussed on delivering a good performance is at a significant disadvantage in comparison with someone in a good listening position who is concentrating onlyon the sound.
as advised by the sound engineer( s). to give you some idea of what theyare up a gainst! . . Nevertheless. typically adopted by larger bands and in large venues. . the mixer is located at a suitable listening point (preferably central to the audience) and i s set up and operated throughout the performance by one or more people dedicated to this task. and avoid wandering in front of the front-of-house speakers if at all possible. You can help to avoid feedback by the correct use of microphones. without getting too technical. But whether this is the right thing to do depends upon how close you were to it at the time. more pleasing to the audience).. because the engineer mus . and see them as their essential allies. the natural reaction is to increase your distance from the microphone. If feedback does occur. it has its own pro blems in that it inevitably creates something of a divide between the performers and t he sound engineer(s). Whilst this arrangement has the potential to provide a technically superior soun d (which means. give n the limitations of the available PA equipment and of the venue. In some cases the performers may need to accept that their ideal sound is not achievable. both on-stage and front-of-house. this will usually be an intera ctive trial-and-error process. In this arrangement. This w ill often mean that the performers will need to explain to the engineers what kind of soun d they are hoping for. . it is hoped that the following brief notes wil l provide some useful hints for performers. When the person operating the system is nota performer in the band. If you were more than about 4 inches (10 cm) away. . at the end of the day. by moving further away you are actually increasingthe chance of feedback. Maintain a reasonably constant distance from the microphone (except wh en deliberately varying the distance for effect). Do not wrap your fingers around the basket of the microphone. Microphone Technique Using a sound system is something of an art form in itself. as this is likely to decr ease the microphone's in-built immunity to feedback. To minimise this kind of problem it is essential that the performer s have full confidence in the engineers. and excellence can o nly be achieved through experience. . You might also find it helpful to read theIntroduction for Mixing Engineers. requiring patience and respect by both parties. Do not point them at the monitors.
i . They assume the t ype of mic most commonly used for live performances (as opposed to studio recording). with associated comments. listed according to the angle of the mic. . . .t provide even more amplification to achieve the desired sound level for the audie nce. an end-firingtype with a cardioid or super-cardioid pick-up pattern. moving slightlyfurther away may be helpful because. and this would make the feedback worse.e. so that the amplifi cation required can be reduced. The following illustrations show some possible positions for a vocal microphone. So decreasethe distance. If however you were very close (less than 1. .5 inches (4 cm) ). being very close can decrease the microphone's in-built immunity to feedback. . with some types of microp hone.
(In such a situation. giving an improvement for semi-profile and profile viewing angles. with a considerable amount of bass boost (due to the proximity effect). but the performer's mouth is still largely obscured for frontal views. A rarely-used position. Excellent mouth visibility from most angles. 8. Even less bass boost and less sensitivity to changes in distance. Similar to 3. for visual effect. A position commonly used by some rock and pop artists. . An ideal mic position for strong voices. Much improved mouth visibility from all angles. The low sensitivity to changes in distance make this position very suitable for stand-mounted mics. However. As this position gives a very large amount of bass boost. 2. .) . but with less bass boost and less sensitivity to changes in distance. . 6. 4. and also on the amount of pick-up (unless heavy compression is in use). reduced pick-up of the performer (especially with cardioid mics) versus other sound sources may be a problem when stage sound levels are high. it requires a type of microphone that is intended for such close-up use (such as the Shure SM58). to avoid excessive pick-up of the drum kit. (This is more of a problem when the performer has a quiet voice. . Slightly better visibility of the performer's mouth. . A hand-held position sometimes briefly used during a performance. Quiet voices may be difficult to amplify sufficiently. 5. when bass boost is not required and stage sound levels are not too high. . . . . 3. . . Good pick-up. . the mouthtomic distance must be kept fairly small. or when close-zoom camera work is in use. Often an ideal mic position when a certain amount of bass boost is desirable. Often a good mic position. as the performer's mouth is completely obscured (except for profile camera angles). or when the performer is in close proximity to loud instruments. . 1. generally employed only for situations such as a stand-mounted mic used by a drummer.. without feedback and/or pick-up of other sounds. Not suitable for applications where facial expression is important.) Better visibility of the performer's mouth for profile and semi-profile camera angles. . . Even quite small changes in the distance to the mic will have a marked effect on the amount of bass boost. 7.
Musicians . or you have first used a pedal (or other means) to turn down or cut off your guitar signal. . . Guitarists: To avoid loud crackles and bangs that are very unpleasant to your audience (and potentially damaging to the PA equipment). the pick-up of the vocals will be extremely poor. 11. then unless your guitar cable ha s a self-shorting jack plug. . The sound engineer may be able to compensate to some degree. . see Use of Microphones on the Microphones page. . They also provide reasonably good visibility of the mouth (especially 10. . take care not to hold the microphone around that part. giving rather poor pick-up of the vocals (particularly with super-cardioid andhyper-cardioid mics). .. . 9. . as this c an cause problems with the pick-up of the radio signal by the receiver. 12. The sound engineer will not be able to compensate for this. . An incorrect technique.). . & 10. it would be of assistance to the sound engin eer if you hold the microphone in a manner that keeps at least one of these bands clearly v isible. never unplug your guitar cable at the guitar end wit hout being . Useful positions when some bass boost is not a problem and good immunity to other stage sounds is required. attempts to do so are likely to result in feedback and/or excessive pick-up of other sound sources and room reverberation. If you are using a hand-held microphone that has been marked with one or more identifying coloured bands of tape. . . If you are using a hand-held radio microphone with an aerial that sticks out o f the bottom end of the mic. . The performer seems to think that this is a side-addressed microphone. . As it isn't. For a slightly more technical discussion on the effect of microphone technique on the pick-up behaviour of microphones. .
sure that the engineer has muted your channel at the mixing desk. If you are rel ying on the engineer to do this. for example. etc. remember this: you haven't. pronounced "mike") is a device for converting aud ible sound into a signal. that muting at the mixing desk will not usually avoid such sounds from your backline speakers.) As this produces sufficient signal level for direct connection to a PA system. then they will have to know when you are about to unplu g. sound is converted to an ele ctrical . The most important of these c ategories are described below.Thoma s Edison. guitar ampli fiers.effectively an e lectrical generator on a very small scale. sound is converted to an electrical signal by the vibrations of the diaphragm causing the vibration of a coil in a magnetic field . Dynamic mics are most us eful for close-proximity applications (i. MICROPHONE Introduction A microphone ('mic' for short. no amplification of the signal is required within the mic. 0 to 15 cm) such as lead vocals. (This is the exact opposite of the operation of a speaker driver.) . Note.e. this could. "When you have exhausted all possibilities. Types of Microphone Mics can be categorised in several different ways. In a condenser mic (also called a capacitor mic). To accomplish this task with the optimum efficiency and quality of resul t requires a type of mic that is appropriate to the particular situation.g. so there are many differ ent types of mics some designed for very specific applications and others that are more general pu rpose. In a dynamic mic. or through use of agreed hand-signals. be communicated either by pre-arrangement (e. after a spec ific song). Dynamic or Condenser All types of microphone incorporate some form of diaphragm . . dynamic and condenser mics vary in how these vibrations are used to produce an e lectrical signal. However. The sensitivityof low impedance dynamic mics is typically in the region of 1 to 3 mV/Pa. however. (Impedance is explained later on this page.this is a small thi n surface which vibrates in sympathy with the sound pressure waves reaching the microphone ." .
As this produces a very small signal level.signal by the vibrations of the diaphragm causing changes in the capacitance of a charged capacitor. some initial ampli fication of the signal is required within the mic itself.) Unfortunately the amplifier inevitab ly . This internal amplifier may be powered either by an internal battery or by power supplied from the mixer (usually at 48 volts d.c. This is achieved by the diaphragm itself being one of the pla tes of the capacitor. The latter arrangement is calledphantom powering and is only possible whe n using a balanced connection between the mic and the PA system. (For mic connecti on types see Low-impedance or High-impedance.).
so check the manufacturer's specifications.e.i. with the most sensitive end (or side) of the microphone facing towards the top of the cir cle. . . The sensitivity of low impedance condenser mics i s typically in the region of 3 to 20 mV/Pa. This is not normally useful for PA work. .on-axis the response. Omni-directional mics pick up sound with equal sensitivity from all directions . (The diagrams below are simplified to illustrate typical mid-frequency responses. in which increased sensitivi ty in a particular direction is indicated by the line on the diagram being closer to the outer circle. or at '180 degrees'. Imagine the microphone diaphragm being located at the centre of the circle. or at '0 degrees' . There are several variations on this theme.) .. Each of the follow ing types is illustrated with a polar response diagram. the upper-most point of the line on each diagram indicates the sensitivity at th e front of the microphone. and the lower-m ost point indicates the sensitivity at the back. and so that pick-up of unwanted sounds can be minimised). in practice the polar responses vary with frequency. though this problem can be reduced with a windshield. Condenser mics are most useful for larger distances between the sound sou rce and the mic (i. So. They are however capable o f a higher quality sound than dynamic mics. maintaining some sensitivity at the back. Uni-directional mics pick up sound with greater sensitivity from the front tha n from other directions. Their applicat ion is generally limited to recording work (particularly of ambient sounds) and to soun d-level measurement. Omni-directional or Uni-directional . introduces some noise into the mic signal . They are generally more fragile than dynamic mics. choirs. because in PA work each mic is targetted at a singl e sound source (so that the amplification given to that sound can be controlled separate ly from others. and the best versions are therefore exte nsively used in studio recording work. such are encountered with lecterns and with ove rhead miking of drum kits. theatre stages etc. They can be more prone than dyn amic mics to making a "popping" sound when used close-up with a "breathy" sound sourc e such as a voice or a wind instrument. so are rarely emp loyed for rough stage use or in very high SPL applications.see theMicrophone Noise Levels secti on below. Sub-cardioid mics have a very gradually reducing sensitivity from the front to the back.e.15 cm upwards).
Cardioid mics have a gradually reducing sensitivity from the front to the back. . . with very little sensitivity at the back.
at the expense of a little more sensitivity at the back. where one of the two signal-carrying conductors of the interconnection between the mic and the system is also thesignal earth conductor of the interconnection. and so these types of mic are suitable only for use with moderate lengths of cable (up to around 10 metres). earth loops and radio signals. . measured from the front. bi-directional mics get a mention here for completeness. They come in two varieties. at the expense of a little more sensitivity at the back. the sensitive directions are most commonly on two of its sides. reaching a minimum sensitivity at an angle of around 120-140°. Hyper-cardioid mics provide even less sensitivity at the sides than do super-cardioid types. in practice however. They are generally used only for long-distance miking (more than 2 metres from the source). They pick up sound with equal sensitivity from two opposite directions. . Their minimum sensitivity is at an angle of around 100-120°. as these are usuallyside-addressed type s. each of wh ich should only be connected to the corresponding variety of low-impedance mic input : .for theatrical work. Therefore. Therefore. . Super-cardioid mics reduce their sensitivity from the front to the sides at a faster rate than cardioid types. Bi-directional types . Unbalanced. Although not featured in the title of this sub-section (as they are rarely use d in live PA work). e. the cables are prone to pick-up of interference from stra y magnetic fields. but the sensitivity at the back is still very much less than at the front. Low-impedance mics have an impedance ohms of from around 50 to 600 and may onl y be connected to low-impedance mic inputs. a monitorspeaker should never be placed directly behind this type of mic. usually provided by the screen cable(s)of the . .. . Hyper-cardioid mics provide even less sensitivity at the sides than do super-cardioid types. shown in the diagram as the front and back. 'Rifle' or 'shotgun' mics are the most directional type. and should be located such that the back of the mic is not exposed to unwanted sounds. so-called because of their long rifle-like barrels. measured from the front. . Low-impedance or High-impedance .g. a . With this arrangement. . They are relatively uncommon. The sensitivity then increases again towards the back. .
. provided it is of good quality. See the diagram fo r connection arrangements. balanced connections allow the use of phantom powering. Also. Nearly all professional and semi-professional mics are of this type. where the two signal-carrying conductors of the interconnection are separate conductors from the signal earth (cable screen) of the interconnection. Balanced.. and so may be used with very long lengths of cable (up to 200 metres). This arrangement is highly immune to pick-up of interference.
Typically used for speech.. or in the 2. To avoid pick-up of hum by the transformer. which is a trademarke d name. do not locate i t close to mains-powered equipment. Wired mics connect to the PA system by means of a cable. Use of a licensed frequency requires payment of an annual license fee. Such inputs are rare in PA systems. They may only be connected to high-impedance mic inputs. Use of the de-regu lated frequencies is free. The cable usually att aches to the mic by means of a 3-pole XLR connector. . resulting in a loss of clarity. Many such mics are generally equally sensitive to sounds in all directions above the surface (a so-called 'half-omni' response pattern) a nd most are condenser types.) The frequencies used are either "licensed" or "de-regulated". or vice versa. Radio (or 'wireless') mics contain a battery-powered radio transmitter. The mic and the receiver are purchased as a pair and are referred to as a "radio mic system". where a convenient surface such as a desk or lectern is available.4 GHz bandfrequency . A boundary mic is a special type which when placed on a surface utilises the s ound energy collected at that surface to provide a greatersensitivity (and therefore. potentially. Wired or Radio .000 to 15. To minimise loss of signal quality. . Also known as a 'pressure-zone microphone' (PZM). High-impedance mics have an impedance very much greater than 600 ohms . The ra dio signal from this transmitter is picked up by a receiver which is connected to the PA sy stem. but as their use is uncontrolled by licensing it is more li . as t hey may only be used with short cables (less than 5 metres) if the signal is not to suffer from a reduction in high audio frequencies (treble). Boundary or Conventional . each system does not o perate at a single frequency. By "conventional" here. a better signal-to-noise ratio). To enable a high-impedance mic to be connected to a low-impedance input. a microphone matching transformer can be used. though some types have a 'built-in' plate to act as the surface. (Strictly. The frequency that is quoted is the carrier frequency.000 ohms (5 kilohms to 15 kilohms).usuall y in the range of 5. it is important to use a good quality transformer and to locate it so as to minimise the length of the high impedance cable run. the frequency at the cent re of the channel. Most radio mic systems use a frequency-modulated VHF UHF (FM) radio signal at or frequencies. . but rather uses a narrow range of frequencies called a 'c hannel'. we just mean "not a boundary mic".
kely that interference will be experienced from other users.1. . In particular. . 174.8. 174. The frequencies are listed below. regardl ess of whether licensed or de-regulated frequencies are used.5. . Warning:Some UHF systems will allow you set the operating frequency to a value outside the legal ranges. For VHF systems in the UK there are: ¦ 5 de-regulated frequencies.0 MHz . 174. . D . not the equipment) and ¦ 15 frequencies that are licenced for any-site use. All systems. 173. but t his is clearly very inadvisable and may incur severe penalties. ¦ 6 frequencies that are licenced for single-site use (in this case it is the site that is licensed. must comply with the appropriate standards.8 and 175. these standards put limits on the maximum power output of the transmitters and on the maximum levels of spurious frequencies tha t may be radiated.
7 and 208.e q u i p m e n t ) . 192. 177.e r e g u l a t e d .4.3.( M P T 1 3 4 5 / 1 3 1 1 .S i n gl e s i t e l i .1 MHz . 176.0. 200.1. 207.
8 MHz . 192.6. 208.6.6 and 216. 200.6. c e n c e d ( M P T 1 3 5 0 e q u i p m e n t ) A n y s i t e l i c e n c e d ( M P .525.0. 199.. 175. 176. 191. 200.1.0. 209. 216.7. .18.104.22.168. 175. 208. . 216. 193.9. .
T 1 3 .
can be adjusted to operate on one of several frequencies.470.0 MHz). ¦ ¦ The lower part of channel 70 is allocated as a de-regulated band that is wide enough to accommodate 8 or 9 UHF radio system channels. Channel 38 is expected to accommodate at least 8 simultaneous system frequencies without mutual interference (depending on the equipment specifications). (i. ¦ Channel 69 is currentlyallocated as a regulated band.5 0 .in the UK these are mostly within channels 67 and 68 (838 to 854 MHz). i.69.whereas controlled use of radio systems on specific frequencies within some of these channels may be judged not to be detrimental to TV broadcasts. . i.e. .0 MHz. as there is less radio-frequency interference around at UHF. After the changes currently in progress in the UK. e q u i p m e n t ) . This band is sometimes referred to as '863 to 865' (its approximate frequency range).0 MHz). etc. or as the ISM ETSor band. As the UHF TV channels each occupy a frequency slot 8 MHz wide.e. in order to avoid interference with TV transmissions in adjoining areas and for other technical reasons .e. within which there 14 specified licenced frequencies for UHF PMSEradio systems. Its use for PMSE applications remains unaffected by the move to clear the so-called '800 MHz band' (790 to 862 MHz) for other services throughout much of Europe. Many UHF systems are tunable. 70.) for each further 8 MHz band above the range used for TV.above 854. This is possible because within the area of each broadcast TV transmitter there are channels that have to remain unused for TV broadcasting. access to channel 69 is currently intended to cease on 1st July 2012.0 to 854. because of the (relatively) very low transmitted power level of radio systems and the narrow bandwidth they employ. UHF systems are generally better than VHF ones. . in the UK PMSE usage of channel 69 is in the process of being migrated to channel 38 (606 to 614 MHz) as part of the move to clear the socalled '800 MHz band' (790 to 862 MHz) for other services. TV broadcasts . .e. ¦ ¦ Single-site licences may also be granted for use on frequencies withinthe range used for TV broadcasting. Most UHF systems in the UK currently operate at frequencies just above the highest-frequency UHF terrestrial TV broadcast channel (channel 68. However. the same numbering convention is continued (i. which ends at 854.
860. 860.3 and 864.5. . 855.200. . 863.900.900. .750 MHz Allow at least 0.1. 864. 854.7.400.550 and 861. 863. .175. 858. . 861.650.will occupy only channels 30 and 39-60. 861. The channel 69 and 70 frequencies are listed below.900. Deregul . 863. 856.1. 858.275. .9 MHz precise licensing arrangements for channel 38 (and 39-40) are not yet finalised. 857. 857. and such 'overlap' licensing is expected to be available within channels 39 and 40 (614 to 630 MHz). (The frequencies and . 864.575. Frequencies commonly used are 863.200. . 856.9 MHz. ) Licencedc h a n n e l 6 9 ( M P T 1 3 5 0 e q u i p m e n t ) .625. 855. .2 MHz between systems (see the note below on simultaneously operated systems).950.1 to 864.
. Systems operating on the 2. in some countries certain UHF frequencies are being withdrawn for radio . .more than 20) are to be used simultaneously.at ed . .g. c h a n n e l 7 0 ( p a r t o f ) ( E N 3 0 0 2 2 0 e q u i p m e n t ) .4 GHz band are now popular where a large number of systems (e. Furthermore.
as it is a de-regulated band. care must be taken to select frequencies that are not . However.microphone use and so this band may be the only practicable option.
. which can assis t in the avoidance of interference from other equipment.subject to interference from other types of equipment operating on this band in the vicinity. Some systems utilise digitally-coded transmission.
Some types may provide both kinds of output. of which there are three common types: .4 GHz system s. in the case of Sennheiser's UHF systems: . or a single output of adjustable level.975 MHz. in order to avoid intermodulation int erference between the systems. UHF and 2. The eW100 G3 system allows a maximum of six simultaneous frequencies . Furthermore. The maximum number of frequencies in a compatible set will depend upon the quality of the system. Some receivers provide an audio output intended for connection to a line input o f the PA system. . and there fore will not fit into 'standard' sized mic clips. Hand-held or Hands-free . 864. They may be held in the hand or placed in a clip on a mic stand . 864.except that there is unlikely to be any interference between good quality syst ems operating in entirely different bands .7. 5/8 inch 27 turns per inch (a large diameter fine thread) . whilst others have outputs intended for connection to a mic input.9 MHz.1. Note that many radio mics have a slightly larger diameter than wired types.5.25 i nches (3 cm) in diameter.550 and 864. 864. . The eW300 range allows up to eight simultaneous frequencies and the eW500 range up to 20. these can be used simultaneously. Consult the appropriate manufacturer's information for the details relevant to y our specific system(s).sometimes referred to . 863. The eW100 G1 and G2 systems allow a maximum of four simultaneous frequencies . each system must be set to a different frequency. The only four frequencies available on the freePORT system (frequency range E) are 863. Mic clips fix to the stand by mean s of a screw thread.225. between VHF.75. or even different product ranges from the same manufact urer .3 and 864.1. For example. When several radio mics need to be operated simultaneously.i. 863.1. .9 MHz. 864.between 60 and 90 degrees to each other. the frequencies selected must be chosen from a compatible set for the particular make and type of system being used.a compatible set in the UK de-regulated band is 863. 863.e. Hand-held mics are generally about 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) long and 1.1 and 864. It is very inadvisable to simultaneously operate systems fro m different manufacturers. 863.a compatible set in the UK de-regulated band is 863.4.
less commonly encountered. 1/2 inch (a medium diameter fine thread) . as an 'American thread'.sometimes referred to as a 'Euro thread'. .. . 3/8 inch Whitworth (a small diameter coarse thread) .
A body-worn mic worn on the chest is also known as a lavalier mic. . pro vided that acoustic feedback is not likely to be a problem (e.for recording or broad cast applications. This is because these types are less susceptible to changes in pi ck-up level due to head movements.g. However. For theatrical applications. Proximity Effect Most PA mics are uni-directional types. Bodyworn mics are usually of the radio type.g. Hands-free mics are generally much smaller and are either body-worn (e. This is d ue to at least three major reasons: 1. in live PA situations where feedback may be a p roblem. and all uni-directional mics exhibit wha t is known as the "proximity effect". they are often hidden in the hair (or wig ). the uni-directional typ es can be appropriate provided that they are worn at the correct angle and that hea d movements relative to the body are fairly small. In case your mic clip doesn't fit your stand. and are used in conjunction with a body pack. or where the mic is always placed high on the chest and the user h as a strong voice). these types typically have a ca rdioid pick-up pattern. it is important to choose an appropriate type of mic fo r the job. sometimes without realising the effect that this has on the amplified (or recorded) sound (seeMicrophone Technique Getting Started .clipp ed to a lapel or tie. and to use it correctly. The result of this effect is that sounds which are made very close to the mic are picked up with a greater bass response than sounds which are made furthe . see the Mic rophone Selector. is that the distance between a microp hone and the sound source that it is meant to pick-up is a hugely important factor.for Performers page on the and also the paragraphs below). and engi neers have their own differing opinions on which techniques give the 'best' results under v arious different circumstances. or attached to a head-set) or are suspended by their cable (e. An omnidirectional pattern can often be a good choice for chest or lapel-worn mics. though. For guidance on choosing a suitable microphone. Use of Microphones To get the best results.. One thing that everyone agrees on. above a choir).g. Performers (especially vocalists) may also have their own preferr ed microphone technique. Many types ca n be purchased with either an omni-directional or uni-directional pick-up pattern. or where pick-up of ambient sound needs to be minimised. and are less likely to pick up unwanted sounds due to friction with clothing. The 'correct' use of microphones is a huge subject in itself. thread adaptors are available.
because a great er proportion of their voice is in the frequency range which is subject to the proximity effec t.r away. It is especially significant for deep-voiced vocalists (usually male). and so a large amount of amplification (gain)will have to be applied to the electrical signal that it produces. This same amount of amplification will also be applied to soun ds that it was not . This is most important for presenters and vocalists to understand. its electrical output level (resulting from that sour ce) is likely to be very low. 2. if a microphone is placed a large distance from the soun d source that it is intended to pick up. the amount of bass emphasis in creases. Leakage and Feedback Just like an ear.see square law). a microphone will pick up sounds that originate close to it mo re readily than sounds that originate further away (simply because of the dispersion Inverse of sound . Unwanted Pick-up of Ambience. the proximity effect can be ignored. because the d ifference that a change in working distance makes to the sound of their voice can be quite dram atic. As the distance decreases from this down to zero. At a working distance of greater than about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm). Therefore.
3. To explain this. This is that the effect on the mi crophone's ouput level of changing the working distance by a given amount (say. Sometimes it can also be partially addressed by the use of e qualisation on the picked-up signal. sounds from other instrumen ts and/or vocals ('leakage'). Also.so reducing the amount of amplification that is n ecessary. 2 cm) depends on what the distance was to start with. to provide some discrimination in favour of the frequency spectrum of the wanted sound and against that of the unwanted sound(s). resulting in a level increase of only abou t 2 dB from the microphone. This problem can be partially addressed by the use of a uni-directional micropho ne. In this case. the most effective method of controlling the problem of unwanted sound pick-up is usually to place the microphone as close as reasonably possible to the wanted so und source and directed towards it . placed and directed so that its direction of maximum pick-up is towards the wanted soun d(s) and its direction(s) of minimum pick-up towards the most troublesome unwanted sounds (se e thepolar response patterns).bearing in mind the proximity effect (see above) and t he 'variable distance' factor (see below) . and again reduce that distance by 2 cm. we need to consider that the output level increases by 6 dB for every halving in working distance (the inverse square law). For example. . there will of co urse usually be a considerable change in the proximity effect. it can be seen that a microphone that is very close to a sound source is ver y sensitive to changes in working distance. while one further away is much less sensitive to su ch changes. the working distanc e will only have been reduced by a factor of 0.) Now compare this with a starting d istance of 10 cm. I f he/she then moves 2 cm closer to the mic then the distance will have been halved so the output level will increase by 6 dB. where practicable. such as unwanted room ambience. there is another fa ctor to take into account besides the changing proximity effect. consider a stand microphone that is 4 cm from a vocalist's mouth. Level Changes With Variable Working Distance When the distance between a microphone and the sound source that it is intended to pick up is variable. unwanted sound sources should be kept as far as possibl e from that microphone and should not be directed towards it.intended to pick up. which is very significant. as in the case of most lead vocals microphones. (In addition. However. So. and sound from the PA speakers (both front-of-house monitors and ) which may result in an over-resonant amplified sound or in acoustic feedback.8.
and provided tha t the mic preamplifier gain is set so as to avoid distortion at the maximum output level that will be obtained from the mic as the changes occur. it is important to take int o account the microphone technique of the vocalist (seeMicrophone Technique on the Getting Sta rted .for Performers page). . or a physical barrier such as a separatelymounted pop screen (both of which are only likely to apply in a studio setting). Provided that.This partly explains why compression is so often used on close-miked lead vocals . in the overall sound mix. the combined effect of such changes (ta king into account any compression applied) is what the vocalist intended. Unless there is close supervision. in any case the result will be changes in the picked-up vocal level. as well as varying the loudness of their voice. Application When considering how best to apply this information. the vocalist may at any time choose to vary the working distance between several 10's of cm and z ero. or to some extent unintentionally. These variations may be made deliberatel y. then all is well.
nor for the increased pick-up of unwanted sounds that occurs when decreased mic output level causes an increase in the gain applied by the compressor (or indeed manually by the sound engineer). as it does not compensate for the resulting changes in proximity effect. and .allow to dry thoroughly before re-attaching to the main part of the mic. . . Furthermore. F ollow the maker's instructions (especially for expensive mics!). substantial changes in working distance can be problematic for th e sound engineer and so should be avoided. Therefore. DON'T check them by tapping them or by blowing into them . only the most pop ular manufacturers are listed. .But otherwise. As there are hundreds of mics available. the replacement band is not yet available in some areas. If purchasing a UHF radio (wireless) microphone system that you wish to use in a regulated (licensed) frequency band in the UK. it would not be practical to try and list them all. then be sure to take account of the fact th at the present licensed band will become unavailable during 2012 (precise dates dependent upon location of use). Following these simpl e do's and don'ts will help considerably: . Even ruggedised stage mics will benefit from careful treatment. DON'T expose a microphone to sound levels exceeding its specified maximum SPL at the very least this will give a distorted pick-up of sound and may even damag e the microphone. . Microphone Selector The purpose of this information is to give you a general guide as to the most po pular mics for a given application. when this is accessible. DO clean the integral windshield from time to time. from many different manufacturers. and if you want your mics to continue to perform as well as when they were new. you must look after them very carefull y. but in the absence of any instructions the wire-meshed end of most types can be unscrewed and then gently washed in warm soapy water . .speak (or sing) int o them instead. Compression only goes part-way towards addres sing this. DO keep them in padded protective boxes or pouches . and educate users to do the same. DON'T store them in damp conditions or expose them to extremes of temperature. DON'T drop them or allow them to be subjected to other sudden shocks. Care of Microphones Mics contain delicate precision-engineered components.preferably individually when not in use (especially during transport).
It doesn't follow that just because a mic is very expensive that it must be either very specific in application. or that it must be very general purpose! Neither does i t follow that just because a mic is very specific in application. For further details see Wired or Radio. whilst others are of m ore general application. These bands are intended to give an approximate guide as to what you might actually pay on-l ine (not the . Note that some mics are designed for a very specific use. or very general purpose. that it must provide very high performance.may not be until some date in 2012. Most current systems are unable to operate in both the old and new bands. before buying a particu lar mic it is usually advisable to check with the supplier that it is a good choice for your p articular situation. As circumstances vary from use to use. The listed microphones are arranged in 'price bands' according to the table belo w.
the price band shown for each mic can be taken as a rough guide to the quality t o be expected . Echo This is an effect unit which simulates a natural echoing of the sound. because an echo is a delayed (and. Remember though. The more sophisticated digital units now available generally allow selection fro m a number of reverb types. or outdoors).5%.the la . usual ly. See also Delay.R. as compared to more expensive models. somewhat modified) copy of the original sound.manufacturer's R. these mics are not on sale from PAforMusic. or which provides an artificial effect of a similar nature. that you get what you pay for an d. when buying to a tight budget. Reverb units are useful in reducing the 'dryness' of a sound.when comparing like with like. this enables the sound heard from the secondary speakers to be synchronised with the sound heard from the main speakers .P. Delay Delay is another name for an echo unit.e.. Such a unit may also be used to provide a delayed version of a signal to 'secondary' speakers which are situated some distance in front of the main speakers (in a very large hall. which is generally considerably higher). in general. note that some users may prefer the so und (or other characteristics) of particular mics. Actual prices may vary significantly from supplier to supplier and can ch ange from week to week .it definitely pays to shop around. for example types simulating various different sizes of room and t ypes simulating the old analogue reverb effects such as spring-line and plate units. the figures incl ude UK VAT at 17.g. However. Sorry. Gated reverb is an effect which has the facility to automatically cut off the re verberation effect when the input levelsignal falls below a specific . Reverberation Often known as 'reverb'. Note also that mics that are listed for the same application may not be directly comparable . such effect units usually provide some control over the type and extent of the reverb effect which they produce. As rooms differ in the manner and degree to which they exhibit this effect. Most units have the ability to provide a single echo or multiple echoes. this is an effect unit which simulates the ability of a room to cause a sound to die away slowly when the source of the sound ceases abruptly. and such factors can also influence the price. s ome may be large stand-mounted types while others may be miniature clip-on types.
tter having been delayed in travelling through the air to reach the location of the secondar y speakers. all operating in u nison . Approximately 30 milliseconds of delay is required per 10 metres of distance bet ween the main and secondary speakers (seeSpeed of sound). .as in "a chorus of voices". Chorus This is an effect unit which modifies a signal in such as manner as to simulate the presence of several additional sources of the same (or similar) sound.
a common one being a slow 'sweeping ' sound. to allow the direct connection of the low-level signal . when we talk about 'speakers' we always mean the complete enclosures (or cabinets) containing the drivers (that is. whether integral or separate. When the speaker i s powered then the complete unit is called a combo.) Distortion Generally used only with electric guitars. a more subtle version of the distorti on effect. because it is usually placed on top of the speaker. in that backline amplifiers provide preamplification facilities. are different from the ampl ifiers used for the other three types of speakers. the units tha t actually make the sound) along with any other associated parts such as crossovers and protection c omponents. Types of Speakers First a point of clarification.Phase This is an effect that is sometimes used with guitars to improve the 'interest' of the sound. Backline . We never mean just the drivers. because the amplifier and spea ker are combined. require external amplifier(s) to power it) or p owered (that is. according to their us e. an effect that simulates a distorting guitar amplifier. Each of these types may be unpowered (that is. On these pages. When the amplifier is separate from the speaker then the amplifier is called a head. and fo r other 'special effects' purposes. Previously known as 'fuzz'. Speakers can be categorised into the following four types. Overdrive Generally used only with electric guitars. electric bass or keyboard) for the benefit of the musician playing it. Flange This is similar to a more extreme version of the phase effect. incorporate its own amplifier(s) within the enclosure). Intended for reproduction of the sound of a single instrument (usually a guita r. It simulates anoverdriven guitar amplifier. (The amplifie rs used for backline speakers. a rather harsh 's weeping' effect used with electric guitars to to help give a 'heavy metal' type of sound. (It gained its name from the fact that it was originally prod uced by mixing the sound with a tape-recorded version of it that was slowed down by means of fricti on applied to the flanges of the tape spools. less rich in the higher harmonics. . It may be adjusted to give a wide range of effects.
because different instruments produce sounds with different frequency characteristics. Guitar speakers emphasise the mid-rang e frequencies.) Backline speakers vary according to the type of inst rument that the speaker is intended for.that is usually obtained from an instrument. but will usually include some form of equalisation. The exact nature of these pre-amp facilities is dep endent upon the type of instrument that the amplifier is intended for. bass speakers are specially designed to handle bass-dominant freque ncies .
.and keyboard speakers usually have a frequency range approaching that of a full range speaker.
is a figure to be treated with some caution. the prop er specification speaker. . As subbass frequencies are essentially non-directional. These speakers are usually driven by their own separate amplifier(s). these are generally either of a mo derately powerful floor-standing wedge-shaped design. it tells you only how much electrical power the speaker is able to acco mmodate without sustaining physical damage and/or causing undue distortion of the sound. which varies significantly between different models. of power handling capacity requires a standardised way of measuring the power le vel that a particular speaker can accommodate. or it may contain separate amplifiers for the woofer(s) and horn(s) (called a bi-amped speaker). the bass-bins are usually oper ated in mono mode . it may contain a single amplifier to drive both the woofer(s) andhorn(s). to cover fre quencies below that point. or HF drivers) in the same enclosure. This gi ves only a very rough guide as to the sound level (volume) that it is capable of producing. because of the fluctuating power level of most sound signals. On large stages. Front-of-House .Full Range (Tops) . Increasingly. This crossover also protects the tops from the sub-bass frequencies. these speakers are usuall y limited in their deep-bass response . This is for two main reasons: Firstly. Monitor . Therefore bass bins (subs) are often additionally required. covering the sub-bass frequencies (below the frequencies covered by the tops).either placed directly or on pol es or stands. measured in watts (abbreviated "W"). because the sound level obtained from a given number of watts of power depends upon the sens itivity of the Secondly. . Consists only of one or more woofers. or are low-powered stand-mounted units. When powered. Front-of-House .even when the tops operate in stereo. (i.e. Usually consists of one or more woofers (bass drivers) and one or more horns ( treble.typically 3 dB down at some point in the region of 45 to 100 Hz. which are supplied with the sub-bass frequencies by an ac tive crossover. Power Ratings The quoted power handling capacity of a speaker. Intended for the benefit of the performers. Unfortunately there are several different me . and the 'full-range' speakers are then referred to as 'tops' b ecause they are commonly situated on top of the bass bins .in-ear monitoring (IEM) is being used in place of monitor speakers.contains its own amplif ication within the same enclosure). Although described as 'full range'.Bass Bins (Subs) . much larger side-fill (or cross-fill) speakers are somet imes used..
or IEC 268-5). This figure attempts to take into account the dynamics of a typical sound signal. The mo st common methods are: . so when looking at the power rating quoted for speakers you need to be certain of which method is being used. an d is the most useful figure. The co rrect term is "continuous average sine wave power". peak music power). and for a speaker will typically be around twice the RMS value. sometimes called 'music power'. RMS or "continuous" power. and can be anything from 2 to 20 times the RMS .thods of measurement in use. Peak power (or PMP. The term is used because it refers to the power calculat ed by multiplying the RMS value of the voltage by the RMS value of the current. This refers to the equipment's ability to handle very short duration peaks in the signal. . thoug h its use is very widespread. and compare only "like with like". .) Programme power (DIN 45573. This refers to a sustained average level of power. (The term "RMS" is strictly inappropriate here.
later on this page. The reason for the 30-50% margin is that the short-term power hand ling capacity of a speaker is well in excess of its RMS value. you can either take care to keep a close eye on the amplifier power meters. and then choose an amp lifier whose output power rating into the overall speaker impedance to be driven (see below) is around 3050% higher than the total power handling capacity of the speakers to be connecte d to it. So to be able to utilise the availa ble capacity of the speaker fully.value. If this is a concern.) Assuming that the same power ra ting methods are being used for both the speaker and the amplifier. For professional speakers. without risk of speaker damage due to the amplifier being dri ven into overload during short-term peaks in the sound level. most speakers will tolerate a degree of short-term over-driving without difficulty. if two 100 W RMS rated speakers having a combined impedance of 4 oh ms are to be connected to a mono amplifier. it is necessary to use an amplifier with an RMS output power capability that is considerably greater than the total RMS capacity of the speakers that are to be connected to it.) For example. or you can start by choosing speakers with a rating somewhat higher than you expect to need (but this may increase the cost significantly). in which case the manufacturer has m ade these . so it is of l ittle real use and is often best ignored. There is no agreed standard for how this value should be measured. whereas that of a high-quality amplifier is usually only marginally above its RMS value. then the amplifier output power rating into 4 ohms should be around 260 to 300 W RMS if the maximum useful sound level is to be safely obt ained from the speakers. a figure of 4 times the RMS value is often quo ted. be careful not to confuse the main s input power requirement with the audio output power rating. These different measurement methods must also be taken into account when matchin g the power rating of a speaker with the output power rating of the amplifier that is going to drive it. (This is a very basic approach . The down-side of this is that it is possible to slightly over-drive the speakers .a more thorough one is detailed in Amplifier and Speaker Selection for required SPL. but this should be a rare occurrence because if the speakers are correctly rated then over-drivi ng them would produce a sound level higher than what you required. In any case. (When looking at amplifier rating plates. one possible approach is to ensure that the speaker power handling capacity is amply adequate to produce the highest sou nd level required (taking into account the speaker's sensitivity). Alternatively you can buy powered speakers.
using the inverse square law. suppose that we require a maximum SPL of 112 dB at a distance of 8 metres from a speaker having the sensitivity figure quoted above. (For a more co mprehensive . A typical sensitivity figure wou ld be 100 dB SPL @ 1W @ 1m. the SPL will be 118 dB at 4 metres.see below). the maximum po wer input required to the speaker is 30 dB greater than 1 W. The sensitivity figure can be used 'in reverse' to estimate the speaker input po wer required to achieve a particular SPL at a given distance. From the inverse square law. measured at a distance of one metre directly in front of the speaker. Therefore. which is 1 kW. 124 dB at 2 metres and 130 dB at 1 metre. It is usu ally quoted in dB SPL at an input power of one watt. which corresponds to an efficiency of approximately 10%. F or example. for a given type of programme signal.difficult decisions for you! Speaker Sensitivity The sensitivity of a speaker is a measure of the sound pressure level (SPL) that it will produce for a given amount of electrical input power (or voltage . The type of signal is important b ecause the sensitivity of a speaker varies with frequency.
(We are here r eferring to a single-channel(mono) amplifier. It affects the amount of power that the speaker will draw from an amplifier. see its glossary entry. which varies with frequency.) So. A speaker of half the impedance will draw twice as much power from an amplifier. (Refer to the Impedance section below for information regarding the connection of several speakers to a single amplifier. the value is specified in dB SPL @ 2.83 V @ 1m.) However.) In practice. 2. The impedance of a speaker is important for three main reasons: . and the power taken by the speaker depends upon its impedance. assuming tha t the amplifier input level and the amplifier settings remain the same. For nominally 8 ohm speakers. an amplifier supplies a controlled voltage. It governs the number of speakers that may be connected to a single amplifier (assuming the usual simple approach to connecting multiple speakers. and amplifiers are designed to operat e into load impedances within specified limits . which conne cts them in parallel). not a controlled power.) Exceedingthe specified maximum impedance will not usually harm the amplifier . (This also ass umes that the amplifier can cope with the lower impedance and that the amplifier's output power rating is not exceeded).regardless of how many speaker sockets it has for the connection of speakers t o that channel.typically 2 to 15 ohms. or to onechannel of a multi-channel amplifi er . (For 4 ohm speakers the volta ge required is 2 V.83 v olts being the voltage required for a power of 1 W in 8 ohms. this is only an estimate because many complicating factors such as room acoustics and grazing have not been taken into account.explanation and example. see Amplifier and Speaker Selection for required SPL la ter on this page. the sensitivity value specified in this new way is effectively equi valent to a value specified in the old power-related way. Of course. . This is because the total load impedance presented to the amp lifier output is the impedance of a single speaker divided by the number of them (assum ing all the speakers have the same impedance). Th erefore it is becoming increasingly popular to specify speaker sensitivities in voltage-rel ated terms.you will simply not be able to achieve the rated output power of the . then several can be used together . if the partic ular speaker being used is unable to handle this power level (see Power Ratings above). Impedance For a general definition of impedance.but the maximum power input to them will still need to total 1 kW.
and their max imum length. and in practice the value varies with frequency. . However. The minimum value is often of particul ar interest. this is likely to be around three-quarters of the nominal value. It affects the gauge (thickness) of the speaker cables required. Where four or more speakers must be connected to a single high-po wer amplifier. . cable ove rheating and a low damping factor. so an 8 ohm speaker is likely to have a minimum impedance of around 6 ohms. A special case of speaker impedance arises in the case of so-called '100 volt li ne' speakers.amplifier. Lower impedance speakers will require heavier gauge an d/or shorter cables. It should be noted that the impedance value quoted for a speaker is a nominal va lue. a 'series-parallel' method of connection is sometimes used to avoid t he load impedance becoming too low. in order to avoid an unacceptable loss of power in the cables. by connecting an impedance lowerthan the specified minimum. you risk permanent damage to the amplifier (with possible consequential damage t o the speakers).
The speaker cable used must be suitable for the voltage and curr ent supplied by the amplifier. to be connecte d to a common amplifier . These speakers are generally of low power rating (5 to 50 watts RMS each). In a bridged arrangement. It is most useful when it is required to use mor e of the powerhandling capacity of the speaker(s). and the speakers are connected between the "hot" (i. or to 'manually' arrange the appropriate connections to its output terminals. two identical amplifier channels are driven by signals of opposite polarity. than could be achieved with a simple non-bridged connection of the speaker(s) to the amplifier.which must be one having a 100 volt line output . Some models of amplifier have a switch to select this mode of oper ation. The following lists provide some basic guidance regarding when it might be appro priate to use bridging. Speakers and/or amplifiers can be seriously damaged by inappro priate use of bridging. as 'bridging the amplifiers' . . Reasons NOTto bridge . This is properly referred to as a 'bridge-tied load' (BTL) c onnection . located over a large area (such as throughout a public building). This allows many of them. or more of the power-providing capability o f the amplifiers. or does not state the maximum output power levels that may be obtained in bridged m ode. .using moderate gau ge cable. so as to increase the maximum amount of power that t he amplifiers can provide to that speaker(s). less formally. but they are not exhaustive. non-earthy) ter minals of their output connections. it is sometimes additionally necessary to use a different speaker output connector of the amplifier. or by making incorrect connections. As the usual application of this arrangement is for speech announcements and/or 'musac'. Bridging The Basics Bridging is a technique to improve the matching between the impedance of a speak er (or the overall impedance of several interconnected speakers) and the optimum load imped ance of the available power amplifiers.particularly as regards bass re sponse. and a re usually equipped with a means to adjust the power level drawn from the 100 volt line by each speaker. WARNING:The output voltage of bridged high-power amplifiers can be high enough t o cause electric shock. the sound quality of these units is often not high . The two amplifier channels to be used are not identical.or.which have a much higher impedance than conventional speakers.and effectively doubles the voltag e available to the speakers. The amplifier handbook does not give clear guidance on how to connect the spea ker(s) .e. The amplifier handbook does not explicitly state that its channels may be brid ged.
to the amplifier outputs to achieve bridged operation. . The overall impedance of the single load is below the minimum specified for th e amplifier when used in bridged mode. The power level available from the bridged amplifiers places the connected spe akers at too great a risk of overload damage. . or does not specify the r esulting drive polarity. .) . (Typically that minimum value will be twice the minim um load impedance permissible for the individual channels when used in non-bridged mode. . The speaker cable or connectors to be used are unsuitable for the voltages and /or currents that would result from bridging. The voltage at exposed amplifier/speaker terminals would result in an unaccept able shock hazard.
1. Sometimes the mid-range band is divided into upper mid a nd lower mid bands. may only require a range of 200 Hz to 10 kHz. A speaker that is capable of handling frequencies across the bass. Good response down into the "sub-bass" region will all ow the music to be felt as well as heard. whereas good quality reproduction of m usic requires at least 80 Hz to 15 kHz. and the relative levels of the amplif iers must be properly adjusted. 0. Frequency Range Audio frequencies are generally considered to fall into the following ranges (or "bands"): . mid and HF ra nges is known as a "full range" speaker.250 Hz to 2.Below 80 Hz . and good response up towards the upper limit of hum an hearing (20 kHz) will add increased clarity and crispness to the sound. and you will find other similar figures quoted. Mid-range .Above 2. each sp eaker being specifically designed for a particular band and being driven from an amplifier t hat is fed from an active crossover unit.6 kW mid-range . It is important to understand that the distribution of audio power is not unifor m across the frequency spectrum . and these are commonly available up to about 80 0 W RMS power handling.4 kW HF Some caution is needed in interpreting the frequency range figures quoted by spe aker .especially when se parate speakers are used for the different frequency bands. 3 kW bass . for e xample.80 Hz to 250 Hz . Sub-bass . Bass .most of the power falls into the bass and lower-mid ranges. The range of frequencies that a speaker system must handle depends very much on the application. Reliability / system integrity considerations dictate that the two amplifier cha nnels must be used independently of each other. However. less and less power is present. where a wide frequency response is required at much hig her powers than this.5 kHz The boundary frequencies between the ranges are somewhat arbitary.5 kHz . Speakers intended only for announcements in public buildings. This has important consequences in the design of speaker and amplifier systems . a 5 kW 3-band system might be made up as follows: .. HF . For example. In this latter arrangement the crossover frequencies m ust be set appropriately for the speakers being used. separate speakers are normally used for each frequency range. As you look at higher and higher frequencies.
and rarely impa cts significantly .e. the power level of the reproduced sound has halved). This is a design parameter. of one tenth the sound power) at the quoted frequency.e. However. Amplifier Classes To describe the various possible modes of internal operation. The norm is to quote the frequency at which the sens itivity has reduced to 3 dB below frequencies around the centre of the band for which it is intended (i. sometimes "u sable" frequencies are quoted .which may mean a reduction of as much as 10 dB (i. compared with the speaker's mid-band s ensitivity.manufactures and suppliers. reference is somet imes made to the 'class' of a power amplifier.
high efficiency means that little power is wasted. B At the point where one device starts to pass current. during both positive and negative excursions. Generally used only forradio-frequency power amplification. Improved efficiency with good linearity. i.one device supplies the current to the speaker(s) on positive exc ursions of the waveform. Good efficiency but poor linearity around the crossover region. they are both 'on' for a part of the waveform cycle. The amplifier class has a bearing on the linearity and the efficiency of the amplifier. the other ceases to. though valves are someti mes still encountered) . and the other device supplies the current on the negative excursions. using one pair of output devices operating in class AB and another pair operating in class B. 'Linearity' relates to distortion levels . the class of the amplifier is a description of how the two power out put devices are utilised to supply the required output current. meaning less mains power is requir ed and that the amplifier can be much smaller and lighter. 'Efficiency' relates to how much power is wasted as heat in the amp lifier . but for completeness and technical interest this section gives a brief explanation of the most common classes encountered.on how the amplifier is used within a system. they are both 'off' for a part of the waveform cycle. (High power amplifiers have several devices operating together to perform each of these two functions.e. Moderate efficiency with good linearity. but are still listed.) Simply put. it is necessary to understand that all power amplifiers hav e at least two 'output devices' (usually transistors of some kind. As a starting point. but this has no bearing on the amplifier class. Some o f these are not relevant to PA applications.e. AB+B A hybrid configuration. C One device ceases to pass to current before the other starts to. Class Brief description Comment A Both devices pass some current continuously. AB One device starts to pass current before the other ceases to.good linearity means l ess distortion (and vice versa). i. and requires less cooling. Poor efficiency. . particularly how they are coordi nated in their operation in order to achieve the crossing over of the output voltage waveform f rom positive to negative and vice versa.
and Class D amplifiers should not be referred to asdigital amplifiers. They are never both 'on' at the same time. [Note that D does not stand for 'digital'. this class is now used to refer to what was originally called class S (see below). In audio applications. driven by Not generally .] Very high efficiency. either fully 'on' or fully 'off'. E Normally has only a single output device.D The devices operate in switching mode.
15" or 18" diameter cones. This is p rimarily because of the damping effect of the air trapped within the enclosure. in the case of full-range. S A switching amplifier (as per class D) that is arranged to provide a normal audio output by the addition of a filter to remove the switching transients. and th e heavier the magnet the greater the power handling capability. H A further development from class G. Enclosures are usually either: . However. Piezo (or Electrostatic) Piezo drivers are capable of little power output in comparison with dynamic ones . it is essential to fit the correct type . heavy units. in which the higher DC voltage is arranged to track the signal being amplified. relevant to audio applications. Speaker Components Enclosures (Cabinets) All speakers require some kind of enclosure to house the drivers. Traditional vinyl-covered or 'carpet'-covered wood construction. in audio applications Very high efficiency. which is often mo dified by carefully designed 'porting' arrangements .rectangular pulses. HF Drivers (Horns) HF drivers fall into the following categories: . and so are . It is important to understand that the operation of a bass driver is heaviliy in fluenced by the speaker enclosure . As a general rule. For radio-frequen cy use. Improved efficiency. Dynamic . Moulded plastic construction. the higher voltage being used only when high signal peaks require it. G Uses two different internal DC voltages to supply the output devices.one or more holes which may be fitted with int ernal tuning tubes or ducts. when replacing faulty bass drivers.its dimensions. the larger the diameter the lower the frequencies that can be reproduced.it has a significant effect on the sound produced. There fore. Bass Drivers (Woofers) These are large.the low -frequency response or power-handling capability of a speaker cannot usually be improved simply by f itting a higherspec driver. F Similar to class C. offering a lighter weight and improved weather-r esistance. bass and mid-range speakers. Further improved efficiency. construction and porting arrangements. but can operate at harmonic frequencies. usually with 12". . the enclosure d oesn't simply house the drivers . Now generally called class D.
generally less than 200 W overall system power . Because the amount of power at high frequencies in an audio signal is much less than the .used only in low power equipment.
g. When an active crossover is used external to the speakers. HF drivers are used which have a power rating much lower than the bass drivers. etc. e. the speakers connecte d to each amplifier must be suitable for the relevant frequency ranges and the cro ssover frequencies must be adjusted to suit them. loud crackles due to faulty cables. It requires no power source of its own. or between a single internal amplif ier and the drivers of a powered full-range speaker. distorting) amplifier . . making alterations to cabling on an in-use channel. the amplifier connecte d to the LF output of the crossover feeds the bass speakers or drivers) and (when the cro ssover separates the signal into three parts) the amplifier connected to the mid-range output of the crossover feeds the mid-range speakers or drivers. An active crossover requi . there being a separate amplifier for each frequency range into which the signal is split by the crossover. Therefore. High frequency feedback .especially for prolonged periods .overall power of the signal. in order to prevent the poss ibility of serious damage it is important to avoid: . this type will be used as an internal component of a s peaker only if the speaker is of the powered full-range type and contains multiple amplifiers. Crossovers and Built-in Amplification The crossover is the component that separates the signal into a number of freque ncy ranges. Therefore. the HF drivers are more prone to damage by overload than are the lower-frequency drivers in the speaker system. Although some systems provide som e measure of internal overload protection for the HF drivers.e. Driving the HF drivers from an overdriven (i. Passive: A device that is internally connected between the input connector(s) and the drivers of a passive full-range speaker. Active: A device that is connected between the mixer and the input of the amplifiers. the low frequency part to the bass driver(s) and (when the crossover separates the signal into three parts) the mid -range part to the mid-range driver(s). usually two or three. The crossover is arranged to supply the high frequency part of the signal to the HF driver(s). The amplifier that is connected to th e HF output of the crossover feeds the HF speakers or drivers. High-level impulsive sounds. There are two types of crossover: .
although this is not strictly correct). In summary. For brevity we will just use the term 'continu ous' here rather than 'continuous average'. 'music power' or 'peak power' values (see Power Ratings above).res its own power source. Calculate the power input to the speaker necessary for it to give the required s ound level. . Amplifier and Speaker Selection for required SPL There are many factors which may influence the choice of speakers and amplifiers for a particular situation . To illustrate the principles clearly.here we are just consideringsound levels and power rating s. Note that in the case of a powered full-range speaker. Note that. Select a speaker that is able to deliver the required sound level (SPL) at the r equired distance. either a passive or an active crossover may be included. in the case of powered speakers this will be the same mains su pply that powers the built-in amplifiers. unless stated otherwise. the procedure is: . Do not substitute 'programme power'. all the sound levels and power levels and ra tings that we refer to here are 'continuous average' values (often referred to as 'RMS' values . . we will initially consider a single full-r ange speaker connected to a single amplifier.
Select an amplifier that is able to deliver the power level required by the sp eaker.) 7. calculate the power required during the peaks and transients. 8. 5. reconsider the location of the speaker or audience and g o back to step 1. or in d B SPL @ 2 V. Determine the furthest distance from the speaker at which members of the audi ence will be located. and check that this value of peak powe r can be handled by the selected speaker.) 4. Check that the sound level will not be excessively high for audience members nearest to the speaker .if so. 3. to handle the peaks and transients programme of thein question (taking into account any limiting that is applied to the programme signal). for a 4 O speaker. above the maximum continuous value . and look up itssensitivity figure and impedance v alue. (Note that sensitivities that are specified in dB SPL @ 2. (This can be done approximately using the inverse square law. Using the speaker's sensitivity figure. Select an amplifier that is able provide an output power level.83 V. in order to give the maximum sound level needed at the furthest r equired distance. 10. 2. Select a speaker of the desired type that is able to provide the required con tinuous sound output level at 1 metre. Decide on the amount of headroom required. for an 8 O speaker. Decide on the maximum continuous sound level that is needed at that furthest distance. are essentially equivalent to the more traditional dB SP L @ 1 W figures. Using the continuous power value and the headroom figure. (The likelihood of overdriving will depend to some degree upon the skill-level of the sound enginee r. be sure to use the 'all channels driven' figure. into that spe aker s impedance. calculate the continuous power input that is required to produce the desired continuous sound output level at 1 metre. Take care that the amplifier headroom intended to cater for peaks and transi ents is not abused by driving the speaker continuously at greater than its continuous power rating. 9. We will now break this procedure down into more detailed steps: 1. but not so high as to risk the speakers being easily overdriven.) For multi-channel amplifiers. . Calculate the continuous sound output level that must be produced by the spea ker at 1 metre from it. 6.. that is at least as high as the value required during the peaks and t ransients.