How to achieve a good live stage sound from your PA Sound System

To achieve the best live stage sound at any gig you must learn and understand the basics of sound engineering. It is not too important to spend loads of time in the studio or taking a course in sound engineering, however, you should become acquainted with your PA sound system. The main equipment you will be using is the mixing desk or mixing amp which is the equipment that will control and produce all sounds. Most mixing desks have a bass or a graphic equalizer, auxiliary for effects, and mid and treble controls. Singers and musicians should practice with the equipment, record and listen to the differences that are produced with various volumes and settings.

How to use a Mixing Desk

Using the mixing desk will depend on the size, make, and type that you have. Here is a guideline on how to use a mixing desk:

  • All gain, volume, and effect controls should be turned on fully anti-clockwise to zero
  • All bass, mid, and treble controls should be turned to their centre 12 o clock zero position
  • Gain or volume control should be turned up halfway
  • Volume control for back track should be turned up to a comfortable level
  • Microphone volume should be turned up above the backing track volume. Always make sure you can hear yourself clearly
  • Check that your reverb or mute is off
  • Adjust your pan controls left or right to suit your venue requirements
  • Practice singing and speaking before adjusting any effects or equalisation
  • The bass should be gradually adjusted, mid-range than a bit at a time and you should notice the difference in the sounds. Gradually walk around to hear the different effects and sounds.
  • Your backing track settings will depend on the size and type of the venue and how well you recorded them. Ideally, you should aim for a sound that is not too muddled
  • Adjust the settings for your vocals
  • To turn on your system, connect to the main power, your amplifier should be powered on last after all the other devices
  • To turn your system off, disconnect from the mains, your amplifier should be turned off first before disconnecting your other devices

Leads for speakers

  • It is important not to use faulty speakers or speaker leads as this could damage the amplifier. Take care of your interconnect cables as they can become damaged especially in a mobile or portable sound system. Stop using the sound system immediately if you suspect that you have damaged the speakers, or the speaker leads in any way.
  • It will be apparent to you if there is any audio distortion you will know if the equipment has sustained damage. A PA sound system is only capable of producing a certain volume before incurring damage. Turn the bass and volume down.
  • A lot of the portable sound systems can only be used with a max of 2 8-ohm speakers.

Wireless Microphones

  • A microphone should always be connected to an amplifier that is marked “mic”
  • Never project your voice into a microphone in front of a speaker, this way you will avoid any acoustic feedback when testing your mic
  • Your mic should be clipped to your body in a central location around 20cm below the mouth
  • If you are wearing a microphone on your head, it should always be protected with foam and worn near the mouth
  • Microphones that are handheld will exhibit less feedback and sound warmer when they are close to the mouth
  • Feedback is primarily caused by incorrect placement of loudspeakers, incorrect tonal settings on the amplifier, proximity of the microphone to loudspeakers, or too much volume
  • The microphone should always be behind the speakers
  • UHF wireless mics will not extend beyond 33m max and VHF mics will usually transmit 33m from the receiver in the poorest conditions
  • Wireless mic transmitters should be kept away from their receivers at least 2 to 3 m
  • The receiver and the transmitter should have line of sight between each other
  • Always read instructions before using equipment


Always note the recommended use of rechargeable batteries and the initial charge on the instructions
Never attempt to make or recharge any style of dry cell battery
Prior to using always fully charge NiMh rechargeable batteries

Ways to avoid acoustic feedback

There are many ways of avoiding acoustic feedback here are some of the following:

  • Do not use microphones in front of or near any loudspeakers. Always hold your mic correctly.
  • If you are wearing a mic or a wireless mic never go within 3 to 4 m of a loudspeaker
  • Centrally locate your mic on your body and near your mouth
  • Project your voice when using any microphone system
  • Always have the microphone behind your speakers

Wearing a microphone on your head

A microphone for your head must be positioned correctly. Place the headband around the back of the head and the microphone arm to the left side of your face.