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small p.a. for primary school - what to buy?


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I've been asked to source a complete small p.a. system inc. mixer - powered or passive (minimum 4 channels), cabs - active or passive, at least two half decent condenser mics, cables, stands etc. This is only going to be used occasionally, iin quite a small room (well damped) with the main use being a Christmas production on a tiny stage with most of the children at this wonderful school taking part (in turns). The room has approx 60 capacity (seated). Having worked this production the last two years with borrowed Mackie 450's I had problems getting enough level in to the o/head mounted condenser mics which were placed in the top downstage left and right corners about 4' from the performers. Suggestions please and should I be looking at 'shotgun' type mics. Guess what - the budget is tiny too - £500 - I know, I know. Help!



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Amplifying stage sound is an art, all to itself. The general feeling is that stage edge boundary mics are the most effective, but as you found, gain before feedback is the real problem whenever you want to amplify quiet sounds with speakers in the room, that the mics hear louder than the kids!


Two or three boundaries, with speakers further out into the audience, aiming well away from the stage - but feedback will still be difficult. Watch out for speakers with open or vented rear cabinets, this makes it worse. No real point in going for louder systems, and to be honest, the ones you've used are quite good anyway.


Shotguns are liked by some people, but the snag is that the narrow pickup pattern works for you when the source is directly in line, but the minute they go off axis, they vanish very quickly. Shotguns, bluntly, need aiming. Even a row of them doesn't really work that well. as somebody walks along they go loud, quiet, loud, quiet. Boundaries, especially PCCs not PZMs cope better with the overlap.


Sadly, all that usually happens, once you get the setup in and working is that the quiet kids are still quiet, and the already loud ones are even louder! Float mics, or overhead mics are wonderful when the people on stage make noise. When they don't, there isn't an awful lot you can do.

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On this budget, I'd say the best you can do is a pair of JBL Control 1's on Mic Stands with K&M Mic Stand Adaptors and a budget powered mixer Behringer Europower PMP100 or equiv- Condensers will probably have to be Behringer C2 matched pair or similar, you should then just about be able to do it inc cable etc if you buy from a decent online supplier, but even this will be pushing it!
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And that really wouldn't compare with a pair of SRM450's, either. There are two issues here - the first is that you haven't really got enough isolation between the source and the speakers anyway, so feedback is inevitable before any realistic level of reinforcement is achieved, and I don't think you could make a system for £500. It's true that the above system would probably come in around budget but frankly (and no offence meant to the individual who suggested it) it would be a terrible system.


Personally I wouldn't go down the powered desk route though, I hate the things - you're tying your amplifier power to your channel count. Active speakers are one thing, because at least they are matched and individually useful, but a powered desk is the enemy of upgrading a system a piece at a time.

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A lot depends on what else the school wants to do with it. If it is likely not to have any other uses, then I agree with most of the other comments - don't buy, hire or borrow a system. If the school really wants to buy, then the Yamaha StagePAS series is worth a look, and quite versatile, but nothing will fix the really quiet child who has no voice!
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Actually the Yamaha System is good suggestion, better quality than the Behringer and more robust - though knobs not faders for control - cpc sell them: CPC item - if you coupled it with the C2's it would be a good system with better bass response than the Control 1's. It could also just be used as an active speaker system if they wanted to add a mixer in the future.


I didn't suggest that the system I put forward was perfect, but it would be fine for an audience of 60 - SRM450's are completely OTT for an audience that size for sound reinforcement anyway - bound to cause feedback, we use Control 1's in our studio space and they are perfect for it, the C2's are OK budget condensers (Or the Samson version) for a primary school and occasional use would be fine.

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I fitted our school's drama room with a sound system for a budget of £500:


Soundcraft 6 channel mixer

WA800 amp

Case to mount the above two in

2 x The Box PA110 loudspeakers + stands

3 x Behringer XM1800 mics + stands

All cables.

The room holds about 60 and the stage is a tiny 12ft x 8ft or thereabouts.


I also lamped it up for about £400


2 x Showtec Sliding Bars four channel DMX dimmer

Zero88 six channel basic DMX controller

8 x Par56 (6 channels = 2 doubled up either side of stage with warm or cool "white" washes + 4 single colours)

All cables


In retrospect I might not have bought two loudspeakers: one centrally mounted may have been enough as the room is narrow with the stage at a thin end. The money saved would have bought better mics


The Yamaha StagePas 300 loudspeakers don't mount on poles unless you pay extra for add-on sockets. Bit of a nuisance in use without them.


Hope this helps.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Please excuse tardiness Paul - been doing shows at proper sized venue! The school is a village about 15 miles north of Derby


Mics: try AT4041, hypercardioid and very useful.


Control 1's won;t cut it, you need something with decent dispersion.


I would hire: where are you ?

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The school is in a village about 15 miles north of Derby


If the school is 15 miles north of Derby you can't be far from Alfreton.


Can it be arranged so that when a child needs to speak they can move to the front of the stage nearer to a mic on a stand?


Parents would be more happier hearing their child than complaining about a couple of microphone stands.



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