Live concert sound

Almost all of our course is applicable to live sound reinforcement. Sound is sound – and whether you are mixing to a PA system or to a recording device, all the basic essentials of audio are the same. Most of the equipment in live sound is similar to that used in the recording studio.

And don’t forget this — many artists these days request their live performances to be recorded as it happens. There is absolutely no room for error here – only one chance to get it right and there’s no chance for a re-take!

AIA has had many students who have gone on to successful careers in live sound. Some have gone on the road with famous touring bands, some have found work in their local night clubs and some have operated the mixing desk in houses of worship. There are many other avenues to pursue in live sound.

Sound for houses of worship

However, talking about the equipment, there are a few obvious differences. Many mics that work well in the studio are not good for live use. Especially condenser mics which pick up sound from afar.

Dynamic mics are mostly favored in live sound and they are more likely to be rough handled and less susceptible to howling feedback. Feedback is not a concern in the studio. However wind noise for outdoor work can be a major problem and condensers are particularly sensitive to air movement.

Live sound engineers are used to working at a much faster pace than studio sessions usually progress.

Reliable equipment that can be trusted is more important than delicate handle-me-with-care pieces. Designer mic pre-amps aren’t necessary because their sound is not so critically judged as it is in the recording studio.

Similarly stage mixers are less transparent than studio desks.

Digital Audio Workstations can be used for live work but it is much more practical to use a purpose-designed mixing console where you can immediately grasp a control knob in an emergency.


Most equipment is the same in recording and live sound. Compressors and equalizers are the same as are noise gates reverberation units and other processors.

The main difference in the two fields lies in the amplification of the sound. The size of the loudspeakers and the quantity and size of the power amplifiers are vastly different. This is the area where your studio training falls a little short but there are various books and websites that we will highly recommend if your ambition is to have an exciting career in live sound engineering.

Loudspeaker array for live sound

Any sound engineer should be able to make the transfer from recording to live sound quite easily. There are so many similarities in the equipment and the techniques are practically the same.

In our course we investigate the acoustics of speaker enclosures, monitor amplifiers, cross-over systems and the analysis and correction of room sound.

No front-of-house engineer can successfully mix live sound unless he or she understands the principles of loudspeakers and monitoring. (There are many more pages and a complete lesson on this in the course).