Live sound - Description of the equipment

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Let's take a look at the standard diagram of a live concert:

Live sound - Diagram of connections in a live event

Diagram of connections in a live event

This is a simplified scheme, which however, gives us an overall perspective of the functions and various connections that take place.

Let's start off by examining how the stage itself is organized. The first thing is to pick up the signals (microphones or lines) that are produced by the musicians. Onstage we will have a piece of equipment called the splitter box, whose function is to gather all the present signals and distribute them to other destinations, in many copies. The two copies we're interested in at the moment, and that are shown on the diagram, are the ones that are sent to the stage mixer and the FOH (Front Of House) mixer.

In a live situation there are always at least two mixers. The FOH mixer, as you can guess, is where we create the mix that will feed the main diffusion system (plus possible delay tower systems); the stage mixer is used for supplying the musicians onstage with individual mixes of the sounds they produce. As we can see in the diagram, each musician onstage has one or two monitors. These are each musician's own reference point to listen to himself and the others playing. The drummer for example, sits right behind the singer and is already flooded by the sounds he himself is producing (especially if he has a large ego!). In order to allow the drummer to hear the other musicians, including the singer, a monitor (drumfill) is set up fed by a signal generated by the stage mixer. On the stage mixer, where all the onstage signals are gathered, it is possible to create a series of different mixes, usually one for each musician. This is because each musician has certain listening requirements. For example a drummer needs to hear the bassist better than he needs to hear the singer's voice or the lead guitar. So, live mixers have the function of creating great quantities of separate mixes, destined to the various different monitors onstage. In smaller live situations (very small) it is possible to use just one mixer that fulfils the duties of both, the stage mixer and the FOH mixer.

Through the splitter, the stage signals are also sent to the FOH mixer. It is on the latter that the front-of-house engineer (the sound engineer sitting in front of the stage) will create the mix that will feed the P.A. system (P.A., or Public Address, is the loudspeaker system that diffuses the sound in the hall). So, now we can see how the mix that reaches the FOH system and the mixes present onstage are entirely independent. Let's now take a better look at the chain of connections for the stage mixer and the FOH mixer, and the equipment involved.

  • posted on 01-06-2009 15:27
    Man, isn't enough the entire course put online free under the Creative Commons license?
    These pictures are samples, some of them are readable some aren't. That's the site's policy.
    If you appreciate the effort, support us buying the full-featured version. This would help us in doing better what we're doing. Thank you for your feedback.
  • posted on 01-06-2009 13:47
    the pic is unreadable... *bigger* please!

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