The sound files

What is a party without music, you ask? Bear in mind that a party with bad audio set-up is possibly worse. Here is how to decide what sort of sound you need for your party.

Kushan Mitra | Print Edition: December 13, 2009

What is a party without music, you ask? Bear in mind that a party with bad audio set-up is possibly worse. Here is how to decide what sort of sound you need for your party.

What sort of party are you planning?
If you are doing a large bash at a farmhouse, hire a professional sound system for the party. It doesn’t matter what sort of music you listen to, home systems cannot cope with the intense demands of outdoor parties. Again, you need to decide “how loud” you wish to be. Too loud and you kill off conversation, too quiet and the party dies. Of course, most professional sound-equipment rental places will also throw in a few lights to perk things up a bit more.

But it should not stop with just the sound, you need to get the other equipment right as well. A good outdoor party needs a mix. Start-stop music might work at small gatherings, but we would suggest that you also hire a sound mixer along with a DJ. Managing your own music is too much of a chore and this can degenerate into utter chaos if some of your friends are too pushy. The best mixing tables nowadays from Numark, Denon and Pioneer can take inputs directly from computers and iPods, and are quite handy.

Rentals of sound and light equipment can cost a lot, starting from as little as Rs 2,500 just for the speakers (we suggest that you spend more and get good speakers rather than bad ones) to upwards of several lakhs for multiple speakers, lights, mixers and amplifiers. And the cost of hiring a DJ is over and above that. There are several places that rent out audio equipment, but you would be well advised to ask your friends who have previously rented out equipment.

Is it a get-together at home?
What sort of system do you have at home? If you, like many other people, just have an iPod and a pair of great headphones, you can’t just pass that around, even though we know of people who have. Here are a few things, other than passing an iPod around, that you should not do.

Your computer speakers might be sufficient to watch YouTube clips, but unless you have a decent set of external computer speakers — BOSE (BOSE MusicMonitor cost Rs 23,500 approx.) and Altec Lansing (Expressionist Classic Rs 4,000) make some good sets — don’t bother really to throw a party.

Chances are that your DVD player can play back digital audio files, but unless you have something like Philips’ Ambisound Soundbar (Philips HTS6100 Rs 40,000 approx.) don’t depend on your TV for really good sound. Particularly, flat-panel TVs which, because of their lack of depth—the very thing that makes them sexy—also lack the ability to churn out decent bass notes. As for Home Theatre systems, they actually work well in a 5.1 movie environment but for listening to audio, we would suggest that you revert your system to a 2.1 (Front left and right plus the sub-woofer) set-up.

But if I have an iPod Sound Dock, can I use it?
There are literally thousands of iPod docks available in the market today. There are good iPod docks, bad iPod docks and absolutely terrible iPod docks. There are so many that we don’t even know how many there are, leave alone having heard of them at all. There are different types of Docks— small Docks such as the JBL OnStage, which are great for smaller rooms but may not work well in indoor-party environments.

There are a few that are very good though, the BOSE SoundDock series, which range from Rs 14,500 (SoundDock Classic) to Rs 40,500 (SoundDock X). There is also Altec Lnsing’s InMotion range starting at Rs 7,500 (InMotion Classic) to Rs 15,000 (InMotion Mix). There are also great docks from JBL, Denon and Onkyo.

Should I invest in good speakers for a party, if I host people regularly?
Silly question, isn’t it? Obviously, you should. We would suggest that you visit a high-end audio-equipment vendor before you make any purchase as well as pick up a copy of What Hi-Fi? India. Speakers do not “have” to be expensive, though. While BOSE or Infinity systems can cost an arm and a leg, there are affordable speakers available from Onkyo and JBL. However, you should also invest in a good component CD player and amplifiers.

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