Simple Mic and Mixer for Bar or Small Venue

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Joined: 02/12/2009

This is a quick guide for a small bar or other venue to add a live microphone to their previously-installed sound system. For example, for a Brainstormer trivia quiz MC, musicians or comedians.

Here's a common scenario: A bar already has a small sound system installed with a jukebox or CD player. It's a set-it-and-forget-it amplifier with speakers. You might have a simple volume control behind the bar. Or perhaps it's a "home stereo" receiver with multiple inputs to choose from (CD/Video/Aux etc).

These setups are fine for playing background music in a bar, but they are missing a few important functions. First, a microphone needs a mic preamplifier. You can't just plug a mic into an amp/receiver. Second, you can't mix two sources together. A mixer solves both of these problems, and can be pretty inexpensive. It can also solve other problems.

There are hundreds of mixers to choose from. For this application, it needs to have at least one mic preamp. Two or more mic preamps are useful for more musical instruments. For example, a voice and a guitar would need two mics.

Another feature to plan for is stereo inputs. Count up how many stereo sources you need: CD players, jukebox, iPod, radio, satellite TV etc. A mixer with enough inputs can be the hub for all your audio.

These have two mic inputs and 2-3 stereo inputs:

This mixer has three mic inputs and four stereo inputs (better quality and features too):

Or four mic inputs and 4-5 stereo inputs:

The mic is easier to choose, just get the Shure SM58:

This can be ordered with an on/off switch. For quiz MCs and better control, get the switch.

Once you have all the equipment, you'll need a few cables. (For pictures of connectors follow the links.)

First, connect the mic to the mixer. All mics use the same cable with a round 3-pin XLR connector at each end, one cable per mic:

Next, cables to connect the mixer to your amp/receiver. Most mixers' outputs are 1/4" balanced (TRS). If your amp has RCA input jacks, you'll need 2 channels of 1/4"-to-RCA cable.

Hosa Dual RCA to Dual Mono 1/4" cable (2 channel), avail in 1-4 meters:

If this cable needs be more than 4 meters (13.2 feet) long, it's better to connect the following two cables together (plus, these are easy to extend with an XLR mic cable). Remember, you'll need two EACH of these for a total of four cables:

If your amp has 1/4" TRS input jacks, you'll instead need 2 channels of 1/4"-to-1/4" cable:

Also consider a mic stand, either floor-standing or desktop.

A final note: the sound system needs to be powerful enough to be heard over the crowd. Background music doesn't need to be louder than the crowd. But for a quiz night or live music, the sound system must be louder than the crowd. If the Quiz MC or musician can't be heard, the event will fail.