Do I need a sound system? And why?
Before contacting a sound or AV contractor it’s worth taking a few moments to get to know a bit about sound and sound systems. Not necessarily technical details, you can leave that to the experts, but enough knowledge to ask the right questions and know what you’re ordering. Since you actually can’t see sound it’s difficult to point at it and ask “what’s that and do I need it.
Below is a table showing a number of event scenarios. Some will definitely need sound equipment, some are "maybe". There's no column for "no" since this could potentially be endless!
For specifics you will need to contact a sound hire or AV company. They will ask more questions and will be able to produce a package that will be the right specification for the event. The more information you can offer the more the quotation can be tailored to exactly what you require and no more.
A good supplier will explain why you need the system in terms that you can understand. There’s always an element of trust when it comes to technical advice but you should be able to spot the bad advice when someone is recommending a Flown Line Array System for a parish council meeting!
Here’s a glossary of terms that you should know:
“Feedback” – this is the howling and squeaking that every sound expert should seek to eliminate
“Radio Frequencies” – when using radio microphones it’s important to set up the frequencies used that are suitable for your area so you don’t get interference
“Full Range” – means the sound system will reproduce both the high and low frequencies and all in between. Some loudspeakers are designed purely for speech which you may not want if video soundtrack or music is to be reproduced
“Acoustics” – this is the characteristics of the room and every sound system will need to be compensated for acoustics if the best sound reproduction is to be achieved
“EQ” – short for Equalisation, refers to adjustments that can be made to the high, middle or low “notes” in sound, be it music (treble/bass), vocals (soprano/alto/tenor/bass), speech (vowels/consonants). The notes or frequencies can be split in to up to 30 or more bands and can be adjusted individually to suit the environment.
“Hand Held”, “Lavalier”, “Headset” – different types of microphone suitable for varying uses and preferences, all these should be on offer.
Finally remember that a sound system is only ever as good as its operator. It is well worth asking for a specialist technician to oversee and operate the sound system. He/she will be able to set up and “tune” the system to eliminate the possibility of “feedback” (qv), set up any radio microphones correctly and remain alert and focused on the presentation to ensure everything is faded up at the correct time and to the optimum volume.