main image
Home | Handbook

This page is for all the sound people and promoters out there who setup large scale sound systems for raves, clubs and concerts. I've played many events over the past 9 years I've been a DJ and I just wanted to put some stuff up here to help educate people how to better setup the system to accommodate and enhance the performance of all the DJs and live acts at their event. I'm not trying to tell you how to run your event, I'm only suggesting a few things to make it a little more DJ / performer friendly.

The DJ Mixer

Many sound crews use really cheap mixers and this is a BIG no no. The mixer is probably THE most important unit a DJ needs to perform well. The following mixers are highly recommended:
  • Rane MP-44(x)
  • Rane MP-24(x)
  • Rane MP-22(x)
  • Rane Mojo MM 8z
  • Vestax PMC-55
  • Vestax PMC-27 Mk II
  • Vestax PMC-270a
The reason for this is because these models have better headphone controls than most mixers. I am referring to the split-mono buttons which allow the DJ to hear the house in one ear and the cue in the other. Also, these mixers have a panning feature that allows the DJ to adjust the relative volume blend of the house and cue signals which helps us beat match. Another feature of these mixers is the onboard booth monitor volume control. This allows the DJ to adjust the volume of the monitor he/she is using to a comfortable level. Make sure you hook up the monitor amp to this volume knob! There are some Numarks and MTXs out there that are fairly decent but they don't come close to the Rane or Vestax mixers. The quality of the faders in the Rane and high end Vestax mixers is superb. I would really like to see the Rane MP-22(x) become the mixer standard for all sound crews. For $599 this unit has all the features I listed above, is very durable, well made and has a field replaceable crossfader.

The Coffin, Turntables and CD players

Please make sure your turntables are in good condition and use ORTOFON phono needles. The Ortofons simply track the best and don't pop out of the groove when the DJ back cues. Also, try and set up a Denon 2500F CD player, Pioneer CDJ 500 or Pioneer CMX 5000 CD player with the system. Many DJs now use CDs and this trend is increasing as time continues. Make sure the coffin is at mid-chest height, and is placed on a very sturdy heavy table, not a rickety X stand. Make sure there is a light there so the DJ can see what he/she is doing. We can't mix very well in pitch black darkness. Also, make sure the coffin's table is planted securly on the ground and not on a hollow stage or hanging from chains in the ceiling. It is important that the coffin be very secure, free from vibration and somewhat away from the main crowd so nobody accidently bumps into it and causes the needles to skip. Make sure the coffin isn't placed on a bouncy floor because when many people get together and start dancing, the floor will shake and cause the needles to jump. Try and dampen the coffin by placing thick foam padding underneath it to take out the bass vibrations.

The DJ Monitors

Please try and get TWO clear, powerful monitors and have them raised at ear level, do not simply lay them on the ground because it is very difficult to hear anything from them when they are like that. It is important that the monitors be in good condition. Also, do not place them too near the turntables / DJ coffin as this causes all kinds of vibration and feedback problems. Nice JBL or Mackie monitors mounted on those Ultimate Support tripods are the best, and make sure the monitors volume level is plugged DIRECTLY into the booth/zone volume knob on the DJ mixer. This is a key thing to help a DJ mix well. If there is only one monitor available, I prefer for it to be placed on the left side of the coffin.


The Location of the DJ Coffin

Please try and setup the system so that the coffin is somewhat away from the bass bins and speaker arrays. Make sure the main speaker stacks are pointed AWAY from the coffin location as the volume levels in clubs can get very loud, it makes it difficult to hear what your mixing. Try and isolate the DJ coffin a little so people can't hang over the DJ and distract him/her. Good mixing takes great concentration and people who are fucked up and hanging over the DJ just detract from the DJs overall performance. I know a lot of promoters think it's cool to have the DJ coffin right out in the front where everybody can see and hang over the DJ but be reasonable and place the coffin back just a bit.

The Main Cabinets

This is also a very important part of the event and DJs performance. Using cheap, homemade or no name cabinets that you bought at the swap meet won't do. Please avoid brands like Pevey, Gem Sound, Gemani, MTX, American DJ and speakers you made in your garage using drivers from Radio Shack. The best brands for pro sound are EAW and JBL. These cabinets produce a clean, undistorted signal and make the night much more enjoyable. Please learn how to properly crossover and tune your system using EQ's, compressors, limiters, gates, BBEs etc... I can't tell you how many times I've walked over the amp rack where all the signal processors are only to see all the sliders on the EQ set at maximum gain, this is plain wrong. Make sure the sound guy knows what he/she is doing or get someone else who does. It is well worth a few extra bucks to pay for a sound crew that knows what they are doing.

The Power Amps

Most professional sound people use good amps. The best amp brands are Crest, Crown and QSC. The problem here is how people tune the system with the main house control on the mixer. A lot of sound crews tape down the sliders on the mixers because they say the DJ is going to clip the system but it doesn't have to be this way. Please at least set the channel sliders at about 8 and tune the system there. The reason there are sliders on the mixer is to adjust for the volume differences in records and you can't do this when the sliders are pushed all the way up and taped there. Just tell the DJ to watch the volt meters and not to exceed a certain dB level, that's what it's there for. Use of a compressor limiter is also highly advisable to protect against system and driver overload. Also, large power amps draw a tremendous amount of current from the wall (power source) in the building. Make sure you use a Fire Dept. approved distribution box which is hooked directly into the main fuse box of the building and rated at usually 300 amps for each 120 volt outlet it has. This is basically enough power to run a large system on. Don't be using extention cords and run them long distances or all over the room. The Ohms (resistance) increases dramatically, especially in power cords when you run them long distances and the amps need all the power they can get. Better to locate the amps right near the power source and run the speaker cables the long distance. You can run a heavy duty speaker cable 100' feet with very little signal loss. Use of Neutrix Speakon connectors is also highly recommended over quarter inch plugs because the Speakon connectors lock in place.

The Permits

Please make sure you have all the proper sound, venue, security, insurance, dance and fire permits from the city and post them in plain view of everyone. Nobody wins when a club gets broken up because all the proper permits weren't secured and this ruins the night for everyone. Don't give the cops an easy reason to shut you down. It is very simple to just tape the permits to an outside window or have them in plain view at the entry way for city officials to see if they are inspecting your club. Also, watch the capacity limit in your venue. Many events get shut down simply for being over capacity.

The Rest of the Club

It's great to have some cool club lights / lasers, some intelligent lighting and a good fog machine at your event. Good lighting sweeping through smoke clouds creates a super psychedelic effect and when coupled with good music, good vibe and good DJ mixing, your club will almost be guaranteed to go off. Decorations and art work are always nice too, and be sure there are enough bathrooms for everyone and trash cans around. Make sure the exits are well marked and lit up if possible as this increases the capacity of the room and when the Fire Marshall shows up and sees the exits are lit up and easy to get too, he probably won't shut you down for being over capacity. Try to send some security guards around the outside perimeter of the venue to make sure nobody is tagging the building. Many events and locations are shut down because of tagging! Make sure to clean up the location after you have left, then next time you want to use that location, the owner will know you respect his property and let you use it again.

Highly Recommended Products

Pro Sound and Stage Lighting Links

  NewAge Laser Entertainment   Audio Engineering Society  
  Eastern Acoustic Works   JBL Pro Audio  
  S.P.A.R.S.   Bag End  
  Rane Corporation   QSC Audio  
  Crest Audio   Crown Audio  
  Calzone Cases   Luners Pro Sound  
  Mobol Lazer   LSD Lazer  
  Lazer Magic   N Effect Lazers  
  Apogee Electronics   Genelec  
  Westlake Audio   Soundcraft  
  BGW Systems   AdB Digital  
  DBX Pro   Dolby Laboratories  
  Akai Professional   Ashly Audio  
  Denon Electronics   Furman Sound  
  High End Systems   Klipsch Professional  
  Numark Industries   Roland Corporation  
  Shure Inc   Ultimate Support  
  Yorkville   Teac  
  Fostex   Peavey  
  Carver   Community Loudspeakers  
  AKG Acoustics   Ortofon A/S  
  Competition Sound   Music Stuff  
  Sound 2 Light   1200s  
  DJ Mixers   Digital Analog  
  S and J CD Duplication   Z Zounds  
  Sounds Online   Sonic Foundary  
  Pioneer Pro DJ   SLS Loudspeakers