8 Myths and Misconceptions in Commercial PA Technology

Amidst golden cables and technology dependency: A guide for installers and expert planners

Myths and misunderstandings also abound in the world of PA technology, often creating more confusion than clarity. Let's delve deeper into the technical aspects to uncover the truth behind these assumptions.

Myth 1: 'The Colossal Watt Tower'

Imagine a trade expo planner boasting about their cutting-edge speakers with mind-blowing wattage. But after listening to them, they realise that the sound quality falls short of expectations. The reason? Performance is just one part of the story. The efficiency of the speakers, the room acousticsand coordination quality also play decisive roles. A system with less power but better coordination can deliver a much more pleasant sound. Instead of brute force, the system should be optimised to suit the environment.

Myth 2: 'The Golden Cables'

Let's say an enthusiastic hi-fi fan splurges on the most expensive gold audio cable money can buy, convinced that the gold will revolutionise the sound of the system. But the truth is that not only the material, but also the cable quality and the cable technology have an impact on the signal and the sound, especially with longer transmission paths. Theoretically, gold is well suited for plug-in connectors, since it does not corrode or oxidise. This would be an advantage in some unusually demanding environments. But in most real-world applications, the gold makes no difference at all. The choice of the right cables and connections should be based on technical specifications and practical requirements, not on price and prestige.

Myth 3: 'The Illusion of General-Purpose Speakers'

A venue is equipped with identical speakers. It is assumed that this will render excellent sound coverage. However, the sound engineer quickly realises that different areas have different requirements. The choice of speakersmust be appropriate and adapted to the specific conditions and acoustics of the room. It's like an orchestra: each instrument has its role and harmony can only be achieved by playing together. Full-range speakers can provide good service, but they are not a universal solution.

Myth 4: 'Surround Sound Everywhere'

Inspired by the comfort of a home theatre, a coffee shop owner installs an intricate surround sound system. But the guests find the sound confusing and unbalanced. Surround sound is not always the best choice, especially in commercial environments, which call for clarity and directional stability. Surround sound is also inappropriate when guests are moving around the room. A well-designed stereo or mono sound system can greatly enhance listening experience and make it more impactful. By the way: Discover the perfect solution to bring sound to your coffee shop.

Myth 5: 'Technology over Space'

An event hall is equipped with the latest audio technology. But visitors complain about echoes and unclear sound. Despite advanced equipment, the importance of room acoustics was overlooked. This harms the project, because no technology can outwit the laws of physics. Customised acoustic treatment and room planning is crucial to get the best performance out of any system.

Myth 6: 'Older Technology is Always Inferior'

A theatre wants to 'modernise' by replacing all of its older audio equipment with brand new technology. But the engineers soon realised that some of the older components, such as vintage microphones or tube amplifiers, offered a distinctive and desired sound character; something the in-house audio engineers knew all about. These timbres are often difficult to replicate with modern devices. There are many advantages to modern technology. But historical or analogue technologies retain their value for special sonic qualities and should not be dismissed as obsolete across the board. It takes the right combination.

Myth 7: 'You get better distribution with more speakers'

A hotel decides to equip its conference rooms with additional speakers. The assumption: More speakers mean better sound distribution. Before long, however, guests complain about volume fluctuations and sound overlaps. An audio expert explains that an excessive number of speakers can lead to interference and unwanted acoustic effects. The decisive factor is the strategic placement and appropriate number of speakers adapted to the room and the intended use. There are some simple rules of thumb for ceiling speakers.

Myth 8: 'Wireless audio is always the better choice'

A modern church completely upgrades to wireless audio systems, tempted by the minimalist aesthetic and apparent simplicity. But issues with interference and signal dropouts arise after a few services. The explanation: although wireless systems offer flexibility and a clean look, they can be susceptible to interference, especially in environments with dense frequency traffic. Choosing between wireless and wired systems should be made after carefully weighing up the pros and cons and the specific environmental conditions.

Conclusion: the world of PA technology is full of nuances and details that are well worth understanding

Some anecdotes create stories. Some stories take on a life of their own. By consistently challenging myths and misconceptions and relying on sound knowledge, our systems are designed to convince. Whether you're an audio novice or an experienced expert planner, staying open-minded and educating yourself to create the best possible sound environment remains at the core of everything you do.

Headergraphic © AdobeStock | Thomas Reimer, gustavofrazao

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