This module will discuss the primary areas of the DJ setup and how to operate each piece of equipment. Pay close attention to the details! Each bit of information is critical to achieving a successful event.
- DJ Rack
- DJ Controller
- On/Off-Site Sound Systems
- Additional Sound
- Speakers and Subwoofers
This section explains each item in detail so that you know what each little switch, button, or control is for on the audio system. Each little control can mean the difference between a blown speaker or achieving the perfect balance of sound. Dig deep, and let's get started!
- Lapel Microphones and Microphone Stands
- Microphone System Overview
- Signals and Syncing
This section looks at the microphone system in more detail. Although considered part of the audio system, there are more moving parts to microphone systems than other audio equipment. Check it out!
- Premiere Dance Floor Lighting
- Power Up Lighting
- Lighting Basics
- Professional Dance Floor Lighting
Lighting can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. There are entire companies solely formed around the area of lighting design, but luckily for mobile DJs, the setup is quite simple and comparatively more streamlined. However, knowing the basics about lighting will be an essential component in your skill-set. Let's jump in!
So much information exists about cables that it will likely blow your mind. Rather than explain all of those details in a novel-like format, you can conveniently read a summary about each cable on the cable tie that holds it together. Here's how to read the abbreviations:
Here is a video showing you how to properly wrap a cable. Yes, there is a proper way! It maximizes the lifespan of the cable and prevents damage.
THE PROFESSIONAL SETUP
Estimated Setup Time: 2 hours with 1 person
Space Requirements: 6’D x 10’W x 8’H
TIme-lapse of the setup
- Large Speaker 1
- Large Speaker 2
- Light Bar
- DJ Table
- Dual Speaker Stands
- DJ Rack
- Wire Bag
- Light Bar Stand
- Hearing Protection
The Professional setup is a major upgrade from the Essentials in audio, lighting, and overall aesthetics. You can think of the iPad as the brain of the setup and the DJ Rack as the beating heart connecting all of the equipment together. As is the case with the Essentials setup, the iPad serves as the primary music source in this system. The difference is that the Professional setup also allows for a secondary music source. This can be another iPad, smartphone, or other device—we will cover this in more detail shortly! With that said, let's start with the DJ Rack.
Figure 6: Different perspectives of the DJ Rack
The DJ Rack conditions and distributes power to the Controller, microphone receivers, and mixer. It also gathers and sends signals to the audio system. So what's inside? The system consists of a rack that holds an 8 channel mixer, a power conditioner, two microphone receivers, a utility drawer that contains microphones and supplies, left and right audio out cables, controller input cables, a controller power cable, and all interconnecting cables. Let's cover each component in more detail.
This is an overhead view of the mixer. This mixer is used to collect, manipulate, amplify (using an internal preamplifier), and send out audio signals. There are 8 channels to this mixer—6 of the 8 channels are labeled. The 7th and 8th channels are labeled as left and right under AUX RETURN. The first two channels are different from channels 3 through 6 because they have mic ins and gain controls but only one LINE IN. Mic ins are used to receive signals from the microphone receivers. They are XLR input as opposed to line in for the highest quality signal reception. The XLR inputs have access to 48V—otherwise known as phantom power (activated when pressing the button below the AUX MASTER). When activated, phantom power sends low-current DC voltage to power the active circuitry in a condenser microphone (not required in dynamic microphones). The current travels through the same cable that transmits audio signals. As a Spark DJ, you will not have to utilize phantom power because dynamic microphones are used in the setup.
LINE IN is another way to accept an audio signal. The accepted signal can either be balanced or unbalanced (hence, BAL/UNBAL). Balanced signals are carried through TRS cables—short for tip, ring, and sleeve. Although they are visually similar, you can tell the difference by the double band, or ring, on the connector. Balanced signals are carried through three wires inside of the cable—a ground cable and two signal cables (positive and negative). When used with equipment containing balanced outputs, the signal becomes more crisp with less noise when compared to an unbalanced signal. Unbalanced signals are carried through TS cables—short for tip and sleeve. As you can see in the figure containing the TS cable, the connector is missing the extra band that creates the ring. These cables contain two wires—one signal (positive) and a ground wire surrounding the signal wire. These cables are used with other unbalanced audio outputs. Since they tend to pick up noise, they should not be used in long segments (more than 25').
#ProTip: There is no benefit from using balanced cables with unbalanced electronics.
Channels 1 and 2 both have GAIN controls. This control adjusts the input sensitivity from both the mic input and line in. This allows you to control the signals you get from the microphones. Be careful! You don't want to boost the gain too high, or you will get distortion/feedback (extremely loud and/or distracting). For DJs, gain controls are especially useful when handing off the microphones to guests. This is because some people will hold the microphone far away from their mouth, in which case, you will want to increase the gain. Some guests hold the microphone too close to their mouth. You would turn down the gain under this circumstance.
Looking down the same channel, you will see EQ (Equalizer) controls. This is used to adjust LOW, MID, and HI frequencies from the input. These are useful when trying to achieve the best possible sound from the microphone (best sound = well balanced EQ or similar decibel levels from each low, middle, and high frequency).
An AUX dial is located right below the EQ. These are used to send the channel's signals to the AUX MASTER dial. The AUX MASTER receives the signals from each AUX dials and sends them to the AUX SEND port. The AUX SEND is an output, and sends the signal to another external source (such as a device that adds an effect to the sound) where you could then return that modified signal into the AUX RETURN channel, or just simply use AUX SEND as another output. However, the AUX SEND port is not your main output to the speaker system. The MAIN OUT is where signals are sent to the speaker system due to better overall control over the audio.
So why isn't AUX RETURN labeled as channels 7/8? Although AUX RETURN can be used as a 7th and 8th channel, the reason why is because it has no EQ, AUX, BAL, or LEVEL controls due to its role in the AUX system mentioned above.
Look next to the AUX RETURN, and you will find CR OUT—short for control room output. You will likely never have to use this secondary output because, like the name implies, it sends out another output signal to speakers or audio equipment that are typically located in a control room. You'll also see PHONES right next to this output. Plug in some headphones into this jack and you will hear the main mix from all inputs. However, this is not the location where you would plug in your headphones. Headphones will be plugged directly into the controller.
Below the AUX dial is the PAN or BAL dial depending on which channel you're looking at. PAN is found on the mono channels while BAL or balance is found on the stereo channels. The balance dial adjusts the signal sent to the left and right outputs. Panning does a similar effect, but on the mono channel, the controls act as a panoramic potentiometer (or pan pot for short). Basically, a pan pot divides the audio signal into identical left and right channels. When you turn the dial left or right, the volume levels sent to the left and right main outputs change so that you hear sound from either the left side of the speakers (turning the dial to the left) or vice versa. Balancing a stereo output is slightly different than panning because balancing will adjust the left and right LINE IN signals (as opposed to one single signal). Balancing left will reduce the signal strength from the right LINE IN and boost signal strength from the left LINE IN where you can hear the difference on the left and right speakers. Balancing right will reduce the signal strength from the left LINE IN and boost signal strength from the right LINE IN. In short, balancing adjusts the audio signal distribution, and panning adjusts the volume distribution. You will likely not have to adjust these controls, but if something sounds wrong or disproportionate with the speaker system, knowing what these controls do might help you solve the problem.
Quick lesson: when listening to a mono (short for monophonic) output, you will hear the same signal through all speakers. Stereo outputs differ in that you can hear a difference between the left and right speakers. Surround sound is hearing differing outputs from each speaker in the setup (speakers are usually in a 360° array) creating a totally immersive effect.
If you look beside the PAN/BAL dials, you will see a small LED labeled OL. This simply means overload. When the channel's input signal is too high, this LED will light up letting you know you should turn the gain down before you get distortion.
On the bottom of each channel, you will see the LEVEL dials. You will use these the most because they control the volume of each channel. Do not confuse volume and gain. The gain controls the voltage amplification in the channel before it passes through any of the other controls. The volume takes the signal after all the adjustments are made, adjusts the loudness of that signal, and sends it to the MAIN OUT. Practically, if you need a microphone to be more sensitive, use GAIN. Once you have the right sensitivity, use volume to adjust the loudness of that microphone.
Check out the red and white IN and OUT RCA connectors. These are not commonly used in DJ setups. IN (tape IN) is an input with no channel controls meant for an electronic device to play music through the sound system. OUT (tape OUT) sends the main mix output to another electronic device like a laptop or a music recorder. When pressed, the TO MAIN button sends the tape IN signal to the MAIN MIX. The TO CR/PHONES button, when pressed, sends the tape IN signal to the CR OUT and PHONES outputs. The CR OUT and PHONES output volumes are controlled by the CR/PHONES dial next to the MAIN MIX. The MAIN MIX controls the volume from all of the channels before it is sent to the MAIN OUT.
These are the connections you'll see on the mixer. You have microphones A and B on the first two channels, an AUX (also called 1/8" or 3.5mm) cable for connecting a backup or secondary music source on the 3rd channel (3rd and 4th if its a stereo input), the controller on channels 5 and 6, and the two MAIN OUT cables that connect to the speakers.
#ProTip: When powering on the equipment, make sure that all volume dials are turned all the way down first. This prevents possible damage to the equipment.
Below the mixer itself lies the power conditioner. It plugs directly into the cord reel under the table to provide power to the mixer, microphone receivers, and controller. The conditioner acts as a surge protector and conditions the AC current coming from the wall outlet to provide improved sound quality and reduce wear and tear on the electronics.
Both microphone receivers are below the surge protector. The antennas are merged and routed to the front of the rack for better signal reception. This layout is provides excellent range without clipping out given that the squelch dial on the back of the receiver is adjusted properly. You should always perform a sound check on both microphones by checking both volume levels and available distance.
The utility drawer is on the bottom of the rack and contains most of the supplies you will need for the event. You will find two microphones, two controller cables, batteries, business cards, a pen, and LED glasses for maximum hype. Just be sure to keep each item in its designated place.
There are 6 cables to be concerned about when plugging in the setup: two XLR main outputs for the speakers, a power conditioner cable, an AUX cable, a controller cable, and an input cable also for the controller.
Figure 14: Different perspectives of the controller
The controller works in tandem with the iPad to mix the music. As explained in the video, there are many buttons, knobs, etc. that will be better to learn hands on. For now, let's take a look at the backside of this thing.
You can see 12V DC IN on the far left side of the controller. This is where you plug in the appropriate power source found in the DJ Rack. Next to it is the USB input. This is where you would plug in a laptop or other music-playing device. This cable is found in the utility drawer of the DJ Rack, but is not often used because of the 5V 2100mA iOS DEVICE input right next to it. This is where you plug in the iPad using the other cable found in the utility drawer. To the right of the iPad port is a little slot with a lock symbol on it. This is just the Kensington lock where you would plug an anchored cable into the controller to prevent theft. MASTER OUT is right next to this. It contains a dual RCA stereo output that you would connect from the DJ Rack. There is a MIC input on the far right of the controller. You will likely never use this input as we have the two other microphones connected directly to the mixer.
Looking on the side of the controller, you will find the two headphone AUX and TRS outputs. This is the spot where you will plug in your headphones. Just use whichever output fits the headphone jack.
One of the biggest changes between the Essentials and Professional setups is the introduction of dance floor lighting. Directly behind the booth (in most cases) sits the light bar—a concise method of bringing all of the essential lighting elements to a dance floor. This lighting rig is controlled by an internal microphone (uses sound waves to match the beat of the music), DMX (for attaching multiple lighting rigs together), and by remote.
Rather than explain every setting of the light bar, you will explore all of the functions and navigation hands-on in Module 5. However, you will learn the most used functions—sound mode and remote control. Sound mode works by navigating to "SM01" or "SM02." You will then adjust the microphone sensitivity to a desired level. These settings are excellent for lively dance lights and fast paced songs. If there is a slow song or other break in the intensity use a gentle, slow paced setting such as a color wash. Color washing is best used with the remote, and sound mode is effectively managed with the menu on the back of the light bar. If you are using the remote, be sure to pull out the antenna on top of the bar for best reception.
The Premiere Setup
Estimated Setup Time: 3 hours with 2 people
Space Requirements: 8’D x 18’W x 10’H
TIME-LAPSE OF THE SETUP
- Moving Head 2
- Flame Effect 1
- Flame Effect 2
- Light Tower 1 Base
- Light Tower 1 Pole
- Light Tower 2 Base
- Light Tower 2 Pole
- Light Tower 3 Base
- Light Tower 3 Pole
- Light Tower 4 Base
- Light Tower 4 Pole
- Wash Lighting 1
- Wash Lighting 2
- Wash Lighting 3
- DJ Table
- Dual Speaker Stands
- Single Speaker Stand
- DJ Rack
- Single Microphone
- Wire Bag
- Light Bar
- Light Bar Stand
- Large Speaker 1
- Large Speaker 2
- Small Speaker
- Subwoofer 1
- Subwoofer 2
- Cocktail Table
- Moving Head 1
- Hearing Protection
Premiere DJ is incredibly special. This package is built for clients who are looking to throw a remarkable event. It is packed with enhanced sound, lighting, and overall presentation when compared to the other setups. The core of the setup is still the same with the iPad as the primary source of music and the DJ rack as the audio distributor. Let's take a look at the new audio enhancements.
Premiere consists of two speakers and two subwoofers. The speakers don't move from their location in the Professional package, and the subwoofers are placed on either side of the table behind the facade. You won't be able to see the subwoofers when looking from the front. You will attach the MAIN OUT cables from the DJ Rack into the speakers just like the Professional package. Switch the speaker to EXIT SUB, and then attach an XLR cable to the subwoofer. If you place the subwoofer next to the table, you should not have to reverse its polarity due to the cable's short length. Adjust the speaker/subwoofer settings during your sound check.
Scrims are incorporated within the entire Premiere setup, so let's cover how to get these things attached to the speaker stands. Make sure your hands are clean when handling scrims—there's a chance you may leave visible fingerprints on the fabric.
1. Place legs of stand as far apart as possible.
4. Place speaker and raise stand.
2. Slide scrim over the speaker stand.
5. Place wires in holder and tape.
3. Place clamp and the attach screw.
6. Tape down wires using same standards.
7. Place wash lights (single or dual tone).
8. Attach scrim to legs of stand.
9. Adjust and admire your work!
The same process goes for the light bar but with one exception. Since the light bar stand is taller than the speaker stand, the legs will not be stretched out as far.
Behind the DJ booth are the Light Towers. The two tall towers are placed on either side of the Light Bar. The moving heads are secured on the top of these towers, and communicate with each other via a direct DMX connection. They are set to a master/slave configuration. The two shorter towers are placed on the outskirts of the setup past the speakers. The Flame Effect lights are placed on these towers.
The four light towers will take the most time setting up, so let's go over how to set these up in the quickest manner possible.
If you are ever confused about the Power Ups that Spark offers, look no further! Below is a breakdown of each Power Up including what it is and how it works.
What it is: The additional hour is a client's method to add more time with a Spark service to their schedule. The additional hour is exclusive to each service, meaning that an additional hour paid for one service only applies to that service. There is no limit to how many additional hours a client can book.
How it works: A client can book an extra hour at any point during the planning process from the initial booking to the day of the event. Even if a client only needs an additional 30 minutes of event time, they must purchase the additional hour. There is no further time breakdown of this Power Up. If a client decides to extend a Spark service during an event, there is a process to follow so that there are no disputes over the hour causing confusion over your compensation for that additional hour. You will need to navigate to the front page of login.sparkevents.com and find the Additional Hour form. Fill out the form, and let the client sign it at the end to confirm the extra hour. The time they book will be charged to their account, and your pay will be updated as well.
What it is: This Power Up gives the client the capability to utilize another handheld (comes with a microphone stand) or lapel microphone. You will most commonly see this used for multiple singers or speakers. They can use either transmitter with the system, but not simultaneously due to system limitations.
How it works: This system is comprised of the following components:
- *Mixer (not required for most applications)
- Single Microphone
- Microphone Stand
The additional microphone works just like the Essentials or Additional Sound System and plugs directly into the speaker. Under most circumstances, this works flawlessly. *However, when a client books multiple additional microphones and fills up all the inputs on the speaker(s), you won't have anywhere to plug in. In this case, you have to bring in a mixer. A mixer is not included in the Single Microphone system because no one can predict how many inputs a client may require (small 8 channel mixer vs. a larger 32 channel mixer). If you are under a circumstance requiring a mixer, contact the office staff about reserving one for the event.
Additional sound system
What it is: A client can book an additional sound system when they need music or sound reinforcement at another location separate from the primary setup. This Power Up can be on-site or off-site (as explained in the Sound Equipment video above).
The sound system will be at a completely different location (different address) than the primary sound system.
The sound system will be in the same location (perhaps a different room) as the primary sound system.
How it works: Whether the Power Up is on-site or off-site, the equipment list is the same.
- Cocktail Table
- Single Microphone
- Small Speaker
- Single Speaker Stand
You will notice that the equipment list from this Power Up closely resembles the Essentials package but with a couple exceptions. First, the Small Speaker replaces the Large Speaker 1. Second, this Power Up uses items like the Wire Bag and Binder from the original package. Other than those points, it follows the same assembly rules as the Essentials package.
What it is: An additional speaker is not a standalone speaker; it connects directly to the existing system. This provides the client sound reinforcement for larger rooms, complex room acoustics, bigger audiences, or stringing audio to a nearby room.
How it works: Connect additional speakers from the outputs of your other speakers as shown in the Sound Equipment video above. Here is a list of equipment for this Power Up:
- XLR(M)➡XLR(F)-xx' (xx denotes length of cable; not required for most applications)
- Large Speaker (1, 2, 3, etc. in the Power Up section)
- Single Speaker Stand (1, 2, 3, etc. in the Power Up section)
The additional XLR cable is not required for most applications as an XLR cable is included in the Power Up Speaker (make sure you grab the Power Up speaker!). If the client has indicated that the additional speaker needs to be placed farther than 15' from your primary setup, you will need to grab an extra XLR cable.
What it is: Much like the Additional Speaker, this Power Up plugs directly into existing sound. It is also useful for the same purposes as an additional speaker and also offers depth of sound. Having subwoofers drastically increases the quality of audio in the system.
How it works: Connect the subwoofers to the output of your speakers. If you run out of outputs, you will need to use an XLR splitter/amplifier. All these do is amplify and divide the XLR signal into two outputs so that you don't lose any signal strength. Check out this equipment list:
- Subwoofer (1, 2, 3, etc. in the Power Up section)
Brief right? That's because the Additional Subwoofer contains all extra cables and splitter/amplifiers in the tote that protects it.
What it is: Atmospheric haze is a Power Up that drastically improves a light show by creating a "smoke" that fills the room throughout the duration of the entire event. It's not effective for outdoor events, but extremely effective for indoor events. Spark uses haze instead of fog because haze is designed to hang around the room for a period of time as opposed to blasting into the room in short bursts like a fog machine. Spark largely uses water-based haze. Approval by the venue is needed before this Power Up is purchased.
How it works: There is a training video on how the machine works, so check out that reference if you need it. You will want to place the haze machine in a place that is hidden, but not concealed (right next to the Light Bar behind the booth works great).
Dance on a Cloud
What it is: This Power Up is a thick burst of floor-hugging fog. You will work with the client on the release times of this fog. How many times the client wants to drop the fog will affect the amount of supplies you will have to transport to the event. This fog is excellent for either indoor or outdoor events.
How it works: The operation of this power up is also referenced in the DJ Lighting video above. You should hide the machine behind the booth and work the hose to the front of the setup to the edge of the dance floor (as concealed as you can make it; its a tripping hazard and eyesore).
What it is: This Power Up allows the client to have access to a second person dedicated as the host/Master of Ceremonies. This is recommended for weddings or events that require intensive interactivity.
How it works: The client will book this Power Up enough in advance for Spark to find and reserve a second person for the event.
Premiere Dance Floor Lighting
What it is: Premiere level lighting will accent the setup. This includes all of the same fixtures included in the Premiere setup (light towers, scrims, wash lighting, etc.).
How it works: You have been trained in the art of the Premiere setup, and this Power Up is exactly that! The only difference will be that you will have to move the towers and fixtures in a configuration that works well with the package and space.
Professional dance floor lighting
What it is: Professional level lighting will accent the setup. This basically includes the incorporation of a light bar into the Essentials package.
How it works: Short and sweet: you will assemble the Light Bar behind the setup.