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Topic: What do you use for sound in a theatre?
Message: Posted by: w_s_anderson (Oct 14, 2018 03:11PM)
So, last night I had a great show in a decent sized theatre, seats 700+ and we had 683 tickets sold. Here’s the issue, this is the 3rd place I’ve been to recently whose “promised” sound system was horrible. I had to rely on my old Fender Passport system that I bought 18 years ago. The feedback was horrible, so we had to have the mic volume down enough that I was talking much louder than I should.

What is your “go to” system for a quality portable sound system?

I’d rather rely on your feedback (see what I did there 😜) then product website reviews.
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 14, 2018 04:22PM)
Did you use a wireless microphone. If so you could had the gain to high this can cause feed back.
Message: Posted by: w_s_anderson (Oct 14, 2018 04:59PM)
We had professional sound techs there from the theatre looking at it. They played with everything. I just think the system is too old and it’s shot.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 14, 2018 08:00PM)
Your mic makes a big difference. Were you using your own mic? Or a venue mic? Wireless? Headset? lav.?

Investing In the highest quality mic is a really smart move.
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 14, 2018 08:17PM)
That's why I was asking never had feedback from my system my microphone always caused it.
Message: Posted by: arthur stead (Oct 14, 2018 08:49PM)
My advice is: never rely on the venue’s sound system or their techs. Always bring your own set-up. And buy a system that has enough power so you never have to crank your sound to full volume, not matter how large the audience.

I had great results with a Mackie SRM 350 watt self-powered speaker, an Audio Technica wqirless mic system, and a Countryman E6 earset mic. To prevent feedback, I had the company change the microphone to directional, as opposed to omni-directional.
Message: Posted by: w_s_anderson (Oct 14, 2018 08:51PM)
It was my own mic, an Audio Technica wireless lapel mic. I don't think it was the mic. I have used it on plenty of other systems and it has continued to work fine.

I'm thinking that my almost two decades old system is due for a replacement.
Message: Posted by: jeffl (Oct 14, 2018 10:33PM)
My background included a lot of instruction in practical acoustics and sound systems from some real heavyweights, but hey my career after about 1975 went in a much different direction so yes I've "forgotten more about this than most will ever know" (apologies for the plagiarism). Nevertheless I've still got my original first edition of "Sound System Engineering" by Don and Carolyn Davis, and I do believe that with regard to indoor venues the sound system performance will inevitably suffer (and can certainly be unusable) if a little "engineering" isn't done to attempt to evaluate the acoustic space and to match the sound system to it. (In outdoor situations you may frequently get by mostly by creating enough "acoustic power" to be heard, the help AND hindrance to working inside is that lots of that acoustic energy is reverberant and while a little of that may help it can also reduce the gain before feedback and cause intelligibility to suffer.) I'm not going to "get into" too much of this because the responses I frequently get is "my math isn't good enough to solve those equations" or "now that I know what I ought to have I don't want to spend that much/haul something that heavy/bulky" so it's usually not worth my trouble to explain (I could go a bit further if asked). Nonetheless I looked at an ad for a current version of a Fender Passport, and any vendor sufficiently promotional to refer to a 5.25" loudspeaker as a "woofer" has lost all credibility, and pairing two of those with a 175 watt amplifier qualifies as acoustic malpractice, so yes I suppose if you're going to replace that unit (ESPECIALLY if it has to stand in for the house system) it's really because it was never more than barely adequate in the first place.
Message: Posted by: w_s_anderson (Oct 14, 2018 11:23PM)
Impressive background Jeff!! Thank you very much for your insight.

Would you mind offering your opinion on this system? It’s a passport as well but their high end model with 10” woofers.


Great advice Arthur! This is why I’m looking to upgrade to something I can plug & play and not ha e to use their systems.
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 15, 2018 01:17AM)
Good Luck!
Message: Posted by: Mike Thornton (Oct 15, 2018 07:07AM)
Hi Scott,
I'm using the Bose F1 Sound system, easily handles 1000 people. You can see these at Guitar Center. These are awesome. I also have a rack that has my wireless mics, Media Star, Mixer, etc.
I very rarely see lapel mics anymore due to their feedback issues. Most of the lapel mics are omniidrectional and pick of sounds from all direction creating feedback. High end sound systems with equalizers can eliminate much of that but if you're on top of your sound system like many magician's are, a lapel mic is not the best choice. That's why headset are the preferred choice these days. I use a DPA headset that is unidirectional, eliminating most feedback issued. I can stand in front of my system with out feedback. There are pros and cons to unidirectional headset mics but I evaluated many and made my choice based on the sound system I use. It sounds great. Feel free to write or give me a call to discuss. Hope all is well! Mike
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 15, 2018 08:25AM)
Go to any pro concert or production... You will never see fender or bose sound systems. They are not pro sound systems.
Now they have advantages and if they work for you than great. But the OP is talking about a 700 seat theatre... You want a pro system.

The JBL eon speakers are a good place to start if you want something self powered.

Also.... Sometimes the venue system will be a better solution than your own. You, or your sound guy needs to be able to assess and make that call.

If your using a lav. Mic and you don't think that's your problem regarding feedback you have a lot to learn about sound.
Message: Posted by: jeffl (Oct 15, 2018 09:59AM)
OK let me try and explain a little bit how this works, a capable sound engineer will know almost all of this. In an indoor setting you need to start by understanding the room you're in, that would include the surface area and volume in cubic feet, then you could measure RT60 and from Sabine's equation you would calculate the average absorption. (You mentioned nearly all the seats were full, that helps, an empty theater before the seats are installed generally has poor absorption, with seats installed it gets better, with a full house even better.) You would also need to get the "critical distance" for the room which is the distance away from a source where the reverberant field is the same strength as the direct field, as a general rule any part of the audience located more than 3.16 times D-sub-c from an omnidirectional sound source will have some trouble hearing, now that's the reason why in some well-engineered rooms you'll see multiple large horn systems deployed (higher Q speakers also avoid activating some adverse "room modes" but that's kind of an advanced topic), in a room like that it's either that or go to what's called a distributed system, hopefully you won't need to use your portable system to replace the house system in such a challenging venue! Now there's all manner of reasons the sound system "isn't connecting with" the audience, sometimes the room was poorly acoustically designed to begin with, sometimes for example the "air handler" (fan or blower) hasn't been properly maintained and that raises the background level and you have to get louder than that! Sometimes the room has hard parallel walls or large glass windows or unsupported metal surfaces and you can get "flutter echo" and all manner of other issues that really ought to be the province of the theater owner.

Now if you get past all THAT you can begin to worry about how to use it, obviously microphone usage needs to be considered, you clearly don't want to get the mic any closer to any speaker than the critical distance of the room (in sophisticated installations you'll see a separate set of "foldback" speakers usually placed on the floor downstage aiming back to help the performer hear what they sound like). What you do next depends on how sophisticated you want to get. If I were to draw a chart of the frequency response from the sound into the microphone to the direct sound component coming out of the loudspeaker, it would be pretty clear that response needs to be relatively "flat" in order to give the best opportunity to get maximum "potential acoustic gain" out of the system. So nowadays it's actually kind of a simple matter to measure the response from say the input of the mixer to the direct sound field, you can find apps that are "real-time analyzer" programs in the app store for just about any smartphone (yes you're counting on the phone mic itself to be "flat" but actually they're not that bad), you would need an equalizer module of at least octave-band resolution between the mixer and the amp, then you'd take a "pink noise" source (I use a cheap MP3 player playing a pink noise file) and you'd adjust the knobs to "flatten out" the response. (I need to advise though this ought to wait until the last step, after everything possible has been done about the other adverse room issues.) Now if you're reading closely you'll note that this "measurement loop" doesn't include the actual microphone itself "in the loop", THAT'S WHY WITH THIS METHOD DON'T USE CHEAP MICS! I can't get into ALL the issues and pitfalls here, the book I mentioned is pretty technical but it's currently in the fourth edition, I'm sure others will offer perhaps more "readable" titles but when results count I have to stand strictly by what I know works.

As far as brands for portable powered speakers my "stalwarts" would be JBL, Mackie and Peavey, that's not meant to exclude anything but these guys compete actively with each other and they tend to not "let marketing get ahead of results" if you know what I mean. Hopefully this introduction will at least provide a little direction!
Message: Posted by: Mike Thornton (Oct 15, 2018 01:29PM)
ThomasR, Bose Professional Products are used throughout the professional sound industry. I also own several complete sound systems including JBL EON 600's. The Bose sound much better in my opinion and would also fill up a theater with quality sound due to their flexible array system. I've been using Bose Pro products for 30 years, quality is great, service is great and the sound is the best. It's important you place the right product for the right job. My EON 600's are great for the events we use them on but if I were in a theater, I'd use the Bose F1's. It's clear you are not familiar with Bose professional products, I suggest you look into them.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 15, 2018 01:48PM)
Hey Mike,

I work full time as a lighting designer for large concert tours. (Arenas, state fairs, performing arts centers). I literally work right next to the best sound guys in the country. I've never seen a Bose system or product used in a professional setting. The Bose may work great for you, but I don't consider them a professional choice.

For my personal shows, I use some american dj lighting fixtures. They work fine for my needs. But I would never consider them a pro choice like Martin or Varilite.
Message: Posted by: Mike Thornton (Oct 15, 2018 03:16PM)
ThomasR- this is not for a concert tour, this is for use in a theater. I don't think he's looking for that type of sound. I'm not going to educate you on the difference levels of quality sound equipment. Bose professional is high quality just like many of the other smaller speakers available from, Peavey, JBL, EV, etc. These are not meant for concert arenas, yet they are all professional equipment. I've owned them all and the speakers that hang in arenas have nothing in common with the relatively inexpensive, self powered speakers most entertainers here on the Café would use. Maybe you should stick to lighting, ha ha.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 15, 2018 03:52PM)
Please don't speak down to me.... I know what a theatre show is.

You are welcome to sing the praises of Bose. I'm glad you found a system that works for you, as that is the main goal.

I never said Bose wasn't high quality... I really don't know anything about them. I said...

"Go to any pro concert or production... You will never see fender or bose sound systems. They are not pro sound systems.
Now they have advantages and if they work for you than great. But the OP is talking about a 700 seat theatre... You want a pro system."

You may be correct that the Bose would sound better in a theatre than JBL eons.. that does not contradict my statement. I've seen a lot of productions and never seen bose equipment... let me know what theatre shows, professional touring shows, etc. use Bose sound systems.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 15, 2018 04:07PM)
I looked em up.... Bose does make a large scale line array... where it's actually used I have no idea. Pretty much everything I see is JBL, D&B and Meyer.
Message: Posted by: Ray Pierce (Oct 15, 2018 09:20PM)
There are some great notes above. Having done sound and mixed shows for many years as well as my own, these are just a few of my opinions.

The Bose F1 system is very clever. It was designed so that all the members of a small acoustic ensemble could each have their own F1 and be individually amplified at similar levels so that the audience would get a amplified yet acoustically mixed performance they could here with perfect stereo imaging. It never really caught on. Unfortunately Bose spent a fortune on the systems so are trying to sell them for solo performers which isn't where they shine.

Now back to traditional systems. Voice alone is fairly easy to amplify as it has a relatively small bandwidth and doesn't require larger speaker cones to transmit the lower frequencies. You can use less expensive systems fairly effectively. On the other hand if you're playing music, you'll need a full range system to accurately reproduce the total bandwidth for those tracks. Most of the houses we play are either union or larger type theaters and their installed system is typically better than what most people would bring in. It is also typically EQ'd for the room already so you save a lot of time there and get higher gain before feedback then if you brought in small a portable system.

That being said, some smaller rooms just don't have the same packages so in those cases it never hurts to travel with your own system. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. If you can afford it, some medium sized powered cabinets on stands and some powered subs could cover a decent size room. Some subs even have mounting holes on the top for a cabinet to be supported above it on a short pole.

Why do you need to elevate the speakers as much as possible? It's to get a more even distribution of sound. If the speakers are at stage level, the people in the front row could end up deaf and the ones in the back not get much coverage. By elevating the speakers on stands (or flying if possible) you can get more even coverage front to back. Then again, the wider the stage, the more you risk getting a hole in the front center so we have to go in with a center cluster above the stage or sometimes small front fill cabinets at the stage level to cover that.

The kit I typically travel with is a set of 4 JBL PRX525's (2 per side) elevated on 4' high steel deck platforms and 4 Carvin 18" Powered subs (2 per side). This plus a large mixer, playback gear, processing rack (with EQ's Enhancers, gates, etc.) Mic Snakes, RF mics and misc cables. I can cover up to about 2000 theater style with plenty of head room or smaller banquet rooms as well. Anything that system won't cover, I'll request a concert system in our rider that can cover the required space.

Now, feedback is an entirely different issue. Your specific problem has to do with several areas. Speaker placement (The more behind the speakers you are and out of the sound field, the less potential risk of feedback), Microphone placement (the closer the mic element is to your mouth, the higher gain you can get before feedback) and Room EQ (knowing the resonate frequencies in the room that will exacerbate the output from the speakers bouncing back and getting picked up by the mic element).

The mic placement sounds like an issue if you were using a lav. The element is further from your mouth so it has to be turned up more to pick you up increasing the risk of feedback. That can be fixed by going to a cardioid headset which will place the element as close as possible to your mouth.

From a speaker placement standpoint, you can have the best system in the world but if you walk in front of the speaker with the mic on, you'll greatly increase the chance of getting feedback.

On the processing side, an EQ or equalizer does what it says. Equalizes the frequencies in a room to hopefully compensate for acoustic anomalies which could create certain resonate frequencies which will make them feedback faster. By narrowly notching out these resonate frequencies, you can get more gain in the system.

There are also Feedback Eliminators (which is theoretically impossible) which listen for the beginning of feedback, determine the frequency then notch it out. They can be manual, automatic or a combination of both. Unless you really know how to use a real EQ to ring out a room and balance it, the Feedback Eliminator is a valuable tool to give you a little more gain from time to time.

Hope any of this makes sense!
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 15, 2018 10:11PM)
Good stuff Ray. That's what I said. I thought was his microphone too.
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (Oct 15, 2018 11:08PM)
[quote]On Oct 15, 2018, thomasR wrote:
Go to any pro concert or production... You will never see fender or bose sound systems. They are not pro sound systems.
Now they have advantages and if they work for you than great. But the OP is talking about a 700 seat theatre... You want a pro system.

The JBL eon speakers are a good place to start if you want something self powered.

Also.... Sometimes the venue system will be a better solution than your own. You, or your sound guy needs to be able to assess and make that call.

If your using a lav. Mic and you don't think that's your problem regarding feedback you have a lot to learn about sound. [/quote]

Agreed. Stay away from Bose. You'll save a ton of money and get better sound by buying Mackie, JBL and other real pro systems.

I always bring/use a Hi-output low feedback hyper-cardiod headset microphone. No feedback, high volume, works with any PA system and they are cheap.
It's never failed me, even when I was standing right in front of a set of giant PA speakers.
Message: Posted by: jeffl (Oct 16, 2018 12:11AM)
Gotta hand it to you Ray, the post you made coming from a "touring pro" like yourself lends a sense of "gravitas" that I'm in no position to offer. Kind of a challenge though for either of us (I mean no disrespect to them) "getting through" when many of the folks here have a budget for a whole system that might be less than you or I might spend on a mic, then again it's what you do with what you have that counts! (I did know a few who "made it" like a college buddy who spent summers doing rigging for David Merrick's shows, and he got a master's degree project credit for figuring out how to make a sound system work in [as I recall] a 6 million cubic foot ROTC drill hall, among others, but that was all a LONG time ago...)
Message: Posted by: w_s_anderson (Oct 16, 2018 12:23AM)
Thank you all who have chimed in. I appreciate all of your experience and insight. Sound is not my strong suit. You all are right about the mic. I always used an E6 countryman, but the wire snagged on an illusion during rehearsals and I had to use the lapel mic. I honestly didn’t think it would be that much of a difference. Thank you all for the education!!
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 16, 2018 09:10AM)
Oh yes... A countryman to a lav. would make all the difference.
Message: Posted by: arthur stead (Oct 16, 2018 11:23AM)
And just to reiterate: A directional Countryman E6 is much better than omni-directional. Solved a lot of feedback problems for me!
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 16, 2018 03:22PM)
I love this place he had the right answer on first post.
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (Oct 18, 2018 03:12PM)
[quote]On Oct 16, 2018, Bairefoot wrote:
I love this place he had the right answer on first post. [/quote]

did you just give yourself a compliment ? :)
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 18, 2018 04:07PM)
No I was saying that this place everyone is so knowledgable that he got it the answer on the first post. It was very fast. The Magic Café anyone can get their information this is just a great place. It has help me plenty of times. But, I will take the compliment if you are giving it. Thanks
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 18, 2018 04:09PM)
I tried the Bose before with my countryman and it sounded bad. I paid like $3,400 for everything didn't like the sound. So they gave me my money back. The rep told me it has a hard time with those type of microphones.
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (Oct 18, 2018 07:33PM)
Bose demo areas at stores are set up specifically for their stuff, with songs that they find that makes their stuff sound good.
If you go listen to headphones, many allow you to plug in your own phone and listen to your music.

The last several of these I tried , when it came to Bose, you had to listen ONLY to the songs they wanted you to hear.

Also, on one particular demo station of speakers (not headphones), the song seemed very curiously re-engineered to have an extremely wide soundstage.
In my opinion, the odds are very very slim that the song I was listening to was the original.
Message: Posted by: Bairefoot (Oct 18, 2018 07:57PM)
Thanks for the information.
Message: Posted by: w_s_anderson (Oct 20, 2018 11:05AM)
So I made my purchase last night and I couldn’t be happier. After spending a few hours at guitar center last night I went with the ElectroVoice Evolve 50 1000w powered array system. I could not believe the sound outta that thing compared to the passport! Granted, it cost more, but was well worth it. I even brought my lav mic in to test it and their was no feedback with this thing, however, I ordered a new headset anyway. I always preferred that to a lav. Thank you for all the advise!
Message: Posted by: gothike (Oct 21, 2018 06:15PM)

A separate more professional mixer that has gain, mid sweeps and three-band EQ will greatly benefit you for feedback elimination.

I personally use a DPA d:fine headset mic with detachable cable. The gain before feedback and sound reproduction is superior to Countryman.


Plus a headset usually has benefits over a lav.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Oct 23, 2018 11:02PM)
I’m really surprised no one has mentioned QSC. They have amazing speakers and definitely a level above most the prosumer level speakers mentioned above. We use the QSC K12’s and thier K Sub. Most here know I produce the Lady Houdini show. We wrap up our 2018 tour in mid November. By that time we will have have done 176 days of events, equaling just under 400 shows. 95% of those shows are outside with our rig. The K12’s provide great coverage of our audience. Granted our speakers are flown 28’ in the air. As Ray mentioned, elevation and placement is key. Try not to be that act with speakers on 6’ sticks. Definitely a lot of great information to digest for anyone who wants to sound good.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 25, 2018 10:01AM)
[quote]On Oct 23, 2018, Kevin Ridgeway wrote:
Try not to be that act with speakers on 6’ sticks. [/quote]

I get what you are saying but in many cases speakers on sticks is going to be the best option for many performers.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Oct 25, 2018 11:12AM)
[quote]On Oct 25, 2018, thomasR wrote:
[quote]On Oct 23, 2018, Kevin Ridgeway wrote:
Try not to be that act with speakers on 6’ sticks. [/quote]

I get what you are saying but in many cases speakers on sticks is going to be the best option for many performers. [/quote]

I agree to a point. I would say it might be more correct to say ‘best option for some performers’. And almost never in an outdoor setting.
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Oct 26, 2018 12:19AM)
Agreed. and of course I'm talking about practical. Obviously a flown (or properly stacked, depending on the venue) line array is always going to be better than speaker on sticks.
But good quality speakers on sticks will get the job done for many performers in a large variety of venues.
Message: Posted by: TheAmbitiousCard (Oct 29, 2018 10:35PM)
[quote]On Oct 25, 2018, thomasR wrote:
...good quality speakers on sticks will get the job done for many performers in a large variety of venues. [/quote]

With good placement, I agree.