How to get the best sound with consumer equipment into a PA?
February 18, 2019 5:07 AM   Subscribe

We are providing a Spotify/iPod disco for a party at a hired venue, and I want it to sound as best as it can given that there is no budget for proper gear. Which parts of the chain, from initial audio through to connection to the PA, will benefit most from a bit of love?

The PA in question is a Mackie DLM Series Powered PA System (2 x Mackie DLM12 Powered Speakers, 2 x Mackie DLM12S Powered Sub Bass Units). It accepts a line-level signal through XLR.

I can either use an iPad with a headphone jack, or a laptop with a Presonus USB96 audio interface.

We've got the playlist on Spotify and can pre-download it at Spotify's highest quality audio, which is 320Kbps I think.

So I'm looking for tips or advice on things like:
Should we be looking to try to buy FLAC versions of all the songs? (~100)?
If so, is there a marketplace where I can easily buy FLACs of my Spotify playlist?
Is there a music-playing app that sounds best for a PA?
Are there settings on the Spotify app/iPad/computer that we need to change (EQ etc? headphone vs speaker mode?).
Or are things better now than 5 years ago, and it'll sound pretty good as-is?

It's a dance party rather than a critical listening exercise, so I'm not worried about perfect fidelity, just that the lows and are present and powerful and it doesn't sound mushy or thin.
posted by Cantdosleepy to Media & Arts (3 answers total)
 
It'll sound pretty good as is, especially for dance party. I provide & operate PA systems as my job, and the "industry standard" for pre/post show music these days tends to be a streaming playlist off someone's phone or laptop, headphone jack right into the mixing board.

Since you've already got the Presonus interface, I would say use that, as long as you've got someplace safe to put it and the laptop. It (might) sound at least a little better, and the connections and cabling will be at least a little more robust. Bring the iPad and the proper cables to use the headphone jack as backup.

Is there a music-playing app that sounds best for a PA?

Nah. Use whatever one you're familiar with so you can change the song order quickly if you want and easily troubleshoot if something weird happens.

Are there settings on the Spotify app/iPad/computer that we need to change (EQ etc? headphone vs speaker mode?)

Since every PA sounds different depending on the sound of the room, the general rule of thumb is to start with the EQ flat (nothing added or subtracted) or off. Tweak the EQ settings as desired after you've got your program going through the system.

Also, start with all volume controls all the way down. That way you don't blow something up immediately.

Mackie is well known for good manuals, so reading the DLM manual and poking around the Mackie website should give you some good information on making connections, troubleshooting, and setting proper gain structure.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:42 AM on February 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


soundguy99 has already answered most of this.

Should we be looking to try to buy FLAC versions of all the songs?
No. These will be really had to find for many genres, unless you can get hold of original CDs for everything, in which case there aren't a lot of reasons not to just use WAV.

For better or worse most people are used to hearing lossy audio formats, and the lossy formats are significantly better than they were when the FLAC standard was proposed. If you're a hardcore audiophile who's really invested in fidelity there are still reasons to use FLAC for storage - for a dance party, nah.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:10 AM on February 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I had a problem one using an iPhone->PA setup where the input was mono but we didn't know about the General->Accessibility->Mono Audio option that helps fix this.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


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