When you’re seeking a sound system to support an event, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are a lot of different choices available, and it can be difficult to identify exactly what you need. You will know that you want an audio system that will make your space sing with sound, without leaving your guests’ ears ringing for days. However, knowing which system will achieve that is a far more technical question.
One thing that will help with the decision-making process is understanding what the parts of a sound system actually are. This grounding will let you know what you’re looking for in the first place.
This article will arm you with that information. We’ll look at what the different parts of a sound system are, how they handle sound and also touch on what you might look for in each part. With all this explained, you can start the search for your perfect sound system, confident that you can make an informed decision.
What are the parts of a sound system?
Sound systems can vary dramatically in function. You wouldn’t want the same features for a professional public speaking event as you would for a music gig, heavy on guitar riffs and drum solos.
Still, there are four basic parts that every sound system will have, whatever added features or specialities it also includes.
The first piece of sound equipment you will need to know about is the input device. The most common of these is a microphone.
Microphones feature a ‘diaphragm’ that vibrates as soundwaves hit it. The audio equipment then translates the sound into electrical signals which can be processed by the rest of the sound system.
There are a number of different styles of microphones available. They all perform the same basic job but are best suited for different situations. If your mic user is staying still, a wired mic with a stand makes a great focal point. If the user is going to read something, you can swap a standard stand for a lectern or podium mic. These can add real gravitas, and will help the user feel grounded while speaking.
Alternatively, if you expect the microphone user to be moving around, a cabled mic is quite restrictive. A wireless mic is a much better bet. If the microphone user needs their hands, then a lapel mic, roving handheld mic or even a headset mic, will give total freedom of movement.
Once the soundwaves are transformed into electrical signals, an audio mixer will allow you to adjust these signals before they are routed to the speakers.
With an audio mixer, you can balance multiple input sources such as microphones, instruments and audio playback devices. When using more than one mic, you can make sure one doesn’t dominate and drown out other sources of sound. You can also provide a wide range of effects and dynamic processing tools to achieve a cleaner mix.
It’s important to get an audio mixer that can handle all the input channels you are using – most digital mixers will have at least 16 input options as standard.
Once the sound has been adjusted using the mixer, it is next transferred through an amplifier. As the name suggests, an amplifier ‘amplifies’ sound. The audio signals that come from the mixer are low level, so an amplifier increases them until they are big enough to drive the speakers.
Amplifiers are often an overlooked part of a speaker system, particularly because they are usually hidden away out of sight. However, amplifiers are vital as they can handle a higher voltage than any other part of the sound system to give audio real strength.
The main thing to look out for when picking an amplifier is the power of its output. If you are trying to fill a big venue, you will need a high wattage. Another thing to pay attention to is how many channels the amp can manage. Two-channel amplifiers are probably the most common as they can easily handle stereo signals. If you need more than two channels, multi-channel amplifiers are readily available as well.
The last part of a sound system is the speaker. This is what takes the collected and adjusted electrical signals and converts them back into soundwaves. It is also the part that broadcasts these soundwaves back out into the world.
As with amplifiers, the biggest factor that will affect your choice of speakers is the size of the venue. You will need speakers that are powerful enough to fill the space without overwhelming it and becoming unbearable. Line array speakers can help with even sound dispersion across large venues, but it is still important to consider the power and size of your individual speakers too.
You will also need to consider what type of speakers you want in relation to your type of event. A subwoofer speaker will enhance the bass of the music, so this type of speaker could be redundant for a simple spoken event. As mentioned above, line array speakers can be a great choice for larger venues, as they help to give even sound coverage across your entire venue, whether you’re front row or sat at the back.
We hope that this introduction to the parts of a sound system was helpful. If you’re looking to stage an event and hire a high quality audio system, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’re experts in event production with experience staging all kinds of events and we’re happy to help you get the equipment you need to make your event sing.