PA SYSTEMS - ADVICE AND A PROFESSIONAL GUIDE
Before you use or hire a PA system there are numerous things to be taken into account, mainly the size of the venue and the anticipated audience. It is difficult to list PA hire companies as it depends hugely on the area of Great Britain and it is common practice, if you are not using your own equipment, to book a local person or travel costs could be prohibitive. For an average folk club or comparatively small event the average cost is £125-£150 including the sound engineer. So, unlike our other pages, we simply offer advice to ensure you book the most suitable sound equipment.
You will require a good stage microphone, the most popular vocal mic for small venues is a Shure dynamic SM58 and make sure you request a boom-stand as opposed to an upright, particularly if you are playing guitar or you may collide with the stand. Some musicians purchase their own microphone and SM58s are not that expensive, around £90 is a price guide.
If you intend to 'plug in' your instruments, be they a guitar, mandolin or fiddle for example, the sound system should be equipped with phantom power and you can send your sound, via a guitar lead, into a DI Box. The most commonly used by those who play acoustic instruments is a Behringer Ultra G, again not that expensive at around £35. When using an Ultra G ensure both pads by the input are not pressed in. If you want to use effects pedals they should be linked in before you send your signal to the DI box, and that includes an electric tuner if you intend to use one.
Small mixers are also reasonably cheap starting at around £55 if you wish to take that route and use your own gear, but again, remember you will need phantom power and cost-wise you get what you pay for.
When requesting a PA system to hire, don't forget to ask for one or two monitor wedges to hear yourself, quite an important factor. Equally important is to gain confirmation that the sound engineer will be present during your performance. Strangely, it's not uncommon for someone to set up the gear, leave you to it and collect it the next morning, which really isn't on.
Also, if playing in a pub or hotel, do not expect their sound systems to be adequate. Hotels normally cater for speech only, such as wedding receptions and meetings, and the speakers are built into the wall, not at all suitable.
If you are thinking of obtaining your own PA system, after extensive research, most professional musicians recommend the Bose L1 Compact package with its 180 degree horizontal sound coverage with integrated mixer (4 inputs and 2 outputs) with built in amplifier and bass module. It's perfect for folk musicians as it fits easily into the boot of a car and is quick and easy to erect in any venue.
Don't forget, folk clubs years ago never used PA systems and some small clubs today still don't. Professional musicians, in that situation, often take a small practice amp with them so they can hear their instruments. Good luck!