How To Install A PA System

By: Edward Kendricks

There are quite a few things to consider when setting up a PA system. If these things are not addressed in the beginning, you will only have problems later. Problems during any type of live performance are never good. The most common problem is ear shattering feedback. This can be a literal headache for the performer and the audience. Here are some other things to consider before you begin.

Room Size - The size of the room will greatly affect the way you should setup your PA system. Different sized rooms have completely different natural reverb and decay. A large room will have more reverb than a smaller room. If your levels are set incorrectly reverb can turn into unwanted feedback. Always test everything before the performance.

You will have to make minor adjustments depending on the crowd. If the room is large but you have a huge crowd, then your settings that were made while the room was empty will not apply. The crowd has just completely changed the whole layout of the room. You will have to make adjustments.

Room Composition - What is the room made of? Wooden rooms will sound different than glass or metal. The composition of the wall behind the stage is very important. It is a good idea to cover the wall with blankets or anything that will absorb some of the sound. If this is not done, the sound waves will bounce off the wall and come back towards the mixer and this can make things difficult to adjust.

A PA system can be huge or small but they all consist of the same type of parts. You will have your amplifier, a mixing board, speakers and input sources. These can be microphones or instrument cables.

If you are setting up the PA for the very first time at this location, make sure every knob, button or level meter is turned all the way down before you start hooking everything up. This can prevent blown speakers, fuses and ear drums.

Ultimately your speakers should be on the front of the stage pointing out towards the crowd. You should setup the mixing board and power amplifier as far away from the speakers as possible. They should be in the back of the room, opposite the speakers. This will give the sound person the optimum area for fine tuning levels and EQ.

Attach the amp to the mixer and then attach the speakers to the amp. Plug in all of your microphones and cables that will be going into the PA system. Make sure everything is where you want it to be. Double check that all volume levels are all the way down before you power up the PA system.

Turn on the amp first. Wait a few seconds for it to warm up and then power on the mixer. Adjust the gain level on the amp and then adjust the output levels on the mixer. If you did everything properly you should be ready to start adjusting volumes and the EQ. Now you are ready for the show!