The Sound System (Part 1)

In this 3-part course, your trainer will guide you through the basics of the standard DJ sound system. Upon completion, you should feel confident in setting up a full sound system independently and in "event ready" condition. 

Part 1 - The Basics of Sound (Approximate time to complete: 90 mins)

The Hook-Up

The Essentials

You are going to need and learn about the following:

  • Speakers (2)
  • Wired Microphone
  • Mixer (DJ Console or external mixer)
  • Audio Source (Laptop, iPad, etc.)
  • AC cable (to power speaker)
  • XLR cable, XLR - 1/4" cable
  • RCA cable, RCA - 1/8" cable
  • 1/4" cable, adapters (as needed)

Step 1: Wired Mic to a Single Speaker

Mic > Speaker

  • Often referred to as a PA, this basic connection demonstrates how sound travels from a microphone and through a speaker with just one power cable (AC) to the speaker and one sound cable (XLR).  
  • Mic/Line Level: Note the volume difference for each setting as you talk on the microphone.

Step 2: Add a Mixing Board. 

Mic > Mixer > Speaker

  • The mixer board is your control center. It allows for more precise volume adjustments and will give you access to everything you need during the event. 
  • Mixers can be built into a DJ console (Pioneer DDJ) or used externally (Mackie).

Step 3: Add an Audio Source.

CPU > Mixer > Speaker

  • Using the headphone jack of a computer (or iPad, cell phone, CD player, etc.), you can connect a cable from your audio source and into your mixer. 
  • Note that this will normally go into an input on the mixer labeled "line" or "CD."
  •  Do not use an input that is labeled "mic" or "phono."

Multiple Speakers

You will usually use (2) speakers at an event. Most mixers separate a stereo signal into a Left and a Right side. Practice plugging in both speakers from the mixer. 

Getting Tricky With It

Your trainer will go over the following tips that can help you on your events:

  • Daisy-chaining speakers
  • Alternate Outputs from your mixer
  • Alternate Inputs on your speakers

Levels

Part DJ / Part Sound Engineer

It's important to remember you are not just responsible for playing music or hooking up a microphone, but it is your job to make sure it sounds good. Several factors can affect sound quality. We will touch on a few today.

Volume (Level, Trim, Gain)

  • Your trainer will help you find and manipulate all available volume adjustments to understand the functionality and sensitivity of each. 
  • There is usually volume adjustments on the audio source (e.g. laptop), the speaker, the main volume on the mixer, the trim for a specific channel, the level for that channel (usually the slider).
  • Dedicated microphone channels will have a separate volume adjustment, as well.

EQ (Equalizer)

  • Almost as important as the volume of an audio source is the tonality, or the way it actually sounds through the speaker. 
  • Usually separated by Highs (Treble), Lows (Bass), and Mids, a proper EQ can help people with different voice ranges sound great through the microphone.
  • Your trainer will help you manipulate the EQ adjustments for the wired microphone so you can hear the difference it makes.

Getting Tricky With It

Missing from the list of equipment for this section are headphones. You may not realize it, but you are actually already in possession of one. To demonstrate the way you can truly manipulate sound and the equipment sending and receiving that sound, go ahead and plug the 1/4" end of your wired microphone cable into the "Headphone" jack of your mixer board. Your trainer can help you with this. 

Sure it's not ideal, but knowing how to use all the tools at your disposal will help you creatively problem solve should the need arise at an event. 

"DJ Checklist"

Your DJ Checklist

You should do your checklist prior to leaving for each event. You don't want to have to learn the hard way how important this truly is.

Your trainer will help you go through a standard DJ cable bin. Start by separating power and sound cables, then fill out the checklist with your trainer. 

What type of cable is XLR for?

  • Power
  • All Sound
  • Microphone ONLY
  • Speakers ONLY

What does it mean to EQ a microphone?

  • To adjust the highs, mids, and lows for tonal quality.
  • To adjust the volume levels over the speakers.
  • To convert a microphone from passive to active.
  • DJ slang for when you "unmute" a microphone.

Review

Hands-On

After turning down all volume levels and unplugging all cables and equipment, it is time to reconnect two speakers to the mixer with a wired mic and an audio source (using 1/8" headphone jack). 

  • Once everything is hooked up, adjust volume levels and make sure you are getting sound from your wired microphone and your audio source (using 1/8" headphone jack). 
  • Your trainer will now demonstrate two alternate ways to plug in sound from your mixer and the cables you would need to do so. 
  • If you are completing Part 2 of this course on the same day, you may proceed to the next section. If not, you may pack up and put away all equipment.