By Chase Jewell:
As a mobile DJ, it is a requirement to know how to properly select and use your equipment and system. The hardest things to learn in the beginning is proper equipment selection, proper setup, and proper mixing and equalization of your audio system. If you do not learn this quickly not only will your sound not be where it needs to be but you can damage your equipment which leads to costly repairs or replacement, which can get expensive quickly!
One of the biggest parts of this is selecting quality audio equipment. This requires A LOT of research. Some of the brands I trust are ElectroVoice, QSC, JBL, RCF, Mackie, and Turbosound. If you can at the equipment dealer always listen to each system with the music you will be playing. The brands I listed also vary in quality and durability. I use EV, JBL, and Mackie with Mackie being my backup system. When I first started, I didn’t know how to select proper speakers. One of the things I learned with it comes to both speakers and lighting is that WATTS DON’T MATTER FOR OUTPUT. Watts measure the consumption of the speaker or unit but not the output. You will want to select a system that is comfortable for you and works for your specific needs. You will need to factor output, quality of sound, and pricing into your decision.
Setup is just as important as a selection when it comes to a PA System. When setting up your system you do not want the top cabs closer to the ground. When this happens you lose a lot of your mids and highs due to people in the room. To keep this from happening you raise your two or three-way cabinets to where the main driver is at the head level of the taller people. I use either tripod stands, subwoofer mount poles, or truss mounting systems for my setup. Next, you do not want to have your speakers so close together it looks like you are wearing them as headphones. You want them to spread 10 to 15 feet apart so you don’t cause comb filtering (I covered this in a previous article). Also if you decide to use a sub or two you have two options for this. You can set them both up in the center so the sound carries through the center of the room or you can set them up under the top cabs and have all the low-end travel through the whole room. ALWAYS make sure to tape down your wiring and run your wiring out of site so that your setup is not only aesthetically pleasing but safe to avoid trip hazards which could be a major liability issue for you.
The key to a great audio setup is the equalization settings. When setting your equalization you will want to start with your PA Top Cabs. Most modern PA two or three-way speakers have DSP or Digital Signal Processing with preset settings for different situations. You will select one that works best for you. If you have a sub you will want to set up the top cab for that. Most PA speakers with DSP have a selection in the menu for this. On your subs make sure your crossover is set up properly and adjusted to get the deep and mid lows that you want it to produce and pushes the signal through to the pa speakers. Once you get to your DJ Controller or Mixer is where the magic happens. I like to have a nice EQ curve on my music channels and have it flat for my microphone channels during speeches. Usually, I put the Highs at 2 o’clock the mids at 11 o’clock and the lows at 2 o’clock for music channels. This produces a warm full sound. I use a flat EQ for speeches because this will sound the most natural. When it comes to singing you will need to adjust your mic eq channels to find the sweet spot for each person’s voice. If your mixer has any effects reverb helps a lot with the sound of people’s singing voices. It is the same effect as a shower has on your voice with the sound reflecting off the walls (that is why everyone thinks they sound good singing in the shower).
I always feel the best way to learn is through trial and error. I know through my experience I have tried many things and have failed but taken what I learned and built on it. It all takes practice. I always take 2 – 4 hours a few days a week to go to my DJ work area and practice. This will ensure you do not make mistakes in a live performance. Try whatever you can. I love some failure because it always gives me the opportunity to grow in my business and with my skills as a DJ and business owner.