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Which components in a sound installation are likely to have the greatest effect on sound quality? Is it speakers? The amp? Where would you throw your money?

The room has a very high ceiling and seats around 100 people. The system was installed last year and some components are cheap.

The mixing desk is a Yamaha mg166cx which we have had for many years. The speakers are 2 x Pulse PVS15 15" Passive Speakers, the amps are W Audio EPX800 (2 channel 500-700W).

Many thanks

Edited for clarity.

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    Your assumption that the acoustic is good might be discussed depending on the style of music being played in this very high ceiling chapel. – audionuma Sep 15 '17 at 6:33
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    String quartet/choir... nice. Rock band... oops :/ – Tetsujin Sep 15 '17 at 10:53
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    First, can you list all of the components required in your sound installation. – Simon Bosley Sep 18 '17 at 11:57
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    It only takes one bad device to ensure bad quality, so I would rather a consistent setup with regards to quality, rather than cheap stuff all around apart from one top-of-the-range device. That's what some studios do, they draw you in with a well-known gizmo but then you realize everything else is cheap and they ain't got a clue. – Marc W Sep 21 '17 at 1:18
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Transducers generally are money well spent, so speakers and mics are usually the places to spend the money, and a good pro grade speaker can easily be the thick end of 10dB more sensitive then the cheap stuff.

I would note that it may be that some acoustic work on the room might pay off bigtime, and that given you have the height, getting suitable speakers UP and pointing downward toward the middle of the audience generally works better then blasting the outside third of the front row with boxes at ear level. If you are going to get speakers suspended (flown is the term), get someone who really knows what they are doing to help, putting a box up in the air is easy, KNOWING that it will absolutely NOT come down unexpectedly is much harder.

Regards, Dan.

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Which components in a sound installation are likely to have the greatest effect on sound quality?

In this order:

  • The input (ie performer / musician etc..)
  • Speakers
  • Acoustic treatment of the room
  • Amp
  • Mixer
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The mixer will do fine, nothing wrong with it at all. I would suggest running an active PA system with crossovers. From what you describe above your FOH PA is a passive system - out of mixer/eq into the amp, into the speakers.

An active system will give you much more control over your sound. I am not going to get into recommending what speaker/crossover/amp system you should run. Talk to your local PA/Sound shop (or even a PA company - as they may have s/hand gear you can buy cheap) and they will best advise you.

Without any doubts I can safely say the speakers you are currently using are nowhere near enough for the room you are using them in.

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The system is only as good as its worst component.

If you can, temporarily swap in cheaper poorer quality components (one type at a time).

For instance, if replacing the amp with a cheaper one doesn't make an obvious difference to the sound, you can be sure that replacing it with a more expensive one won't sound any different either.

Conversely, if replacing the amp makes it sound much worse, you know that the speakers are good enough to reproduce the difference, so upgrading the amp would be a good idea.

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