Sound Equipment 101

You’ve chosen the event space, hired a DJ (or a band) and then you find out you’ll also have to rent sound equipment.

“Is that like, umm, speakers and stuff?”

Unless you were a DJ or a sound techie in a past lifetime, chances are audio-visual lingo is as foreign to you as Aramaic.

Don’t panic.

Learn the basics of sound equipment and you’ll soon be on your way to a great party.

There are four main components of a basic sound system: audio mixer, amplifier, speaker, and microphone (more info below). In addition, you might need other equipment including turntables, an iPod console and more depending on the event.

Audio Mixers (Sound Boards)

Audio mixers – a “mixer” – is an electronic device that allows multiple audio equipment to be connected to the sound system. This is a necessary item comprised of multiple inputs each with a volume control used to control audio levels.

The number of input required on your mixer will depend on the number of items (microphones, turntables, an iPod, etc.) that will be connected to the sound system.

Mixers geared toward DJ’s include additional features include a cross fader used for transitions between connected audio equipment.

Mixers are highly recommended when using a microphone in order to have better control of the volume, feedbacks and quality of the sound.


An amplifier – “amps” – is a device that increases the amplitude of a signal (the voltage or current) sent to the speakers. In laymen’s terms, amplifiers are absolutely necessary to produce sound.

Amplifiers can be separate or built in to a speaker. See below for the pros and cons of “Powered (Active) versus Unpowered (Passive)” speakers.


There are two types of speakers generally used at most events: unpowered (Passive) and powered (Active) speakers.

Powered speakers (active speakers) have a built in amplifier.


- Can be connected directly to a mixer. – Avoids the necessity of speaker to amplifier matching

Disadvantages – Electrical source required for each speaker – Increased number of cables required for connection to each speaker – Often less powerful and less durable then unpowered speakers.

Unpowered speakers (passive speakers) requires a separate amplifier.

Advantages – Reduced number of cables required for connection to each speaker – Often more powerful and more durable then powered speakers

Disadvantages – A separate amplifier is required for use with speaker

For a more robust sound (found commonly in nightclubs and dance parties), Sub-bass speakers should also be considered. This is a speaker dedicated to low-frequency sounds and adds a distinct presents of low end sounds.


There are three basic kinds of microphones: traditional, wireless and lavaliers.

Traditional microphones have a wire that can vary in length that connect to your mixer.


- You don’t have to worry about losing connectivity during a speech/presentation. Disadvantages:

- The wires and limited mobility.

Wireless Microphones are similar to a traditional microphone but with a cord. Microphone but it has a chord.nal microphones have a wire that can vary in length that connect to your mixer Advantages: – Increased mobility Disadvantages – Risk of poor reception or unexpected interference – Batteries required

A lavalier microphone is a small piece that clips on to your clothing

Advantages: – Increased mobility – Hands Free operation

Disadvantages – High risk of feedback – Lower level of sound

Other Equipment: – CD Player – Turntables – iPod Console – Equalizer – Compressor – Limiter – Gate – Crossover – Processor