How and When to Purchase a Portable Sound System

As Kirtan Leaders begin to share Kirtan more broadly they may feel the need to incorporate a sound system into their events. This blog post offers some initial ideas on how to do this. However, please don't take anything I share here as a recommendation. Please do your own research in order to select purchase a sound system that fits your unique needs. 

WHY a sound system?
A sound system is a great way to raise the quality of your Kirtan events.I t allows you to modulate the volume to fit the crowd and room, and balance each of the instruments and voices with each other. Main speakers will project the sound to the crowd, and monitors will help you hear yourself more clearly.

WHEN to purchase?
A sound system becomes very useful when you find your voice or harmonium (and the voices and instruments of others in the band) being drowned out by the audience or louder band members (drums/percussion, electric guitar/bass, etc).

When I started in 2006 I neither owned a sound system, nor did I want to purchase one. I was fortunate to be able to hire a musician to play in my band who owned a sound system. This allowed me to delay the expense of purchasing a sound system for several years. That said, if you share Kirtan regularly, eventually it will make financial sense to purchase your own sound system.

WHERE to purchase?
Good places to purchase sound gear include:

Getting Started

Sound equipment can be expensive, and is a hassle to lug around and set up. My advice is to start simple and upgrade/expand later as needed. Here are recommendations around five categories of gear that constitute an inexpensive sound system you can get started with.

1. Microphones/Stands
Mics - Shure SM 58's for vocals and Shure SM 57's for instruments are the standard go to's for many bands.
Mic stands - little short stands are good for folks who sit on the floor, Boom stands work well for those who sit in chairs (or stand) while they play.

2. Microphone and Speaker Cables
 XLR (microphone) cables (always keep a few extra on hand in case one goes bad). These connect your microphones to your mixer, and your mixer to your main speakers. 
 1/4 inch (speaker) cables are often required to connect other elements of your sound system. 

3. Portable Sound Systems
The best/easiest/most affordable way to start is with a powered speakers/mixer  + speaker stands (on which to put the speakers).

My initial sound system was a Fender Passport system, which runs about $1000 and is best supplemented with monitor system. Back then many Kirtan artists were using the Bose L1 sound system which doesn't require a separate monitor system. 

4. Monitors
When I started I used a smaller portable Fender sound system for my monitor. This model appears to have been discontinued, but no worries, there are lots of good monitor options out there. HERE is a similar system that could work. 

5. Miscellaneous
** Power strip/surge protector
** Extension cords
** Stuff to make the space look pretty

As you can see there’s a lot to this! Please don’t take anything I shared above as a recommendation for purchasing any particular product, but merely as a starting point for doing your research and choosing gear that makes the most sense for you.

Later on you may want to purchase additional gear - mics, cables, stands, a mixer (click HERE for the one I use), fancier speakers, upgraded monitors and more.


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