For years we had a problem with our system we didn’t understand. At loud volumes, it didn’t crack or snap, it just sounded muddy. You couldn’t understand what the artists were saying in their songs. Now, I am not an audio engineer, and I am sure there is more here that I missed. I am a DJ with years of experience and I know understanding a few simple rules, we were able to clean up the sound which improved the quality of our event.
If you use a house (in the ceiling) sound system, get a powered sub and set the crossover to 100
I put this rule first because I know most of the readers of this site are churches and schools. If you want better sound at your dance and you refuse to get commercial sound equipment due to cost or theft issues, spend the money on a good powered sub. Think about sound systems where they have those tiny speakers and a sub.
As a side note, the risk in this system is you will blow your house system, so ask whomever runs it if there is a limiter installed. If no, have one installed. It acts as a volume gate and protects the system from people who could ruin it.
Highs go high and apart, lows go low and together
When you setup your equipment, and you only have two speakers, it is better to raise those speakers on poles or setup on a stage to get the horn (the square shaped speaker) above the heads of the participants. This is because the high range of sound is directional (it goes where it is aimed) and will get absorbed by the participants. If you want them to hear the words, you need to get the horns up. If you crowd gets larger, raise them up a bit more to get coverage.
If you have low range speakers for bass, they can be placed anywhere close to the dance floor. This is the fun part of setup. Because bass is omni directional (goes all directions), the sound will use the facility to magnify. After setting up the bass speakers – turn on a song and go to a corner in the room. The bass will be louder there as it reflects off of the walls. On occasion I have also placed them front and center, but that becomes a hazard/hassle as participants try to dance on the speakers. For this reason, I usually set the bass speakers in front of my speaker poles. Not the best placement but it is the safest.
Cross the sound where you want the peak
If you have movable speakers, you want to aim the face of the speaker to the point of the room where you want the most sound. Turn on the music and walk to that point. I use this for crowd control, as it is a slick trick to move a dance floor where you want it. I have found when you aim the speakers correctly; you can put the peak of sound on a spot of the floor. Participants will naturally cluster on either the lines from the speakers to that spot or on that spot.
Lower the volume
If I could go back to my high school prom/homecoming I would slap that DJ. I remember I could not hear a word the whole time. Granted, the sound systems could support the loud volume, but it did not matter. I was at the event for other things, and the loud sounds made it difficult to socialize while you know dancing. Therefore, if you can’t hear the guy/gal requesting a song the music is too loud, turn it down.
Purchase a crossover and set it correctly
After all of the goodness, lessons learned from years of performing on setting up for a clean sound, this is the one that makes the most difference. A crossover is a piece of equipment that splits the sound into a high and a low signal to be sent to the correct amp or powered speaker. For years, we had figured out where to put the speakers, the correct volume and even if you raise the speakers just a bit on the poles, you could cover a larger crowd. The Crossover is the single piece of equipment that can make a house system sound great or lack of it makes a professional system sound muddy. Talk to the music shop where you purchase the crossover for help with your specific system.
Now, if you are not going to use a sub, and you are going to use a house system, pull out the bass or set the crossover to 80 or 100.
What is so fun about the crossover and this topic in general, is each location and event is an opportunity to fine tune the equipment in position and tuning. For example, I have noticed that Latin music requires a different setting then Country music. When I play country events, I re-tune, playing disco, I re-tune and so forth.
Last rule, have a great song to test with and listen
I don’t mean your favorite song. I mean a song that has voice, instruments, bass, and beats, everything that will be the main style of music for that event. A song that has a high and low range and tune the system to that song. Walk the floor and listen to the music at performance volume. Make sure you understand the words of the song. Can you feel the bass? If you walk out of the event, do you still feel the bass (turn it down). About 45 minutes in the event, take another walk and listen. Does it sound correct? Warm bodies make a difference and you may need to adjust the sound.
In setting up your event, you can have a clean sound to help the participants enjoy a clean dance. Leave a reply if you have additional help for others and thanks for reading.