Ceremony Sound and the Mobile DJ

TLDR? Jump To The Video Below

When a wedding DJ decides to take on the task of ceremony sound, a completely different door opens up in their career. That mobile DJ may decide only to worry about offering basic playback of music, some may capture sound with a single simple handheld microphone, others may go full out and offer multiple microphones, mix in live performances, record the session, and even work in tandem or hand off their recordings to videographers. I am going to try to cover all those bases in this article, and the lessons learned from my experiences.

A Speaker And A Song

For those just offering music playback, this usually becomes a choice of convenience to setup and breakdown. There are numerous battery-powered speakers out there and of course regular speakers that a DJ would consider leveraging in their setup. Naturally, a fully self-contained speaker that can provide a wire-connected, Bluetooth, or self-contained playback can be more than sufficient. Some of these speakers tend to be less expensive than a straight “cabinet” than what one would use to DJ with, so the quality may not be on the same level.

There are a ton of great speakers to consider including the Bose L1 Model IIThe JBL Eon OneMaui 5 (and the 5 Go battery powered). In 2018 I’ve started with the Evolve 50 which is the identical speakers I use for receptions which allows me to freely swap out and circulate speakers between ceremony and reception. I recently switched to the Maui 5 Go battery-powered speaker and coupled with an In Ear Monitor, gives me the ultimate in flexibility for a truly cordless solution to my speakers.

I personally would stay away from anything sub-$500 for this application especially if it’s battery-powered. I’ve owned a couple of these units and while they are passable just a couple hundred dollar extra investment really can make a difference.

Microphones Galore

There are lots of microphone options out there and applying to this to ceremonies requires some additional scrutiny. I know I was always looking to keep things lightweight, simple to setup, and not costing a fortune. Some basics on microphones before we continue, you need a transmitter and a receiver of some sort. If, say, a mic kit has a handheld and a lav pack for that receiver you can’t run both at the same time. There is always a 1:1 relationship between transmitter and receiver.

I first started to use a 4-mic GTD 1U setup that was OK. Its low cost of entry was very pleasing for a wedding DJ starting off doing ceremonies, and right off the bat, I had more than a couple of events that required multiple mics. I lived with the solution for about 18 months and while it got me by, and I was able to get things like lav packs and over the ear mics. In hindsight, I would have been better off jumping into a better solution. The quality was mediocre overall.

Reccomendations

So what do I recommend one do? Well first steer away from anything in the 600MHz spectrum since in mid-2020 you’ll be running that illegally and in many cases, the 600MHz spectrum for cell phones are already be turning up. I also would steer away from the 2.4GHz spectrum devices like the Audio-Technia System 10 since you could easily be overtaken by cell phones, microwaves, wifi, and other things on that spectrum. I have heard some positive things about them, but the simple fact they operate on a crowded spectrum should give pause for anyone to consider using in a professional setup.

What I would say to invest in is the tried and true; Sennheiser G3 series microphone kits typically coming in at $600 and lav pack kits coming in around $650 in the A1, A, or G bands. Sometimes you can get good deals getting 2-pack kits and save a little bit of money. There are also great Shure and Audio-Technica products out there too, just make sure they fall below 608MHz in their respective bands.

If you need to go with a completely self-contained battery-powered solution there is the Sennheiser ew 100-ENG that has a bodypack-styled receiver. If, say, you have to go with a battery speaker and only need one quality mic solution, this is an option to consider. A lot of videographers have utilized this with a hot-shoe adapter and put the receiver right on the camera.

I personally use 3 Sennheiser G3 receivers plus a ASA-1 antenna splitter inside a shallow SKB case which simplifies wiring since the receivers (up to 8) can be powered by the ASA-1. I can expand up to 5 in the front panel if necessary and just relocate my antennas to the rear of the case.

Racked up equipment.
Racked up equipment.

Power. What Power?

As a wedding ceremony DJ you may find out that the location you are at simply has no power. I have done ceremonies in the woods, on a golf course, by a lake, and so many other places where the nearest outlet can be impossible to get to. So you have to consider what your power options are when taking on this task.

As noted above, if you are just going to play music, you can leverage the units that have batteries built into them. In general, you can get an hour or even two for decent use, sometimes even more. As you incorporate microphones into the mix that complicates matters. You could go with the all-battery powered Sennheiser ew 100-ENG that I noted above. Or you could invest in a battery to connect everything together.

There are a lot of batteries that are out there but not everyone is a good solution for DJs and their sensitive audio equipment. I have found a pair of pure sinewave UPSs that not only can serve as a standalone battery for a typical minute ceremony, but works in-line with power and can help with surges, brownouts, and outages which you can incorporate into a right-sized reception setup. Runtime with my Evolve 50 speakers went 1:45+ at moderate volumes, and with my Maui 5 Go being battery-powered and no longer needing to be on the UPS, I can exceed three hours for my mixer, router, IEM, and mics.

Gotta Mix Those Channels

So if you are going to be doing more than simple song playback at a ceremony you will need a way to mix all this audio together. If you are just mixing one or in some cases two audio channels some of the battery-powered speakers offer competent ways to mix that audio. If you still need to stay in the realm of self-battery-powered devices, the Rolls MX410 gives you an option for just that.

I made an investment in the Soundcraft Ui16 (a smaller Ui12 is available as well) which requires power but also gives me the incredible flexibility to mix at a ceremony. I can move hundreds of feet away since it’s managed via a web-based interface via wifi. And the playback of music is controlled all via the iPad via an attached USB drive, mix mics and add effects, I can plug in a live band to the board and manage and capture their sound. The Soundcraft Ui16 has become an indispensable tool in my arsenal and also have a second unit and use it for my reception rig.

Summary

There are many options to consider but the biggest one is going to be the level of service you provide for ceremony services. Do you want to just push a few songs? How about capturing a single microphone? Multiple microphones? What do you do without power? It ultimately comes down to the size of your budget and capabilities you want to offer to your clients.

There are many options to consider but the biggest one is going to be the level of service you provide for ceremony services. Do you want to just push a few songs? How about capturing a single microphone? Multiple microphones? What do you do without power? It ultimately comes down to the size of your budget and capabilities you want to offer to your clients.

Watch The Video

Note: This article was originally published on June 16, 2017 and was updated on August 8, 2018 with some new inclusions of speakers and battery backups along with a video.

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