Audio is one of the most critical parts of your event that often gets overlooked. It is one of those elements of an event that you would never notice when it goes well. The moment you get ugly feedback, or it is hard to hear what is happening on your stage, you know, you will hear about it. In this week’s design inspiration, we look at the essential parts of your audio design. What are the important questions to ask about audio for your event? What are the important parts of your audio system, and what design considerations do you need to factor in to ensure you use the technology to its fullest potential.
Questions to ask.
When starting your event plan and focusing on audio, there are some very important questions you need to ask yourself and the team to make sure you have the right technology for your audio design. You should consider the six main questions before contacting an AV vendor or adding audio to your event design.
- How many people will be attending your event?
There is a rule of thumb regarding the number of speakers you place in an event. Typically, you would require one speaker (full range) per 50 people in the room. You will always need a minimum of two speakers to allow for balance, but should you have 300 people in the room, you will want to ensure you have at least six self-powered full-range speakers on speaker stands spaced throughout the room.
- How large is the venue?
Self-powered speakers on stands are very appropriate for a smaller ballroom with a low ceiling height. However, if your venue is expansive, like a large convention space, the number of people in the room might not be the most important factor. In this case, you need to consider using more robust PA, public address systems like line array speakers or high-volume larger speakers.
- How many presenters?
Knowing the number of presenters will allow you to figure out how many microphones and which type you need. Take the time to map out a simple list of the sessions you will have on stage and add a column for the mic type and number. As you go through that list, you can quickly see when and where you need additional mics when, for instance, you have a keynote address followed by a panel. Do you need an extra mic channel, or can you swap mics and share them between speakers?
- What playback sources will you have?
Will there be walk-in music? Do you want a music track to play when speakers enter the stage, known as a sting? Figure out how many individual music or playback sources your system will need. This can include things like video playback.
- Will there be an Audience Q and A?
There is often an opportunity to ask panellists or guest speakers questions after their main presentation. Depending on your audience size, do you need to add a fixed mic position in an aisle? Can you have a few runners available to run to audience members with a wireless mic?
- Will there be live music or a DJ?
If you are going to have any form of music at your event, you need to factor in additional inputs and PA system elements to make sure you can handle the specific needs of music for your event. Although relatively simple to implement, some sound systems are more suited for the human voice in a speaking configuration. With a DJ or Live Music, you need to add additional signal routing and processing and potentially more full-range speakers.
Parts of an Audio System
All audio systems consist of five basic parts. Even the stereo you have at home has these parts; they may just be combined into a smaller package. Here are the main parts of your event audio system that need to be accounted for:
- Inputs – This consists of your mics, playback devices, musical instruments etc.
- Processing – Once you get your inputs into your system, their unique sounds need to be processed to add, remove, or balance the audio signal. This consists of Equalizers, compressors and equipment that digitizes the audio signal.
- Signal Routing – This is your system’s mixing console and cable routing. Modern digital consoles use Dante signal routing over ethernet networks to connect signal routing across long distances. Dante also allows multiple inputs and outputs within a system to be shared over the network so you can run a single ethernet cable to multiple locations, like the front of house, monitor, backstage etc., reducing how much cable you need to run around your venue.
- Amplification – Amplification adds power to your audio signal. This is critical when you have a speaker standing on stage and want to make it loud enough for everyone to hear throughout the space.
- Outputs – Your outputs are your speakers, monitors for the band, in-ear headphones and the audio output to your backstage area. This can consist of simple self-powered speakers, Line Array speaker stacks, subwoofers (subs) or monitor wedges.
Here are some quick design considerations to keep in mind when evaluating the audio solution for your next event. Only use an audio system as much as you need. There is no use cramming in highly powerful line array cabinet speakers for a small room. In the same vein, make sure you are not trying to use small speakers to fill the large cavern of convention space. Each of these solutions was specifically designed to match their purpose.
Keep an eye out for sight lines when placing speakers or hanging line arrays in front of your stage. The most ideal position for any speaker is downstage or just in front of the front line of the stage, keeping mics behind the speakers to avoid feedback. That can lead to challenges when maintaining a clear view from the audience.
Whenever possible, try to hide your subwoofer speakers under your stage. This allows for a more streamlined look for your overall stage design and allows for a grounded bass sound.
Use these tips to help you create better production value for your next event, ensuring audio is of the utmost quality.
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