What Are Outdoor Sound Systems and Their Uses?

outdoor sound system

Outdoor events are never complete without a sound system. If the sound isn’t clear and crisp, then it can adversely affect the theme of the outdoor event. In today’s article, we’ll delve into the importance of outdoor sound systems and their different technical components. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What are outdoor sound systems? 

Outdoor sound systems are a combination of specialised sound interfaces and components designed to be weatherproof and impact-proof for outdoor sound projection. Due to their ability to withstand different weather conditions, they are especially useful during large events.

Because of their outdoor character, outdoor sound mediums have the ability to overcome outdoor acoustic challenges to achieve a uniform sound field across an outdoor event. 

Generally, outdoor sound systems maintain the following core characteristics:

  • They can function with fewer amplification peripherals than indoor speakers to produce great sound output.
  • They are designed to enable listeners to hear propagated sound directly from the speaker to the ear.
  • They are designed to provide sufficient sound coverage to large spaces like stadiums— with the ability to overcome large crowd noise with minimal effort. 

Outdoor sound systems

When to use outdoor sound systems? 

A sound system is a necessity for almost any type of outdoor event. Some of these could be:

Sporting events 

Sports events typically host large crowds who are constantly cheering and engaging with each other. As such, they require outdoor systems to facilitate communication of public announcements.

Outdoor concerts

Outdoor concerts require augmented sound facilities to reach attendees scattered across different corners of an outdoor concert space. 

School events

School events with hundreds of students require outdoor sound systems to allow student attendees to listen to communications from school administrators.

Outdoor trade shows

Trade shows typically have hundreds of vendors, and thousands of attendees. As such, to communicate different messages, organisers typically require large outdoor sound systems. 

Outdoor sound systems components

Following are some essential components of every outdoor audio system:

Microphones

Microphones are essentially specialised transducers that convert speech audio signals to electrical signals. The most popular types of microphones are dynamic microphones that operate in a manner similar to speakers. 

in practice, they possess a diaphragm attached to a coil moving through a magnetic field, inducing a small electrical signal. However, they tend to have a limited frequency response. 

Condenser microphones are another type of microphone. These, however, are delicate and require a dedicated power source like an internal or external power pack, or phantom power provided by the mixer.

Audio mixer

Audio mixers are interfaces utilised to connect disparate audio input devices. Afterwards, users can exploit the mixer to select any of the audio inputs for broadcasting.

Equalisers

Equalisers are devices used to adjust the strength of specific audio frequencies within a signal. They are employed to compensate for the discrepancies in a room’s acoustics while recording or broadcasting.

Mixer amplifier

A mixer amplifier is essentially a mixer with power amplification built into it. The key factors to consider when choosing a mixer amplifier are the number of channels and the wattage of the power amps.

Pre-amplifier

A pre-amplifier is a specialised electronic amplifier engineered to prepare an electrical signal for further amplification. They are typically located in a separate housing, incorporated into the chassis of the amplifier they feed into.

Audio amplifier (boosters)

Audio amplifiers amplify low-power audio signals (signals comprising frequencies between 20 – 20 000 Hz) to a level optimal for loudspeakers. In practice, though the input signal to an audio amplifier could be only a few hundred microwatts, its output can be in the hundreds, or thousands of watts. 

Monitor unit

A monitor unit is designed to ‘monitor’ amplified signals coming from an audio amplifier. In practice, it monitors the amount of gain in the audio signal using a specialised metering device. For example, the input and output signal jacks, as well as volume and balance controls. 

Speaker selector

A speaker selector allows users to transform one audio input source into multiple outputs.

As such, a speaker selector enables users to play one audio stream over multiple speakers, with the ability to control which speakers can be on and off. 

Power supply

A power supply device supplies electrical power to multiple electric loads simultaneously to facilitate their optimal functioning. 

In practice, a regulated power supply controls the output voltage or current to a particular value. This controlled value is held at a constant level despite variations in the load current or voltage supplied by the power supply’s energy source. 

Terminal Boards

Terminal boards are interfaces utilised to connect speakers with the amplifiers. Their sizes typically differ depending on the number of speakers and the amplifier power required.

Crossover

Audio crossovers are electronic filters employed to split the audio signal into disparate frequency bands that can be separately routed to different loudspeakers.  

For example, when dealing with a two-way speaker, a crossover can be utilised to divide the sound into low frequencies (bass) for the subwoofer, and high frequencies (treble) for the horn/tweeters. 

As a result, a crossover helps prevent bass frequencies from filtering into the tweeter and damaging it. By the same token, it prevents treble frequencies from getting into the subwoofer, resulting in an unbalanced sound.

Loudspeaker

A loudspeaker is the final sound output interface in an outdoor system set-up. There are different types of loudspeakers, depending on the frequency output (high or low).

Sub-woofers

Subwoofers are a type of loudspeaker dedicated to reproducing low-pitched audio frequencies, i.e., bass sound.

Super tweeters

These are loudspeakers that produce high audio frequencies, usually around 2,000 Hz to 20,000 Hz, i.e., treble.

Horns

Horns are loudspeakers designed for outdoor use as public announcement (PA) speakers. They are typically made from metal or polymers that can withstand harsh weather elements. 

Horn speakers fundamentally produce higher frequencies, with virtually no bass. This limited frequency response is the main reason they are highly efficient for use at a lower wattage. Additionally, they do not waste energy reproducing the bass frequencies, thus reducing one’s amplifier’s power requirements.

Tips for great sound for your outdoor event

Check the venue to prepare in advance 

Extensively survey the outdoor venue in advance to plan for the right equipment. This exercise can help you carefully lay out the technical requirements for the event. For example, a trade fair or speech day requires different settings from a musical performance. 

If you arrive on the actual event day, you risk being unable to effectively make changes to your sound system plan. For example, you might find out that you have to flatten the loudspeakers on uneven ground, and even cover speakers with a tarpaulin. 

Set up hardware first

Always set up your hardware in a uniform manner (with some enclosures) to avoid attendees being tripped by cables. Additionally, if the venue is relatively small, always place the large loudspeakers on the right and left sides of the stage. Furthermore, for the best sound delivery, always lift up the loudspeaker, if space allows.

Set up mixing desk

Make sure you set up the mixing desk at the centre of the venue. If this is impossible, place it at the left or right side of the stage. Generally, it’s advisable to always use a digital desk and snake system with built-in processing that is easy to set up. However, if you’re unsure about the weather or venue set-up, you can opt for a low-tech mixing desk.

Optimise the position of speakers

Speaker positioning matters when designing your sound at an outdoor venue. Avoid keeping speakers too far from each other as this can lead to sporadic delays in sound transmission.

The resulting echo can be disconcerting for the audience. Furthermore, always position speakers upwind to avoid them being blown to the sound. 

Check the monitor system

Ensure that your monitoring system is strong enough to meet the needs of your outdoor event. For example, mix at least four monitors for large bands, with three feeding through the front of the stage, and one to the backstage.

Check volume

Always check the loudspeakers’ volume to ensure they comfort the listener. For example, if an outdoor system is too loud, revellers might choose to leave early to away a break from the noise. 

Have a thorough sound check

Always have a minimum of one extensive sound check to ensure the main sound system components work properly in a combinatory fashion after full set-up. This way, you can easily rectify any obvious problems. 

Environmental factors that affect outdoor sound systems

Wind

Strong winds can shift the direction of projected sound waves, making them appear to come from different locations, with refraction effects in the sound waves’ path. 

Temperature gradient

Temperature variations affect the speed of sound. For example, sound passes through hot air faster than cold air since hot air is less dense. 

Humidity

The attenuation of sound in the air is affected by relative humidity. For context, dry air absorbs sound better than moist air does since moist air is less dense than dry air. 

What to consider before choosing an organisation for outdoor sound system rental in Malaysia?

As you make inquiries about a company to provide an outdoor sound system in Malaysia, here are a few things to consider: 

  • Reputation and longevity.
  • Availability of qualified audio engineers during events.
  • Experience of its onsite technical support team. 
  • Experience handling different topographies and structure locations.
  • Experience with different environments. For example, those with disparate ambient noise levels, for instance, waterfalls, pump and motors, traffic etc.
  • Current state of the art of equipment utilised. 

Where to get outdoor sound systems for events in Malaysia? 

If you have an outdoor event and require a dedicated sound system in Malaysia, DOREMI has you covered. With vast expertise in the outdoor sound domain, the DOREMI team understands what it takes to achieve a relatively uniform sound field. All whilst considering different audiences and their needs. 

While the common perception is that the more you spend on sound, the louder it has to be, DOREMI defies this logic with an ethos of consistent quality. 

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With technical competence and excellence, the DOREMI team understand that large speaker stacks that obstruct sightlines for audiences are a no-go. Better yet, the sound footprint can be small, but the sound can be big! Though not loud!

Conclusion

In summary, experienced sound service providers understand the technical requirements of each event, and the needs of every act or performer. It is, therefore, important to partner your event with experienced outdoor audio system providers for optimal audience engagement. 

Reach us at DOREMi for all your sound system rental requirements.

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