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A Basic Live Sound Setup Diagram

6:00 am Live Sound

You know what they say about a picture and a thousand words. Well then, I have about two thousand words’ worth for you in this article!

I sometimes get e-mails from people who are uncertain about what components are part of a typical live sound setup, or exactly how to hook them up. Instead of trying to describe all the interconnections that are commonly involved, I decided to draw up a diagram (two, actually) of the setup that Rusty Strings, the band I run sound for, uses for their live shows.

OK, so here are the diagrams. The first one shows the interconnections made at the mixing or FOH (Front Of House) position between the mixer, the power amplifier, and the dual effects box. (Click on the diagram for a somewhat larger version on its own page.)

The second diagram shows the interconnections made to the instruments, microphones, and speakers onstage, at the other end of the snake. (Again, click on the diagram for a larger, printable “clean copy”.)

Fronting the House

These setup diagrams are fairly self-explanatory, but there are a few points I should clarify, beginning with the FOH (top) diagram above. We don’t use channel #5 in the snake because channel 5 in our mixer is broken. (You needn’t duplicate this practice!) Notice that the power amplifier is a dual-channel type. You may be used to thinking of dual-channel devices as handling the Left and Right signals from a stereo source. Here, we are instead using the two sections of the power amp (A and B) completely independently, with Section A used to power the main speakers via the mixer’s Main Out connection (we use only the left side of the mixer output, with all input channels panned full left). Section B of the power amp provides a completely separate mix to the monitor speakers.

The monitor mix is created by adjusting the Aux Send 1 controls on each mixer channel strip, essentially using them as an 8-channel mini-mixer (7 for us) to create the desired monitor mix at the Aux Send 1 output. Note that the output of the monitor side of the power amp (Section B) is routed to the stage via the snake (channel 9) rather than through a separate cable. See my article Mini-Tip: Send Monitor Signals On the Snake for more thoughts on this practice. We do use a separate cable from the power amp (Section A) to the main speakers since they will be drawing a lot of power.

The effects box is a dual unit with two inputs, which we feed from Aux Send 2 and Aux Send 3 (our mixer has four Aux Sends for each channel). We route the combined (mono) FX signal from the box back to the Aux Return input on the mixer.  I have one side of the effects box set to a nice reverb and the other to a delay effect whose delay period can be set by tapping a front-panel button in time with the music - very cool!  The amount of either effect applied to any given channel is controlled with the Aux Send 2 and Aux Send 3 knobs for that channel.

The snake itself has 12 cables in it: 8 terminate in XLR-type connectors and 4 in 1/4″ TRS-type “phone” connectors. We use 7 of the 8 XLR connections for microphone and instrument signals coming from the stage and one of the 1/4″ connections for the monitor signal going to the stage.

Taking the Stage

Turning to the onstage (bottom) diagram above, we see the connections that are made to the stage box (the stage end of the snake, literally a metal box with 12 connectors mounted on it). The monitor speakers are connected to channel 9 of the snake, as you see. The snake signal is routed into one speaker, then a separate cable takes it out of that speaker and over to the other one. The four vocal mics are connected directly to the stage box as shown. (We always use the same channels for everything because I have them marked that way on the mixer’s “scribble strip”.)

The two guitar amps have “Direct Out” connectors (XLR-type, conveniently) that we run directly to the stage box. One of the amps has a 1-10 level control, which I always set to “7″. The other outputs at a fixed level. Note especially the keyboard setup, which is a bit unusual. We have the keyboard set up so that its output is in mono, meaning that the Left and Right Output signals are the same. The Left-side signal is routed through a direct (DI) box and an XLR cable takes it from there to the stage box. The Right-side signal from the keyboard goes through a volume pedal to an onstage amp, which the keyboard player basically uses as a monitor. (The audience hears the keyboard mostly through the PA.)

Note: We use a DI box for the keyboard signal to convert the high-impedance keyboard output to low impedance. This allows the signal to reach the FOH mixer down 100 feet of snake without picking up hum or buzz, like it did the time we tried running the keyboard output directly to one of the 1/4″ connectors on the stage box.

The cable carrying the Main Speaker signal to the stage is routed to one of the main speakers as shown, then as with the monitors the output of this speaker is sent via separate cable to the other main speaker. (This means that both main speakers get the same signal, and both monitor speakers get the same signal.)

Well, I guess that’s about all the ’splainin’ I need to do. Some of the other articles in the “Live Sound” category discuss various aspects of this kind of setup in more detail. I will close with a couple of pictures of our semi-neat and tidy FOH setup at a typical Rusty Strings gig. The effects box and the (very heavy) power amp are mounted in a “portable” rack. The snake (100′) is wound on a cable reel I got at Lowe’s.

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19 Responses
  1. kenneth sanda :

    Date: April 14, 2009 @ 9:56 am

    the setup is create so, post me a full live sound equipment including

  2. Little Star shrestha :

    Date: August 12, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

    i’d like to see more and more fotos and diagrams

  3. Alan B :

    Date: August 22, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

    Thank you Mark! This is exactly what I was hoping to find when I did my internet search. Lucky for me it was the first link I read. I have bookmarked the Ezine Articles and cheapadviceonmusic sites for future reference. I’m sure I will be a regular visitor.

    Alan B

  4. Steve Vega :

    Date: August 26, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

    Good article, makes it very clear to the beginner. Thanks!

  5. Ron in NC :

    Date: November 6, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

    We want the option to record live> How does the recording unit fit into the routing plan for live Recording..

  6. TheCheapAdviceGuy :

    Date: November 9, 2009 @ 6:00 am

    Hi Ron -

    Thanks for the question about recording live. It’s such a good question that I am planning to write an article about the subject soon for my site!

    By way of a preview, I intend to discuss at least the following approaches:

    1. Take direct channel outputs from the mixer directly to 8 (or however many) inputs on the recorder. Put all instruments and vocals into the mixer so that each source is recorded on its own track for later mixing. (Best approach.)

    2. Using direct boxes and/or direct amp outputs, run all instruments to both the PA system and to the recorder. Split vocal mic signals with passive splitters - I tried them, they work fine. (Almost as good as #1 but more hassle & wiring.)

    3. Use one or more spare Aux Sends on the mixer (pre-fader) to make submixes to send to the recorder. (Less preferable, since the mixes can’t be changed later.) I once used one Aux Send for the instruments and another for the vocals, so I at least had the flexibility to later “mix” those two tracks! (I used ambient mics on other tracks to fill out the sound and get crowd response.)

    4. Use one of those handheld 2-channel recorders (e.g. Zoom H2 or H4) to record from wherever the band sounds best. (Even less preferable, since the venue reverb will play back superimposed on the band instead of coming from “all around” as it does in person.)

    Hopefully this gives you something to think about. Thanks again for the inquiry!

  7. jbravo :

    Date: February 4, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    I’ve have a decent sound system, MRX JBLs. can you please give me some advise on how to get a good Kick Drum punchy sound, no matter what I do,it’s either to bassy or to high. if I use more mids, it almost loses the kick drum I need enhansers or other EFXs? I do use a Kickdrum mic.[recommended]

  8. TheCheapAdviceGuy :

    Date: February 22, 2010 @ 12:20 pm


    I know what you mean about getting just the right kick sound. There are so many variables! Of course, you start by making sure the kick sounds good in the room as it’s being played - you can’t record sounds it isn’t making in the first place. Also, a “proper” drummer will already have the kit, including the kick, all tuned and adjusted properly.

    I’ve poked around the web a bit for ideas and here’s what I have turned up:
    This thread has a lot of suggestions about getting a good kick drum sound and miking drums in general.
    This article also gives some suggestions regarding the kick sound.
    There are a bunch of pads like this one that you can attach to the kick drum head where the beater hits it. They add a “click” kind of effect to the top end. Sadly, most reviewers on this page don’t seem to like it! I think there are plastic ones that sound better, but I couldn’t pinpoint any online. (Check with your drum pro shop?)
    This electronic gadget goes right in the XLR mic line for the kick. Some swear by it. If you can arrange to “try before you buy” this could be your solution right there.

    Hope some of this helps!


    Date: February 28, 2010 @ 12:49 am


  10. Daniel :

    Date: May 29, 2010 @ 10:16 am

    Hey Guys, Great post. Very detailed and accurate pictures that are useful for students looking to learn the basic signal flow. Ill hopefully post this to my students to give them a clear Idea of whats going on. This type of diagram wont work on everyone, but the really technically minded people will really benefit from something like this

  11. eugene opoku boateng :

    Date: December 11, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    hey i just want a setup diagram with 2 amps a pairs of speakers and instruments

  12. scott :

    Date: July 8, 2011 @ 8:12 am

    as a working drummer, i cant impress enough about proper tuning, its everything! just sounding good to your ear wont cut it, i use a pitch pipe and start with a low “e”. just like relative tuning on a stringed instrument. as far as kick drum sound goes, this sounds odd but i have done it for 20 years and it works great, and sound guys love it. i start with a leather pad on the drum head where the beater strikes it.these are available from any drum/percussion seller. then i remove the beaters from my pedal stems and get two golf balls. yes i said golf balls, drill them and install them in place of the beaters. i find they provide a very positive punch of sound without the slap of a wooden beater, and much better than the felt beaters. the leather pads protect the head and soften the punch just a little. i have even experimented and discovered that a top flight #2 works well for the main beater and a #4 works well for the extra (double)beater. they are small and fast too.

  13. francis :

    Date: August 13, 2011 @ 8:45 am

    I don’t think the way you have the monitors set up is correct. You have a speaker output from your amplifier going down channel 9 of your multi-core. Unless your multi-core is specifically designed with channel 9 as speaker size cable within it you are using a balanced microphone cable within the multi-core to carry a speaker signal which is of a higher current thus needing heavier cable. Usually the monitor (aux send 1) signal is sent down the multi-core from the desk to a stage amplifier & speakers or active speakers. Also you have looped the monitors on stage thus increasing the load on the single channel balanced line you are using. Beware as too much power from the amplifier could melt your multi-core especially if alot is left coiled on the drum.

  14. Channel Live Sound | MNC Makina Music :

    Date: September 16, 2011 @ 7:04 am

    […] Onyx 820i Firewire MixerTED CARFRAE, MY LIFE IN MUSIC: CILLA BLACK BACK TO BASICS – PART 2Cheap Advice On Music #content-body,x:-moz-any-link{float:left;margin-right:28px;}#content-body, x:-moz-any-link, […]

  15. kelvin smith :

    Date: March 27, 2012 @ 12:39 am

    In your second diagram,what kind of device is that “stage box”?

  16. TheCheapAdviceGuy :

    Date: March 27, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    The stage box is the stage end of the snake, literally a metal box with 12 connectors mounted on it, as mentioned in the article. (It is part of the snake and comes with it.)

    – CAG

  17. Elias :

    Date: April 26, 2012 @ 10:06 pm

    I would like to ask if you can post me how to set up Yamaha PM1200 mixer Console with Stage Snake32ch and A B C D F send and retun, Iand Also I want to addd PA.
    Many thanks

  18. James :

    Date: June 27, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    Please help, I purchased a phonic powered mixer 800 watts, model 1860 plus, The problem that I have is small to most however, how can you add other 8 ohm speakers to this unit, it does have the space, however one person said not to add any more speakers..I have two 200/400/600 watt speakers connected to the left and right side and I would like just to add an additional 100 peak speaker as additional way to increase the output (loudness) if this is possible, please advise and I will look foward to doing what I think I can do..I understand that this will cause 4 ohms at this point..thanks

  19. Kao Ly :

    Date: November 13, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

    That is big help I love it

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