Here's My Advice for David

By Mark Wade

I always use sound no matter what the size of the audience may be. I found it's too hard on your voice to try and carry the show without it...you end up trying to speak over any crowd noise or distractions and you can strain your voice doing this, and if you wreck your voice you may have to wait for a few days before being able to perform again. I definitely would recommend a good quality small sound system.

For shows the size of 50-150, I like the small system put out by Anchor Sound Systems called the Anchor Explorer. Its relatively light weight (compared to the bigger systems), puts out about 70 watts and works well. You can buy a battery and A/C version or just an A/C (plug in) version. Also MiPro has a small unit that is light weight and rather inexpensive as sound systems go. I would figure on spending somewhere around $750-$1000 for a better quality system. I know there are others on the market that are much less expensive, but I'm talking about a system you could use everyday and not wear it out. This would be your call. I would not buy a system under 40 watts of power. My philosophy is that more sound is better than less sound...you can always turn your sound system down. But if it's underpowered, you can't turn it up any louder if you need it.

I use "On-Stage " brand speaker stands, available from most music or sound stores. As for mics, I am not a fan of wireless, although I have heard the Countryman wireless head set does a nice job. I am more of a traditionalist and use the Shure SM-58 mic and hard wire (a mic cable plugged into the system). Why do I prefer a regular mic? With an SM-58 you have a broader surface to speak into and it is more durable. Wireless systems tend to be less durable and things have a tendency to happen to the mic during shows. That's not scientific reasoning I am referring to...it's just from my own personal point of view and comes from observing all types of performers who use them. You will probably have others who will rave over the wireless mics and I say "good for them!". Everybody has an opinion. You have to find out what's right for you!

Look up these companies to get ideas on sound: Sound Projections ; Anchor Sound Systems : MiPro Sound Systems. Hope I've helped. Good Luck!


  1. Anonymous6/22/2010

    I use a Happie Amp by Brian Foshee. It has lapel and headset mics, a hookup for music background and is both battery and cord powered. I haven't found a venue I couldn't use it in. To start out, it's the perfect system.
    Magical Montana Santa

  2. I agree with Mark, I wouldn't do a home birthday show with out a mike. and like Mark my choice of a microphone is the Shure Sm58, I use wireless mikes in some of my school shows for various reasons, but prefer the sound and dependability of the wired mike. I use a Crate Limo 50 watt self contained system for most school and library shows. It is small, light weight, self contained and provides good quality sound, not too expensive, around $400.

  3. David Nickell6/22/2010

    I'm the "David" who posed the question. I appreciate all the responses, particularly those by Mark and the others who suggested brand names to investigate. As a beginner who has never used a sound system, specific examples are the most helpful since I don't have a clue of what to look for or where to begin. I talked to a sound person at the puppetry and ventriloquism ministry site onewaystreet.com and he recommended the Fender Passport 150 Pro System. Even with amplifier stands, the whole setup costs a little over $400, which is more in my ballpark than $1,000 or more. I'm wondering if anyone is familiar with this system and has any pros or cons about it. The sound guy said it produces quality sound in a small and affordable package.

  4. David, I used to work with the Fender Passport 250 - big brother to the one you mentioned. Fender makes a good product at a good price. It will hold up to use. The system you are looking at is capable of handling a small audience and probably fine for starting out. The only thing I disliked about the unit was it's odd shape, which never packed well with my other equipment. Depending on how you progress, eventually you may want something better. Hopefully by that time your shows will pay for the newer system. Remember, a sound system isn't an expense. It is an investment.

  5. Here's the portable PA I use in ALL of my school assembly shows: Florida Magic PAS-787 (FloridaMagicandSound.com). 5 pounds, built-in wireless mic and rechargeable battery - sets up in less than 1 min - Works great! I've been a working vent for many years and am also well versed in sound systems(most systems on the market, not being designed with a variety arts performer in mind, tend to be either small and underpowered or have way too many features that you don't need (but still are paying for...). I can tell you that for the majority of jobs, this is what you need. Not heavy, complicated or a hassle to unload and set-up like some other systems recommended. Small, but doesn't look like a toy, either.Many other vents use this system too and have found it perfect for their shows.