Powered LOUDspeakers. My speakers are loud. Do they count?

No.  Your speakers that happen to be loud are likely not “dynamic powered loudspeakers”.

“Dynamic Powered Loudspeakers” are specifically built speakers that are amplified and capable of being tuned per channel, for use with other components on the back panel of the speaker.  They also accept one or various cable types including XLR, 1/4 TRS input and possibly thru channels as well.  Their construction provides for excellent amplified sound from the speaker box meant for small to medium sized crowds.

Investing in a  loudspeaker setup means you are investing in your (DJ) business.  Investing in yourself to be able to play anywhere you want.  Anywhere that has power that is.  We’ll talk more about power preparation in a later blog post.

Let’s get down to brass tacks (the essentials).  

Today we’re going to examine my Mackie SRM450 loudspeaker.  I bought my pair of 450s used off of craigslist.  Risky, sure, but they are an amazing quality and have held up perfectly for me.  I would recommend you buy new to get a warranty with them.   For me, I love taking stuff apart and fixing it so I was willing to buy used.

It’s 1000 watts of amplified excellence with an integrated 2 channel mixer in the speaker.  I rarely use the mixer in the speaker since I typically put my microphone input thru my MultiMix mixer board or my DJ Controller board.  However, it makes this purchase very versatile.  I could plug my acoustic guitar into this loudspeaker directly as well as plug in my microphone to this speaker directly and play to a crowd.  Versatility means extended value…..I could rent this asset out to local artists and make money off of my equipment when I’m not using it.

In the photo below, you can see each channel has its own amplification ‘gain’ knob.  Mostly you’ll want to just start at the line level input signal from your mixer board or your DJ Controller board.  Then ….pump up the volume… from that source and test (well ahead of time!) the limitations of either distortion on the top end or a decibel reader to make sure you don’t cause any type of ear drum damage at the party.  Thankfully, these speakers also have “automatic feedback destroyer” technology built into the circuitry.  That isn’t standard on all speakers and may be hard to identify for other brands.   A very excellent feature !!!

Most any smart phone these days (android / IOS (apple) / Samsung) has an available decible reader that you can use to guage what is acceptable for setting your loudness limits with the gain knob.  These are important for being able to comply with city noise ordinances.  Check with local authorities to know what to expect.

If the volume or tuning isn’t what you like, add some gain and try again.  Remember, start at line level or ‘low’, depending on your knob reading — add volume to max (testing it) from the source (mixer board, DJ Controller board, etc) and then try increasing the gain – only if needed!

You can also purchase higher quality and more accurate decibel readers, which are what the police will likely use if they are called.

Here are 3 well recommended decibel readers.  They’re very affordable and great to have for other applications as well.   nudge, nudge…  you can use this for your car stereo system too to make sure you’re not going to get a ticket for bumping your ride in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

     

Alright now, focus…  back to it.    >   The channel 1 and channel 2 inputs shown in the image above accept both types of cables (XLR male or 1/4″ TRS).  These two types of cables are the standard types of cables you’ll be using in the DJ life.   The THRU port is to either daisy chain the same circuit to another speaker (maybe you want 2 left channel speakers) or to a powered bass speaker for extra POUNDING bass.  This THRU output sends the unobstructed line level signal thru the speaker to the other cable.

If you’re not interested in purchasing loudspeakers, it means you’re planning to work your DJ skills at home and either stay in that mode of fun / just for kicks DJ skills or you’re hoping to hop the fence of working hired gigs and go straight to the varsity league of playing clubs (clubs that already have their own setup).

Here’s a link to the Mackies that I bought:

Don’t forget your headphones!

Microphone Check, 1, 2, 1, 2.

In my opinion, you need to buy a microphone 3rd.  First is the DJ Controller (with the assumption that most people already have some music to use)..  get comfortable with it, have fun, hone your skills.

Second is the loudspeakers to perform with at a party or event (upcoming blog post about loudspeakers!) and 3rd is a microphone.

Every DJ needs a microphone.

You don’t have to use a microphone a lot.  A lot of the time you’ll be delegating that to someone at the party..   the party host to make a quick announcement, the best man to give a speech, the whoever for whatever.

Your responsibility is knowing WELL in advance of the party that there won’t be performance issues with the microphone when it is go time.

After you buy the microphone, setup all of your gear in your living room or garage and test it out.    A LOT.   Make sure not to get too close to the speakers or the quality will degrade (as feedback protection kicks in at a high level).

Loudspeakers should be positioned evenly to disperse the sound across the crowd and bounce off of the back wall.  Ideally, the speakers should be about 5-7 feet off of the ground.  This setup will provide optimum sound coverage in a 10×10 or 20×20 room and allow for minimum feedback protection in the microphone.

Alright, alright….   get to it!  I know.   Here are the good deals and proper mic’s to get.

Wireless mic’s make things a bit easier.  It’s relatively cost effective to buy 2 so I’ll show a couple of good options with good reviews..

 

      

While buying wireless mic’s makes life a bit easier, it does add a couple of extra considerations.  (1) Battery management for the wireless microphones.  You don’t want the mic going dead or near dead during use or just before the gig.  Always have battery spares available!   (2) You’ll need a power source for the wireless receiver and then the cable going from the receiver to your mixer or DJ Controller.  (3) Choosing the right broadcast channel at the gig location is necessary ahead of the gig.  Do this as soon as you get your speakers and system turned on.  “Microphone check.  Check, check, 1, 2, 1, 2.  Check.  Microphone check.”  You get the gist.

There are some cheaper wireless microphones out there on fixed frequencies.  I don’t recommend them due to the fact that at some location you will run into interference issues on that fixed frequency and they won’t work well.

What is feedback?

Feedback is a party or event no-no and will have you scrambling to fix an issue that never should have happened during the party.  Feedback can also damage ear drums in the perfect storm of a problem.  This is the number one reason to not just buy a $12.99 microphone.   At a minimum, budget around $30 for your Mic.  The better the quality of their design, the less chance you’ll have issues with it.

(SCIENCE, yo!)  The microphones job is to send electrical signals of what it is hearing to … the controller or mixer where the signal is amplified and then sent out the loudspeakers.   Yup, you guessed it..   the microphone hears what is coming thru the speakers too.  Quality microphones have a feedback detection feature that helps to eliminate the sound loop (it knows what it hears near and far and cancels out the far signal thru the mic).  The more that feature has to do it’s job (REALLY loud music or environment), the more it degrades the voice speaking thru the microphone.   In most cases no-one will notice what is happening.  However, try standing and speaking / singing thru your setup to know what to expect during a party.  Try it with just speaking and no music as well as with music playing.

Can’t I just use a standard $12.99 wired mic?     Well, you can.  It could be a nightmare during a live gig if you run into any distortion or feedback problems.

In case you want to, make sure to research the proper cable type (the quality mic’s may not be sold with a cable).  Usually there is an XLR female to male cable that works with most setups.  However your setup might need an XLR to 1/4″ cable.

What else could the microphone come in handy for?

Happy Hour karaoke?  Yup, you could add on some popular karaoke features to your setup and be a multi-purpose DJ.  Play a few hours of karaoke line-ups and then DJ for 3 more hours and call it a night.