We have upgraded our sound system many times over the years in pursuit of the best combination of sound quality and portability. The current system is very satisfying now as it delivers the kind of vocal clarity that we like, combined with a clear but warm sound from the various instruments.
Vocal clarity is obviously particularly essential in a ceilidh band when people rely on hearing the caller to guide them through dances.
Most satisfying is the number of compliments we get on the sound quality - mostly along the lines of: "Its great to be hearing all the instruments so clearly, to have it loud enough to dance to, and yet still be able to have a conversation without having to shout." They key is good equip,ent, particualrly having a lot of fine control equipment. The bottom line is that it works really well, and we still keep to our original aim of clear sound that is loud enough to dance to but doesnt make conversation difficult for the audience.
OK that's probably all that most people may want to know. But for those of you who like to know a bit more about our specs read on:....
One of the main components of this is powered fornt of house speakers. speakers. the For a while we used a BOse L! system which was very good - but a tyear or two ago it became unreliable, so we replaced it with a pair of Yamaha DBR12 active speakers and we are delighted with the sound they produce.
The other main factor in getting the right sound is the control box - a flight case containing the mixing desk - a 16-channel Soundcraft Spirit Folio FX. This is linked with a two channel Peavey graphic equaliser mainly for feedback elimination. The box also contains two further Peavey graphic equalisers for the stage monitors and an 8-channel DI unit, which saves us having lots of DI boxes around the stage floor for the various instruments.
We have tried various monitors over the years - mainly floor wedges and for a while had a rather impressive system using EV 300SX speakers driven from a 1000w Yamaha 1500 amp. We switched to the current system really to make the gear lighter to carry, but it has proved to give the best monitoring yet. So we now use four tiny Behringer 208D personal monitors which sit on mic stands - up close and personal. This allows each of us to control the volume and EQ of our own monitor. They can even be wired to give us separate control of our own instrument or vocal. In practice we only use this wiring for one of the instruments. It means that we can hear everything we want to hear quite clearly at relatively low volumes.
Mics and instruments/pick-ups
For vocals we use three dynamic mics - two Shure SM58s and a Sennheiser E835.
The fiddle has a Fishman pick-up, while the whistles and accordion (a very niice wee Weltmeister 60 bass) are fitted with the appropriate Microvox mini mics. These have all proved very good and give remarkably little problem with feedback.
John's acoustic guitar is a particularly lovely old Yamaha LD10 with its built in Yamaha pick up system, and occasionally one of us also plays another acoustic - either the Cort 12 string or a Taylor 6 string.
Des 's mandolin got a tad tired and battered and so this was recently replaced with a really lovely one, again with a very good built-n pickup system.
The bass guitar has moved from our original Epiphone Roadstar with its huge wamr sound, to a Takemine acoustic bass guitar which we used for a while to keep the full acoustic feel. However, more recently we got a very nice Epiphone electric viola bass - which gives a big warm sound of the Roadstar, but wieghs about half as much! Chris also has a stunning little U-bass. It is the size and shape of a ukulele, but produces an amazing bass sound. The old Roadstar bass still occasionally comes out for a nostalgia trip.
The other main instrument is a stage piano. This one is our fourth and it suits us very well. Previously we had a Roland, then a Korg , then a wonderful but huge and heavy Yamaha (now where it belongs in Hugh's studio). The new one is a Casio Privia, which gives a very nice sound through the PAand meets our current passion for things being not only good sounding but also light in weight.
Finally we also have for use on a few of the dances a very nice Cajon, close mic'd using an EV267 dynamic mic. ionce in a blue moon Chris also plays the Bodhran, which otherwise sits at the front of the stage as an ornament!
So now you know where a lot of our band earnings go. We have come a long way from our original 100watt Carlsberg amp (yes that 's 100, not 1000watt) and H&H dual concentric speakers and no monitors! Good sound clarity is a bit of a passion - but various aches and pains have also motivated some of the recent improvements. We're very pleased with the current set-up, and listeners seem to be too.