PA for classroom?

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by ThirdBird, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. ThirdBird

    ThirdBird Active Member

    Let's say I teach 7th grade music class... and I want to get a speaker system for our create-a-song project.

    I want to have a PA that can run vocals, guitar, bass, and a keyboard or two. I could probably get by with 4 channels, but 8 would probably be better.

    It doesn't have to be too powerful, since we are only in a classroom but it has to be able to blend well with live drums.

    I don't have too much experience with live sound production so I need some help to know where I should get started.

    I don't know whether or not to get speakers and cabs for the bass and guitar, or just run everything through a PA.

    Any help to point me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    My guess is that you want to get a "powered mixer" and passive speakers. I'm not usually a big fan of this category for bands because it's hard to expand the system as needs change. But your needs should be pretty static and these really are very handy portable units to have around. I don't really have a lot of knowledge about what is on the market in this area, so I'll let others comment on brands. Look at the various on-line audio stores like sweetwater and musician's friend to get an idea of the brands and prices.

    One general comment - get all the power you can afford. If you are putting bass and keys through the PA (a good thing to do in the case of 7th graders) you will need power even if you keep the overall volume low.
  3. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    BobRogers suggestion is a good one, but there is another option: you can buy a normal mixer (ie; not a powered one) plus some "active speakers".

    In Bob's scenario the power amplifiers are built into the mixer, while in mine they are built into the speaker units... both ways are just as easy to set up and operate, but the normal mixer plus active speakers combination would be cheaper to upgrade if you needed more mixer channels at a later date.

    This is actually quite a complicated question.

    Dealing with the bass guitar first: a bass might sound good plugged straight into a PA system, but it would require a much more powerful rig than one designed to handle only vocals and keys. You would also need a high impedance input for passive bass guitars: if your mixer doesn't offer one you will need a separate "DI box"

    A separate bass amp would allow you to get away with a smaller PA system, and would give the player more control over their sound & volume (whether thats a good thing or not is another question!)

    As far as guitar is concerned: it is very unlikely to sound good plugged straight into a PA system (assuming we are talking about electric guitars?) as the sound of an amplifier is a critical part of what we expect from an electric guitar sound (even 'clean' guitar sounds!). If you do decide to run guitars through the PA you will almost certainly need to add an "amp simulator" such as a Line 6 Pod (this would also provide you with the required high impedance input).

    The upside of a Pod would be more flexibility in terms of the range of guitar sounds available, and the fact that the player's level could be controlled remotely from the mixer (;)), but it adds a level of complexity that may not be appropriate.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    This sounds a very similar requirement to one I advised on recently as a consultatnt. In this case, one important factor was ease of storing and retrieving the rig to/from a securely lockable cupboard.

    I went through the various powered mixer, passive monitor/passive mixer, powered monitor combinations. What I ended up advising them to get was a Yamaha Stagepas500, which works very well and meets the requirements almost exactly.

    You would need the basic 500 system (the 300 would not be adequate for you), a pair of speaker stands and (optionally) a short stand plus the stand adaptor for the mixer/amplifier unit, although it can be used on a table top or docked in the rear of a speaker.

    The sound quality is surprisingly good, and the way the mixer/amp and cables pack away into the rear of the speaker units so you don't lose them is a real bonus. One practical limitation with the Stagepas line is the lack of any pan controls, so the mono inputs (mic, instrument/line) are always centred and the stereo inputs are always hard left and right, but it sounds as though this would not be a problem in your case.
  5. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    My vote is for separate amps for the instruments and a couple of powered speakers on sticks for the vox.

    JBL Eons would do the trick, as would good ol' Ultimate Stands.

    In a small classroom I'd advise against running multiple sources through a pair of small speakers, just run the vox. With the Eons, no mixer is necessary. Just a mic, stand, cable, and a couple of power outlets.

    (Is the end result of the project going to be recorded?)
  6. ThirdBird

    ThirdBird Active Member

    Thank you for the comments!

    This sounds like a good option, although it seems a bit pricey for my school's budget. Are their any similar but cheaper alternatives? I like the fact that everything seems built in.

    I actually am lucky enough to have a very large classroom; it is approx. 120 square feet, with about about 15' ceilings.

    In future years, recording the kids' songs would be completely awesome, but we have no equipment for that whatsoever at the moment.

    Thank you for the help guys!
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Key argument against this - 7th graders. Allowing an adult to control the relative volumes of the various instruments will make a huge difference in the sound of the ensemble. And it lets kids concentrate on their instrument rather than the instrument and amp. The fewer things for the kid to worry about the better.
  8. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    You could get a pair of Tapco "Thump" TH-15As. I listened to a pair at the local music shop and was quite impressed considering the price.

    You could then choose a mixer based on the number and type of inputs you require. There are loads of affordable small mixers on the market.
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Bob's right on the money here. You have to give serious consideration to the situation in which the gear is to be used, even if it means some compromise in acoustic quality. As I mentioned in my previous post, an all-in-one system scores heavily in this respect. I have seen student "borrowing" of items "for practice" from a multi-item setup result in important bits of gear missing when needed for an official rehearsal or performance.
  10. ThirdBird

    ThirdBird Active Member

    I think I may be able to get a handle on unpowered speakers for free.... so that leaves me the option of a powered mixer. I ended up looking at the Phonic Powerpod 620.

    It seems reasonably priced, with a decent amount of features.

    What do you guys think?
  11. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    We have a PowerPod (diff model).
    Apart from some missing screws (no idea what happened), it's working fine, sounds decent, gets the job done. Wish it had better gain control but hey, it's light (enough), has a dual channel amp and doesn't sound like ass.
  12. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    You guys aren't very slutty. What about this hanging in the class? This would have got my attention in 7th grade:
  13. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Marty McFly, pick up on line three.

    Seriously, I actually want a DeLorean more than that amp.

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