Summer Camp Outdoor Stage

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by rockstar0215, Dec 3, 2010.

  1. rockstar0215

    rockstar0215 Active Member

    I work for a summer camp obviously during the summer, and in the recent years I have been helping them set up and eventually run their indoor PA system. This system runs to for about 150+ audiences and is needed mostly for vocals and running sound clips from a PC. In that system we use:

    2x JBL JRX125 speakers
    Allen & Heath Xone 24 mixer
    Crown amps (not sure of the model)
    and a few wireless mics

    This system is fantastic and perhaps more than necessary for this situation.
    However, next year we will be requiring a PA system for 200+ people outdoors for the same use. I have a fair amount of knowledge about outdoor setup but the only problem I have is the gear. I feel like I should stick with the same set up but increase the speakers and power by 2. The mixer is sufficient for what we use and perhaps add 2 active monitors on stage.

    Now, the preferred method for this would be having dedicated outdoor speakers for every day use. I am not aware such a type of waterproof speaker exists. It would be a hassle to have to drag these speakers up on stage every day and set them up.

    Any help/pointers/tips/and or gear recommendations, I would appreciate it.

    Thank You.
  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Welcome to RO.

    Weather-resistant outdoor speakers do exist, but they are going to put you in a pricerange waaaaaaay above the JRX series. Mostly I see JBLs and Community at the big amusement parks, race tracks, stadiums where they're left out in the elements. JBL WRX Extreme Weather Resistant option is available for a lot of their high end speakers, or the Control Contractor Series are all weather resistant - but better suited to background music than a band or other high-volume job. Community's R-Series is pretty diverse in terms of configurations too.

    Not knowing what climate you're in, or what kind of material you're presenting (announcments, puppet-show, rock band), it's hard to make a specific recommendation.

    If you're happy with what you've been using, and feel it's overkill - I'd keep using it. 50 more campers won't make a huge difference unless they're standing significantly farther away from the stage. If you feel you need to upgrade, doubling both the amps and the cabinets should give you an additional 6dB of headroom. Make sure you have a sufficient electric supply to add the extra amplifiers.

    Unless you've got a big budget for outdoor speakers you'll just have to recruit a couple campers or counselors to help lug them.

    Good luck.
  3. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Summercamp is a fairly large festival held in Illinois. It draws as well as any "jam-band" related festival in the area. That means 10k plus, though it seems rockstar's particular audience (late-night or 2nd/3rd stage) will be smaller.

    It takes place during a typical Midwest summer - hot, and a chance of storms. Not too different from your or my locale, DVD.

    I know a bit about the fest, as you see, and I think Mr. Hawk's suggestions are pretty spot on -
    Get weather-resistant speakers (b/c chances are, it WILL rain), and keep in a similar range of equipment.
    That's all pretty good stuff - you just need to modify it for the elements.

    If running live festival sound is something you do w/ any regularity, having a WR outdoor system would be a good investment - just remember to plan for needing more sound when people realize you've got a reliable outdoor setup that's worth paying for.
  4. rockstar0215

    rockstar0215 Active Member

    Although we are based our of Illinois, this is not the "summer camp" soapfloats alludes to :tongue:

    The weather typically here is snow, rain, wind, hot summers, humidity. We will be sometimes featuring rock bands but mostly use it for music playback. I would like this gear to be very versatile for whatever applications we will have in the future. As much as I love the permanent weathered speaker idea, I doubt the budget would allow for it as the costs would definitely surpass the current set up.

    When I get on the spot, sometime early June, I will have to test drive the current system outdoors and see how it performs, then decide if additional speakers are required.

    Another question I was pondering, since it will be outdoors and the current system does a good job indoors, will I need additional subwoofers outdoors?
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    You'll have a better idea after you do your test next June whether or not you need to add anything. You'll get to hear what the system can do in the open air and you will find out how much being enclosed in a room has been helping or hurting.

    I've heard a college rock band in a park using those JRX cabinets, it was OK. No one would have confused it with a big professional rig, but it was loud enough within the confines of a small park. I would imagine they were mostly relying on it for vocals and kick drum and letting their instrument amps fill out the rest. The JRX would be more than adequate for playback unless you're trying to be crazy loud.

    Outdoors, in the world without walls, you probably won't have any surfaces to reflect the horns back at the audience. So I would pay more attention to positioning the cabinets so that the 90˚ horizontal x 50˚ vertical horn pattern of your cabinets cover the crowd in the most effective way (without hitting the stage or any open mics). You may need to move the cabinets farther apart, or you may need to move them closer together depending on the seating arrangement. * a brief pause to remind you that the gauge of your speaker cables will profoundly affect your output over a long run. I see guys who think they need another amp, and all they really needed was to spend a little extra money on good heavy gauge speaker cables. *

    If your situation allows you might try putting the speakers side by side in the center angled left and right, it might give the sound a 'focal point' plus you can gain a few dB of bass by letting the cabinets 'acoustically couple'. But I'd still worry more about the horns than the 15's - the clarity will be in the horns. The punch is in the 15's, but even in a front-loaded cabinet like that the low end is nearly omni-directional. If you've got enough power to pump the subs, that bass will travel throughout the whole camp - the horns on the other hand have a very specific area (and distance) they can cover well.

    So when June rolls around, lug the system outside, take your best guess at speaker position, fire up the system playing a CD or iPod, and walk around the designated area listening carefully for where you lose certain frequencies. Your ears should tell you when it's right - and don't forget to mark the spot the speakers work best so you can put them in the same place every time.

    Good luck!
  6. rockstar0215

    rockstar0215 Active Member

    Thank You!
    All I got in this thread is nothing but good advice. I appreciate it.

    Since probably my boss will want a dedicated pair of speakers for the outdoors, too much hassle moving speakers from one space to another, I also looked into the JBL MRX525. They appear to be louder from the specs than the JRX125 we are using now. How are these quality wise? I assume they're a big step up from the JRX 125.

    Now this is all something I will be testing in a few months, but I want to have a list of possible solutions before I get there.

    If the current system is insufficient, would I be better getting either:

    4x JBL JRX125


    2x JBL MRX525
  7. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    You're welcome, glad to help. It's nice to see someone studying this Dec. 4th rather than in a panic June 4th.

    The MRX series is a significant upgrade. They're definitely worth the extra money. They can handle more power, they're lighter, and just plain sound better - especially in the 1.5" horn vs. the JRX 1" horn. However back to horn coverage, the MRX horn is narrower and more focused 70˚ x 70˚. Depending on the area you're trying to cover, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. (They are definitely smoother sounding horns though.)

    Generally speaking, my preference would be 2x MRX. Four JRX stacked up would be more visually impressive if that's a factor. But do you have an amp that will run 2-ohms all day long? or better yet two amps so you can stay at 4Ω?

    In the end, you (and the boss who writes the checks) will have to decide whether price trumps performance.

    Any idea what kind of dB level you operate at?
  8. rockstar0215

    rockstar0215 Active Member

    Thank you, I am clueless abut the dB level. None of this is done professionally at all. Random gear, just plug and go. As long as it makes a sound people are happy. It seems I am the only one concerned about sound quality.

    Now, I don't remember what kind of amp we currently have running the JRX125s, I am certain its the Crown XLS series. I was never too certain with the power of the amp. Properly, should the amps rating per channel equal the speakers continuous power rating, or should the amp be rated in between peak and continuous? I chose to go with the continuous power rating to give myself enough headroom in case someone less knowledgeable starts turning knobs.
  9. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Now the whole XLS line has been replaced/updated with the DriveCores.

    The previous XLS amps ranged from 300w/ch @ 4Ω for the XLS-202 all the way up to 800w/ch @ 4Ω for the XLS-802.

    None of those will run at 2-ohms per channel without overheating (or worse) - which rules out running 4x JRX cabinets from one stereo amp.

    The XLS-5000 came along late, but is capable of a theoretical 1800w/ch at 4Ω and is capable of running 2Ω loads (at your own peril). Not only is running such a low load risking amp failure/overheating, amps almost always sound ratty at 2-ohms - especially those on the lower end of the price spectrum. Everything sounds better running at 8Ω, but 4Ω is a tolerable trade-off. Don't obsess about losing watts on paper.

    I believe more speakers are blown up by using an under-powered amp (which results in the amp clipping pushing the speaker cone out too far and holding it there) - than are destroyed by over-powering (which results in the speaker cone over-extending itself for a millisecond at a time.) Neither are ideal, but I'd much rather have the second one if I had to choose.
  10. rockstar0215

    rockstar0215 Active Member

    Very interesting. I would not plan on running it as 2 ohms. The very idea of a 4 ohm speaker makes me scoff, since all my hi end speakers at home are 8 ohms and guitar amp cabinets I build are all 16 ohms.

    Now, I was planning on using the MRX series if possible. The JBL MRX fact sheet states I should use about 1,600 to 3,200W@4Ω for the 525. I think i will end up using a 1800w/ch @4ohm setup like you recommended.

    Thank you very much!

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