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Deejaying 101: Monitor Speakers

Have you ever been at an event-- a wedding, corporate party, even a nightclub-- where there was a DJ present and the speakers just sounded like CRAP?! Too LOUD, too much high end, way too shrill, making it all but impossible to even order a drink at the bar, much less carry on a conversation? Yeah, we've all been there. Chances are the problem was a very simple one, and one which far too many DJ's overlook: Lack of a Monitor Speaker.

Most mobile DJ's don't use monitors. It requires extra effort to haul them in and set them up, and haul them out again. But they are so critical to the quality of the listening experience that not providing one can make the difference between your guests staying until the lights come up and leaving in time to catch the 10:00 news. And any DJ who routinely operates without one might as well be walking around with a "Kick Me" sign on his back.

What does a monitor do, exactly? Well, it's a speaker that is set up behind the DJ booth, facing the DJ, which allows him to monitor exactly what the main speakers are projecting into the room. Here's why it's so critical: Without a monitor, the jock is typically positioned between or behind the mains. Because high frequency sounds (treble) don't radiate as well as low frequencies (bass), they're going to sound muffled to the DJ. And so what invariably happens is he'll end up turning the treble up so it sounds good where he stands. Problem is, to achieve a good sound behind the speakers he's had to crank the treble so high that it sounds absolutely horrendous throughout the rest of the room! Worse still, by having an impaired picture of what the room sounds like, he has absolutely no control over any of the effects he might want to try on the crowd. It's like driving a car with a fogged up windshield. Sure you can do it, but the results can prove disastrous.

By providing a monitor (I like to use a Mackie SRM350), the DJ gets the full sound spectrum right there in his ear and can control the volume, EQ and any other effects with equal parts confidence and competence. And let's face it, when you're the sole source of entertainment for a group of 250 people, you need both. If you're thinking of hiring a DJ for your wedding, corporate party or private event, make sure you ask him if he'll be bringing a monitor. His answer will be telling.

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