Ok we have a new band and we need some way to amplify the vocals and i dont know what we need. ive done some research and read about powered speakers. we only want to spend a few hundred but i dont have any idea which way to go?

You have a couple of options;

1. Mixer with powered speakers
2. Powered mixer with passive speakers
3. Acoustic amp

To keep the expenses low, I'd go for an acoustic amp. Also make sure you get a decent mic (like a Shure SM58).
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
pardon my ignorance but could you explain please?
what is a powered mixer? what is the need for a mixer? what are passive speakers?
also i dont want to spend 100 on a microphone. we are using a usb microphone and thats fine for us right now, also would you suggest any other ones or should i just look around?
Well you could cut a few corners and get a cheap PA package. Usually they aren't good enough to gig with, but will suffice for band practices at least.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Go out and pick up a cheap, used bass or keyboard amp. As long as it has enough wattage it'll get the job done.
I'm contemplating writing an article for this on UG so I'll try and help you through this. If you ask questions I'll do my best to answer.

What I'll try and do is give you advice that won't result in you wasting money. I'll also try and make it clear what will just about work and what is a better way of going about things.

What you are looking for with a vocal amp is something which gives a good clear sound with a basic flat frequency response. If it has a shaped frequency response like a guitar amp it will make the voice sound crap. If it has peaks in the frequency response then it will cause feedback as the mic picks up these peaks. The most important frequencies are the mids because this is all there is in vocals so your system needs to do these well. You don't need or want too much bass as this will give you a lot of noise and distort your signal if you operate at high volumes.

Bass amps, acoustic amps and keyboard amps usually aim to have flat responses so if you have these lying around unused then you could use them as a stopgap. They are not ideal though as they are optimised for other uses; the tone controls may be all wrong for vocals and they may have peaks for extra sparkle which will cause you feedback problems.

So I'm going to assume you are going to have to buy and that you want to do it as cheaply as you can.

Start with a decent mic. You'll use it forever and if you ever play live good vocal sound makes your band better than the other bands out there. The industry standard is the Shure sm58. Seen at Glastonbury 2010 and 1970 and in countless live performances. Think of it as being like a Fender Strat. It has its own sound which you may like or not but it is a good guitar and the shure is a good mic. Costs about £90 here it'll last you at least ten years or £9 a year. Alternatives are the Sennheiser 835 or the AKG D5. If you are Really short of cash there are a couple of alternatives which are basically SM58 clones which I've used and found to be nearly as good and reasonably well made, the Samson Q6 (£30) and the Behringer XM8500 (£16 without a lead though)!

The next thing you need is an amp which for vocals is called a monitor. You'll need monitors for when you start performing (so you can hear yourselves on stage) and so buy something which will do this job. The alternative is to buy a small PA system which might help out with early gigs but which you can go on to use as monitors for quite a while. I'll explain.

Monitors are (usually) small speakers that are built so that the speaker is at an angle pointing up towards the performers ears. Because of there shape they are also called Wedges. They can be powered by a separate amp (passive wedges) but I'd recommend that you look for one with the amp built in. We bought a Laney CXP 110 http://www.laney.co.uk/show_prod.php?prod=cxp-110
which does a good job. It costs about £130. The only disadvantage is that it only has a single volume control so you cant mix in sounds and it only has an unbalanced mic input. The advantage is that you just plug the mic in and away you go and you can run it of a mixing desk if needs be and also add an extension speaker. Most manufacturers make a version of this.

The alternative is a cheap PA like this http://www.pasupercentre.co.uk/peavey-performer-pack.html . You can get even cheaper if you go for non-branded. The mics are usually something to throw away and the Pa won't be loud enough for anything other than an acoustic act. The problem is the speakers, they have to compromise on the magnets to make anything at this price so the speakers are generally not very efficient, however this isn't such a problem if you use them as monitors as you will be much closer than the audience and they will be quite adequate for even a large practice room.

Most PA speakers nowadays are built in a wedge shape deliberately so you can use them as monitors so be reassured this is just as good a choice. They'll act as your practice set up now and occasional PA use and form your monitor system as soon as you can afford something better.

A third option would be to buy an active PA speaker. More expensive but much better quality. Something like this http://www.reddogmusic.co.uk/PA-and-Live-Sound/Speakers/Active/Wharfedale-Titan-12-Active.html?origin=googlebase

Finally if you have a separate singer then they need to invest if they are serious, You've bought a guitar and amp as tools of your trade. They need to buy a mic and monitors as part of theirs.

^ that really should be an article. very informative.
Dick+strings= owww
If you only want to spend a few hundred (a 'few' is not the most helpful 'number') you could pick up this:


It's the Carvin 12" powered speaker, 350 program watts. About $400 shipped. It should do a great job for you. Pick up the Behringer XM8500 that Phil mentioned, and get a mic cable ($10 or so.) The speaker is useful because it's powered, you can plug two mics right into it, it has built in 3-band EQ, and it can mount on a pole or as a wedge.

Please don't waste your money on a phonic pod or something like that. When I was singing for another band, that's what they had and it was horrible. I could *just* make out the notes I was hitting, but there was no real clarity to the vocals, which is what you absolutely need. I've been building a QSC powered Yamaha Club system ever since.

Please consider the link I gave you -- $400 might SEEM like a lot, but keep in mind that you don't have to get a mixer with it (right away, at least.) A PA system that is actually GOOD will cost you some serious $$$. You simply can't fudge around it. For instance, you can buy a $300 Yamaha BR15m monitor or pay $100 more for the CM15V monitor. The BR is really not that clear sounding or great compared to the Club series, which is kind of a 'standard' for PA speakers.

If there's anything you are planning on purchasing in regards to the PA, run it by us here first so you aren't just throwing cash into the breeze...
Ibanez AS93
Fender Marauder
Vox Pathfinder 15R
thanks a lot for the help guys!

another question. our recordings suck. for now we are dealing with adjusting our volumes for the one mic, which isnt a bad idea, but it would be nice to have the ability to record with all mics and adjust the tracks seperately.
this is a whole new set of equipment i know, but what am i looking at here? programs i can get for free, but what would i need equipment-wise to be able to record multiple tracks at a time?

again, thanks you all are a big help

edit: perhaps a mixer and then run it through the microphone jack in my comp? or would that ruin the sound?

maybe if i can find a powered speaker with volume control for each input? you guys would know better than me idk
Last edited by jammy jam jam at Jul 18, 2010,
Well, on the Carvin LM12A there is a gain on each input. There's one channel that has XLR or TRS, a second channel with just TRS, and a third channel with just RCA (for an mp3 player.) You can get a cable that lets a mic plug into TRS, so you could use two mics and each have their own gain knob, plus the overall master volume on the speaker.

Now for recording. When you set the mic, of course set the trim -- make the loudest noise you will make into the mic, and turn it up until the peak light is on, then roll back until it is not on. Then adjust from the fader. This will make sure you don't get distorted input.

Unfortunately to record multiple mic tracks at once and have them drop into the computer for mixing later, you need a mixer like the Mackie 1640i, or Allen & heath has a similar model. They run $1700 and $2000 new, respectively. I drool for either of those but right now I have higher priorities and can't afford them. They plug into a firewire port on the PC (which you can install an add-on card for) and it will let you record up to 16 separate mic tracks at once, and mix/EQ/apply effects and whatever else onto each individual track after you've recorded the take.

Of course, that's expensive as ****. I would worry about making your live sound and show the best they can be, so that you can earn enough money to pick up recording gear LATER, or afford to hire a producer/engineer for a demo. I would not run into the mic jack on your computer.
Ibanez AS93
Fender Marauder
Vox Pathfinder 15R
oh i see, im sure we can adjust the gain and everything and just throw a mic next to the speaker. right?

im thinking get the Carvin LM12A and 2 or 3 Behringer XM8500's and my brother has a line6 box with an XLR and a few TRS inputs so ill use that to get it all on the comp.

sound good?
Have a look at the Recordings and Riffs section of the forums for advice in home recording. I'm strictly a live sound engineer. You won't need to spend that sort of amount to do basic recording though. Something like this which comes with Cubase packaged will let you do quite complex stuff straight to your computer for less than £300.


Alternatively and even cheaper you could get one of these which you can record via the USB output.
This would do you as a live mixer (I've got an earlier version which we've used for years until upgrading) and you can use it for your practice as well. Alesis make a version of this as well as several other manufacturers. By the way whilst I wouldn't recommend Behringer instrument amps we've never had any failures of their PA stuff so far.

There are also mixers like this which you can drop an iPod straight on to which will record onto the iPod.

I don't know the Carvin, but it looks just like the sort of thing we do get over here and an excellent option. You could also look at similar from JBL. I'd check and see if they intend doing these for a couple of years as a pair would be a great way to start your PA.

Good choice I think.
Quote by jammy jam jam
oh i see, im sure we can adjust the gain and everything and just throw a mic next to the speaker. right?

im thinking get the Carvin LM12A and 2 or 3 Behringer XM8500's and my brother has a line6 box with an XLR and a few TRS inputs so ill use that to get it all on the comp.

sound good?

You may need to track everything separately if you want to mix it down later. If you wanted to mic everyone playing a live take of the whole song that's when you'd need something like the Mackie Onyx. But if you are fine with separate tracking that should work out. You should get an M-Audio fast track USB, it has a mic preamp on it for recording into the pc, and a line in that would work for the line 6, which can probably go USB in anyways.
Ibanez AS93
Fender Marauder
Vox Pathfinder 15R