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April 10, 2021
Bigger Rigs for Bigger Stages

Buying Guide: Professional Live Sound Rigs

Building a professional live sound rig isn't just a matter of size and wattage. What sets a live sound rig above the rest is features that make it easier for audiences to connect with the music. While higher-end gear usually does offer more floor-shaking potential, the real benefit comes from the additional versatility and control this gear offers.

Designed with the gigging engineer in mind, this guide features gear that's made to make your shows easier, anticipate the common problems you run into during a show, and provide built-in solutions.
Powered Loudspeakers
There are many factors to consider when picking out a quality speaker that's right for you. Planning on running your PA every night? Invest in dependable speakers that were designed to work in a wide range of applications, and last for years. If you want to ensure that the whole crowd hears a consistent mix in a large venue, look for speakers that offer high SPL with a good signal-to-noise ratio. You'll also want to choose a pair of speakers with a wide coverage angle -- or group multiple narrower-pattern speakers into a cluster or line array that can cover your whole audience. If you're looking for speakers that can handle a host of different genres and dynamics, look for speakers with a wide frequency range and built-in DSP that protects against clipping.

Powered Subwoofers
A show sticks with the audience longer when they can feel it. While all subwoofers are made to add a fuller low end, quality subwoofers offer much more than that. They add a musical and articulate feel to your sound, so you get a deep bass response, without muddying or distracting from your mix.
Professional Wireless Microphone Systems
Digital Mixers
Control the stage and minimize your scramble to get everything ready between sets with a digital mixer. Save individual presets for every band during soundcheck, and instantly recall them when they take the stage, so you can let them plug in and start rocking. Thanks to digital mixers' flexible signal routing, even if there's a last-minute change in the signal chain, you can quickly adapt to it. With their on-board effects and signal processing, you're less dependent on outboard gear to get the sonic characteristics you're looking for, which means easier setup and a smaller footprint. Have a band asking for a recording of their set? Plug any of these digital mixers directly into your computer via a single cable and start tracking -- no separate interface required.

Rackmounted Digital Mixers
Modern digital mixers give engineers the freedom to move around the venue while remote-controlling settings wirelessly from a laptop, iPad, tablet or smartphone. If you prefer not to be tethered to a console when you mix, a rackmounted digital mixer is a great solution. The rackmount unit serves as the "brain" of the system, while your tablet's screen replaces physical faders and knobs.
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