Q: Why hire a pro sound company when a DJ will provide a system at a much lower cost?
A: DJ systems, some of which may sound pretty decent, are designed to reproduce recorded music, for which the dynamic range has been compressed or limited to comfortably fit the constraints of broadcast and recording media such as CD’s, or nowadays, MP3 files. These systems can be run nearly wide open, with little fear of damage due to overpowering, since the source material is inherently limited to a specific maximum level.
Live audio, on the other hand, has a dynamic range of typically 20 dB-SPL to over 120dB-SPL. In lay terms, while recorded music may go up to 100 mph but never exceed it as an absolute maximum, a single hit of a guitar note, kick drum, or snare drum may go from zero to 150 in a few milliseconds, hundreds of times per song. Thus, the equipment designed for live sound must be engineered accordingly to handle these high transients consistently, without distortion, and without self-destructing in the process.
A 15” and horn speaker for a typical DJ setup (or small PA such as is used for a solo performer) may be a $300 box, where a 15” and horn for a touring-grade system, which may appear to be similar on the outside, may cost $3,000 to $6,000 and require ten to twenty times as much power to operate properly.
Q: Why should we hire Sound On Site?
A: Because we care about your business, we have the equipment and talent to do an excellent job while saving you money versus hiring a comparable system from one of the larger operators. Your business is important to us, and we will do everything necessary to ensure your event is a success. Our goal is to be the “right sized” provider for mid-sized productions, without sacrificing any quality, services, or performance.
Q: How do you ensure that our event will go off without any problems?
A: In nearly case, one of our engineers performs a site survey for any venue that we have not worked previously. This site survey is performed at no charge to the client, and in fact, is usually done before a final quote is given, to ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises.
Q: What does the site survey entail?
A: The site survey covers everything we need to know to determine the amount and type of equipment to bring to the venue, the availability of adequate power to operate the sound and lighting systems, the load-in constraints, which will affect both the personnel requirements and the amount of time needed to load, set up, sound check, and later strike and load out the system. During the site survey, we also establish a relationship with the appropriate individual who will be our contact at the venue, paving the way for a smooth resolution for any problems that may crop up later, and we make sure all the details such as parking, venue access, loading facilities, etc. are covered up front.
Q: How far will you travel to put on a show?
A: While we typically work within a 300 mile radius of St. Louis, we will travel anywhere that it makes sense for us and our customers to do an event. We have repeat customers as far away as Gulf Shores, AL, and Roseville, MI, and have taken our systems on the road to Myrtle Beach, SC when needed.
Q: Why should I consider paying for a multi-track live recording instead of just connecting a recorder to the PA mixer output?
A: So called “board tapes”, where a mix is taken from the stereo output of the front of house console can be useful for some things, such as getting an idea of how the band performed on any given occassion. However, in any live show, there is a considerable amount of sound coming directly from the stage – particularly with drums, guitar amplifiers, and perhaps bass guitar, as well as “bleed” from the stage monitors. The front of house engineer compensates for this bleed by backing off those elements that are emanating from the stage a bit, so the resulting mix that is sent to the PA may not have enough of those instruments to be usable as a live recording. In addition, most live sound rigs, while they have left and right outputs, are not operated in stereo, except for effects such as delays, reverbs, and break music, so there is no stereo imaging on the resulting tape.
One alternative to taking a stereo mix is to take a matrix mix from consoles that are so equipped, where a separate feed can be dialed up that brings some of those elements back into balance to feed the recorder, or quite often, a broadcast feed. The drawback to this is that someone – typically the FOH engineer – has to dial this up on the fly using headphones, which typically won’t screen out all of the live audio, so this mix, while better than a straight stereo feed, may still be lacking in balance. Again, this mix is typically not stereo either, since most of the source signals are panned center for PA applications.
By taking a multi-track recording directly from the sound sources on a live show, each instrument or voice is recorded to it’s own track, and the results can then be taken into a studio for post-production, yielding a top-quality recording, where edits, overdubs, and other processing can be performed as well. This is the best, albeit the most costly method for obtaining a first-class recording of a live performance, short of hiring a fully equipped mobile recording truck with separate consoles, mic’s, cables, and engineers.
Q: Can our performers use their own engineer to mix their show?
A: We have no problem with a qualified Band Engineer handling the mix for the talent, once the system has been set up and dialed in. Quite frankly, we don’t understand the attitude that some sound companies have toward BE’s, unless it’s the fact that the sound company folks do all the grunt work of setting up, adjusting, tearing down, etc., while the BE “gets” to mix the show, which is admittedly the fun part of the job. But then, this is our job, and this is a business, so if a competent BE is there, he or she is certainly going to know what that act should sound like better than anyone, and it’s our job to help him or her do their job.
All we ask is that we are notified in advance if there will be a band engineer, and that the BE understands that we are ultimately responsible for the successful and safe operation of the system.
Q: Why does it have to be so loud?
A: Quite simply, it doesn’t . . . unless the client wants it to be. Our personal philosophy is that music shouldn’t be painful, and we are constantly scanning the audience, checking our decibel meters, and verifying with our customer that the volume is appropriate for the genre of music, the venue, and the audience. Just because we bring a 20,000 watt system to the venue, it doesn’t mean we have to crank it up to eleven. Our engineers are trained that the sliders work both ways – up and down, as appropriate. There have, in fact, been a few occasions where our client has asked us to turn the volume up.\