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Personal monitoring for speech PA - why it matters both to you and the person speaking

Foldback is as important for the amplification of speech just as it is in music. Conference PA is a big money-spinner, so you should know about this...


There is a lot of work to be done in sound engineering outside of music. One very common application is conferences, where amplification is needed for the lectern speaker ('speaker' in the sense of the person who is speaking, not 'loudspeaker'), the table speakers and roving microphones for speakers from the floor.

By the way, there is money in this. Because it lacks the 'glamour' element of music, people who do this can charge good money. If it costs $2000 to hire a small 200-seater auditorium for a day, which it easily can, then the conference organizer will be sure to hire a competent sound company, at proper rates.

One of the tricky points about conference audio is foldback for the speakers. We understand that musicians need foldback on stage to hear each other properly. But why should speech need such foldback?

Well, it is worth saying from the start that it doesn't need so much of it. Where a rock band would require a thousand watts of amplification to be available, or more, foldback for speech can be done with the tiniest speakers, and a 100 watt amplifier is perfectly powerful enough to get the job done.

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What a public speaker needs more than anything from a PA system is the confidence that the system is working.

I have seen with my own eyes a public speaker rip off his personal mic and literally throw it away because he thought the system wasn't working. It was, and the audience could hear perfectly clearly. The only problem was that the speaker didn't know that, The audience certainly couldn't hear once the mic had gone.

So the speaker needs foldback so that he or she knows that the system is working. But how loud should the foldback be?

The answer is just loud enough to fulfil the above requirement. Any louder and the speaker will feel uncomfortable with the sound of their voice and back away from the mic, defeating the whole purpose.

I came across a speaker that is ideal for this purpose recently. The Galaxy Audio Micro Spot VC Personal Monitor is tiny, amply loud enough, and fits on top of a mic stand. And it costs less than $100. A perfect product for this application I would say.

By David Mellor Monday August 29, 2005