The Perfect Setup for a Live Show

One thing that will make or break a live performance is the sound system. The setup you come up with will depend on the audience you wish to reach. As a sound engineer, you need to understand how the different elements come into play and how to place them for the best effect.  The choices of products and technology available now are overwhelming. Let’s talk about some of the options you have and what to do to get the best delivery.

The Speakers

You need to select the speakers according to the coverage requirements and the venue size. If you are planning for a show in a room, you need to understand how the speakers will interact with the various boundaries such as the floor, walls, and ceiling.

You need to have the best speakers you can afford. This means you need to start by figuring out how much you can spare and then know what will sound best within that price range. Always take the time to listen to the speakers before you make the purchase. Consult the specification sheet from the manufacturer, paying attention to the SPL output, frequency response and the dispersion. If you decide to work with passive speakers, make sure you know the ohm resistance and wattage.

Active or Passive?

There are two kinds of speakers depending on the designs. Active speakers are easy to use and come with built-in amps that match the components of the speaker. They also come with crossovers to isolate and disperse the frequency ranges of each speaker component. Built-in limiters work to protect the drivers.

Let’s say you get a three-way active speaker. Such a speaker comes with 2 or more built in crossovers that isolate the low, mid and high frequencies. The advantage you enjoy with these speakers is that the setup is easy and operation is effortless because all you need is a line level input. It also saves you the need to fix separate amps to power them up.

Passive speakers need an amp, speaker cables and signal processing tool. Some of the passive speakers come with an internal crossover network that functions more like active speakers. Other speakers come with the ability to have two or three amps, which allows for greater control over the components of the speakers.  Make sure you check out the specification sheet of the speaker to determine the right kind of amplifiers to use.

Speaker Processors

Whether you are using active or passive speakers, you need to have a speaker processor. This saves you unnecessary costs, time and stress. The processor combines several processors into a single signal processor. Each output on this processor will come with a delay, gain and parametric EQ.


Mixers are the mainstay of any audio setup. They come at different prices with a wide range of features. You have to choose between digital and analog mixers depending on the equipment you are using and the components you have. Your preferences also come in handy because it is a well-known fact that most people who are used to analog mixers won’t move to a digital mixing board whatever the case.

If you are planning for an event that will involve a live band, then you need additional signal processes to accentuate each individual instrument. Most of these analog mixers come with a built-in parametric EQ to help balance the tonal sound and gives each instrument a space in the mix. Remember though, an all-analog audio setup requires several stacks of audio gear to hold the additional signal processing strength.

You also need to consider the stage monitors, which are those speakers placed on the floor and angled up towards the performer, so that he or she can hear the output real-time. Doing this leads to a problem with the feedback, requiring you to use graphic EQs to eliminate the frequencies arising from the feedback.

Digital mixers give the best solution when you are moving from one gig to the next. This is because the digital mixer reduces the amount of gear extensively. However, you still enjoy a large channel count with each channel boasting of 4-band EQ, gating and compression. Another benefit is this mixer allows you to work wirelessly, with most of them giving you android and iOS control apps.


In order for the performer to be heard, they need high-quality mics to capture vocals, drum beats and guitar amplifiers. The mainstay of any live show is the dynamic microphone. There are so many mics on the market, but the most common mics are the Shure SM57 for recording instruments and the Shure SM58 for recording the vocals. Another suitable mic is the Audix i5 that is meant for loud instruments such as horns and amps. This mic can handle up to 140dB.

The Sennheiser e604 is ideal for miking live toms and snare. Shure’s Beta 52A is also ideal for handling high volume performances, with the capacity to handle up to 174dB, while its wide frequency makes it superb for kick drums.

However, you can also get mics that are ideal for each situation. Dynamic mics can also handle sky-high SPLs, making them ideal for live show environments.

Additionally, dynamic mics tend to be hardier than their counterparts, the condenser mics. Condenser mics are more ideal for use in studio recording tasks. However, most people are insisting on high quality even for live recording, making it necessary to have condenser mics suitable for live shows. Considered to be less durable, these mics can hold well in the studio and don’t require an extra power source. Why use them at all? These mics are known for the detailed response by giving the performer the luxury of minimal noise and a clear frequency response. One of the top condenser mics is the Audio-Technica AT4033/CL which adds detail and depth to a huge variety of instruments including vocals, strings, drums etc.

The first stop for the perfect mic would be to understand what options you have. is a perfect place to take the first step.

What Else Should You Include in Your Live Sound Setup?

Depending on the specific needs of the performer, you might want to add in some other accessories to the setup. All you are looking for is the best setup for the perfect delivery. Make sure you work with the performer to understand extra audio needs. So, when packing for the next gig, make sure you note down what you shall need. Do you have the right speakers? Will your mixer get you through the gig? Do you have enough stage monitors for a perfect sound? Will the public address serve the purpose? Keep these in mind and follow the tips so that you carry the day, and win another gig.