As we all know, modern technology is evolving at a breathtaking pace. But that’s not always so obvious in our middle and high schools, especially when it comes to audio equipment. Antiquated, sometimes barely functional sound systems are more common in music classrooms than any of us would like to admit. Summer break isn’t usually a time when much can be done about this, but it does provide an opportunity to think about how the gear you use during the school year could be upgraded—and to research what’s available, with an eye toward future purchase requests.
Perhaps the biggest trend in audio these days is wireless connectivity. That this can be extremely helpful to music teachers almost goes without saying. Wireless devices have much of the same appeal as the classic battery-powered boombox; they’re compact, they’re portable, and they don’t have to be plugged into anything.
If you have a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone and/or tablet that can be used in your school, you may want to consider investing in one or more Bluetooth speakers. In a few quick steps, these speakers can connect wirelessly to your device, allowing everyone in the room to hear whatever you’re playing, whether it’s a song on Spotify or your ensemble’s latest practice recording. Bose, UE, and JBL are among the top manufacturers of Bluetooth speakers. A single unit from one of these companies can cost as much as $300, but they also produce a number of models that provide excellent fidelity for well under $100.
If you’re in the market for something more elaborate—something that will accommodate multiple sound sources, like microphones and electronic instruments—Peavey’s new Escort 6000 portable PA system is worth a look. It’s an all-in-one package containing a nine-channel mixer and two-way speaker system with folding stands, a carrying case, and luggage-style wheels for easy portability. Don’t let its small size fool you; the Escort 6000 puts out a hefty 600 watts of power. And like the speakers mentioned above, it’s also Bluetooth-enabled for wireless audio playback.
Outfitting a rehearsal room, auditorium, or outdoor performance space requires another level of power and volume, especially if you’re working with large, complex ensembles. The Lamar School in Meridian, Miss., recently completed a major revamp of the audio systems in its cafeteria/auditorium, gym, and playing fields. Using a combination of components by Peavey, Crest, and other manufacturers, these new systems offer an excellent example of what can be done to improve sound reinforcement in a school setting. For more details about the Lamar School’s new acquisitions, go here.
You can’t have music without sound, and so it’s important, sometimes crucial, for music educators to have access to equipment that reproduces sound clearly with a minimum of fuss. No matter how or when you and your school decide to upgrade your current audio gear, you’ll be making a major investment in the future by doing so.