Why a Line Array? – By Jake Feldman

November 6, 2014 by Jake Feldman

A NEW APPROACH IS NEEDED FOR LARGE-SCALE DJ SOUND


line-arraySo many times, we hear of DJs bringing in the wrong sound system for the situation at hand. I’ve been guilty of it a time or two based upon availability, truck space, and budget of client. What, you might ask, is the wrong sound system for an application? For example, if you have to use 12 full-range cabinets in a stacked configuration aimed at being loud in a hanger-type space, you might just have the wrong system for the application. But there’s a solution, which comes from the realm of large-event sound production: the line-array.

WHAT IS IT?

A line-array system is designed to aim sound directly at the audience while limiting the necessary output from one single box using, by using both architecture (a curve) and coupling (ribbon horn) to achieve the desired full-range result. In essence (and in street terms), the longer and bigger the array “line” is, the more powerful the system is and the better the boxes can replicate the true sound of the music being produced.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME AS A DJ?

These are the right speakers for your larger applications—here’s why: If your large-event sound isn’t sounding so good, in a nutshell, you were probably experiencing signal loss due to both comb filtering (frequency cancellation) on the top end and power valleys on the low-end. Most likely, the cabinets you chose to use aren’t engineered to be paired together; and if they were, not usually more than three per side. In any event, as you walk around the room, you can tell where certain parts of the room have full frequency and others sound muffled or distorted.

Line arrays are better because on a horizontal plane they utilize the same ribbon, meaning they are not competing with horns in the same stack for frequency space and output. Rather, on the vertical plane, they are pairing together to carry further and reach more bodies.

GAIN AN EDGE

While line array technology isn’t new, I would guarantee you that not a lot of DJs in your area utilize them for a large corporate event, school dances, walks and fundraisers. This means that automatically for those events (in my opinion the only type of events for which equipment should be discussed) you as the entertainment provider can and do have that as a selling point over your competition.

Along with that, if you’re being paired with a band, now you have a system that sounds great and can be utilized for their sound as well, meaning less floor space being eaten up by the entertainment in the client’s eyes, and also a negotiation point for the client when making arrangements for the band (most bands charge more if they must provide their PA).

CONSIDERATIONS

When planning line array use, you’ll need to discuss the layout of the room and the possible need to fly the system to achieve maximum system output and success. If you do decide to rig a line array from the ceiling, truss, or specialized lifts, be sure to build it into your cost with the client (and properly sell them on why they need to spend the extra money). Also enlist the services of a certified, competent rigger (your local stagehand/rigger union can get you in touch with a pro). Of course, if you’re seriously considering a line array, then you most likely have the capital to ensure that the rigging gets handled properly.

Also important to consider is the cost of such a system. Most pro boxes in a line-array system begin at $2,500 per cabinet for the full-range array and $2,000 or so for subs. So, if you’re doing the math, that means that three full-range cabinets per side with two subs per-side plus the ground-stack mount will cost you north of $20,000 to secure. The upside is that this configuration will be in service for 10 years or more making you money.

WHY DJS SHOULD EMBRACE LINE ARRAYS

DJs want to be perceived as professionals, however not using new technology when it comes to event attendee comfort is decidedly unprofessional. Think about this: You’re at an event and the sound is muffled and distorted where you are at and you find out the entertainment provided the sound. No matter how great of a DJ or MC the person may be, they still didn’t use the right gear for the job—making them unprofessional at a portion of their job.

More output, clearer-sound, a professional new school look, and the ability to provide sound for larger spaces ARE NOW hallmarks of line arrays. Carpeted speakers, wobbly stands and music note vests WERE hallmarks of the DJ industry.

Changing with the times is what we need to do to stay relevant, and that includes re-thinking our sound for school dances and larger events. Just like we’ve gradually moved away from being the “dorks” with the music note vests—we’re in danger of becoming the “dorks” with 1980s sound systems. For large events, we need to live in the now and switch to line arrays.

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Jake Feldman (34 Posts)

Jake Feldman
Mobile Beat Gear Guru – ProDJ Publishing

Jake started his career in the Mobile DJ business as an entertainer for the local production company of ProDJ Publishing (then ProDJ.com) at the age of 17 while still in high school. When Mobile Beat was merged with ProDJ.com to become ProDJ Publishing, Jake came on board as the resident gear aficionado as well as trade show logistics/production coordinator. While still performing nearly 70 events per year for the local production company plus his full time responsibilities with Mobile Beat, you can say Jake lives the Mobile DJ industry.


Filed Under: Issue #159, Sound