Should I book a sound engineer?

Posted on Jun 06 16

If you are booking a musical act as entertainment for an event, we think they should sound as good, if not better, than their online demos.

Most demos you hear online will have been mixed by a sound engineer, and that is to ensure that what you hear is as good as it can be.

If you want your act to sound as good as their demos, you may need to book a sound engineer. As standard, we include a sound engineer with our evening band bookings, but not all agencies or acts do. In these cases you may want to consider booking a sound engineer separately.

This blog post provides clear information that will help you decide whether to book a sound engineer.

You may also want to watch this great video from ‘Project Listen’, about what a sound engineer does:

 

If you haven’t yet done so, we recommend you take a look at this infographic, before you continuing to read this post.

 

I’ve booked an acoustic/non amplified act

There are less than 300 people in the room

The sound that is created by your act is affected by objects in your function room. A large number of people in a room can ‘soak up’ the sound, leaving the act almost impossible to hear by the majority of guests.

For a more detailed article about sound absorption, follow this wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorption_(acoustics)

When you do not need a sound engineer

Most of the time for an acoustic act, you will not need a sound engineer to hear the levels well, even if there is basic amplification (for example one singer).

If there are less than four performers, it should be safe to not book a sound engineer, however a sound engineer will always bring a more pleasant overall sound to your event.

I’ve booked a DJ

You do not typically need to book a sound engineer when you book a DJ.

This is because most DJs will have music that already has been ‘compressed’ and ‘limited’, just as a sound engineer would apply to the sound of a band or musical act.

DJs can also easily control the volume of their music, as it is coming from one source, unlike a band which will have multiple separate sound sources.

I’ve booked an amplified band

Is my sound limiter set below 95 decibels?

If your venue has a sound limiter, and it is set below 95 decibels, this can cause significant sound problems if you have booked a band – and we would advise that you book a sound engineer to avoid problems on the day.

If you are not sure whether or not your venue has a sound limiter, what level it has been set at, and the likely impact this might have on your band booking, feel free to call us on 0330 100 2820 and we will be happy to find out for you free of charge.

All we will need to know if your venue name and location.

Why do we recommend a sound engineer for your band booking?

There are two main reasons why we’d strongly recommend a Sound Engineer for your band booking:

  • Quality of sound (find out more about this here)
  • Avoiding problems resulting from ‘un-managed’ sound.

Here we will outline the key problems that un-managed sound can cause. We do advise that you read this thoroughly to avoid potential issues at your event.

  1. Venue Sound Limiters
    Many venues will have strict sound limits, which have been imposed on them by the local council or self-imposed.In order to measure the volume (measured in decibels), many venues have ‘sound limiters’ installed at the venue. These can come in a variety of forms.
    Indication only
    ‘Indication only’ sound limiters have an indication that displays the measured volume at a particular place. This may be hand-held, or more commonly this will be fixed on a wall. In these instances, the venue coordinator will normally ask the act to turn the volume down, or may reserve the right to ask your entertainment to stop performing if they exceed the limit
    Power Connected Sound Limiter
    The use of these sound limiters are more controversial within the events industry, but surprisingly common. Power connected sound limiters can cut the power to the venue, or just the stage, if the volume exceeds a certain limit. They may take a minute or two for the power to be switched back on.These are particularly nasty, as not only do they interrupt the flow of the entertainment but can potentially cause damage to electrical equipment, particularly guitar amps which can be very expensive to repair or replace.The problem with sound limiters, aside from the interruptions, is that they do not always measure the volume in a consistent way. Sometimes, for examples, particularly frequencies like bass, can trigger a sound limiter, even if the overall decibel volume of the act does not exceed the limit.Sound limiters can also be affected by where they are installed. Incorrectly installed sound limiters can measure the volume to be higher than it actually is – there’s a big difference between the volume measured at the guitar amp, versus the volume measured at the function room entrance.If you do not have a sound engineer, it can be extremely hard for an act to adjust their volumes, and performance to accommodate sound limiters. Whilst it can often be impossible to do, when it is possible, the act will tend to be so restricted by the sound limiter, that their performance is typically hindered.

    When you book a sound engineer, they can mix the volumes and adjust the overall EQ of a band, so that they will be far less likely to trigger sound limiters. This can normally be done in a way that doesn’t hinder performance. What’s more, they will be able to constantly monitor the sound levels, and can mitigate the chances of a sound limiter ruining your evening.

  2. Unsafe equipment
    Sound Engineers are typically trained to set up and maintain the electrical sound equipment in a safe way. Regular PAT testing is recommended, but can be difficult to do unless the supplier has the necessary equipment and expertise to do so, and many independent or part-time bands will not have suitable procedures in place to ensure the equipment is safe to use.We would always recommend sourcing your sound equipment from a professional company or from a professional sound engineer, rather than relying on a band providing the equipment.
  3.  Avoiding ‘feedback’You know that horrible ‘screeching’ sound that you hear when the mic is too close to the speaker? In case you need reminding, here’s 12 hours of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY50gMgoicwFeedback is a result of poorly managed sound by your act, and happens when a microphone picks up the sound that is already being amplified by the same microphone. This creates a feedback ‘loop’, resulting in a horrible noise, which can be harmful for hearing.To help avoid unnecessary feedback, a sound engineer manages the sound to give you a much better experience. Feedback is an extreme (but common) example that helps to illustrates how bad ‘bad’ sound can be.
  4. Reflective materials in your function room

Just as sound is absorbed by things like your guests, sound is also reflected by surfaces like glass or stone floors.

If you shout loudly in a large space that is reflective, you will hear an echo. Your hear this as the sound bounces around the room. If you shout loudly in a smaller reflective space (like a cave), you will hear what is known as ‘reverb’.

Reverb and echo can be a real problem if you have booked a band, because whilst it might sound nice with an acapella act, or a string quartet, it will typically make a band sound very ‘messy’ and can be very unpleasant to listen to – particularly at high volume.

Can’t my band do the sound engineering themselves?

Sound Engineering is a skilled job which is not as simple as turning faders ‘up’ or ‘down’. It requires a professional that has been trained in mic placement, room EQ, compression amongst many other things. Most musicians will be able to set up the equipment in a way that is functional, but will not be able to mitigate the potential issues outlined above. They will also not typically provide the same quality of sound that a Sound Engineer will – and even with a good band, it can sound underwhelming without adequate sound management and reenforcement.

Aside from that, a band are unable to adjust levels after they begin performing, and are not able to hear what the audience hears. This means that the sound may sound good on stage, but the audience may not be hearing the same thing. A good sound engineer will monitor levels and acoustics throughout the event, so that what the audience hears is better.

Help – my act doesn’t have a sound engineer!

All Earcandy bands come with a sound engineer as standard, but if you have booked an act that doesn’t have a sound engineer, don’t worry – this is what we’d suggest you do.

First, you can ask whether the band are able to source a professional sound engineer themselves. This will normally be an additional cost to your booking, if it didn’t originally come with your booking.

Be careful to ensure that the equipment provided includes EQ units, and a Compressor at a minimum, to ensure that there is adequate control over the sound.

If they cannot provide a sound engineer, or you are not confident in the Audio and Lighting equipment provided by the band, you can call a local company to provide a sound engineer and equipment. If you would like to receive a quote from us, just give us a call on 0330 100 2820.

Author: Ben Rogers

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