Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Creating a home studio for recording the classical guitar. Equipment, software and recording techniques. Amplification for live performance.
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Stephen Kenyon
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Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed May 10, 2017 9:57 am

Wonder if I could ask the collective wisdom if anyone has experience of using hifi speakers to amplify themselves? The speakers I am thinking of have two bare metal connectors for the two strands of the speaker cable, and I'm unsure how to specify or ask for the cables I'd need.

So the reason for the thought is partly that though I have a nice enough acoustic amp, its never a truly hifi type sound, and more to the point, its only the one box. The scenario I'm thinking if may be useful to have at least two speakers a distance away, partly so other players can hear them. In the past I borrowed another amp and pointed it backwards for the players.

I have a small mixer with all the usual features, and would probably use a reverb pedal in dry acoustics.
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UKsteve
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by UKsteve » Wed May 10, 2017 12:07 pm

What amp are you thinking of driving them with? You'll need that.
Speaker cable is no big deal - even twin bell wire would do or there are plenty of snazzy speaker cables around.

I have used an active full range monitor in the past, a Mackie SRM 350.

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Blondie
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by Blondie » Wed May 10, 2017 12:30 pm

Several issues here Stephen

-likely you would likely need a custom made cable, 1/4 inch jack to bare wires
-if you are connecting a 'small mixer' straight to Hi-fi speakers, where is the amplifier? Is it a mixer + amp? If not, you have no sound, so you'll need to buy an amp as well (I am assuming your 'acoustic amp' does not feature in your proposed signal chain).

PA amps are not built to drive hi-fi speakers, depending on on the specs you might get a horrible noise, in any case Hi Fi speakers are built to reproduce recorded music, not amplify an instrument (especially one as fussy as a classical guitar) so I would be doubtful of a good result.

Personally I would spend my money on a portable PA instead, or a pair of active PA speakers connected to your mixer.

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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by ben etow » Wed May 10, 2017 12:46 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 9:57 am
So the reason for the thought is partly that though I have a nice enough acoustic amp, its never a truly hifi type sound, and more to the point, its only the one box. The scenario I'm thinking if may be useful to have at least two speakers a distance away, partly so other players can hear them. In the past I borrowed another amp and pointed it backwards for the players.
I tried studio speakers, both small and big like 5 years ago and it did not work that well. Too directional and too low gain. I suspect you would get even less gain with hifi speakers...

If you want a truly hifi type sound and omnidirectionality so other players can hear the source (which will be perceived as one with the guitar near to the speaker), I strongly recommend you French luthier Jean-Luc Joie's system. He solved the problem. But you need to use his guitars.

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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by rojarosguitar » Wed May 10, 2017 1:00 pm

It all depends on the degree of amplification. Usually HiFi home speakers have a very low efficiency and also power rating is not that great, so you might destroy your speaker even before you have reached a satisfactory level of volume. (Of course it all depends also on the speakers and amp at hand).

Especially one single prolonged feedback during the sound check can send your speakers, especially your tweeters (sic!) to speaker nirvana.

Usually PA speakers are designed to have higher efficiency, and active PA speakers achieve quite a decent quality even in the lower price segment. And they almost always have inbuilt protection mechanisms against feedback loop damage.
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by ben etow » Wed May 10, 2017 1:05 pm

rojarosguitar wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 1:00 pm
And they almost always have inbuilt protection mechanisms against feedback loop damage.
At the (too low but) highest gain fora decent tone with the studio speakers, I got feedback.
No feedback with Joie's system plus enhanced dynamics and sustain... :shock:

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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed May 10, 2017 2:12 pm

Thanks to everyone for their (sorry!) feedback.

I think this comes down to remembering a John Williams recital when he used Rogers speakers to amplify, spread widely either side a big stage. Seemed fine to me, but then I don't know what kind of rating those speakers would have had. And it was the early 80s.

Re amp yes obviously I should have thought that a mixer on its own wouldn't also amplify. I do have powered studio monitors but they are near-field and I doubt would be suitable.

Volume wouldn't I'd have thought be a massive issue because its only to play with string quartet, not an orchestra. One would have plenty of time to organise placement and levels to avoid feedback.

Suitably straightened out, if its easy to find appropriately ended signal cable it might be worth an experiment in a hall to see what the sound is like. Otherwise, I know somebody with a Yamaha StagePas.
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by ben etow » Wed May 10, 2017 3:30 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 2:12 pm
Volume wouldn't I'd have thought be a massive issue because its only to play with string quartet, not an orchestra. One would have plenty of time to organise placement and levels to avoid feedback.
I'm afraid you need to have a huge volume to play at the same (musical) level as the quartet. Otherwise you'll always struggle just to be heard (so no dynamics for you and much more for them).

Avoiding feedback is tricky and will likely result in some or many players not hearing you (even yourself)...

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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by robin loops » Wed May 10, 2017 4:15 pm

Electric guitarists mic their amps. This is essential in larger venues but also useful in a small venue with a smaller amp (much better control over the house PA than trying to run a 100 tube amp and mix it in with rest of the house sound). As mentioned above dynamics can be a problem. For this issue, you can just play harder or use a studio compressor. A typical guitar stompbox compressor pedal will not work for this and serves a slightly different purpose (even out the signal for the next pedal in the chain and/or to drive the amp harder, or 'beef up' the sound). A little bit of studio compression can go a long way to making it easier for the other musicians to hear you, and you can even use compression for the stage monitor while micing out the guitar amp to the house sound and let the sound guy make any necessary adjustments (when there's a sound guy). Reverb can be a tricky thing to use when trying to be heard by the band mates as it can muddy things up and loose clarity. Use it sparingly.
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robin loops
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by robin loops » Wed May 10, 2017 4:17 pm

If your amp has a line out, you can use this to drive a monitor and it will save a lot of headache of trying to mic the speaker for the stage monitor.
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by rojarosguitar » Thu May 11, 2017 5:45 am

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 2:12 pm

Volume wouldn't I'd have thought be a massive issue because its only to play with string quartet, not an orchestra. One would have plenty of time to organise placement and levels to avoid feedback.

Unfortunately volume issues are not that easy. Even to achieve only some audibility you might need more power that could be had without feedbacks, and depending on room acoustics you might be not able to avoid feedbacks with ever so careful placement. Sometimes some limiting and/or equalizing must be done.

BTW Yamaha sound systems are quite decent.
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Thu May 11, 2017 6:22 am

rojarosguitar wrote:
Thu May 11, 2017 5:45 am
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 2:12 pm
Volume wouldn't I'd have thought be a massive issue because its only to play with string quartet, not an orchestra. One would have plenty of time to organise placement and levels to avoid feedback.
Unfortunately volume issues are not that easy. Even to achieve only some audibility you might need more power that could be had without feedbacks, and depending on room acoustics you might be not able to avoid feedbacks with ever so careful placement. Sometimes some limiting and/or equalizing must be done.
So is there a reason feedback would be more of a problem using some kind of hifi speakers set-up, when it never has been (including playing with orchestra) using a simple acoustic amp?
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by robin loops » Thu May 11, 2017 4:35 pm

By the way, what amp are you planning on using the drive the speakers hooked up to the mixer? Unless it's a mixer with a power amp (pa) it won't drive them. Also don't try hooking them up to the amp unless you check impedance. While many solid state amps have a range of tolerance, speaker impedance mismatch can burn it up depending on its design. Keep in mind that when hooking up two speakers in parallel the impedance is cut in half, whereas hooking them up in series will double it.

So if the amp is 8 ohms and the speakers are 4 you can hook them up in series and the amp will see an 8ohm speaker. If they are 16ohms you could run them in parallel and it would see an 8 ohm speaker. But if you tried to hook up two 8 ohm speakers it could only be 16 or 4 ohms. Again some 8 ohm amps can tolerate a 4ohm speaker (and even gain some power due to less resistance) but it's important to check the specs of the amp. If the ohms of the speakers aren't listed on the speakers you can check it with an multimeter (ohms setting). Many solid state amps are rated at 8ohms but can also run 4 ohms. 8ohms is fairly common for auxiliary speakers (but not always the case).

Another option is a small powered mixer.

As far as the cabling you'd need to hook them to the amp: It depends on how the amp's current speaker is connected. Many plug in with a 1/4" jack (same as a instrument cable jack) but don't use an instrument cable to connect speakers. For low volumes this could be fine but if turned loud enough it can fry the cable (mostly an issue with tube amps as they can burn out when they aren't seeing a speaker load). If there is just a wire running from amp to speaker you'd have to connect them to that. One more note: If you keep the speaker of the amp connected you have to include it's impedance in the equation. So if it's 8 ohms and you have two 4 ohm speakers you could hook the extension speakers in series and hook that pair in parallel with the amp speaker and have a total of 4 ohms (probably within the safe range for your amp.

If all of that is confusing, tell me the amp type, speaker model number and I'll look up their specs and figure out the best option for wiring them.
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Thu May 11, 2017 6:46 pm

robin loops wrote:
Thu May 11, 2017 4:35 pm
By the way, what amp are you planning on using the drive the speakers hooked up to the mixer?..

That's a very comprehensive set of observations, thanks Robin!

The mixer is a Soundcraft Folio Notepad (of some vintage!) and now I look at it there are small white and red (is it RCA?) plugs out L-R for Monitor Out plus basically the same thing on each of two output channels. (That's in addition to the usual 1/4"). I'm fairly sure the first of those is for an amp and speakers output according to the diagram on the box. The amp I'm thinking of used to drive those very same speakers but its in the attic right now.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
Trevor Semple Series 88 (1992)
Louis Panormo (1838)
Alexander Batov Baroque Guitar (2013)

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Re: Using hifi speakers driven from a mixer for live performance

Post by ben etow » Fri May 12, 2017 10:39 am

You might want to check Joie's system at the GFA as Gaelle Solal and Boris Gaquere will be using it for their show.
BTW, Thibault Cauvin is also using it.

Here a previous version of the system I used years ago within Locango:
http://locango.snack.ws/media.html

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