Updated: Jul 6, 2020
“I don’t care what you play, just play it loud” – The immortal words from an event manager we once knew who was able to sum up in just a few words how he wanted us to manage the sound at his events. Although loud is good, clear is better.
We don’t want to bog you down in the technical nerdy bit but there are some basic requirements that need to be considered by everyone, from presenters to event organisers.
In short, a PA system (formally, public address system) is an electronic amplification system used to get sound from the presenters to the audience. It's made up of several components, and while one system can vary greatly from the next, each one handles the same basic functions.
In the event industry, the Sound Technicians go to great lengths to make the equipment as visibly unobtrusive as possible, leading to the misconception that sound equipment is not a major component of an event. It may not have the visual impact of a huge projection screen or complicated lighting show but there is a lot going on that cannot be seen but is definitely heard.
“I don’t care what you play, just play it loud”
For the voice of your Presenters to be relayed clearly a number of things have to take place:
1. You must use the correct microphone in the right position
2. The presenter must use the microphone appropriately
3. Adjustments need to be made to compensate for any issues in the speakers voice
4. Adjustments need to be made for the room’s acoustics
The role of the microphone is to take movements in the air and convert them into electrical signals. There are dozens of designs and types and each perform a specific function and most will do a poor job when used on a source they are not designed for.
One of the biggest problems Sound Technicians have with Presenters is that some of them are afraid of the microphone and will stand too far away from it or speak too quietly. Even a great sound technician will not be able to generate enough volume for them to be heard.
One of the biggest problems Sound Technicians have with Presenters is that some of them are afraid of the microphone
The signal then needs to travel out of the loudspeakers at the right volume to reach the audience. This involves amplification and sending the signal to the right number, size and type of loudspeaker.
One of the biggest physical limitations in any loudspeaker is its ability to reproduce the entirety of the frequency range audible to humans at the same time. If you want some Bass, some Oomph to the sound, specialised loudspeakers, ‘subwoofers’ or sub-speakers, are dedicated to reproducing frequencies that are at the bottom of the human hearing range. We have a very primitive reaction to low end audio, because we feel it more than hear it. The bass delivers the adrenaline.
The most frustrating thing for a Sound Technician is that everyone has a story about bad sound, from too loud, eye-splitting feedback and too hard to understand what was being said. But how many people talk about an excellent sound experience? So when I was asked by the Sound Technician how I thought the show went, my reply of, “ Yeh, It looked great” went down like a lead balloon.