So I have been asked to play at an assisted living residence, about 80 people. I’ll be playing banjo, fiddle, & guitar. Mostly folk and old country. I figure I need two mikes. What’s the minimum I can get away with amplification wise?
Unless you're dealing with an unusually rowdy group of old people, you may not need any amplification. I've seen an unamplified guitar played in a 300 seat church that was easily heard by everyone and have personally played (fiddle) for groups larger than yours.
There are some acoustic amps, that allow you to plug a microphone or two in, I'm sure that would be enough. Or some kind of all in one portable system. Fender used to make the Passport PA, not sure if they still do, but even that seems like too much. I'd try to find a small acoustic amp, that has inputs for microphones.
I use 2 Roland micro-cubes. One for the mike. One for the instrument. Fiddle, guitar, banjer, etc. These little wonders run on 6 AA batteries, or an adapter. They can get very LOUD. But i mostly, now this kinda seems weird, but it's to indicate I am the "entertainment." The folks seem much less attentive, more chatty, if i just sit there with a guitar. Most times i barely turn them up.
P.S. i've kept an extra set of batteries in my case for 6 months. Still haven't needed them. I use the amps every week. I swear they run on magic.
For such a small audience, I'd suggest, at the least, a microphone for you voice as many may be hard of hearing. Your instruments should be loud enough on their own.
I have a fishman loudbox performer amp that works great for small gigs. I even use it for club gigs because it has a direct out in the back. It has a lever that allows you to tip it back at an angle and use it as a monitor if you wish and there is a xlr mic input as well as 1/4" jacks. Great for when you don't want or need a full P.A., but want to elevate above the chatter.
Thanks all for the advice, I’ll let you know how it went in a couple of weeks.
Richard - You've gotten some advice, but I don't know if anyone has really addressed your question. So I'll add my 2 cents - and I'll only charge you a nickel!
In the old days you could have done this without amplification, but its a noisier world today, and as others have pointed out, some of your audience may be hard of hearing, and may be a little noisy themselves, depending on the facility. So you might need a little help.
The loudbox is meant to be an amp for acoustic instruments with pickups, with a mic input as a bonus. If that's your situation it could be a good choice, although it might be hard to cover the room unless you can get it up in the air. The microcube is a nifty little mini guitar amp, not really meant for this purpose. I have the bigger Cube Street, which I bought thinking I might play at farmer's markets, but that never happened, so I've never used it.
What you really need is a small PA system, and I would suggest a powered speaker with one or two mic imputs. I've used the Fender Passport, and its OK - it actually sounds better than it looks like it should. Yamaha also makes a couple versions of the Stagepas PA, which I like better.
This is all preamble. What I would heartily recommend is the JBL EON 610 powered speaker - compact, powerful, very versatile and great sounding: sweetwater.com/store/detail/EO...d-speaker I've owned a pair of the original version of this speaker for many years, and they're still going strong. I've used them for small shows, small dances, delay speakers at larger dances, and stage monitors and they aleays are great. As one hot Bluegrass band said "a small speaker with a big sound." Last month I used them in a 500 seat tent at the National Storytelling festival and they sounded fine. In the last year I've also used the 610"s and their bigger sibling the 612 as monitors for groups like Blue Highway, and everybody was happy. At this price they seem like a great deal.
B&H offers a package deal that's even better: bhphotovideo.com/c/product/120...ered.html This includes a stand (essential), carrying bag (very nice to have) and a cable (always useful).
In addition you would need a mic, stand, and cable, like this:
A solid boom can be a little awkward - maybe they would substitute this stand:
This setup can grow as your needs expand. It has two inputs, so you can easily add a second microphone, a second speaker, or a mixer of any size. The only downside is it doesn't have EQ on the mic input (I rarely need any) or phantom power, so you're limited to dynamic mics or condemser mics that can run on internal batteries or an external power supply.
Having said all this, I wouldn't buy anything unless it looks like this might be a recurring event. If it looks like a one time event I'd find a local store that rents sound equipment and use whatever they recommend.
BTW, our late friend Fiddlepogo did a lot of this type of gig and owned a pair of EON 610's, which he loved. It was one thing I could wholeheartedly agree with him about.
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