Sound Systems, Microphones, iPod’s, and Speaker Stands

In this article I’m going to give you a detailed description of the equipment that I use, why I use it, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

I should preface all of this information by telling you the types of venue’s and events I normally perform at include birthday parties, community events, festivals, and corporate floor shows.

Sound Systems

Small events

At events with less than 150 people I use the Fender Passport PD-80. This system has two speakers that disconnect from each side, so that I can place them on either side of my performance space. Personally, I really like this setup over the single speaker arrangement because it gives better sound coverage across the room. For small events children will be sitting close to the speakers. Children’s eardrums are more sensitive than adults so you don’t want to blast your music. You want the music to be loud enough to create energy and excitement, but you want to keep the levels low enough so that they are still comfortable. By having two speakers you can more easily fill the room with sound without having the volume too loud.

The disadvantage is that it takes a minute or two longer to setup, but I think it’s worthwhile. I’m usually done setting up before the audience is ready anyway.

Large Events

At large events I use the Fender Passport PD-250. This system is just a louder and more powerful version of the PD-80 described above. This system is quite adequate for most of the larger events up to about 500 people. This system can be used for events in school gymnasiums, small outdoor festivals, corporate events with less than 200 people (While sitting at those round tables of 8-10), if people are standing or close to the stage than the number of people it will work for increases.

Huge events

I do not have a sound system that I use for larger events. I will rely on the system that is provided at the event.

For banquet events where they open up all of the divers in the conference space and there’s one stadium sized room, neither sound system will not be enough. In those situations there is almost always a PA already on site because there will be other company presentations, awards, or a DJ will be on site. Make these arrangements before you arrive at the event!

If you are connecting into a DJ’s PA system be aware that their system will be setup for pounding bass-filled music. Once you plug in your lavalier microphone it’s generally going to sound like crap unless you re-EQ the system. This is where you will find out if the DJ you are working with actually has a clue about sound equipment or not. In most cases I’ve found that they don’t understand how to fix the system. You’ll want to lower the low end, and balance out the sound to give you the most volume without feedback. You should have a working knowledge of how to work different types of mixing boards and how the different inputs work.

For large festivals there will be a production company on site so you can simply plug into their sound board with your microphone and music player. Most of the time I’ve found that these guys will be pretty knowledgeable.

For large events make sure that you send a technical rider with all of your requirements. Also double check directly with the sound tech. The organizer generally has zero knowledge of sound equipment and doesn’t realize that a wired handled microphone and a wireless lavaliere microphone are different.

For these events I always bring my Fender Pasport PD-250 with me just in case. There have been plenty of times when I’ve ended up using my own system for one reason or another because of complications.

For each sound system I also purchased the cover that goes over top. The cover for the PD-80 has a pocket in the side to keep the speaker cables.

Both of these sound system can be used with or without speaker stands. Most of the time when I’m using the smaller sound system I don’t use speaker stands, but I did this summer while touring libraries with my “Strange But True Game-Show Magic-Show“. If I expect that I’ll need the speaker stands, that’s usually when I upgrade to the larger sound system.

New generation of Fender Passport systems

The Fender Passport PD-80 and the Fender Passport PD250 are now totally out of date. Fender has since released the Fender Passport PRO series. The new systems are the same price, but they are more powerful, have more features, and they are lighter.

The PD80 has been replaced by the Fender Passport 150 PRO.

The PD250 has been replaced by the Fender Passport 300 PRO.

My Sound Case:

This case comes with me to every single show. Being HEARD is more important than being seen, so I take extra precaution to make sure that it’s never a problem. Have you ever arrived at a gig that was supposed to be for 10 kids, and you find out that the show is unexpectedly going to be outside instead of inside and there’s 10 kids PLUS 50 adults? I sure have on numerous occasions. By taking this case with me to every show and also using the Fender Passport PD-80 it isn’t a challenge at all. I’m ready at a moments notice to perform under any conditions. My show material also “packs small plays big” so an unexpected audience size isn’t’ a concern either.

As you can see my sound kit includes more than just sound equipment. Its more of a “survival tool-kit”.

  1. The case is a standard silver tool-case that they sell at Rona in Canada. They are available from many different stores.
  2. The lid is a pelican case lid. The foam is “pick-n-pluck” foam which is also available online.
  3. There are extra batteries for my Virtual Sound Man remote control, Virtual Sound Man base station, extra AA batteries for my belt pack / wireless handhelf microphone. I also have extra 9V batteries and AAA even though I don’t need them for any of my equipment. You never know what you’ll need them for.
  4. A “pocket first Aid” kit including string relief, alcohol pad, various sizes of bandaids, wet-nap, gauze, tylenol, tide to-go stick, and listerine breath strips. 
  5. An LED flashlight. Comes in handy for looking in the case wen the lighting is dim.
  6. Sennheiser EW100 G2 Wireless Receiver Base station + Power Cord + Belt Pack + Lavalier Microphone
  7. Sennheiser EW100 G2 Wireless Receiver Base station + Power cord + Wireless Handheld Microphone
  8. Virtual Sound Man base station + Remote Control
  9. Two iPod’s. One with my show music on it, and the other is a backup with my show music and various backround music playlists (Christmas music, top 40 type music, etc.)
  10. Screwdriver kit. You’d be amazed how often this comes in handy. 
  11. Short XLR cable that I use for the Lavalier microphone base station that goes into the sound system
  12. Flesh colored medical tape to hold down microphone cord if I’m using a borrowed headset microphone
  13. Three RCA cables (Headphone jack to RCA) to plug the iPod into a sound system. The short one is the one I use most often for my show music. I use the longer one when I use my 2nd iPod with pre-show music because I’ll skip through songs to match the event mood. 
  14. 1/4″ cable to connect the wireless base station into a Sound System. (The Sennheiser units can be connected via XLR or 1/4″).
  15. 1/4″ to XLR adapater.
  16. Another small flashlight for emergencies
  17. Headphones to check audio when I bring my camcorder to film my shows
  18. A homemade “gimcrack” microphone holder. (Jeff Hobson explains how to make it on one of his DVD’s.)
  19. Zap straps
  20. RCA to 1/4″ adapter
  21. 1/4″ to headphone adapter
When everything is packed I can tell at a glance if everything is packed away. After a long day of shows you want to be able to look into your case and immediately see if anything is missing.

Microphones

I have three microphones that I bring with me to events. The Wireless Lavalier is the microphone that I use.
If for some reason I need an alternative I can use the wireless handheld microphone and the gimcrack microphone to hold the microphone around my neck.
The wireless handheld microphone, and the corded microphone, are the ones that I lend to the host/client of the event to make my introduction and any necessary announcements before the show.
  1. Sennheiser EW100 G2 Wireless Receiver Base station + Lavalier Microphone
  2. Sennheiser EW100 G2 Wireless Receiver Base station + Wireless Handheld Microphone
  3. I also bring with me a corded microphone that fits into the case cover for the PD80, or into the back compartment in the PD250.

Extension Cords

The extension cords that I use have a little light inside that glows when it has power. Its worth the additional money for these extension cords because you don’t want to be wondering at the show if it’s the outlet that isn’t working or your sound system.

No power? No problem.

One disadvantage to my system is that I require power for all of my performances. It’s very rare that I don’t have access to power so it isn’t a concern for me. On occasion I have been hired to perform at a birthday party in a park where there is no power available. In those situations I was made aware of it in advance and I was able to prepare a show that didn’t require music or a microphone.
I hope this gives an insight into the type of system that you can build that will work for you and your shows. Please “like” and share this post on Facebook, and leave your comments below!