Readers' Letters: Why do small PA loudspeakers sound so bad?, and more...

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday November 30, 2006

NOTE: This is now quite an old page. Some of the links may not work.

In response to Why do small PA loudspeakers sound so bad?, Allan Sayers writes...

I think the perfect small PA speaker has arrived. Based on a speaker design perfected over the last twenty yars and a truly fantastic amplifier system we are really amazed at it's quality.

We are a small PA company and quite accidentally have come up with a truly brilliant powered speaker. Firstly its so good your brain cant tell the difference between the sound of your voice in your head and the sound out of the speaker. Provided chanels are left relatively flat there is little chance of feedback. And because the distortion is so low the brain demands lower sound levels which causes lesss problems with neighbours to venues.

I have used it to mic up grand pianos, heavy rock and just the other day a blues band. If anyone is interested we can demonstrate near Gatwick.

Allan Sayers 0780 3051579

In response to Which loudspeakers are best for accurate monitoring?, Vaushaun 'Maestro' Brooks writes...

I use the KV2 audio EV10 speakers as my 'main' monitors. they come with a huge sub and are the perfect blend of an accurate studio monitor and a PA loudspeaker. A number of the studios here in Atlanta use these speakers because they got soooo loud, but they remain fairly clear in the high end and very strong in the low end.

In response to Can you use studio mics for live sound?, John Robinson writes...

I have tried using studio mics in a live situation while working with an acoustic guitarist and singer songerwriter (Julie Ellison). I also regularly see studio mics (AKG 414 and ATM 4033 come to mind) used on stage by acoustic guitarists.

But (and it is a big but) these are in low volume environments and the mic is typically used to reinforce and "warm" a DI signal from a guitar.

If on stage monitors are used, the mic signal is not fed to them. The performer only hears the DI but front of house gets the mix of mic and DI. Feeding the mic to the monitors is really asking for trouble!

That said, I don't currently mic up the guitar, simply because we have a DI sound we're happy with. Maybe we'll change this in the future.

I should also say that we currently use a condensor mic for vocals but this is designed for stage use and, while it is still harder to use than an SM58, gives studio quality with minimal hassle.

All the best,

John Robinson

In response to Question - by how many decibels is a 1000 watt amplifier louder than a 10 watt amplifier?, JIM R. writes...

The formula for this is: for every 3dB it takes twice the power. The dB calculation will depend on the efficiency (SPL) of the speaker @ 1 watt @ 1 meter, ie. 100 dB @ 1 watt @ 1 meter.


1 watt=100dB

2 watt=103dB

4 watt=106dB

8 watt=109dB

16 watt=112dB

32 watt=115dB

64 watt=118dB

128 watt=121dB

256 watt=124dB

512 watt=127dB

1024 watt=130dB

RP response: Thanks for the table Jim. As we can see from your table, an amp with 1024 watts to play with is 21 dB louder than an 8 watt amplifier. As the article states, also correctly, a 1000 watt amplifier has the capability to be 20 dB louder than a 10 watt amplifier.

In response to The Mac Versus PC Debate in Audio Masterclass, JIM R. writes...

What a can of worms you open here. I have found if you own a Mac that is the best thing going. If you own a PC that is what you feel is the best. The fact of the matter is if you like what you have that is what is best for you. Each system has it's benefits, each has it's drawbacks. It is more the software you want to use more than the computer. If your budget is important then you have to make a decision as to what system you can afford with what software will provide the most for you. I have freinds in the industry that went with Mac and something other than ProTools (a quite expensive software package) and others that have gone with PC with many different software packages, each liking the choices they have made. This does not answer the question and I doubt there is one. My conclusion is the right choice is the one you have and can use with good results, Mac or PC. (I have a PC with Cakewalk Sonar 5 and Soundforge 8.0, and I work with my church who has Mac and ProTools and Soundforge 8.0).

In response to Vocal EQ – Is there more to it than just EQ?, Glenn Floering writes...

This is very true and of course also applies to all other acoustic instruments. As part of the preparation I would also add mic placement to the list. Mic placement and capturing the source is an art that we should constantly be practicing. Mic placement and success with it is a true indication of just how good an engineers ears are.

In response to Feedback nightmare - a clarinet player needs help!, Martin Martinez writes...

Hi there

I've been using a simple SM57 or better Beta 57 microphone for the clarinet in live loud situation like the PA is onstage like a meter or less to the side of the micros and one or two monitors very near too and surprisingly had good results, just when I get guys that play very softly then I use a chorus with very little regeneration and very slow sweep, like.6 or .7 sec. that enhances the sound and is kind of moving a bit so is not so feedback prone clarinet aim at 2 inches from the microphone.

In response to If one of these microphones is right, the other must surely be wrong. But which is which?, Tony writes...

I own the AKG C 414 LTD. If you compare the frequency response of the LTD, XLS and XLII you'll notice the LTD looks very similar to the XLS, missing some of those mid spikes found on the XL II. So now the question is, why does the 60 year anniversary model represent in sound the 1980's version? The confusion continues...

In response to Question – "Can I record audio by plugging into my computer's audio input?", Michael Wells writes...

His problem may be even simpler than it seems. By any chance are the outputs of the mixer set at +4 or is he using an output that defaults to +4 and the sound card is looking for an input of -10. That will yield the results he's getting.

In response to Vocal EQ – Is there more to it than just EQ?, Mike writes...

How about matching recordings of speech recorded in different environments (one professional, the other a home recording)? I think EQing is essential to get the same 'feel" between the two.

In response to Vocal EQ – Is there more to it than just EQ?, CARLOS GUNN writes...


RP response: What... and you really thought we would publish your letter!?

In response to Vocal EQ – Is there more to it than just EQ?, John Harris writes...

Good solid article

Thanks ..

RP response: Thank you, we appreciate your support.

In response to Why classical music is superior to popular music, and always will be, Glyn Wainwright writes...

The artistic performance is down to the musicians. In recording live concerts for the Leeds Symphony Orchestra, I use the output from a near coincident pair of large condenser mikes (slightly hypercardiod). ORTF configuration 3 metres above the floor and a few metres in front of soloist position (off-centre stage right).

The conductor mixes and we only have 2 ears. Mixing is largely about dynamics and EQ from that point onwards.

High position avoids body shadow and mikes look down into the orchestra centre.

The precise mike angles and spacing is important but has to be experimentally tweaked according to performance space.

It is interesting to decode ambience with haffler, Dolby and DTS effects.

The ambient phasing of this arragement is great. But be wary of adding any other feeds to the mix because of phase effects.

In response to Vocal EQ – Is there more to it than just EQ?, Myx writes...

You can fatten up a vocal track by doubling it and offsetting it by milliseconds then mix it down. Then some EQ if needed...

In response to Question – "Can I record audio by plugging into my computer's audio input?", Ben Maddox writes...

The ac 97 is as good as most affordable interfaces. He needs to install the universal ASIO driver and switch his input to line-in. Two channel interfaces(which is what most of the under $400.00 interfaces are) seem like kind of a rip off when your soundcard does exactly the same thing at, usually the same conversion rate.

In response to Vocal EQ – Is there more to it than just EQ?, Dan Gtr writes...

The secret that all good producers know to vocals is matching the right mic to the vocalist. When this is done properly very little EQ will be necessary for the vocal to sound right in the mix.

The reason that you don't see a lot written about how to EQ a vocal is because it's the one track that gets very little EQ applied to it come mixdown time. Most of the EQ for the vocal will be done very subtly.

Here are a couple things that might help.

Lows on the female voice are around 200 Hz

Lows on the male voice area round 100 Hz

Presence on the female vocal is around 5 kHz

Presence on the male vocal is around 3kHz

Sibillance is between 8-10 kHz on both

Avoid applying more than 3dB cut or boost on any vocal track and use wide EQ centers (low Qs).

In response to Question – "Can I record audio by plugging into my computer's audio input?", Glenn Topping writes...

When I first started recording on a PC many years ago all I used was the cheapest little sound card I could buy. Times have changed, and most mother boards have onboard soundcards, all of which are better quality than my old card I started recording with.

If you don't have the budget to buy a sound card, and you only use your PC for recording your own audio, you can still get some better than average results. Experiment!

I have a feeling that your hassle is one that is easy to resolve. With many of the Realtek AC'97's, you can specify what kind of input source a specific input must be (i.e. line or mic). Just check that your input jack is set too line. Line level is a lot higher than mic level, so if an input is set to receive mic level and you are delivering line level, you will definitely run into distortion/clipping hassles. Likewise, if your input is set to receive line level and you record a mic signal (without a preamp) you will end up with a lot of unwanted noise.

In response to How can you get a home-made CD to look like the genuine article?, Bernie Scott writes...

I use an Epson 320 printer to print on cds. Take the cds and give them a coat of clear lacquer and let them dry overnight.I usually do ten at a time. Make sure the lacquer is sprayed on very lightly.Place a cover of sorts over the cds to keep dust from settling on the wet lacquer. Once dried, it will provide a waterproof coating and looks very professional.It will not affect disc playing.

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