Correctly testing the PA speakers is one of the most crucial things to do when setting up a sound system for an event.
Testing the speakers is important to making sure the PA system reproduces music or sound correctly. How do you go about knowing how every speaker should sound like?
What better way to set up a sound system than with a CD that you know inside out.
The best way to test PA speakers is by playing a CD that you are very familiar with. By listening to a sound system that's playing a favorite CD of yours you are more likely to hear odd frequency differences that the room or hall is generating.
Each hall and location is different. Just like the PA speakers you might be using that day could be a different model than the one before.
Therefore you should always use CDs with music you know inside and out.
What kind of music should you use? Something you know very well, but also something that you know is well mixed and mastered. Something that has clear highs and deep lows and a good balance of mids in between.
By listening to your favorite music you can make minor modifications to the sound system if you hear anomalies to your usual listening experience.
Are the highs cutting through? Is the system dull and needs a little Air EQ?
Maybe you feel the highs are cutting through too much. Try cutting accordingly with some EQ.
Maybe you are working with less than ideal PA speakers that sound muddy in the lower midrange. By listening to music you are accustomed to you instinctively hear that you might need to cut out a little bit in the 200 Hz range.
Is the bass too dominant? Check the subwoofers and see if they are too loud. Check to see if the crossover is set to the correct frequency. Sometimes subwoofers are set to frequencies up to 200Hz. I feel this can create a sound that's too thick and boomy.
It's good to have a few CDs that you know when you're testing out these sound systems. If you're unsure which CD you should choose, make sure you are very familiar with how the CD should sound.
Also, please refrain from using mp3s and other compressed sound formats that are of lower quality. The typical downloadable mp3 format has a bit rate of 128kbps while a CD has the quality of 1411kbps.
That's a compression ratio of 11:1, which means that a CD sounds eleven times better than your average downloadable mp3. So please use quality audio to test quality speakers.
I really like the combination of Leonard's low pitched voice with his airy female backup singers. This combination in conjunction with the great production and mixing work makes The Future a great sound system tester.
There's something about the openness of this album that gives a sort of transparency to a sound system. If this album doesn't sound clean and pristine, the speakers are in need of some modifications.
A fellow sound engineer uses this song when he is testing out speakers, and swears by how amazing sounding it is. Which is hard to argue with, since it's engineered by Flood and mixed by Mark Stent, both amazing audio engineers.
I like having a varied mix when I test sound systems. I don't want to bust out Leonard Cohen when I'm doing sound for a metal band. I'd rather put the amazing mix of 10.000 Days through the system, checking any weird differences I might find in my PA speakers while hopefully getting a thumbs up from the rock and roll crowd.
Jim Pavett, an engineer I interviewed at Audiotuts+ states this CD to be the perfect mix. It's mixed by Chris Lord-Alge, one of the biggest modern mixing engineers in the world so it's no surprise that it sounds amazing.
Although he uses it more for mastering purposes I wouldn't be surprised if it would be an effective CD to use when testing PA systems.
Make sure you take a CD you know with you next time you're running a sound test. It'll make it easier for you to recognize problems when you hear them through the speakers. Taking a bad sounding CD is only going to frustrate and confuse you, making you do modifications to a system that you might otherwise not need.
What are your music recommendations? What kind of music do you put through a PA system when you are testing it? Do you use any specific genre or do you mix different genres or alternate between different CD's?
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What are your favorite CDs or songs that you use to test out a sound system? Everyone has a specific song or album that they like the sound of. What does yours sounds like?