Let's talk about PA systems...

drummer5359

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First of all, I'm old. Old enough to remember when I aspired to own a really good PA, like a Shure Vocalmaster, or a Kustom!

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I thought that I'd start the discussion by making the other old guys laugh, and the young guys roll their eyes. Yes kids, that used to be a "good" PA system.

Later we graduated to ridiculously heavy, massive, flat black painted speaker cabinets with horns on top, powered by huge racks of equally heavy amplifiers and processors, and a mixer that only fit in a full sized van or pickup. No photos, but my back hurts just thinking about them.

About ten years ago the world of PA systems for local bands started to change. Everything got smaller and lighter. Huge speakers and racks of outboard gear were replaced by compact powered speakers and compact digital speakers. The only large and heavy component these days is a powered sub-woofer, and even they are less massive than they were.

In my last band We started with a Presonus 16 channel digital board that belonged to one of the guitarists. Later he replaced it with a newer model 24 channel Presonus, I bought the older board from him to use as a backup and also with other projects. He and I each owned four QSC K-12 powered speakers and QSC 18" powered subs.

I left that band last year. I sold my sub as I didn't need anything like it for other projects, and I sold the Presonus mixer because I knew that there were better alternatives on the market these days. I still have my four QSC K-12 speakers, I've been using them for smaller projects with a small analog mixer.

Now I'm with a new band and I want to pick up a new digital mixer. From what I can see, the latest models are so much easier to use than what was available seven years ago when my last Presonus was bought.

I spent the day watching online tutorials from each manufacturer and reading spec sheets. I'm thinking that a Soundcraft Ui24 is likely the best fit for this band.

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The new band is comprised of a lead singer, two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer, we all sing.

Have any of you recently been down this path? What direction have you chosen?
 

bpaluzzi

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The Soundcraft is GREAT. Another cheaper option that’s similar is the Behringer X-Air XR18 (or the x32 Rack). This is one of those modern Behringer products that is a total winner. They make a Midas version, but the consensus I’ve seen is that it’s not worth the upcharge (Behringer owns Midas).

I pair mine with a set of EV zlx12 speakers and I’m MORE than happy. No sub with that rig yet, but I’m generally not driving drums through this.

if I had the $$$ burning a hole in my pocket to upgrade, I’d go with the soundcraft and the qsc k series speakers, but I’m fine with this for my needs now.
 

glynch

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I held off from going digital on the mixer for a long time. I just wasn't too sure about them. Then about 2 years ago I decided to just bite the bullet and get a digital mixer. Went with the Behringer XR-18 because it fit my budget and had all the features I needed. I haven't looked back. One of the best band related purchases I've made. Has yet to fail me and is really easy to use.

We pair it with 2 EV ELX18p powered 18" subs (although we only use one of them at most venues) and 4 EV ZLX12p. Two for tops and two for monitors. We have been very pleased with our setup.
 

Stickclick

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I like newer Behringer equipment and you'll need about two watts per audience member. So if there are 100 people in the audience then you'll need about 200 watts. We have had good experiences with powered speakers.
 

blueshadow

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I tried the soundcraft thinking it would be less stuff and quicker set up. I found it to be too much trying to get it all set up with a router, I also had to buy a tablet to use and couldn't get it to work like I wanted. I returned it and got the Presonus Studiolive 16.0.2. Some don't like this mixer because you have to select one channel at a time to adjust eq and effects....but for me it's pretty simple once you have those set they stay set and then mostly I just need the faders. I like having real faders, just personal opinion that it's easier to adjust while playing drums at the same time. The board also sounds great and easy to set up to record as well, though I need to mess with it more for that still.

For speakers I love the QSC speakers, I have the K12.2's for mains and their new C12's for monitors
 

drummer5359

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I tried the soundcraft thinking it would be less stuff and quicker set up. I found it to be too much trying to get it all set up with a router, I also had to buy a tablet to use and couldn't get it to work like I wanted. I returned it and got the Presonus Studiolive 16.0.2. Some don't like this mixer because you have to select one channel at a time to adjust eq and effects....but for me it's pretty simple once you have those set they stay set and then mostly I just need the faders. I like having real faders, just personal opinion that it's easier to adjust while playing drums at the same time. The board also sounds great and easy to set up to record as well, though I need to mess with it more for that still.

For speakers I love the QSC speakers, I have the K12.2's for mains and their new C12's for monitors
Thanks Chris.

I've heard that the Presonus gear has gotten better, I had an early Studiolive 16.4.2 and it was endless menus. It was fine if I was doing sound for someone else, but I found it unusable to run from the stage while playing. I also found that the foot print was pretty big to put behind the kit. I have a couple of tablets and a router, so I'm not too concerned about that aspect. But your post has given me some pause. Looking at the online tutorials from the various brands, the Soundcraft does appear to be the easiest to use from a tablet. My thinking was that if I put the Ui24 next to the drum kit as stage box, I might not even have to use a router as the tablet will be three or four feet from it in direct line of sight. Hmm...

I have the four of the older QSC K12 speakers and love them. I intend on eventually picking up two of the newer K12.2 model to use as mains, which would allow me to use four K12s as monitors as I did in my old band. Since I'll be running the full kit and bass through it I'll be subwoofer shopping as well.
 

bpaluzzi

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One thing that's nice about the XR18 is that Behringer makes a nicely compatible control surface that can work with it via a single ethernet cable. https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/XTouch--behringer-by-touch-universal-control-surface

I've got one on order -- they're backordered everywhere right now. But once I have it in, I'll let you know how it works. I love the idea of being able to use the XR18 fully remote via tablet laptop OR having the option to put a hardware control surface on it. Also eliminates the need of a long snake to run mic lines from stage to FOH -- keep the box on stage and then just a single long ethernet to the control surface.
 

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I'm still a fan of the old gear, as long as I don't have to move it anymore. Two weeks ago I moved my old Yamaha M1516 mixer out of storage and into my garage. What a huge beast of a thing, especially for just 16 channels (135 lbs not including the rack mount power supply). However, they just don't build them like this anymore. I doubt it will ever get used for much more than playing music in my garage but it's got a high end vibe and feel to it that you don't encounter on modern PA equipment.
M1516.JPG
 
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blueshadow

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Thanks Chris.

I've heard that the Presonus gear has gotten better, I had an early Studiolive 16.4.2 and it was endless menus. It was fine if I was doing sound for someone else, but I found it unusable to run from the stage while playing. I also found that the foot print was pretty big to put behind the kit. I have a couple of tablets and a router, so I'm not too concerned about that aspect. But your post has given me some pause. Looking at the online tutorials from the various brands, the Soundcraft does appear to be the easiest to use from a tablet. My thinking was that if I put the Ui24 next to the drum kit as stage box, I might not even have to use a router as the tablet will be three or four feet from it in direct line of sight. Hmm...

I have the four of the older QSC K12 speakers and love them. I intend on eventually picking up two of the newer K12.2 model to use as mains, which would allow me to use four K12s as monitors as I did in my old band. Since I'll be running the full kit and bass through it I'll be subwoofer shopping as well.
Most of my bad experience with the Soundcraft is centered around the fact that I bought it from Guitar Center because my local dealer didn't carry Soundcraft. When I had some simple issue of getting the router set up I called GC and they said to bring it down and they'd help...when I got their they instead said "oh you'll need to call Soundcraft they have excellent customer service" which I answered "Unlike you I will take my money back instead please" I used to go in GC just to browse and maybe grab a cable or two if I was in a hurry since this I haven't stepped foot in there.

Yes if you're going to have the box back by you at the drums then I'd go with a hard wire and disable the on board wireless, just in case anyone is able to hack in. This is what I had thought of doing as well. One other thing different with the Soundcraft vs Behringer or Midas is that there's not an app. They sell this as a good thing but I found it to be a bit of a pain that I couldn't do any set ups via offline on the app vs having to get the soundcraft box out and connect before I could do any set ups. The one thing I don't like about my Presonus is lack of eq per monitor send. There's Main L and R Eq but for monitors I'm using my analog dbx's which I already had and don't mind using. In the end I decided the pros of having actual faders and not having to worry about a disconnect between box and tablet was my preference.

If I had the budget I would have probably gone with the Allen and Heath 16 channel but at almost $2k it was twice what I wanted to pay.
==
 

TheMattJones88

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I have the finest early 80's Peavey PA and Speakers that $200 would buy me at the Music Go Round near me.

Not only is it earblisteringly loud, but can also replace those sandbags in your sports car's trunk when you're driving around in the snow in the winter to try and weigh it down for traction.

Peavey. Solid state. Solid tone.
 

drummer5359

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I'm still a fan of the old gear, as long as I don't have to move it anymore. Two weeks ago I moved my old Yamaha M1516 mixer out of storage and into my garage. What a huge beast of a thing, especially for just 16 channels ( 135 lbs not including the rack mount power supply). However, they just don't build them like this anymore. I doubt it will ever get used for much more than playing music in my garage but it's got a high end vibe and feel to it that you don't encounter on modern PA equipment.
Great mixer, but not as practical so move and set up these days.
 

drummer5359

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I have the finest early 80's Peavey PA and Speakers that $200 would buy me at the Music Go Round near me.

Not only is it earblisteringly loud, but can also replace those sandbags in your sports car's trunk when you're driving around in the snow in the winter to try and weigh it down for traction.

Peavey. Solid state. Solid tone.
The PA that I was using before I went with the QSC powered speakers had a mix of Peavey and Crown Amps powering Peavey SP2G cabinets over Peavey SP218 subs all bought in 1996. The monitors were also Peavey SP series. Honestly, it sounded okay. I'm too old to haul all of that. Once I got a taste of 47 pound powered speakers, I wanted no part of the heavy stuff anymore.
 

drummer5359

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Most of my bad experience with the Soundcraft is centered around the fact that I bought it from Guitar Center because my local dealer didn't carry Soundcraft. When I had some simple issue of getting the router set up I called GC and they said to bring it down and they'd help...when I got their they instead said "oh you'll need to call Soundcraft they have excellent customer service" which I answered "Unlike you I will take my money back instead please" I used to go in GC just to browse and maybe grab a cable or two if I was in a hurry since this I haven't stepped foot in there.

Yes if you're going to have the box back by you at the drums then I'd go with a hard wire and disable the on board wireless, just in case anyone is able to hack in. This is what I had thought of doing as well. One other thing different with the Soundcraft vs Behringer or Midas is that there's not an app. They sell this as a good thing but I found it to be a bit of a pain that I couldn't do any set ups via offline on the app vs having to get the soundcraft box out and connect before I could do any set ups. The one thing I don't like about my Presonus is lack of eq per monitor send. There's Main L and R Eq but for monitors I'm using my analog dbx's which I already had and don't mind using. In the end I decided the pros of having actual faders and not having to worry about a disconnect between box and tablet was my preference.

If I had the budget I would have probably gone with the Allen and Heath 16 channel but at almost $2k it was twice what I wanted to pay.
==

I understand. I bought an Elation Show Designer 2 lighting board from Guitar Center, they had no technical support whatsoever. None.

I will give serious thought as to who I will buy this from.
 

Doof

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Those pictures brought back memories of the first PA that we bought as teenagers. We all contributed to buy an ancient Heathkit amp with 2 5x10 columns so we could hear vocals at practice. Even then it was barely loud enough.

I don’t feel anyone has really paid dues until they’ve had to haul an effects rack with 2 Crown power amps up or down a flight of stairs. Not to mention par can light rigs.

I wish iPads and powered amps were a thing back when we were doing 100+ gigs a year. Our setups are so easy now, and the modern gear sounds great, but gigs were a lot of fun despite all that work back then.
 

BennyK

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In my rehearsal room -

2 x Yorkville Elite EXG 601 speakers

1 ancient Yorkville floor wedge with 4 8" speakers

2 even more ancient Yamaha S4115H cabs

Yorkville MP8 400 + 200 watt powered mixer

Behringer 1200 EPQ power amp .

big enough and small enough for my needs .
 

blueshadow

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I understand. I bought an Elation Show Designer 2 lighting board from Guitar Center, they had no technical support whatsoever. None.

I will give serious thought as to who I will buy this from.
If you can't buy local from a good dealer I'd suggest Sweetwater their service is exceptional. Plus you get free candy :)
 

blueshadow

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The PA that I was using before I went with the QSC powered speakers had a mix of Peavey and Crown Amps powering Peavey SP2G cabinets over Peavey SP218 subs all bought in 1996. The monitors were also Peavey SP series. Honestly, it sounded okay. I'm too old to haul all of that. Once I got a taste of 47 pound powered speakers, I wanted no part of the heavy stuff anymore.
My first band in 1992 had Peavey SP4's (2 15's and a horn) I know they were well over 100 pounds each. We'd give a buddy of mine a 6 pack to carry them in the club. He could carry one in each hand :) he was a beast. My K12's blow those away except maybe for the bass. I eventually need to get a subwoofer but for now most gigs I just run vocals through the mains any place bigger normally has in house sound.
 

drummer5359

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Those pictures brought back memories of the first PA that we bought as teenagers. We all contributed to buy an ancient Heathkit amp with 2 5x10 columns so we could hear vocals at practice. Even then it was barely loud enough.

I don’t feel anyone has really paid dues until they’ve had to haul an effects rack with 2 Crown power amps up or down a flight of stairs. Not to mention par can light rigs.

I wish iPads and powered amps were a thing back when we were doing 100+ gigs a year. Our setups are so easy now, and the modern gear sounds great, but gigs were a lot of fun despite all that work back then.
My brother and I chipped in on our first PA, a Shure Vocal Master similar to the one in the first photo. I had my first apartment, I ate peanut butter sandwiches for a month to make up for that purchase. I still hate peanut butter to this day. I bought him out and took it with me when I moved to Florida. As soon as I arrived I realized that it wouldn't do for a lot of gigs there and started saving or the next PA.

To me there seems to be a major change in what is available for live sound every ten to fifteen years. I'm sixty-one so I'm thinking that this might be my last major PA purchase.

You mentioned the "joy" of hauling old school par cans. I upgraded to RGB LED lighting seven years ago, Now Red/Green/Blue/Amber LEDs are the standard in lighting. Time marches on. That is another subject for a different thread.
 
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DanRH

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I’ve got two but mainly use the Behringer XR18 with two Yamaha powered 12’s and a Yamaha powered 18” sub. I also use Behringer powered Hot spots and a Mackie as well. I use in ears. The Behringer has six aux out’s for monitors. I also have a Mackie DL1608 which I have as a back up. Both systems use an iPad as the control surface.
 


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