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Can You Run A Pa System With A Generator

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  • 20-03-2022
Can You Run A Pa System With A Generator

If you require a PA system for an outdoor event you may ask: can I run a PA system with a generator? This article looks at the power requirements and considerations for running a PA system.

What Is A PA System - And How Does It Work?

A PA system is designed for amplifying a human's voice. A PA has a microphone, mixer and loudspeakers. The first stage is when the voice goes into the microphone, this creates voltage by converting sound pressure into voltage.

Simply put, when a person speaks or sings into a microphone, the magnetic force produces a small amount of voltage.

The voltage is sent to the mixer or loudspeaker for amplification. Once this is boosted by a power amplifier, the voltage level becomes so high that it forces the speakers to recreate and move the sound pressure which originally was input into the microphone. The outcome of this is a louder sounding voice.

There is a separate way of thinking about amplification. How the signal level, or maybe the voltage level, is elevated at the separate gain stages in the system.

The gain staging refers to the individual levels of preamplification or the volume adjustment that are found in a single path.

When it comes to PA systems, these gain stages will be the microphone preamplifier, mix level, channel level and loudspeaker level. 

Starting at the microphone level, the voltage is then increased; this is done by a preamplifier gain knob. It is increased closer to line level. Once this has reached the line level, the signal is then adjusted by the mixer's level control.  

Can You Run A PA System With A Generator?

When the mix moves from the mixer and to the loudspeaker's amplifier, it is then elevated to speaker level, which is controlled by the amplifier's level control. The speaker then rapidly moves back and forth; this is caused by the high voltage level. Therefore an amplified version of the original sound is produced.

How do mixers work? Well, a mixer lets you connect and control levels that come from microphones which are sent to the speakers. The main purpose or function of a mixer is to bring the microphone and instruments up to line level; then, it will balance the mix before that gets sent to the loudspeakers.

Powering a band, PA + lights from a generator

It is commonly recommended that you run the sound system on its own generator, using a pure sine wave output. Lights may require more power and therefore should be on a separate generator. The biggest draw for your audio equipment would be the amplifiers, whereas other parts such as mixers or decks do not draw as much power in comparison.

Not being 100% efficient, the audio amplifiers have power loss primarily as heat. Your best decision would be to determine the power consumption that the equipment uses and then find a generator that would be comfortable enough to handle it.

The best thing to do is to research the perfect generator for the power consumption you'll have. As stated before, lights can use a high amount of power compared to other equipment, so your best choice is to add each piece of equipment up in terms of power consumption, so you'll calculate your total maximum power, there you can determine if you have the right generator, or need a new one. You should calculate your equipment power consumption in Kilowatts.

Ensure the power is expressed in Watts (W)

Sometimes, the equipment has its power information written in Amps (A) or Kilowatts (kW, kVA). If this is the case, then you'll want to convert the number of Amps or Kilowatts into Watts (W). You can use a power reference if needed. This would be power(w) = volts(V) * amps(A), 1x Amp = 240W, 1x kW = 1000W. You can sum up the usage of individual pieces of equipment so, adding up the amount of watts that each piece of equipment uses. Once you have got the total of peek power, for example, would be. 

 Speaker 1 - 500 W

 Speaker 2 - 500 W

 Controller - 120 W

 Laptop - 120 W

 Subwoofer - 550 W

= Total - 1790 W

Once you determine that total amount, you can then decide on how much power you need to generate for the equipment you're going to be using. A common mistake people sometimes make is they look for the power output, but in fact, you want to look at the power draw or power consumption, this is usually in Watts, but it can also be in Volts and Amps. This is why it's best to convert power into Watts.

Using a Generator for DJ Equipment

When using a generator for DJ equipment, there are various things you should do to stop any potential issues. A great example of this would be keeping your generators set around 60-100 feet away from the equipment like your speakers and subwoofer. This is because you'll more than likely hear the generator.

Another thing you should take into consideration is to use a UPS, which is an Uninterruptable Power Supply, and use this within the generator and your equipment. What a UPS does is protect your equipment from things like power spikes. It will also help benefit the crew as it gives them time to refuel and restart the generator and other equipment that requires continuous power sources.

Using a surge protector is always a great idea. One problem that you can face with this is that all surge protectors may be power strips, but not all power strips happen to be surge protectors. So when deciding on the surge protector you want, make sure that it is marketed as such.

Another thing you should watch out for is to keep an eye on your maintenance cycle. The manufacturer will suggest a set period of when to change the oil. You should follow this. This could result in a potential failure of the generator and may stop you while using DJ equipment.

One thing you should also take into account is, that a generator is fine with, let's say, five things plugged into the one power strip, but there will be an issue based on undersized cables that are running long distances. An example would be a 16ga (which is only rated for 10-13A) orange extension cord going 100' could potentially have around a 3.35% drop in the voltage levels over the wiring run. 

Powering a band, PA + lights from a generator

How to Choose a Generator for DJ Equipment?

You have to be wise when choosing a generator that you'll be using for your DJ equipment, you don't want to be in the middle of a gig, and then your generator fails you. There are ways to determine what generator you should be using, and this is regardless of how long you'll be using it. So whether you're using the generator consistently for your events or just renting for the day, the smart decision still has to be made. You may have to consider what portable generator will be easy to use.

A good and decent portable generator, or most generators in general, has a high chance of being a higher cost, so that's something you should also consider when picking out your generator, especially if you'll be using it for a one time gig. If you're travelling often, you may want to give a small-sized generator a try, making it simple and easy to move around when needed. 

If you are working as a DJ, be upfront with customers and let them know what you can deliver, and then compare renting and owning a portable power source; from there, you can determine the value of either. On the subject of customers, you should consider the noise created by a generator.

Generators can be very loud, and you don't want your generator to ruin the sound of the music; that could ruin the experience for all your customers. You should take the time to search for the quietest possible one. It is highly recommended that you use long cables, so you can install a generator in a safe place that won't disrupt the event.

Do you need a generator for a PA system?

If you are looking for a PA system generator, call us today on 01172 541069 for help choosing the right generator for you. 

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