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Need help for expansion plan from current PA

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Janne Lepola:
Hi,

Background:

I'v been providing small-venue PA rental and mixing services for bands for about five years. Additionally I'm providing DJ-services for restaurants and private events (birthdays, weddings etc). Everything started from small PA setup for acoustic bands, moved towards mixing bands on their equipment, and finally it was time to get my first full-sized setup with limited budget. On summer of '22 I bought Mackie 2nd gen 15" thump tops (215XT) and one SR18S subwoofer and they did their part at the time being, but at summer of '23 I had my first major outdoor gig, which required more SPL (more than just background music).

My go-to solution on tight schedule was to add one more SR18S, so that's what I did. The venue had small tent-stage, just enough for five players. The area for sound coverage was around 60 x 80 feet and had around 80-100 people attending. Gig went well and I was able to pull (steady) around ~94-97 db and around 100-105db tops at ~40-50 feet away (measured with cheap DB meter, +/- 3db, slow measurement). Overall I was quite pleased, but it really hit me that I had reached the limit of Mackie at that event.

Problems with current setup

The issues were what is to be expected: Mackie tops miss clarity. They did get mushed when bands were playing rock, and seemed to work better with EDM background-music. Additionally subs didn't really make the amount of thud on bass drum I was hoping for and I wouldn't want to do a live event with this setup while metal band would be playing outside, even if it were small venue. The good thing is that Mackies processing seemed to do what they had promised: Sound never distorted. Rather, at reaching certain stage it simply wouldn't get any louder while pushing the mains up. At least the limiter seemed to work, which is a good thing for novices trying to break their equipment :)

I'v done dozen events indoors and the setup has worked far better on those conditions, but still the bass was a bit lacking. Especially the attack transient on bass drum was a bit of lackluster, while the low notes from bass and EDM tracks general "oomfs" seem to work way better.

Plan for expansion:

I'v been planning to expand my services and part of that process would be getting new equipment. I made a business plan with budget at around $22-25k and I'v been thinking of expanding towards events with around 300-500 attendees.

I approached professional AV supplier to come up with a plan. Due to providing everything alone and giving weight on mobility I became interested of RCF HDL6 (and/or HDL10) array elements. Provider also happened to suggest that three HDL6 on both sides would give good coverage and high SPL for medium-size events. I would also be able to extend HDL-line to real array system later on by doubling the size and getting the lifts. Additionally some of my venues would probably benefit from even those three pieces of 10 degree coverage, due to stages of few venues rising up from the stage level.

The problem of choosing fitting solution:

Now the question are the subs. One possibility would be getting 4 x RCF 8004-AS . This sounded great and would fit my budget, but there is one big problem: The weight of those subs. While Mackie SR18S is only 75lbs, 8004 is over 110lbs. This is of course to be expected from professional grade equipment. Still, I would have to get premium stair dolly for reaching some of my venues, or even to get stuff out from my warehouse which is on second floor without elevator. I wouldn't want to break myself while flying those subs around.

This lead to one possible solution, for which I would like to get some feedback. Would it be drop-dead-stupid-idea to forget upgrading subs at the time being, and instead just get two more of SR18S, and replace those XT215 tops with 3 X HDL6 (on one side)?

My point here is that I could double the current Mackies with just around ~$1800 and due their light weight I'd still be able to move 'em around alone easily. That would help my financial side a lot at the starting stage. After around ~2 years I would be able to sell 'em and get 4 X 8004 or 4 X QSC KS118 or something similar at that point.

Help!

I hope that simple "Mackie = trash" messages would be left outside of from this thread. Instead, I'd like to hear what kind of problems would I be running into if I were to take this road temporarily? Would 4 X SR18S (which is more or less same as second gen thump 118S) be enough for what I'm targetting at? Would sound quality be something semi-professional audio engineers would bear to work with, or are there big issues to be faced on this road?

While suggestions for alternative setups are welcome, please mind the fact that brands available at USA may not be easily available at Germany and/or nordic countries. For an instance, QSC LA-series doesn't seem to be available anywhere on Europe. Even looking at Thomann active subwoofer lists there are not that many options available. Still, if there are some mobile subwoofer solutions which would be expandable by simply adding more pieces to array AND without need to switch to another better series after few years, I'm open for suggestions.

I'd really appreciate giving some thoughts on this.

Caleb Dueck:

--- Quote from: Janne Lepola on December 12, 2023, 04:51:00 PM ---
I hope that simple "Mackie = trash" messages would be left outside of from this thread. Instead, I'd like to hear what kind of problems would I be running into if I were to take this road temporarily? Would 4 X SR18S (which is more or less same as second gen thump 118S) be enough for what I'm targetting at? Would sound quality be something semi-professional audio engineers would bear to work with, or are there big issues to be faced on this road?

While suggestions for alternative setups are welcome, please mind the fact that brands available at USA may not be easily available at Germany and/or nordic countries.

--- End quote ---

If you're not willing to accept the fact that low-end Mackie is trash (or nearly so) - there isn't much we can do to help; your mind is already made up. 

If you're outside the USA, I'd look at RCF's higher end lines (NX and TT+) and some FBT (CLA 406.2A, Muse 218SN).  One quality subwoofer, even if heavy, will perform better, take up less space, and be faster to move than a bunch of crap subs. 

For top speakers, lots of self-interference and weak low-mids, like HDL6, is a step down from a single, good speaker per side.  Check out the FBT 406.2A and see if you can demo it, 1:1 ratio with the Muse 218SN subs.  The RCF TT+ main speakers are also good options; for subwoofers though I'd look at the 9000 series, like 9004 or 9006.  I'd rather have a single, good, dual 18" sub with wheels than a number of single 18" mediocre and muddy sounding subs that have to be carried. 

Janne Lepola:

--- Quote from: Caleb Dueck on December 12, 2023, 09:13:07 PM ---If you're not willing to accept the fact that low-end Mackie is trash (or nearly so) - there isn't much we can do to help; your mind is already made up. 

--- End quote ---

Why I specifically made this request was to avoid non-descriptive opinions, which give very little value on understanding the difference of subs.

Customers and bands never complained on sound quality, being fine with what was being provided, even though even novice audio engineer could hear that there is muddiness at low end and it's performing less than stated in specs. The reasons exactly why I'm planning to replace 'em with something else... but the question was whether it would be doable to temporarily count on adding just SPL via multiplying and in few years make the change, and what issues this would present. I just dislike trash-talk on low end brands (lol, Mackie has certain humor for choosing 'trash' as model name for the entry level ;D) just due to their unreliability and varying build quality, since brands such as Behringer and Mackie are used by lots of happy customers.

Suggestions on NX/TT and CLA/Muse were good, even though Muse 218SN sounds just like the opposite what I'm looking for -- talk about trying to carry 240lb speaker, alone, to second floor without elevator. Something I'm worried is the scaling issue. With array system it would be possible to scale business to certain point, while static tops give performance to certain stage. Whether two high quality ~134db-ish single speakers have enough headroom for loud band and out venues is something I really don't know. Unfortunately regional suppliers have very limited variety for demo, so that would make purchases leap of fate (especially if no reviews were available online, as seems to be for CLA 406.2A, apart from few video).

Edit: I'm actually really intrigued by TTW4a as an point source alternative to HDLs. I really hadn't looked enough outside of array-solutions. Thank you for directing to alternatives.

Rob Timmerman:
I've used 3-box HDL-6 arrays quite a bit, and while they serve their purpose, a comparably-sized and priced trap box has pretty similar performance with better off-axis behavior.  OTOH, being able to split that box into 3 pieces certainly does have its advantages from a logistical perspective.  I've also found the HDL-6 boxes to have a pretty ugly LF bump that needs some significant EQ to clean up.

Janne Lepola:

--- Quote from: Rob Timmerman on December 13, 2023, 09:22:12 PM ---I've used 3-box HDL-6 arrays quite a bit, and while they serve their purpose, a comparably-sized and priced trap box has pretty similar performance with better off-axis behavior.  OTOH, being able to split that box into 3 pieces certainly does have its advantages from a logistical perspective.  I've also found the HDL-6 boxes to have a pretty ugly LF bump that needs some significant EQ to clean up.

--- End quote ---

Could you give me bit more details on how 3-part HDL6 "arrays" behave as mains on stage? I do believe Calebs point on singles having better overall sound quality, but I'm still wary of the fact that even though TTW4A might be ideal all-in-one solution in most use cases, are they enough to manage SPLs professional bands might be looking for medium sized restaurants (medium sized restaurant having around ~20x24 stage)? The ain't only sound quality specific, but also business wise something I want to consider, even though it may sound twisted from point of sound engineer. For an instance, if two TTW4As are the only mains for professional metal band coming to play on towns restaurant, which can pull about ~300-400 customers, can I promise their manager that mains are more than enough to handle the event?

I'm also temped to HDLs by their size. Six small elements would be much easier to move than two big, even though TTW4A look like they have especial weight ratio. As for the need for EQing, I see that as a part of usual process for any speakers which have compromises to be made, but when you mention "pretty ugly" do you mean "damn, these again" -kind of reaction? ;)

Edit: Renamed LLW4 -> TTW4A

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