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My main concern is the volume, which is why I don’t want to go with PA Speakers per se, but I do want an accurate representation of what I will sound like through a PA System. Also, will I experience latency by using an audio interface and plugin effects in comparison to using a hardware mixer?

I’m also interested in doing live “performances” in my house with this gear. If there is a better way to do that, please let me know.

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  • How big is your house?! I've often used a single (large) keyboard amplifier as my entire "PA" system and it's quite powerful enough for a coffeshop. I have trouble imagining any room that would need a PA system outside of a ballroom in a true mansion... Dec 5, 2023 at 17:28
  • Also: I doubt that latency is much of a concern within any system. The latency in the air over a few hundred feet will be much more than within hardware. Dec 5, 2023 at 17:29
  • @AndyBonner My current room is terrible to be honest. It’s packed with a bunch of clothes and boxes, it was actually used as a storage room by my father. That’s a major part of why I’m concerned about the volume, but I’m also concerned about the sound quality difference between a PA Speaker and Studio Monitors because I want to get the same tones. And that’s interesting, I brought up latency because even with recording I notice once I add “a lot of plugins” it starts to build up in latency.
    – Lecifer
    Dec 5, 2023 at 17:34

3 Answers 3

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You won't learn anything useful singing through studio monitors. Don't even bother.

You will learn some useful things by singing through a powered PA top that is on its side in wedge configuration like a floor monitor. If you want to have some sense of singing live on stage with a decent PA, that is a good way to get the sense of it.

You won't get an accurate representation in your ears of how you will sound through a PA at an actual venue. You might be able to get some sense of that by recording yourself going through the speaker and listening back to the recording. All that said, in terms of tone, I suggest focusing on the best and most authentic tone from your voice and let the mix engineer worry about how it sounds through the PA. If you put a good sound into the mic, then a good sound is very likely to come out of the PA. If you don't put a good sound into the mic, there's no chance of a good sound coming from the PA.

Also I would not bother with running your voice through computer effects. Unless you're a touring pro working with a dedicated front-of-house engineer, you will have little to no control at all over the effects (if any) added by whoever is mixing your shows. And you shouldn't be thinking about that - you should be focused on performing.

If you really want vocal effects live that are not basic EQ, compression, etc., then you could look at getting a vocal effect processor that you would bring to shows. Do not even think about one of these unless you already own your own vocal mic. And I wouldn't play with vocal effects like this until you've already done a bunch of gigging. They can make things much more difficult for everyone and also make you sound much worse. When I was mixing at bars and small venues I had a few singers come in with such devices and in every case it would have been better for everyone if they'd just left it at home, or even never bought it in the first place.

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  • Hey Todd, thanks! This clears up A LOT. But I kind of want to set up something like a Tiny Desk Performance youtube.com/@nprmusic/videos. The thing is, I have no idea what kind of speakers they are using.
    – Lecifer
    Dec 5, 2023 at 22:59
  • @Lecifer Well... engineering that kind of thing involves a lot more than buying the right speakers. Also when you watch those videos, you're not hearing the speakers, you're hearing the recording taken straight from the microphones. I'm not sure if there's a PA at all for those, or maybe there's only a PA for some of them and not others. How to host a performance in a small space is a different question (that can ask) and definitely depends on the space and the type of band/group/ensemble that will be playing. Dec 5, 2023 at 23:03
  • Ohhhh right, ok so they're going into a DAW. So i'd assume that would mean they're also probably doing a lot of mixing to make that sound good as well. I should've realized that, it's clearly not a video of a live recording. They mic the guitar and bass amps and piano as well, and mix those too... I'm kind of tired of recording, and attempting to be an engineer. I want to take a more raw approach and just focus on performing as you said. I have one more question if you don't mind. Do you explicitly mean a two way speaker on it's side, or would a dedicated coaxial monitor be even better?
    – Lecifer
    Dec 6, 2023 at 1:02
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    @Lecifer "Two way" and "coaxial" are not two different things. All coaxial driver designs are at least two-way, since otherwise there would not be two elements that could share the same axis (hence "co-axial"). Monitors that are not coaxial have a separate tweeter element that is either horn loaded or coupled with a waveguide. I would either buy a PA top that can also be used on its side or a dedicated monitor with a narrow horizontal dispersion (like 60º or less, not 90º like one design I've seen). But again, if you don't have a live vocal mic, get one of those first. Dec 6, 2023 at 2:53
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    @Lecifer I wouldn't spend $1699 on my first monitor. The Turbosound TFX122M-AN is 60x40 1100W with a 12 woofer and coaxial design for USD $470. And that's more than I spent on each of my first pair of monitors. I'm a little confused about what you're doing. What PAs are you going to be singing through in the future that you're trying to get used to now? If you've signed on with a pro band already then your rehearsals should be with monitors. If you're not with a pro band then you won't be singing through RCFs anywhere very soon and when you are you'll be ready for other reasons. Dec 15, 2023 at 6:54
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You can't ever really tell what you sound like though either a PA or studio monitors… because you're singing at the same time.

If you really want to hear what it sounds like to others, you'll have to record it, using your live mic/FX etc & play it back afterwards.

As regards PA speakers vs studio monitors for 'the sound' - you're still not really going to hear what it would sound like in a working venue, because no two rooms sound the same. It's not really what volume you can get out of either - that depends on your amp power & how far you turn it up. I don't own a PA any more, but the last one I did have was 300W. Plenty for the venues I was playing at the time. On the other hand, my current studio monitors are 400W… & could probably bend the walls if ever I wanted to turn them right up, which I never have.

Of course, trying to run at full live levels in a regular domestic room will have the mic squealing at you like some demented banshee. Even live you can't stand in front of the speakers unless you have some heavyweight feedback suppression running, or very tame levels.

There will be some latency if you go through a computer with software effects, but how much will depend on the interface itself & the software you run it through. My own interface is an old Line 6 UX2, which must be driven by a computer, but the interface itself has effects & a direct output that can avoid going through the computer at all, so is latency-free.

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    And recording your live sound to hear what it "sounds like," you're still introducing the variables of the choice of mic, its positioning, and the playback equipment! Dec 5, 2023 at 17:30
  • @AndyBonner - presumably mic & positioning is going to be consistent; whether you are a mic sucker or actually have some technique ;) I've often routined a solo gig right in front of my monitors, just not as loud as 'live', but I don't really do it to hear what I sound like, more to get the routines/transitions etc fixed in my head, running top to bottom in one go. Room & live ambience you can't do much about though.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 5, 2023 at 17:35
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    "The same"… broadly, but they're designed to fill different spaces, often at different levels. I could gig with my monitors, if I didn't mind them being banged, scratched & generally ruined because someone thought they were a good place to put their beer glass. They'd be plenty to play a little pub gig, or some kind of karaoke, but they wouldn't have a hope in a theatre. You wouldn't drive a Ferrari over a ploughed field, or enter a Land Rover in a drag race. Horses for courses.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 5, 2023 at 18:33
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    @Lecifer If you've never sung at a gig through a PA, don't get anything. If you are singing gigs, pay attention to the vocal mics that are put in front of you and buy your own of your favorite, or buy a Shure SM-58 if you're not sure. If you already have a vocal mic then a powered PA speaker that can also be placed on its side and act as a wedge monitor is a nice thing to be able to bring to a band practice. And you can use that at home to get the feel of singing while hearing yourself through a floor monitor. Dec 5, 2023 at 20:29
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    @Lecifer studio monitor speakers will likely be less efficient than PA, that is less loud at the same wattage. On the other hand, PA may produce more hiss and distortion, especially at low and medium volumes, due to different amp design. Dec 6, 2023 at 11:24
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I have both in the studio, and would only use p.a. speakers (15" +horns) for singing through mics. Studio monitors may do the job, but are quite small in comparison, so wouldn't, in my opinion, hack the job. Just because they're (p.a.speakers) quite large doesn't mean they have to be cranked up loudly. They work very well as p.a. speakers with keys through as well, and can be restrained volume-wise (through a 150 w per side amp) to sensible levels, but opened up when necessary.

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  • Ah interesting. I was comparing it to with my guitar amp. It seems like you can’t get certain tones with it unless you crank it up. And so, would it be crazy to buy like an RCF NX 915 lol? Also, would I need 2 of them or just one? When you say 150w side amp are you saying if I were using passive speakers?
    – Lecifer
    Dec 5, 2023 at 17:30
  • Are you speaking of the size of the Tweeter AND the Woofer? And I’m assuming you mean a couple inches make a large difference in the sound?
    – Lecifer
    Dec 5, 2023 at 18:11
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    @Lecifer - way more than a couple of inches. 15" driver and horn tweeter in the p.a, compared with 5" and a tiny tweeter in the monitor. Wouldn't really want to use the latter to sing through - they're for monitoring the sound from the recording desk, to emulate what a lot of the recordings will actually be heard through.
    – Tim
    Dec 6, 2023 at 11:03
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    Anything bigger than 5"! I just happened to have a 15" + horn cab hanging around. So built a matching one to make it stereo, which the amp is anyway. No real need for stereo for vox, but I put keys through it all as well. But 10" or 12" are just fine for p.a., with or without the inbuilt 'tweeter'
    – Tim
    Dec 16, 2023 at 9:16
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    Can't compare p.a. with guitar amps. The latter are biased to the restricted pitches a guitar produces, the former is full range, so the two are different anyway. I've been using a small (2x50w) pa, with DAS 8" speakers for most gigs lately, up to 2000 seaters, for keyboards, which also require full range amplification, and would do the job adequately for monitors in a room in a house. Not expensive, either.
    – Tim
    Dec 18, 2023 at 10:16

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