Frequently Asked Questions (if you have a specific question not covered here, feel free to use our contact page)
Below are some typical questions you may wish to ask. If you are not used to hiring/booking Sound & Light equipment, don't worry. We will only be slighty patronising and supercillious!
Q? What size/power system do I need? (probably bigger than you think!)
A. It is very difficult for a non-technical person to make an informed judgement about the quality of gear on offer, hence we take the view that it is our job to not only use the best performing equipment at each price-level, but also to give advice and guidance if required. We also recognise that most end users don't want to know too much detail, they just want a good system!
All our stated power outputs are RMS, which is genuine useable power, as distinct from exaggerated 'music power or peak' which is often quoted on semi-pro gear. e.g. 600 watts 'Music Power' is equal to 300 watts RMS. Our smallest and cheapest passive-speaker Toa system is rated at 200 watts RMS into 4 ohms. This is plenty for small parties of around 30 to 50 people for music, or double that for 'background' music or speech, though not enough for hard-core disco! If your budget will stretch to it, we strongly suggest you consider our Mackie Active-Speakers. They offer significantly superior, startlingly good sound quality. The addition of at least one Mackie-Sub, will enhance the sound, by further improving bass delivery, and relieving the tops of this function. We prefer to over-specify, to guarantee the highest possible sound quality. Remember, a powerful system turned down, will always sound way, way better than an underpowered system running flat out! Ask our advice. Watts power is logarithmic too. For example, 1,000 watts is only twice as loud as 100 watts, not ten times as loud! The location of your event will influence the power required. Functions held in marquees will require more power than if the event were in an enclosed space, i.e a room. In general amplified bands need a benchmark minimum of 10 watts per audience head, and ideally 20 watts per head. Speech only systems need less power, DJ systems tend to get driven hard, and benefit from high headroom, to avoid signal clipping which is distressing to listen to, and harmful to speakers and amps.
Q? What if I want to DJ myself?
A. I'm afraid not.We have in the past hired systems without an inclusive DJ but have suffered quite a few problems with equipment damage which seems to be a sad comment on our society!!!As you can see below we'll provide a complete entertainment package which will take the stress out of your event for you and just allow you to enjoy it!!!click here for Disco-pack info
Q? Can you provide a DJ?
A. Yes! Though we are not a disco agency, we have a few selected DJ's on our books, mostly as a result of having worked with them. They have all been auditioned. Let us know the flavour you are looking for, and we will match you up. We have covered most genres, from classic soul and disco, through to acid jazz, salsa, trance, contemporary club etc DJ fee will be in addition to system hire fee.
Q? You keep mentioning 'active' speakers. What does it mean in this context?
A. Active means that each speaker drive unit has it's own dedicated amplifier. This means that each amp can be optimised for the particular job it has to do. i.e. a bass amp drives the bass unit, and doesn't have to attempt to drive the high-frequency unit, which now has it's own properly matched amp. By building the amps into the speaker cabs, signal compromises and losses associated with conventional 'passive' crossovers and cable-runs are eliminated, along with potential for mismatching of impedances, and the consequent effects on sound and power delivery. The active approach has previously been the domain of painfully expensive esoteric systems. Active-speakers are not the same as powered-speakers, though they may appear the same. Powered speakers merely have a conventional amp and passive crossover built in to the cabinet.
Q? Is 'active' automatically and always better than passive?
A. No! One particular advantage with an integrated 'active' system is that the crossover points and pre-set, and pound for pound you will probably get slightly higher fidelity that with a passive system. However, the extra mains cabling required could be an undesireable extra risk/complication in some situations (outdoors for example) A well configured and set-up passive system will sound every bit as good as an active system in the right situations. We use very high quality power amps, that are correctly matched to our passive speakers and achieve great results. To anticipate your next question; yes you can mix active and passive.
Q? When and why do I need a 'sub'?
A. The addition of an active sub will make a good improvement to a system for two reasons. If (like ours) it has a crossover built in, this will split off the bass frequencies below around 120hz, and they will be dealt with by the sub, which is designed solely to produces low bass. It is this low bass signal that uses up a great deal of the amplifiers power capacity. By diverting only frequencies above 120hz to the mid/top speakers, they no longer have to struggle to reproduce the low bass. This means all their amplifier power is now free to produce the mid and high frequencies with less effort. The result will be louder and clearer. An active sub can be used with active tops (mid/highs) of full-range passive speakers.
Q? Doesn't all this mean it will be too loud?
A. No and Yes! Our systems can of course go very loud if that's what you want, but that's not what it's about. One of the reasons P.A. systems usually sound so bad, is that they are being driven too hard, resulting in nasty distorted mush. When you have plenty of power in reserve, there is what we call 'signal headroom' This means that there is plenty of reserve power there for a truly dynamic range. This can make an astonishing difference to the fidelity of sound, even with for example a solo female voice. A powerful system can accelerate, i.e reproduce fast or loud transients. It is these elements of sound that convey real life and presence to a performance. Active systems do not suffer from cable and crossover losses of passive systems (up to 30% of amp output can be lost in passive systems) For easy comparison, our active outputs are quoted nett RMS power, which can be multiplied x 1.2 to yield approximate passive (conventional) equivalents. Remember, you can always turn a powerful system down, but you cant turn a feeble system up!
Q? We only have a small venue. How much space does your rig need?
A. The footprint for each side of the performance area, is about 0.75 square metre. About the same is needed for the mixing desk, somewhere nearby, plus room in the performance area for monitor speaker wedges.
Q? What sort of lighting can you provide?
A. We have a wide range of lighting stock that is flexible for stage and DJ use. Most of the lights, at their most basic level can be just 'switched-on' and left to run using their own internal programs, that will respond to music and beat. You can be more creative, by alternating between units to avoid having everything on at once. Most of the lights are DMX so can be controlled from any DMX controller for more sophisticated jobs. Our Spectre colourfloods have an easy dedicated-controller, which allows colours and speeds to be changed. These lights are good for basic stage and dancefloor lighting. The more lights you have, the more you need someone dedicated to working them, like a DJ does with music. We can do this for you.
Q? Can I hire lighting on its own?
A. Yes. Though most people seem to want to hire a whole package, we often hire out lighting on its own, for everything from houseparties, to augmenting club and mobile DJ lighting, and bands who want to make the most of a special gig. We have provided to art installations and galleries, corporate functions and even churches and car launches.
Q? Is there a difference between disco lighting and band lighting?
A. Yes, there is, though in many cases this is as much to do with how the lighting is used. Bands need a lit stage, otherwise they can't see what they are doing, and neither can the audience! For this you need some wash/flood and spot colour. You can then add to the lighting with rotating beams, scanners, gobo patterns, follow spots etc, but except for the occasions when you a really want to go mad, it's best not to overdo band lighting. As with playing music, sometimes 'less' really is 'more' as the cliche goes. A blue spot with a little haze can look perfect, if in tune with the mood of the music. Some of our lighting stock can work equally well for livesound or discos, depending on how they are programmed and set up. Disco lights tend to be tight beams, and specifically of course, sound-to-light. Simple colour-changing pin spots and fresnels can look great through smoke, if they are laid out creatively, but moving beams and rotating effects with some strobing are standard with professional lights.
What effect lighting do I need for a wedding disco?
Our suggested minimum would be a couple of projector moving-beams, such as the NJD Datamoon and Chameleon-5 or Abstract Twister, plus a smoke generator. This set-up will cover a dancefloor with lots of coloured rotating beams in varying colours and shapes (called gobos) You can add to this, depending on your budget, by introducing wash-lighting for walls and ceilings, which can provide a choice of subtle or dramatic ambient colour. If you have a very large room or marquee, you may also want to double-up the projectors, by having synchronised pairs. Lighting will dramatically improve the 'dance/club' feel of your floor, and the importance of this can not be overstated, but is often overlooked. This set-up is just plug-and-play., and gives very good results. (see example)
If you really want to go to town on the lights, you could add some Martin CX2s, or some moving heads.
Q? Why have smoke, and what's the difference between smoke and haze?
A. First and importantly it's not actually 'smoke' at all, as it's not produced by burning anything and won't choke you! It's actually a stream of sterile superheated food-grade glycol and distilled water microdroplets, completely safe and harmless. The smoke (more commonly known as fog inAmerica) produced is dense white but very fine, and greatly enhances the visibility and effect of light beams, which is why smoke machines exist. You can use a little, judiciously during your gig or party, to make the most of lighting, or loads for a funkier effect on stage or dancefloor. We only use premium grade fluid, for long hangaround time and minimum odour. One thing you need to be aware of: the smoke can set off smoke alarms if they are fitted in hotel ballrooms for instance. Some more customer-friendly hotels and venues will zone-disable the dance area on request. Others simply don't like you having a good time and won't . Best to ask before you send them into a mad panic! Smoke machines are great effects depending on your applicartion. Another atmospheric device is a haze generator or 'hazer' This is much more subtle and different to a smoker or fogger, in that it produces a translucent haze, that you can't really see, except when a beam of light passes through it, greatly enhancing the dramatic effects of lighting. A hazer is a must-have to get the best out of band and stage lighting. If you have admired the lighting on Jools Hollands Later, you will have seen the way a hazer makes profile light beams look so good, whilst not really noticing the haze itself. Smoke and haze are not mutually exclusive, as they serve different functions. One added advantage of a hazer is that it can usually safely be used in DJ situations where a smoker would trigger smoke-detectors.
We are always pleased to help or give advice. For further information or an estimate, contact us via our Contact page.