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After the discussion on my previous question, "If I want to use a microphone with a portable mini amp, will a preamp/mixer significantly improve the sound quality? This is for small live gigs", I'm leaning towards getting an active powered speaker with multiple inputs and basic EQ/mixing for my small live gigs. It certainly simplifies things if I can just plug sources (microphones, instrument) directly into one small box that handles everything.

Here's what I'd like in a compact portable active powered speaker:
- weighs less than 10 lbs
- costs around $200 or less
- multiple inputs: at least 2 microphone inputs (hopefully with built-in mic preamps and phantom power so I have the option for either condenser or dynamic mic) and at least 1 instrument input (for bass, guitar, looper, or voice live touch)
- basic EQ/mixing (at least, individual level controls for all inputs)
- line out/thru (can also be used as a monitor)
- can be powered by plugging in, or charging, or battery

I am willing to spend more if there's something out there that meets all my requirements and provides great sound quality!

The Behringer 205D looks like my best bet, so far, because it only lacks the last one (it can't be battery powered). The Mackie SRM150 looks very similar, however, it's pricier, and according to reviews, the sound quality is just the same, is that true? I was also looking at the Vox Mini 3 or ZT Lunchbox Acoustic for my purposes, but these only have one microphone input, although, do they have better sound quality?

I found these sound demos for the Behringer 205D on YouTube:
Speaking demo indoors --


Speaking demo outdoors --

Singing and guitar playing outdoors --

Why is the sound quality of the Behringer 205D much better in the singing demo as compared to the speaking demos which sound muddy? Is it because of the microphone type (not specified in the demos)? Is it because the singing demo had the mic going through a separate vocal effects pad first before going to the Behringer 205D?

I'd be happy with the sound quality of the Behringer 205D as presented in the singing demo, can I do that by plugging a good microphone directly into the speaker? How else can I improve the sound quality and prevent noise/humming/muddiness? Can I do so without additional equipment (or if I need additional equipment can you recommend something portable or in-line)?

Do you have any particular microphone to recommend (I prefer bright tone) for my purpose? I haven't chosen a microphone yet, currently I'm considering:
- Shure 55SH Series II Iconic Unidyne Vocal Microphone
- Electro Voice ND767A
- MXL V87 or V89 Low-Noise Condenser Microphone
- Sennheiser 835

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Answering the portions of your question related to quality and the why of things, speaking is much more mono-tonal than singing. We use a much smaller set of frequencies and thus are used to picking out more nuances when speaking. The EQ needs to be much more cleanly shaped and enunciation needs to be more pronounced in relation to tone because we key more off the syllables than the tone of voice for speech.

When singing on the other hand, we are more interested in the tone. How often do you not even notice what the lyrics are actually saying in music? The primary thing we listen to is the tone of the voice and since singing changes notes, there is a lot of variation to that tone. The syllables are still present, but they take a back seat in importance (which is part of why enunciating strongly is so important in singing.)

Cheap speakers tend to do a good job with reproducing rough low frequencies which are more of where tone comes from, but lack the precision to do accurate higher frequencies at power, which is where we detect syllables and the actual content of speech. Thus a "muddy" sound doesn't have a huge impact on singing, but is devastating for speech.

EQing can also help adjust for this some. A proper EQ is the main way to compensate for any limitations in the speaker or the listening environment. The more options you have the better. A cheap setup is likely to only have a few fixed frequencies that it can adjust. A more elaborate system uses what is called parametric EQs which let you adjust the frequency and width of the area you are altering, but a decent parametric EQ costs more than your entire budget for a speaker.

Noise and humming can come from any number of sources, though the most common for buzz is bad grounding. If the reference levels of the ground are different for multiple parts of the system, you get ground differential which results in the fluctuations of the power itself being interpreted as signal and thus you get a buzz that matches up with the frequency of the power feeding it (60hz in the US). Either ensuring common ground or using a ground lift are the most common ways of dealing with the problem, though it won't fix all cases (such as if the problem is occurring internally from a short).

As for the product recommendation portions of your question. You seem to have a decent understanding of your needs. Product recommendations change rapidly so we avoid them on most Stack Exchange sites. If you have a particular difference between two products that you aren't sure how it fits your situation, it is acceptable to ask about how that difference would impact your needs, but we don't generally say that "product A is the best for your needs" because product Z may come out tomorrow and make the answer incorrect.

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This was really helpful for me in selecting my gear, and also in teaching me about sound quality in general, many thanks from this newbie. :) –  Feanne Aug 23 '13 at 6:28
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