El Paso, TX—June 2019… High school band and drum corps are cherished traditions in Texas, so when five high schools in the El Paso Independent School District needed new sound systems to support these performances, it was a big deal. To get it right, the school district relied on the team at AVX, which designed and built custom mobile systems based on Mackie’s DRM Series loudspeakers.
“The school district’s Special Arts Department wanted to provide quality audio for as many schools as the budget would cover, with each sound system on a cart so they could easily roll it outdoors and back inside,” relates AVX president David Collins. “These portable sound systems will be used to enhance outdoor band and drum corps performances and also for smaller dances and various special events.”
Collins brought considerable experience to the project. He has worked for 25 years designing AV systems, mostly for houses of worship, and purchased distributor and design firm AVX in 2004, expanding it into a commercial and home audio, video, and automation systems company. Based in El Paso, AVX has been in business for 32 years and mostly serves West Texas, New Mexico, and parts of Mexico but Collins designs systems for churches all over the U.S.
The systems for the five El Paso high schools needed to be both mobile and self-contained. “We started with 10 Mackie DRM315 loudspeakers,” Collins recalls. “We chose the more powerful DRM315 because we wanted to get as much sound as possible, since this was going to be used outdoors. We set the DRM315’s built-in voicing mode for live sound. The setup on the DRMs is very straightforward; I love the voicing modes.”
To produce the powerful lows required for this application, Collins paired each 2300W DRM315 loudspeaker with a 2000W Mackie DRM18S subwoofer. “The DRM18S subwoofer is extremely powerful—we really like the sub—and the DRM315 keeps up with it,” Collins praises. “We loved how easy it was to match the subwoofers to the DRM315 and get them to work together. They complement each other perfectly.”
AVX also purchased a Mackie DL16S digital mixer for each system. “The DL16S is built like a stage box and has Wi-Fi built in,” observes Collins. “We provided 9.5-inch Android tablets for each system, and the cost was very effective. The school district loved the idea of having full wireless control. I love the DL16S; the functionality of the mixer is just phenomenal.”
AVX has been using the Mackie DL32R digital mixers, so Collins was already familiar with Mackie’s Master Fader control software. “I love the ease of use,” he affirms. “You lock down controls you don’t want to give those who are not advanced users, such as the volunteers. You just let them turn the levels up and down and allow access to some EQ. But we set up the live voice mode, as well as instructions and master codes, for users who are more advanced. We set the crossovers for the DRM315 and DRM18S on the speakers and put password protection on both the speakers and the mixers, so we have two levels of protection to make sure the kids don’t mess up the settings. We use a bit of limiter on the outputs; you want to be careful because you have plenty of headroom all around. We’ve got it dialed in really well between the inputs and the gain.”
With the Mackie DRM315 loudspeakers, DRM18S subwoofers, and DL16S mixers at the ready, AVX faced the challenge of putting it all together. “We weren’t sure how to put these systems on the carts, and we were on a budget, so we couldn’t buy expensive carts,” notes Collins. “We couldn’t use a sub pole for the DRM315 because it would be too tall. So we found some carts that would fit, took off the side rails, stacked a DRM18S subwoofer and a DRM315 loudspeaker on top of each cart, put a carpeted wooden board on top of that, and painted the sides black. We put in a little 2×4 wedge to point the loudspeaker upward at about an 8 degree tilt, and strapped everything in place. We gave them a couple of clip-on wireless mics and a couple of handheld wired mics, put a compact rack case on top, and now they have a mobile cart.”
AVX also supplied a 100-foot Tour Tough TPS 103 cable for each cart. The TPS 103 combines power and signal cabling in one binding, making it a great choice for a cart-mounted system. (AVX had been a Tour Tough distributor and bought the cable company on January 1, 2019.)
We made a total of ten systems, a left and right pair for each of the five schools,” Collins recounts. “For a larger stadium or event, they could daisy chain these systems to expand on each side of the field but one pair per school should be fine. So far, the school district is very pleased with the systems’ performance.”