Which stereo will rock the party?
October 18, 2011 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Help an audio noob figure out what kind of sound system would be good enough to play music at a small party in a large space. Would a home audio system be sufficient?

I’m looking for advice on what type of sound system would be sufficient to play music at an informal family dinner/dance type of event that will be held in a large room that is 30 ft x 60 ft in size. There will be maybe 40 people attending, and not much furniture in the room besides tables and chairs, so basically the room will be quite empty. The sound can be limited to one area of the room.

We want to play mp3 music from our laptop and iPods and are wondering if any of our existing equipment would sound decent and loud enough.

Would any of these options work for our needs?
- home audio system (110 W total output)
- large & heavy 80’s hi-fi boombox (20 W per channel at 2.5 ohms ?)
- home theatre system

Or maybe we can find some suitable stereo equipment for cheap on craigslist, what should we be looking for?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or tips you can offer.
posted by zosime to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A decent home stereo should do this OK. I worked in a bookstore that was bigger than 30x60 and we had a generic crappy stereo playing through a pair of fairly large but not great speakers and the volume could be very loud (after we closed for the night). One issue is to get the speakers off the floor, human bodies are great for absorbing sound, so putting the speakers 3 or 4 feet off the ground will do a lot to get the sound to travel.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:08 PM on October 18, 2011

While I suspect your gear will be adequate to the task, a small PA can be rented for a night from your local music store quite inexpensively.
posted by Jode at 4:36 PM on October 18, 2011

I'd personally go with the home theater system. Just make sure the subs are on the floor and your other speakers are up high.

Make sure you have an EQ handy on your amp. When a room is empty you don't need the high frequencies to be very loud, but as people fill into the room, you need to be able to turn up the higher frequencies without blowing out your subs.
posted by empath at 4:43 PM on October 18, 2011

You could use multiple systems -- just split the output of your source into the inputs of, say, the home theatre system and the home audio system. The way I'd do it is put the speaker of the home audio system at two corner of the dancefloor, then two satellite of the home theater at the other corners, with the sub(s), and cover the rest of the room with the remaining HT speakers, maybe keeping the far end with no speaker for people who want to talk.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:23 PM on October 18, 2011

The wattage rating is less important than the sensitivity of the speakers, which is given in dB at one watt. Can you find those ratings for the gear you have available?
posted by krilli at 6:50 PM on October 18, 2011

If you want to use what you have, then use the home audio system. It will likely give you the most output to fill an open space.
Home theater systems are typically meant for smaller areas and surround sound movies, not big room-filling sound.
A boombox is typically only good for smaller rooms.

Jode has the best suggestion - look into renting a PA system from a local rental service. This will work by far the best in terms of filling the space with sound. One minor difficulty could be connecting a laptop or iPod to it, but finding a proper cable for this should be easy. Just ask the rental service what you need.
posted by nickthetourist at 11:36 PM on October 18, 2011

Thanks for your answers, everyone!

I called a music rental store, and was thrilled to find out that renting a PA system will be very affordable!
Much easier than hauling our home stereo to the event!
posted by zosime at 3:10 PM on October 19, 2011

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