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High School Band Room Sound System Setup

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I have made great use of this forum in the construction of my home theater and always received great advice. Now I have another problem:

I am a high school band director and the stereo system that we have used in our band room for many years (since long before I got here) has finally played its last recording. We are now in the market for a new sound system and I would like to get some of your thoughts.

As for the room, it is a rectangle - 48' x 60'. We will use the system for listening to professional and amateur recordings (mostly CD, MP3, etc.) as well as recording and playing back our rehearsals. Next year the school system will install an LCD projector system and we will want to tie that in as well for watching videos of the marching band and other events and ensembles.

Here is what I am considering as far as speakers go:
- 2 JBL Control 29AV Speakers for the Front
- 2 JBL Control 28 Speakers for the Rear
- 1 JBL ES250P Sub
Would a 5.1 receiver be appropriate for this kind of area? If so, should I also use a center channel speaker? Would another Control 28 be appropriate for a center speaker?

As for other equipment:
- Crown SASS-HC microphone (this appears to be sort of an "industry standard" for band rooms in our area - many of the local schools use these fixed in their band rooms.
- Some type of four-channel mixer for the mic
- Some type of digital recorder that will allow instant playback and easy transfer to a computer for editing (preferably not a CD recorder)
- I don't know what kind of receiver we should get - 5.1, stereo, etc. Any suggestions here would be much appreciated. I don't really want to spend more than about $500 on a receiver.

I have had a couple of local A/V companies come in to offer an estimate however they have been a few thousand dollars outside of our price range. We already have a pretty nice CD player and we will get a DVD player with the projector system next year. I also realize that we will need to purchase wall mounts for all the speakers, lots of cables and other misc. items. I can get the speakers for about $1000 used from a local trusted source. The microphone and recorder will be a pretty good chunk as will the receiver. I would like to keep the total budget under $4,000 if possible.

As for installation, we have a technology team in our school system that will install the speakers and run the wiring for no cost.

Thanks for any guidance that you can offer..
post #2 of 4

Quote:


Would a 5.1 receiver be appropriate for this kind of area?

Absolutely not! A band hall is a venue that essentially needs something akin to a PA system, not a home theater system.

A home theater system is best enjoyed by people sitting in the sweet spot - i.e., dead center in front of the center channel speaker, or close to center. People sitting on the fringe seating will only hear well the speakers closest to them. It's really no different at a movie theater: The best seats, sound-wise, are near the center of the room. For the people sitting close to the walls, they just will not get the full effect.

In a band hall, only about 1/3 of the students, probably even less, will be sitting in that sweet spot. The ones sitting close to the front will not hear the rear speakers well. For the ones sitting towards the back, the rear speakers will be too loud in relation to the front speakers. The kids sitting on the outer edges, like the far-left rear for instance, the speaker closest to them will dominate. Since it seems that 5.1 DVDs are merely a small part of your intended use, there's no good reason to even consider going this route.

What you need is a semi-pro PA system. A small Mackie mixer or something similar would do for your front end, with any mics and playback components (CD player, etc.) connected to it. You need a mixer anyway for the mic anyway - moving up to a 6 or 8-channel version is probably all you need for the sources and inputs you've mentioned. If kids having access to the wiring is an issue, a rack-mounted mixer (that has all the connections on the rear panel, like a home receiver) might be a better option. Add an amplifier in the 150-200 watt range and you're good to go. Peavey or Carvin are good options for reliable amplifiers that are reasonably priced.

Okay, the speakers. The ones you're looking at are decent quality - hard to go wrong with JBL. The only concern I'd have would be that speakers with 8-inch woofers are going to sound pretty thin in a room as large as a band hall. Small speakers are designed for small rooms. Put a small speaker in a large room, and the bass will sound weak. Even using a sub, there will be some deficiency in the upper bass region, due to the main speaker's small woofers. I'd be looking at speakers with a 12 woofer, or at least dual 10, in a room that size. Ditching the 5.1 idea would let you put the money spent for five so-so quality speakers towards two of better quality.

Or, do you even need new speakers? I expect that it was the electronics in your current system that gave up the ghost, right? - not the speakers? I'm going to hazard a guess that your current speakers are some big boxes from the 70s or 80s that have big woofers? If they're still working, why replace them?

Re the digital recorder, I don't know much about them. I was going to recommend, why get some kind of recorder that you can dump to a computer when you can just record straight to a computer? But I imagine you need something portable to take to performances? You might pose a question on a forum for recording hobbyists and professionals , like the Tape Op Message Board.

This is overall a pretty simple system, so I can't imagine how you would run over a $4000 budget. And I really can't imagine what those AV companies were recommending that would run thousands over your budget, especially when you have the installation covered.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks Wayne for the great information!

The quote that I got from the pro shop for the installation was for 2 Control 29's for the front, 5 Control 28's for the rear, an ES250P sub, the Crown SASS-HC mic, a small Behringer 4-channel mixer, a Marantz 5600P receiver (I believe it's a 5.1, not positive), a CD player, a CD recorder, and a locking rack/cabinet. Including all of the rigging hardware, wiring, shipping and installation labor the total was just over $8,000. I felt this was pretty high for what we were getting.

Now, in their defense they have done many of these installations in other band rooms around town and they do sound phenominal. I'm assuming the equipment was the same but I can't be certain.

I had the feeling that 5.1 was NOT the way to go in here - we will NEVER watch a 5.1 DVD even when we get the new projector system.

I like the idea of using a mixer for this system but am not sure exactly what specs to be looking for as far as inputs and outputs (number and type) in order to hook up the components that we will need (particularly a CD player, a recording device, DVD player, probably even a cassette deck).

The speakers that we currently have are JBL Northridge E80's. They are not bad speakers but are meant for home use, not to fill a 3000 square foot room. The tweeters are blown (no surprise) and the mid on one of them is blown.

We do have a couple of old Peavy or JBL cabinets that we could possibly use but they are HUGE and I would worry about them being rigged above the students hahaha. Maybe something a little smaller might be appropriate.

Thanks for the ideas and any other info that you might want to throw my way will be much appreciated.
post #4 of 4

Quote:


Now, in their defense they have done many of these installations in other band rooms around town and they do sound phenominal. I'm assuming the equipment was the same but I can't be certain.

Yeah, possibly as much as half of the quote was installation-related. $4000 for just the gear still seems a bit high, though...

Quote:


The speakers that we currently have are JBL Northridge E80's. They are not bad speakers but are meant for home use, not to fill a 3000 square foot room. The tweeters are blown (no surprise) and the mid on one of them is blown.

The problem may be that your amp was underpowered. Believe it or not, low-powered amps blow more speakers than high powered ones. If you all like to play the system loud, you probably should move up to at least a 400 watts-per-channel amp.

Quote:


I like the idea of using a mixer for this system but am not sure exactly what specs to be looking for as far as inputs and outputs (number and type) in order to hook up the components that we will need (particularly a CD player, a recording device, DVD player, probably even a cassette deck).

Well, you would want the mixer to have an input for each channel you would need. The stereo sources each require two inputs, so the CD, DVD and cassette deck would require six channels total. A channel for the Crown mic and any others mics you might use, plus a couple for whatever digital recorder you get, if you envision ever connecting it to the mixer. A few spare channels never hurt for possible future expansion. Looks like 12 channels would do you nicely. Mackie makes some nice small mixers. I’ve used several of them over the years and have never had any real complaints. See if you can get one that doesn’t have a built-in graphic equalizer, as people tend abuse those things by cranking up the bass and/or treble sliders. That can kind of stuff can hasten the demise of the speakers. Since it looks like you want everything in an equipment rack, Mackies and most other small mixers can be rack mounted with an adapter kit. That will put all the connections out of sight and access to the kids.

Non-rack mounted home equipment like CD players etc. can be a bit of a problem. You can get a rack mounted shelf to set them on, but they might be prone to sliding around with use. Not to mention, it’s easy for them to “grow legs” and disappear. If your budget permits, Tascam and Marantz Professional make rack-mounted CD, DVD and cassette decks, but they will cost way more than home units will. Of course, they should be much more rugged and reliable than most home components, so they may be worth the extra expense.

If you end up with consumer components, a trick we used to do to make them rack mountable when I was installing systems was to mount the cassette deck (or whatever) directly to a two-space rack shelf. We’d start by remove the feet from the component, so it could sit flush in the shelf. Then we’d remove the top cover. Typically it comes off really easy, just a few screws. Once the cover was off, we’d look for places where the circuit board was not covering the chassis bottom and drill at least 2-3 small holes the correct size for #6 or #8 sheetmetal screws. Then we’d position the unit on the shelf and mark the shelf through the holes we’d drilled in the component’s chassis. Drill the holes in the shelf large enough for the screws to drop into. Replace the component’s top cover, set it upside down on the table, and position the shelf on top of it. Line up the holes and screw it down. Voila, you now have a rack-mountable component.

BTW, don’t go with one of those ultra-thin DVD players. Get a larger full-sized player that you could mount to a shelf. They can be hard to find these days, but you can get older models cheap on eBay from Onkyo, Yamaha, Pioneer, etc. We recently picked up a cherry, barely-used Yamaha player several years old for a mere $30.

Quote:


We do have a couple of old Peavy or JBL cabinets that we could possibly use but they are HUGE and I would worry about them being rigged above the students hahaha. Maybe something a little smaller might be appropriate.

You could always have shelves built overhead that would be sturdy enough to set them on. I’m sure the school district has a maintenance department that could do that?

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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