PA User Tips by Duncan Boniface

Duncan Boniface is a top engineer and developer who designs Amps, PAs and other sound kit for the world’s leading brands. He started his career at the legendary Celestion speaker firm and designed for Celestion and its clients such as Marshall, Fender, Line 6, Vox, Ampeg, Roland, Ashdown, Orange and many more. As Vice President of Product Development at Laney he has resurrected the HH Electronics brand with new designs.



Duncan studied Acoustic Engineering, and ran a student PA crew working on bands such as Manic Street Preachers, Carter USM, Dream Warriors and Dodgy. Before moving to Laney he was head of R&D at Carlsbro.

There are many different kinds of PA, but there are a few basic rules that apply to all of them. Here are some key pointers from Duncan Boniface. We’ll be making his detailed guide available as a download soon, but if you can’t wait until then, email us at: and we will send it to you.

Always read the manuals – yes really! It can make a huge difference.

Storage and environment – avoid cold and damp conditions they’ll damage the speakers, cabs and electronics. If your system is cold allow it to warm up and dry out before switching it on.

Power – underpowered amps are one of the most common causes of speaker failure. (Don’t confuse power in, with loudness). It is safer to use greater amp power than the speaker’s capacity, than to use less.

Headroom - It’s better to use a bigger amp at lower volume than push a small one too hard. An overdriven amp produces a harsh sound and a clipped signal that damages speakers.

Connections – Make sure the speaker cables are adequate for the power output of the amp. If the cable is too thin it will heat up causing loss of power, distortion and it can be a fire risk.

More is more! – It is better to use more than the minimum number of speakers and push them less hard. If you drive a speaker to its full power limit the coils heat up and you waste amp power.

Positioning for sound – Bass units should be on the floor for best low end. Tweeters should be slightly above the audience’s ears. To get the most bass from small cabs, place them against walls or in corners.

Positioning general – make sure the speakers are balanced and steady, whether on tripods, poles, beer crates or each other. If stacked up, strap them together to improve stability. Don’t overextend poles, make sure that at least 4 times the pole diameter is still inside the outer pole. Keep smoke, fog and glitter machines well away from the electronics and speakers as they cause damage.

Wiring – don’t run everything off multi blocks. Use different mains circuits or a higher current supply (many venues have these) with special connectors.

Setting up equipment – start with EQ settings flat and gains low. Use input gain to set maximum signal level without distortion. Set up mic levels first and adjust other equipment to match.

Sound-checking – Check all mics and instruments individually, but avoid excessive EQ or time spent. With all controls flat it should be very close to the original sound. Find out where mics feedback most; mark these positions with tape and avoid them. Position main vocal mics where feedback is at a minimum.