Home Studio Setups: Live Audio - dummies

By Jeff Strong

If you intend to record a live band, you are likely to use this setup. The live audio setup requires more microphone connections and rarely has MIDI devices running into it. The diagram shows how you would make the connections for this type of application.

The live audio system setup. MIDI devices are rarely used.
The live audio system setup. MIDI devices are rarely used.

The setup in the diagram consists of a studio-in-a-box (SIAB) system (a Roland VS-1880, for instance). Because all the routing takes place within the box, your setup is simple. All your instruments and microphones plug directly into the SIAB (most units even have one Hi-Z input for a guitar or bass).

If you want to plug both the electric guitar and bass in at the same time, you still need one direct box or line output from your amp.

If you plan to use more than two microphones at once, make sure that you have enough inputs because most SIAB systems only have two XLR jacks. If you want to plug in more mics than you have XLR jacks, you have the following options:

  • Use a separate analog mixer for plugging in extra mics. Then run an instrument cord from the channel output of the mixer to the channel’s line input on your SIAB system.

  • Use one or more external preamps to convert the low-impedance mic cords to high-impedance TS cords. Just plug your mic into the preamp and run an instrument cord from the preamp to the channel’s line input of your SIAB system.

  • Use line converters, such as a direct box or an adapter. Plug your mic cord into the direct box or adapter and then plug into the channel’s line input of your SIAB system’s mixer. (You can find an adapter at Radio Shack for about $12 — part no. 910-0913.)

    This is the least expensive option, but it costs you more in terms of sound quality — it doesn’t sound as good as the previous two options.

All that’s left is to run line cords from the main outputs of your SIAB system to the inputs of your powered speakers. In this case, you use 1/4-inch instrument cords (T/S) rather than speaker cords because the input on your powered speakers is actually the input to the amplifier and not the speakers. The connection from the amp to the speakers is made internally in the speaker cabinets.

If you don’t need to record with multiple tracks and are okay with mono or stereo, a ton of portable recorders (often called linear recorders) can do the trick. Some even include their own mics. You may also find that a tablet computer, such as the iPad, is useful for live recording.