Speaker Hire – What you need to know
Loudspeakers, or speakers for short, are a staple of almost all events. At their heart, they are all pretty simple things, however, with such a wide variety on the market, it can be hard to know what would be suitable. Here we will try to summarise the different types of speakers for hire, and how they can be used to effectively improve your audience’s experience.
Types of speakers and use cases
A mid/high speaker, often referred to as a “top” is a type of speaker that can be used by itself or in pairs to amplify sound. These are the typical style of speaker that are used in most situations. If you have a stereo system at home, this is what you’ll likely have. For events however, the tops we use are designed to take much higher levels of sound, and often have signal processing built in such as limiters to help prevent damage when overloaded. They come in many different sizes, but typical sizes would be 8”, 10” 12” and 15”. These sizes refer to the mid woofer and give a general idea of frequency response you can expect. An 8” woofer won’t be able to produce such low sounds as a 15” woofer, for example. This doesn’t mean that a 15” woofer is inherently better than an 8” woofer though. Along with the bigger woofer comes a larger enclosure. Many events don’t require or desire large fixtures everywhere, and if the purpose is to reproduce spoken word, there would be very little benefit from the lower frequencies a larger speaker can output.
Subwoofers are not used by themselves; they are used in conjunction with mid/high speakers. The purpose of a subwoofer is to reproduce low frequencies. Typically, they come in 12”, 15” and 18” sizes, again referring to the woofer size. They can also come in 21”, and in very rare cases larger sizes, however, it requires more energy to move a woofer the larger it gets, and efficiency also suffers, so there comes a point where making them larger is impractical. By separating the low, mid and high frequencies in a speaker system, each range can be far more efficient and so a better sound is produced. Subwoofers should be used when a band has been booked for an event, or where a DJ is playing in a medium to large venue.
Monitors, or wedges, as they are often called are used on stage in order for the band to hear what is going on. They are designed in such a way that feedback through their microphones is minimised. Typically, a band will require 4 – 6 monitors on the stage, and each monitor may or may not have a different mix of sound. It is the job of the monitor engineer to work with a band to get this mix to their liking. On smaller events with tighter budgets, it is not uncommon for the sound engineer to do this job instead of a monitor engineer.
Point source refers to speakers that operate from a fixed position as a single unit. Usually they are much easier for to set up, and require less processing to make them sound great. The downside to point source speakers is that in order to cover large areas, they need to be huge, making the transportation and hanging of them more of a challenge than line array. An example of point source speakers would be KV2 Audio. Ever the purists, they strive for the very best sound, and their ES and VHD systems are really very hard to beat.
Line array speakers work by using multiple smaller speakers joined together in a backward curving J shape. The idea is that each speaker can be calibrated to cover a particular zone within the venue giving more coverage. As each part of the system is smaller than point source options, the transportation is easier. The downside is that due to the way sound works, line array speakers require a lot of processing via software to make them sound great. That doesn’t hold back rental houses though as line array systems have been a staple of festivals for decades. If you have ever been in an arena or a in the audience of a festival, you have no doubt seen and heard a line array system in action. An example of line array speakers would be the larger systems by D&B Audio
Active vs Passive
Active speakers are speakers where the amplifier is built right into the enclosure. This can be incredibly convenient as it means you don’t have to have separate amplifiers located in your event, and as a rental house, you don’t have to worry matching amplifiers and programming suitable settings for each speaker. There are however a couple of negatives with active speakers though. For one, you need to run power to each speaker individually and in venues with limited power supplies, this can be time consuming. Another negative would be that you can’t use them easily outdoors. The reason for this is because amplifiers cannot get wet, and each active speaker has one or more amplifiers within it.
Passive speakers require an external amplifier to run them. This means they are better suited for outside use as the amplifier can be located somewhere dry and you can run signal cable over to the speaker. The other benefit would be that they can be positioned in places where active speakers cannot be due to the fact they don’t require a power outlet nearby. While less convenient initially, they do have many benefits over active speakers. They are lighter, cheaper, and easier to repair.
To summarise active vs passive speakers, if you are a professional who knows how to set up amplifiers, or you simply want to do an event outside, then passive speakers are best for you. If you want the easier plug and play option, then active speakers are best.
While it can be confusing to choose the right speakers to hire for your event, hopefully the above will help decide what to do. If you are looking to hire speakers in or around London, feel free to drop us a line and we’d be happy to help you decide what is right. London Sound and Light stock speakers for every occasion and will be sure to have something suitable to rent for your perfect event. So, what kind of speakers do you think will best suit your event?