12. Conclusion

The PA system is one of the most difficult purchases for a band, not least because it is often a cost that is shared between the members. To help keep arguments to a minimum, here's a final checklist:

  • How much power do you need?
  • How much should you spend - bearing in mind the number of times you are likely to use the system?
  • How easy will it be to expand the system?
  • Can we afford monitors? Or, can we afford not to have monitors? And what type of monitoring do we need?
  • Who is going to look after it?

If you cannot afford your own sound engineer, then you have to lay down strict ground rules about the way the PA, and your live sound generally, is managed:

  • Appoint one person to be responsible for your live sound.
  • Try to keep the mixing desk as accessible as possible on stage.
  • Always do a sound check, but bear in mind that the sound will change when people are in the venue.
  • Make sure everyone uses their ears. It’s astonishing how many musicians seem oblivious to the overall sound of the group, and the effect they are having on the audience. Don't wait to be told you were too loud for instance - or for people to start walking out.
  • Take account of everything affecting the sound - and be careful about judging the front of house sound from on stage. If you have a reliable friend in the audience, get them to tell you what the sound is like.

If you’ve ever played in a band in front of an audience, you will know (or you should know!) what a nightmare it can be to get the sound right. It's even a problem at the very highest level - how many times have you paid high ticket prices to see a big name act, and been disappointed by the sound, especially at open air events? Yet for most gigging bands, it ought to be dead simple. Good PA technology is very affordable these days - it's just a matter of using it correctly - and using your ears! Thanks for taking the time to read this, and good luck with your search for the ultimate sound.

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