5 Reasons Why You Should Never Use Home Speakers At Parties

Damaged speakers

Home speakers blowing up at house parties isn’t the exception – it’s the rule! Time after time new DJs fall into this expensive trap. Don’t let it be you…

We’ve all done it, or at least been tempted. It could just happen because you’ve got a few people back at yours and it sort of… you know… takes off. Or it could be more premeditated, kidding yourself that all will be fine if you just take your music system from home to the party venue. Saves hassling about a PA system, right? Plus it’d be great to show off your new [insert trendy DJ brand here] monitors.

But however it happens, it is almost always a huge mistake. What am I talking about? DJing at a party using your home music system, that’s what. It doesn’t matter if it’s a decently loud boombox, an all-in-one stereo system, separates, a proper “hi fi”, or even professional studio monitors or DJ monitors – read it slowly and out loud: It’s going to go horribly wrong. It’s never a question of “if” – just “when”. Wanna play Russian Roulette with your expensive sound system? Then go ahead. But please read this first to find out why it’s such a big mistake…

Why you should never use home speakers at parties…

1. Your speakers won’t go loud enough

…and by “speakers”, I mean your amp/speakers, or your powered speakers, or whatever you use. In nine cases out of ten, this is true. Sure you may have KRK Rokit 10-3s and only be playing to a party of 10 people, in which case you may be OK (only on this point though), but for most people, it’s a different story. It’s incredible how much noise a roomful of people actually makes, and how much volume you really need to fill that room to party levels. Trust me, your speakers simply won’t sound good enough – it’s the truth and you’ll find out the first time you try it – if you’re silly enough to try it, that is.

2. You really need a subwoofer

You’ve not got one, right? If you have you can skip this point (but none of the others). Here’s the ugly truth: People absorb bass. The one area you need a LOT of power is in the bass frequencies. Do your puny little speakers really have the ability to cope with delivering sufficient bass for a public space or a group of more than six people? Be honest. Because if they don’t, you’re going to fall into the next big trap…

3. You will turn everything into the red, and if you don’t, someone else will

Your puny speakers aren’t loud enough, and there’s no bass as the room is full of people making their own noise, and letting their bodies absorb all the bass frequencies (how dare they?). So what’s a self-respecting DJ to do? Well, you personally will probably resist the inevitable. It’s your system, right?

So you try and keep everything out of the red. You try and position the speakers in better places (probably balancing them dangerously at head height – see the next point – which by the way also ruins the bass further), but it’s like trying to stop the tide with your hands. As the party picks up, it’s blatantly clear your music ain’t going to cut it with “best practice”. And you’re not the only person DJing, right? Do you think anyone else is going to employ your restraint? No way José!

So the levels creep up. First the amp levels. Then the controller/mixer line levels. Then the gains. Then the bass, mid, treble all creep until they’re on full, all the time. Then someone turns off Traktor’s limiter, or Serato’s dB ceiling. Result? It gets a bit louder, sure. But there’s terrible sound quality, and next – hopefully – just blown fuses. Sue, the sound goes off – but actually, this is the best case scenario. Permanent damage is the worst scenario, but this makes it sound like it’s not common. Actually, in my experience, at any decent party that goes on for any decent length of time, this last outcome is the most common. Blown home speakers at parties, or smoking amps, are so common you’d be shocked. Don’t let it be yours.

4. Home speakers aren’t designed for public use

I’m talking about the physical design here. Why on earth would anyone consider DJing in public, where people are getting typically more and more animated and/or intoxicated, with speakers that have no protection on the front of them at all? The reason home speakers don’t have grills on the front is that they don’t need them. In public they so need them that it hurts! All PA speakers have grills – this is for a very good reason and this point alone should be enough to convince any sane person that their expensive studio monitors are an AWFUL choice for party DJing. Yet it doesn’t, so often!

Also, if you want to position your speakers correctly, proper PA speakers have mounting holes underneath them so they can be put on decent stands that are safe to use on or near to dancefloors. No home speakers have this. Putting your speakers on the floor is ridiculous, but on chairs and tables is also not cool, yet these are your alternatives without professional stands.

5. You’re going to look like a muppet

OK, we’ve covered sound quality (gonna sound terrible), damage (your amps will probably trip, you may even blow the speakers) and safety (they may topple onto someone, or just get a bottle through one of the cones by accident or something similar). What we haven’t covered is what a dork you’re going to look turning up to DJ anywhere more than your living room using the speakers you bought for your DJ practice sessions. There’s something funny happens when you take home stuff and plonk it in a public/commercial environment: It looks rubbish.

Now, I’ve left this one to the end because it shouldn’t matter, but even if for some miracle reason your home speakers/subwoofer were loud enough, well made enough, sturdy enough, and could be positioned on proper, safe stands to play a party… you’re still gonna look like a bit of a prat DJing like this at a cool party. Let’s face it, wedding photographers don’t turn up with iPhones to shoot weddings, and you shouldn’t turn up to play at any respectable party with a home system of any kind at all.

What to do instead…

The purpose of this post is to save you trouble, money and a ruined party when the sound goes off – but mainly money. I speak from experience: Having a pile of blown up speakers (and sometimes amps) in the corner was almost the mark of a good party when I was younger. But we were indeed young – and stupid. And our parties often sounded awful. What we finally learned was to either throw the party somewhere where they’ve got a sound system you can plug into (best) or find a hire shop that’ll loan you a PA system for the night for a reasonable fee.

Now you’ve got bass, volume, you look the part, and it’ll all run smoothly from the second you turn it on to the second the last person leaves, without question or stress. It’s a no brainer really: And if you want to care for your home speakers, you’ll take the lesson on board and put any idea of using your home speakers at a parties out of your mind. And if you choose to go ahead anyway – well, we’ve done our best to warn you…

Have you got any horror stories about you or anyone else blowing up their sound system at parties that got out of control? Or do you think that it’s all scaremongering and it’s not a problem? Please share your thoughts in the comments…

Comments

  1. Tell that to pioneer promoting their S-DJ X Series for rooftop parties ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCoQ8WF8G-Q

    • I’ll add that to my list of other stuff I want to tell Pioneer. ;)

    • I was going to mention these as was looking at getting some, just to use for a BBQ in my small garden during the summer, and just as speakers for practising djing in my loft.

      Will these be ok?

      • I think there is very little ambivalence in the article … YES, you can use them for practicing in your loft … NO, you shouldn’t use them for a garden party (fyi, if indoor you need 5W per person, outdoor you need 10W per person for the same volume experience, so … you will play them even harder outside than you would inside, recipe for disaster, not burgers and hot dogs).

  2. problem is, we blew up the rented PA at our parties also, when we were young. That was even more expensive than ruining the own stuff… ;)

  3. Michael Sellers says:

    Yes i have done the same thing..using home speakers. My set-up when i first started was (4) Cerwin Vega D-9’s and (2) Yamaha pt-2140 Power amps With a Gemini 4 channel Mixer. I’ll can tell you..even tho the Cerwin Vega’s was home speakers they rocked for years that way. The speakers peaked at 400 watts per speaker (rms 200 watts) and the amps put 150 watts into them, which is fine for only 20 to 30 ppl in a basement. I’ve seen ones use ..at a wedding mind you…..A Sony Musktek (if im spelling that right) System and wanted ppl to dance :S. It was horrible!! Spending the time to get to KNOW what need and how it works and GET proper gear is key.

  4. Now theres one point in here that i think is not covered. If and only if your home speakers are above average to good in party level (as this new sony and lg systems with 1000rms, or not that much but above 350) and the speakers are above people level, roof cornered, you may have a chance, i think most need more volume because there is people blocking the speakers. But anyway home systems are for home unless you daisy chain 3 o 4 home systems. XD

    Boney Collins

    • We do mention raising them… roof cornered would be ideal of course, but it’s not ideal as you know…

      • T. Allison says:

        What, exactly, is the correct height to mount speakers on stands? Is it at the audience’s head/eye level or lower/higher than that?

        • I put my speakers up where a 6 foot man’s eyes are between the base speaker and the compression tweeker. No idea technically what i’m doing – but no one to date has complained :-)

        • For the bass on stand-mounted speakers, not too important. I try to have the high end fire slightly over people’s head. High end doesn’t go through people nor around them (like bass does), so if the high end fires over the heads, most people will hear it. If the speakers are too low, lot’s of high end gets lost close to the speakers.

          Another option is getting angled adapters for the stands. You can put them up higher with the high end drivers aiming slightly downward to somewhere in the middle of the crowd (front to back) and about a third of the room left and right respectively.

          Greetinx.

      • then i dont know how to read that good lol (=

  5. Great write up. A lot of fun to read!

  6. Well … at the end of the day … 0dB Rulez .. .and “RED is BAD!” … even with rented gear. I bet you figured out really fast that next time you needed to rent decent gear with clipping and overtemperature protection, right?

    I was in the store trying out the Mackie HD1221s (which I eventually bought) and asked the sales guy “does the protection work?”, but of course he said. So I just jammed the PA mixer it was hooked up to into full everything before he could react (loved that moment!). And sure enough, before audible distortion happened (and just after my ears started to hurt ;-D) plonk … plonk … no sound anymore. Turned down the volume and plop … plop … they came back online. I was sold. They were sooooo loud, sounded great even at that level and … they couldn’t be killed by “unwise use”.

    Point here is: Good gear pays for itself!

  7. I was guilty of that in my youth. When it’s a house party for friends and you’re not getting paid, then you have to make due. However, when it’s a bigger event, I found renting a set of speakers very affordable.

    • DJ Vintage says:

      Yes, the money issue comes up a lot when this is the subject. It all boils down to choices, doesn’t it?

      Let’s say that you should pay about 3% of the value of gear in rental fees. And a good active speaker PA will cost 3000 (18″ sub + 2 12″ tops, including stands and cabling and cases/covers). Rental would cost 90. Say you have 30 people at your party. How much are you gonna be spending on drinks, snacks and such? Could you save 3 bucks a head to put away for sound?

      By the way, this particular example setup will work for up to 150+ people and/or outdoor parties. You can probably get a smaller setup for less money, although I’d be suspicious of anything under 50 bucks.

      Especially knowing that the sound will be great and you run no risk of killing your own gear (which would set you back more than 90 bucks) should be appealing.

      Another tip, is to go last minute. Get a quote well in time and very shortly (like friday afternoon) before the party, call them and ask them if the gear is still available. If it is, ask for last minute discount (you already have a quote for their normal price) they should be giving you “dealer” discount at the least (usually between 15-25%). The trick is that if they don’t, the stuff will sit in their warehouse as it’s highly unlikely someone is gonna come after you to rent it, and they know it! So, they’ll rather rent it to you for 75-85 of the normal price than have it sit and earn nothing. I have permanent dealer status with my rental company now and get a standard 25% discount.

      Greetinx.

  8. And if I case my eyes to the corner of my living room right now… ah yes, my housemate’s old amp. It was a nice hi-fi amp. He used to have it in his room. Then we used it for a house party and it died a horrible, horrible death.
    We then got proper kit. However, on the downside, once we had louder speakers, we got a letter from the council about being too noisy…
    I think they’d rather we just kept blowing amps every few months…

  9. I’ve told this story before but my friend used his very expensive & high quality home speakers for a house party and the DJ there blew them.

    He was convinced they were more than man enough for the job – but somehow the DJ equipment destroyed them.

    I think a lot of people forget DJ’s alter the sound coming out of the speakers by using EQ’s and other equipment and this added with all the other things listed in the article destroys home speakers.

    It was his story to me that convinced me to invest in a good pair of second hand PA speakers – I’ve never looked back and wholeheartedly recommend this article to anyone who is foolish enough to consider ignoring it.

    You may get away with once, twice hell three times – but just when you drop your guard and think it’ll never happen to you – BOOM!

  10. Did one house party with a pair of PAs that I bought for music by the pool… serious lack of bottom end. Did another house party with a pair of QSC Subs and a pair of QSC PAs that i rented form Guitar Center. No lack of low end at that second party and was ultimately more fun for everyone, especially me.

  11. I once thought I could get by with a pair of Rockit 5’s, since my buddy was bringing his KRK sub. Then he didn’t show and the backyard space swallowed the sound completely.

  12. What If I use my mobile PA for home listening anyway?

  13. LOL …

  14. Dan Leach says:

    HA! I can second this!

    I used my home gear for an NYE house party – Cambridge £100 amp and Kef speakers. It was actually going ok until I left the decks and the music got turned up and up by very drunk people. The amp cut out eventually – not to return.

    I thought it was bust – but I tried it last week and it actually still works! Quite chuffed! Must have been a safety mechanism that cut the music….

  15. I use for small rooms a vintage system: Onkyo receiver 65 watts rms per channel with two vintage Cerwin Vega speakers with 10″ woofers. I have pure bass and sound very loud. Never have a problem. And always use a fan on top of the receiver.

    • You See Cerwin Vegas are home speakers made for home parties ;). I had the Cerwin Vega D-9’s…they peak at 400 watts and rms at 200 watts. So imagine 4!! They rocked. I had a Onkyo Grand Integra M-508 (200 watts per channel) before I got the Yamaha 2150 amps. But your set up sounds sweet :)

  16. Jack Wald says:

    A friend and I were DJing a party using the hosts home speakers. They were a big nice sound system, the kind you’d have in your living room and never play past a 1/4 volume. With a subwoofer and everything. It was kinda thrown together at the last minute and no one had a PA, so we went for it. The night went well for the most part, but the speakers were a complete disaster. As mentioned they werent loud enough, we had to crank every volume knob on the table. And now and then the treble would completely cut out. We’d be sitting there trying to rhythmically turn the volume down and back up to try to fix it, so it wasn’t completely obvious. So thats a bummer if it happened right at the peak of a song. And at one point they completely cut out. We panicked for a few minutes, apologized to the crowd and were able to get it back up and running within a few minutes. Crazy night…

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