First the hardware:
Keyboard is a Kurzweil PC3x. I go through a Behringer mixer that I picked up dirt cheap. It is the model which precedes the current Xenyx line, 12-channel with effects. The mixer goes out to 2 QSC K12s, which were far from dirt cheap. Cheesy They're 2x500W (biamped) powered speakers. From the keyboard to the mixer I use balanced jack-to-XLR cables, and from the mixer to the speaker, I think I have unbalanced XLR cables.
So, my basic problem is that I am not satisfied with the sound of my setup. I find I lose almost all the definition and clarity in my middle octaves. The mixer's main output levels are high - probably a little beyond 0dB, same for the channel level, which brings about a pretty bad hiss. The speakers have output gain knobs, but I was advised by the salesman (whose expertise seems a little rough around the edges IMO) not to exceed 0dB. I did anyway, and it got a little better by being a little louder, but the hiss was way worse and didnt really solve anything. EQ-ing sort of helps, but I'm still drowning out in the guitar and drums.
In comparison, I play with a different band and we usually go to a jam room which rents studios by the hour. At this place, there is a similar setup: mixer to 2 powered speakers. The speakers are 200W Wharfdales, and I got no clue what the mixer is, but from my ignorant perspective it's pretty big and more complex (read: more knobs) than mine. And wouldn't you know, the sound and clarity there is great! I can hear the details of the different pianos and strings and everything. It's much better across all octaves. AND, the main and channel levels are quite low, which means I could really crank it up more.
The obvious question becomes, what is the difference?
- My ignorant opinion is making me think about the mixer. Maybe just low-quality pre-amps? Someone suggested a good studio preamp and boost it from there... Opinions? Could I potentially overload the speaker's inputs? Perhaps a serious mixer upgrade? I also use mics and other things in the mixer, so I need to retain that capability.
- The fact that my extension XLR cables are unbalanced? They're about 6 meters (20ft) long. Granted they're not helping my signal-to-noise... but that much?
- The rooms are quite different. My pad is very well soundproofed. (I'll try to get a couple photos). I have Sonopan on the walls and ceiling, covered with fabric. The rented room is much bigger. I'd say the walls are 40% covered with some soundproofing sections.
- The music styles are quite different. The band at my pad is heavy, hard rock, metal. As such, it gets LOUD. The other band is more rock/pop and noticeably not as loud. Could I just be a the true limit of my speakers? I would doubt it... I saw a DJ play in a small bar/cafe with only 2 QSC K8 (same model line, but 8" speakers instead of my 12"). It was almost painfully loud.
Any suggestions or opinions would be appreciated.