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Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

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Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:57 pm

Hey folks. My band needs to put together a PA with (too) limited funds. We are a 4 piece (vox, guitar, bass drums) playing rock music, and we probably need to be able to cover 100 - 150 sort of size venues. Initial use is going to be vocals and possibly a bit of kick drum, everything else is or can be made loud enough by turning up the backline or hitting it harder, though there could be times when guitar and bass could go through it. I'm not after explicit suggestions (though I'll very happily aceept them) , but I'm wondering what's the best way to start to build a system, given that there isn't enough money to do it all at once.

Possibilities that have occured are to buy a single, powered mid-range unit that will do for vocals (we have a small mixer if we need the inputs), then add a further unit and possibly a sub in the future, or to buy a pair of lower rated speakers, and add additional units if more level is required. Alternatively, might it make sense to buy a power amp and run a cab off that, and add an additional cab as we can afford?

There had been some suggestion that we could buy the sort of PA package that's advertised for a few hundred pounds, probably aimed a parties and casual DJs, but I can't help thinking that could be a doomed approach - I'd rather get less good stuff to budget and add to it, than lots of poor stuff and replace it, but it's currently a bit of a hard sell to cash-strapped bandmates who are seeing "everything you need" for £350.

Appreciate any pointers

Andi
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby blinddrew » Wed Jan 11, 2017 7:56 pm

At that kind of price range your best bet is going to be trawling the second hand market. But even so, trying to cover 100 - 150 people rooms will be a challenge I think.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:20 pm

Even second-hand is pushing it. At some point, there will be an amount of money and a need to spend it. At a later point, ghere may be some more money, and I'd like to be able to spend it without having wasted the first lot.

I take your point - so is there a way to build something for small pub gigs (say 30 - 50 heads) that will be upgradeable? Of course, by 30-50 people I mean 2 people trying to have a conversation, and a small dog. But still, eh? :headbang:
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Music Wolf » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:36 pm

May one inquire where in the uk you are? (I'm assuming uk as you are talking £).

I may be able to suggest something.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby blinddrew » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:37 pm

That sounds doable and, for my money - smarter minds will be along in a while - I'd aim for something that could start as a PA and become a monitor as the rig expands. So either something like a pair of small Alto or, if second hand, a power amp and a pair of passive speakers. But ultimately you will (hopefully) outgrow whatever you start off with.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Wed Jan 11, 2017 10:51 pm

Music Wolf wrote:May one inquire where in the uk you are? (I'm assuming uk as you are talking £).

I may be able to suggest something.

Berkshire - Reading area. :wave:

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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:07 pm

blinddrew wrote:That sounds doable and, for my money - smarter minds will be along in a while - I'd aim for something that could start as a PA and become a monitor as the rig expands. So either something like a pair of small Alto or, if second hand, a power amp and a pair of passive speakers. But ultimately you will (hopefully) outgrow whatever you start off with.

That's an idea - I'll mull! Thanks.

A
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Music Wolf » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:59 am

Andi wrote:
Berkshire - Reading area. :wave:

A.

Probably too far away to make economic sense as I'm on Merseyside. I have a 'spare' system that would have covered smaller pub venues / rehearsal that may have fallen within your budget (pair of LD Systems Maui 11s) but I'm sure that you could find other second hand systems closer.

As Drew says, look for something that could be later used as a monitor. The problem with PAs is that nobody wants to spend any money on them. They aren't part of the sound in the same way that a guitar amp is. Do you ever think about the brand of PA in the way that you think about a Marshall or a Fender amp sound? The other argument is always that 'we don't gig much so we don't want to spend much' but of course the fact that you are not playing often doesn't mean that you'll be happy with a poor sound when you do perform.

9 times out of 10 people go for something that's under powered. 40w might be fine for a guitar amp where you are trying to push it into some level of distortion even if its just a clean warm sound. For a PA you are trying to faithfully reproduce the sound going in, just make it louder. That means lots of headroom = lots of watts.

Like many, I've been through numerous systems as I've learned this. I could have saved a fortune if I'd just bitten the bullet and bought the system that I have now (or maybe even better) from day one. If you can offset the learning cost by employing (part of) the earlier system as a monitor later on then that softens the blow.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby James Perrett » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:11 am

If you don't mind something older and larger than the modern compact speakers then you can probably find gear for next to nothing. You've got some big PA hire companies in your area so it would be worth seeing if they have any old gear for sale. Keep an eye on your local Freecycle list too.

However, a pair of Alto speakers and a small Behringer mixer are amazingly cheap for what you get and, if you have an idea of where you want to end up, you can buy more sensibly now.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:45 am

Thanks for the replies guys - much appreciated.

Part of the budget problem is that in our line-up, the PA is falling to the singer. Everyone else rolls-up with a couple of £K + worth of instruments and backline, and the singer with a mic. Unfortunately, PA isn't as exciting as a new guitar and he's momentarily a bit strapped for cash - and under some domestic pressure that the band should be making, not costing, money for all the time and effort it takes (hmmmmm). There's a definite lean toward a toy system because it's cheap, but as you day, there's absolutely no point in wasting money (and hundreds of hours of rehearsals) on something that won't work - and whilst an audience will never hear my NOS tubes, they sure as heck will notice no headroom distorted vocals.

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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:05 am

Another shout for Alto Truesonic speakers, phenomenal value for money, but even there you'll struggle to get a pair for much under £500. However, I'd make two other points, firstly anything cheaper than the Alto TS110/210/112/212 is probably not going to cut the mustard and secondly, I would ensure all equipment is owned by an individual, that way there are no arguments if somebody leaves (at least not gear related ones). Can anybody else contribute and maybe buy a single speaker which as the PA is upgraded can become their personal monitor?
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:35 am

Sam - absolutely 100% on the single owner thing - especially as the singer and I play together in 2 bands. I'll have a look at theAlto stuff and ting about if there;s a meaningful way to split the whole into parts. Again - thanks to all.

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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Music Wolf » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:00 pm

Andi wrote: Everyone else rolls-up with a couple of £K + worth of instruments and backline, and the singer with a mic.

Very often, but not always, the case. Over the years I think that I've had one guitarist answer an ad who turned out to have no amp (and no thought as to how he would be heard) but plenty of singers who, if you are lucky, have a mic but nothing else.

Andi wrote: and under some domestic pressure that the band should be making, not costing, money for all the time and effort it takes (hmmmmm). .

Not uncommon but, for some reason, you never hear the same arguments being made about, playing golf or owning a classic car. He could argue back that the hairdresser should be paying her every time she visits or that you should get cash back with every new pair of shoes - but then again that probably would limit his chances of ever having sex again during his lifetime.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:06 pm

:clap:

The beauty of a PA system is that it can be (and usually is) modular and scalable. A small system for pub gigs could be owned by several band members, one box each and becomes a useful monitor system when you upgrade. If you just do occasional bigger gigs consider hiring a FOH rig and use your own mics and mixer with the pub rig FOH speakers becoming the monitor system.

Good luck with it.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:08 pm

My pub system is EV sx300s (1 or 2 a side depending on the gig) driven by a Yamaha power amp (1000w a side max into 4ohm). It is clean, clear, powerful, light, adaptable and if a power amp channel packs up [recurring rant] like it did on my Alto ts112a and ts110a costing me £185 to replace the bloody amp unit [/recurring rant] I just swap it for one of my other ones.

Pro

- one cable running to each speaker
- cheap second hand, I bought my second pair for £200 because, well what else could I do?
- sound great
- light
- fixable so long as you don't drop them from a height (see rant above).

Cons

- power amp needed, no, wait - that's a pro.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:03 pm

:thumbup: Nowt wrong with old 'passive' kit (and shuff does know what he's on about). I always argue that if one active speaker in my rig goes t1ts up I have at least one more (and several if you count monitors) so the show goes on. However if you run a passive rig with monitors you have a spare amp or two so swings and roundabouts.... Good quality, used, 'passive' kit is usually cheap these days too.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Dave B » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:43 pm

Andi - how often do you need it? I'm down the road in Maidenhead and technically own our bands PA so could help out with gigs in the short term until people are flush. PM for contact details if you're interested.

You should be able to pick up something like Alto / Studiospares Fortissimo 10" tops for a vocal PA reasonably cheap s/h. These could then be pressed into service as floor wedges when you get better tops (and a sub for later / bigger). Once you have the money, it's worth spending it on decent tops - think buy cheap, buy twice otherwise.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:47 am

Andi:

Dave B is a good sort with excellent kit... bite his hand off! :lol:

And I agree with what Dave's said about speakers. IME overall they're the most crucial element in getting a good sound. Have some 'get you started' speakers such as Dave has suggested, but always aim ti upgrade to the best you can afford... Don't subsequently be sidetracked into spending that earmarked money on other things because "the speakers we've got sound OK". There is a world of difference between 'OK' and 'very good' - and it costs! :)
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:55 am

I've PMd Dave.

It's been a while since I've been active on the SOS fora (usually in the studio sections where I'm quite comfortable) but I have to say a big THANKS for the time and generosity of all who have waded in. As a slight expansion of the original question, other than eBay, any recommendations on where to search for this sort of used kit? Oh, and how's Behringer's rep in this area these days? Is something like

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Behringer-NU10 ... fier+1000w

worthy of a thought?

A. :thumbup:
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby shufflebeat » Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:15 pm

For used gear check out any large-ish music shop in your area that might offer part-exchange on new kit. They will often be awash with gear that they want to sell on for what it cost them, and sometimes that's not a lot.

You might also have a level of protection if something does go wrong that might not be offered by eBay, despite their claims to the contrary.

Those Behr... Beh..., no, I still can't bring myself to say it after all this time and all those x32s, amps were given a vote of confidence at one point by several contributors to these pages. If memory serves MarkPA had some dealings with them, apologies if I'm taking his name in vain.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby MarkPAman » Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:48 pm

Me sir? You want me to talk about Behringer? Dangerous!

None of my own gear is Behringer, I tent to save and buy the next step or two up these days. But work do have some bits and pieces.

Behringer make such a range of stuff that you can't generalise, ranging from the noisiest DI box I've ever used (the little stereo one) to the X32 series stuff which seems amazing, though I've not used it much myself.

Just had to replace a little 1U rack mixer, and though "Oh another Behringer gone" but then noticed that it's close to 15 years old & that's a long time for daily student use!

However, I think newer designs are in general better than old and seems to be better than most other makes at the same price point.

We've got one or two amps from that family (linked above) and they do what they should, with no problems so far. They don't get moved often, so no comment on road worthiness other that to say feel solid.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Music Wolf » Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:45 pm

MarkPAman wrote: ranging from the noisiest DI box I've ever used (the little stereo one)

Ahh, the Behringer D120 noise generator. Not one, but two, noise generators housed in one convenient little box. The compact size does make it possible to throw this unit a long way, but sadly not as far as you would like to. Strangely, I found the G100 DI (their attempt at a H&K red box rip-off) to be quite nice.

I haven't used their PA tops but recently I got chance top try a pair of their subs (can't remember the model but they were quite compact) with my Yamaha DXR12 tops. I thought that they would sound bad (as in 'one note bass') but they actually worked quite well.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Jan 13, 2017 2:23 pm

If we're talking value for money power amps, have a look at Thomann's own brand stuff.

Both I and others here have used them and found them reliable, robust and of decent build and audio quality...
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:02 pm

I've never given Behringer speakers much thought (since hearing an early pair of passives which sounded very poor) but I used a pair of 1x10 actives as satellites on a function band gig last year. I didn't do a critical listening test but they sounded just fine. I own two X32s and a few, now redundant bits of Berry outboard, oh and I have an HA4400 headphone amp in the studio. The X32s are fantastic, they were a game changer when they first appeared and are still extremely good mixers. The HA4400 does what it needs to and the old compressors (which are for sale if anybody is interested) were perfectly useable. I agree about the DI120 though, a truly awful bit of kit.
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Re: Best way to build a PA with financial considerations

Postby Andi » Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:32 pm

The only bit of B kit I ever bought was an Ultra-G which was quite effective in it's day, but totally superceded by more modern tech like reactive loadboxes and software impulses. I've seen various bits of their kit in some fairly serious studios over the years, but it's hard to get past the reported hisory of unreliablity. I do hope there have been some decent lessons learned from the Cool Audio and Turbosound acquisitions, and their Kaizen implementation.

Good tip on Thorman, and Studio Spares seems to do some decent own-label kit too.

Another benefit of the "owned by one person" aproach is that the gear tends to be more carefully treated byt aht one person.

Again, thanks y'all!
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