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FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / IF we could get a 500W PA set up for an outdoor gig..


Robbinsville, NJ

what do you mean the bass is too loud?
Jul 15th, 2016 12:18 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

[edit title to say "if we couldn't get a 500W PA]

Wouldn't two 250 Watt systems side by side
sound as good/loud ?

is this as obvious as it seems?

(Or are there other factors in play,
like speaker phase interference, etc?)

or is laughably dumb?

ofbp Walt

(This message was last edited by wborys at 03:04 PM, Jul 15th, 2016)

Contributing Member

Suburban MD.

Are your prayer beads maple or rosewood?
Jul 15th, 2016 01:04 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Just like bass amps: More watts = More headroom.

Plus on modern PA's, the wattage actually goes up with the lower OHM rating, so it depends on how many speakers you have hooked up in series or parallel or whatever to get the maximum oomph.

Tony Wright will probably come along with a MUCH better explanation that this. :)


LA-la-land, CA

Insert clever comment here
Jul 15th, 2016 01:37 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

It depends what you mean by "systems". Are you talking 2 complete mixing boards, or just amps? It matters, because how are you going to split the signal between the 2?

As mroulier suggested, 250watts x 2 does not necessarily equal 500watts. Now, if the 500w system was a stereo amp, and the 250s were mono amps, then you're getting closer to possibly being equal. But, again, there are factors involved other than just power. You'd really have to know a lot more detail to have an informed answer to your question.


Robbinsville, NJ

what do you mean the bass is too loud?
Jul 15th, 2016 02:18 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

1 mixer - 2 mono outputs,
one out to each amp/speaker system,
playing the same mono mix through all
L/R speakers

Contributing Member

Eat. Sleep. Guitar.

Jul 15th, 2016 03:14 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Yeah, that would work.

Tony Wright

Stillwater, OK

I never met a calorie I didn't like.
Jul 16th, 2016 12:05 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

There are a lot of variables not discussed...lets hit maybe a few issues. But first...I am not saying "no way" or "waste of time"...go thru the basic questions I ask...consider the reasoning that goes behind the question and you can probably answer this yourself. PLUS the added bonus on the end that I use for ALL outdoor events.

Let's start with the most basic of questions:

How many people and how big of a geographical/physical area do you need to provide sound for audience. Open area or surrounded by houses/buildings? Do you have to reinforce instruments including "power hungry" bass guitar, kick drum (any drum for that matter) and keyboards?

Let's get a little techy on the equipment.
What is the actual configuration? Are these "amps" powered mixers or are they rack mountable power amps? In other words, current typical powered mixers would be rated at 2x250 Watts at 4 (or 8) Ohms. Which brings the next question:

What Ohm rating for 250 Watts on the amps? Is the amp capable of two 250 Watt output at 4 Ohms or is that the 8 Ohm rating? This will give me an idea of how much power hits the speakers (or more simply..."how much rubber meets the road".)

What speakers are you using? Brand name and model and power rating would certainly help determine if they are over/under powered for the music content (back to the instrument question) and volume demand (back to that geographical/physical area question).

How do you plan to drive your monitors? How many monitor MIXES can your mixer produce and how many will the band REQUIRE? (be sure I cover this in "Tony's Approach" below.) If you need 4 monitors AND if you are using two "stereo" power amps (or "main/monitor" powered mixers) for power AND if your amps are 2x250 at 4 Ohms, you just used half your total available PA power just to make it louder for the band.

In a nutshell, 2x250 Watts at 4 Ohms feeds one or two 8 Ohm speakers with only 125 Watts each. (OK, slightly higher if it is a single 8 Ohm, but insignificantly more power). My not so scientific opinion is that you can barely hear the difference in a speaker powered by 125 Watt and 250 Watts.


And now we come to Tony's Approach to Outdoor Sound.

If you do not have a PA that includes enough power to reinforce the kick or any drums for that matter, the bass, and keyboard, the DON'T put them in the PA. Simple.

If your guitar amps are 15 Watt solid state amps with an 8 or 10 or even a 12 inch speaker suitable for living room rehearsals and bedroom practice...they either need to be miced or you need bigger amps.

If this begins a series of comments like "we can't afford a new PA and we can't afford to rent" and followed up with "If we can't afford to rent a bigger PA then how can afford to rent bigger amps"...you need to determine if this one gig is worth the effort.

Now let's see how we CAN have our cake and eat it...

First is the audience size. Pro companies start with the "10 Watts per person rule" If you expect 500 people, you need a 5000 Watt PA minimum...

That rule does not usually take into consideration the purpose of the event and they do not usually include the fold back or monitor systems in that smaller systems at least "include".

So, let's say this is an event for 250 people. Would you attempt to play an event inside the "flag, feather, hoof and horn" clubs (American Legion/VFW, Eagles, Moose and Elks) with that 2x250 Watt powered mixer PA? Would you put any instruments in the PA? Maybe acoustic/electric guitar and keyboard? OK, that works for me...I have played that same venue (or its local twin) many times with a small PA with fair success. (The PA was fine, it was the band that was "fair"...snicker, snicker.)

If the above it TRUE...then...

If you are doing a backyard party, someone's backyard or even the patio at the "flag, feather, hoof and horn" club.

I have done gigs inside those venues and on their "back patio" more than a time or two (or should I say a dozen or two) with reasonable success using a boxtop powered mixer reinforcing vocals and keyboard and acoustic/electric guitar...and with guitar amps for the electric guitars and a decent bass amp for the bass...and a LOUD drummer.

So, what are the vital stats...around 125-250 people in an area maybe 100ft by 150ft more or less?

A little bigger area or audience, follow the next basic belief held by yours truly:

The make up of an audience...

I do a lot...A LOT of outdoor sound. Last night was north of 3000 people covering an entire city block... I find there are several "types" of people who attend these events, and to a similar degree, they are at indoor venues as well.

There are the "party hardy" crowd. They are the ones who sit near the front and hoot and holler with the band. They raise their glasses high and sing along. More than once, some lady (?) would get on a table and "shake it like her sister Kate". These are your PARTY ANIMALS. Louder is better for them.

There are your dancers, even if there is no dance floor. They may dance to a slow song in the park or back yard on the grass when necessary if there is no hard surface. They love the dancing and will jump up to dance on at least half the songs. I like these people because they put motion to the emotion that we create as musicians.

There is the "meet market" (often spelled "meat market" nudge nudge, wink wink). They are the once who come looking for a partner, for dancing to the music or....for the night or the month or for life. I wish them happiness and good luck.

Then, for those "all ages" outdoor gigs, you have the "free entertainment outdoors" crowd. I also call them "the lawn chair/lawn blanket brigade" at our summer concert series at work. They ignore most of the other activities and sit in front of the stage or in most other "festivals" sit further out, where they can smile at their friends on the same hillside or under the other shade tree, etc. Small children are common to this segment of our crowd. They came to let the kids play or they simply came to have an evening out at little or no cost.

THAT "lawn chair/blanket brigade" IS MY TARGET AUDIENCE.

The closer they are to the front, suggests a smaller venue and a smaller PA required.

If you are playing any club with a patio where you will have 200ish, your 2x250 Watt PA is probably OK if you keep instruments out of it. DRUMS and BASS require more power than vocals....keyboards (especially if your keyboard guy uses his left hand a lot) will also demand more of your available power.

Now these instruments do not have a specific demand figure...but the reality is that it takes MORE POWER to reinforce the low frequencies. This is why "gig size bass rigs" usually start around 200 Watts.

Think about this a minute: Your 2x250 Watt at 4 Ohm powered mixer is sending 125 Watts to two 8 Ohm speakers on the same power amp inside the powered mixer. If you put two more 8 Ohm mains on the second side for additional mains, they will also put out 125 Watts per cabinet. Fuller sound...perhaps slightly more area covered, but pretty insignificant if you have to cover an entire city block.

Even if you had two powered mixers at 2x250 Watts at 4 Ohms, and you ONLY use two monitors on one side of one powered mixer. So you "could" put three main speakers on each side of the stage...this is starting to look like a cluster...but again, slightly more coverage.

My "ensemble" played an outdoor "front yard concert series" for about 3 months. (acoustic electric guitar, electric bass, hand percussion and two vocals all thru ONE PA speaker) These were in the driveway of a friend of the band leader. We are a sit and listen Americana group. Shawn's djembe and cajon did NOT require micing. I doubt the neighbors could hear us inside the house. BUT we were plenty loud for our audience of 25-30 friends in lawn chairs in a semi circle on those Friday nights.

MY POINT...you need to be loud enough to satisfy your client's needs. BUT...you do not need to be LOUD in all cases. Sometimes a small PA is plenty adequate.

IF you can get by with two monitors on one side of a powered mixer and two mains on the other side, FINE! If you think you need to at least reinforce "some" of the drums and bass, well, keep in mind that even a 1-15/horn PA speaker at 125 Watts does not emphasize the low frequencies all that much.

Think about your audience needs, then think about the venue. One 500 Watt PA (meaning one 2x250 Watt at 4 Ohm PA) is really pretty small and a second like it will not make it significantly louder nor make it support low frequencies such as bass and keys and drums). If you have a "stereo" 500 Watt PA (meaning 2x500 Watts at 4 Ohms) and a 2x250 Watt PA, use the smaller one for up to two monitor mixes (meaning as many as four 8 Ohm wedges with two on each internal amp so that two lead vocalists get their own voice louder due to the external passive mixer sending two monitor mixes; and the larger (2x500 Watts at 4 Ohms) powered mixer driving four 8 Ohm mains; two on each amp.

If your passive mixer cannot support two monitor mixes, then I would still use both sides of the smaller powered mixer for monitors.

Remember, a powered mixer capable of "stereo main-main/monitor" operation does not know it is actually the "monitor amp" so using the entire powered mixer for monitors means just leaving it in stereo L/R configuration for ONE MIX and setting it in Main/Monitor for two mixes. You would use the pan or balance control at 12 oclock in Main/Monitor application. Turn OFF the monitor or Aux control on the channel that will be used for MAIN OUT for monitor mix 1 and then use the next input channel with the monitor level on about 2 O'clock. That "channel strip Aux/Mon" level control setting should be strong enough to give you plenty of volume (using the passive mixer for actual volume control for both monitor mixes). In Main/Monitor configuration, set both Master levels at about 2 O'clock so again, the passive main mixer will set the actual output for both monitor mixes.

What would be sweet is if your second (small) powered mixer that was handling monitor only duty had "Power Amp 1 Input" and "Power Amp 2 Input". Most (but NOT all) powered mixers with "power amp input" put that input prior to the graphic EQ section of the power amp. GEQ is a good way to help defeat any feedback.


You didn't ask, but consider my logic here:

Let's say you have a medium (350-500 person) outdoor event that is more "important" than simply a back patio at a club or private house party for a friend...and let's say you are a 5 piece band getting paid $500.

If you could find a local pro audio guy (lots of CL ads for small sound for hire providers...$100-$150 for two mains, two subs and monitors, mixer AND soundman. Most are guys hwo bought the PA for his band...band broke up...and he needs to either sell it or make money renting it. Make your deal for a flat $100 WITH soundman...It is worth $20 per band member to NOT have to mess with carrying the PA and messing with the sound all night. Just my 2 cents.

Contributing Member

Wichita, Kansas

Drums = pulse, Bass = heartbeat
Jul 16th, 2016 02:12 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Would the 2 250w systems have all the same model speakers or will it be 2 different cabinets on each side of the stage?

Placing speakers side to side can cause interference with each other, resulting in comb filtering of the sound. This would be heard as some loud hot spots and some quiet nulls in the audience area.

It would be best to stack multiple speakers vertically, even if they are not the same model speaker. The result of this is a wider horizontal dispersion and a reduced vertical dispersion. This is how line array systems work. If vertical stacking, also try to keep the high freq horns clustered together. You can often do this by setting the 2nd cabinet upside down on the first. I realize that if you are using SOS (speaker on a stick) you won't be able to do this.


Robbinsville, NJ

what do you mean the bass is too loud?
Jul 18th, 2016 01:13 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"Just my 2 cents."

wow, a lot more than 2 cents worth of good
information here Tony, thanks! This is
better than a chinese buffet, and its gonna
take me twice as long to digest!.

Thanks to all in fact for food for thought.

The gig actually went well.
Had popup TShower danger all afternoon, so
the singer cancelled plans to rent the
big PA system. (backstory is these are guys that never played out professionally, so kinda get carried away with
loud noises..)

We sequested ourselves into a two car garage (singer/2guitar/keys/bass/drums), the party
master set up the dining area tents maybe
80 feet in front of the garage.

Good sense prevailed, and we didn't try to
blanket the entire 80 person party with loud
rude noises, so we actually had to turn down
the vocals on his 300w Powered Speakers to balance with the live amp sounds.
The garage kind of focused the sound, and added a faux reverb.The people listened for 40 of 80 minute gig,
and were able to converse without shouting.
We pulled them back in a loud raucous
What I like about you/Mony Mony finale.

oldFartGodIHateBeingTheSoundManAndBassPlayer Walt

(This message was last edited by wborys at 03:18 PM, Jul 18th, 2016)

Contributing Member

Wichita, Kansas

Drums = pulse, Bass = heartbeat
Jul 18th, 2016 01:18 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

There is nothing like a gig going well, especially if you went into it with reservations or unknowns.

Tony Wright

Stillwater, OK

I never met a calorie I didn't like.
Jul 19th, 2016 06:31 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

A pair of 300 Watt powered speakers is plenty by themselves for the typical house party. I probably missed the "house party" vs "outdoor event...like city park or corporate gig".

My experience is that if the audience is less than 500, you might be just as well off playing with stage amps and a vocal only PA (well, vocals and unamplified instruments like keys or acoustic electric guitar)

For what its worth...we had a good turn out for our "Christmas in July" City government produced event. (I am working as a "theater tech" for the City these days. I also do the booking.)

These are monthly "Food Truck and Tunes" on the third Friday April thru August...all ages, free to the public. After August, we move the same event to all Okla State Univ home game Fridays thru Sept and early Oct. Last year we went thru Nov and that was too dependent on "weather".

One estimate put the audience at around 5000 for this last one...I put it closer to 2500, but I did not make an effort to do more than scan the crowd early in the event once and go back to work.

I had my hands full. I drew the short straw and after the PA was set up, I had to deal with the bands (parking and pay and such) as well as the free horse and carriage rides and other non "tech" duties. Thank goodness I did not have to mess with the "bubble pit" or the "Summer vacation Santa tent" or the "inflatable water slide". Or worse...with the vendors.

FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / IF we could get a 500W PA set up for an outdoor gig..

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