Front of House 101: Power on/off

Power on/power off. Sounds simple enough right? Truth is, you’d be surprised at the number of times engineers slip up and short-circuit equipment. So what causes those annoying pops and clicks?
Well when gear is switched on, an electrical charge pulses through incredibly quickly (called a spike). If the speakers are accidentally left on, that spike going to be amplified and you’re going to get a loud THWACK to the face (possibly from the stage manager as well!).
Jokes aside, we’re all aware that gear doesn’t come cheap. Make one wrong move and you could very well be liable for damages if you aren’t careful. That’s why we’ve compiled this short, handy guide to help you along.

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Power up!

  • Begin by turning ALL microphones, mixers, outboard effects and outputs OFF
  • Turn on your outboard effects and anything else leading into the mixer
  • Switch on your mixer
  • Turn on any speaker or amplifier DSPs
  • The very last piece of gear you should turn on is your amps and powered speakers

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Power down!

  • Begin by switching off your amps and powered speakers
  • Turn off any speaker or amplifier DSPs
  • Switch off your mixer
  • Turn off your outboard effects and anything else leading into the mixer
  • It is now safe to disconnect your cables from your equipment

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Tips

  • Don’t be too hasty to start unplugging everything as soon as the amps and speakers are off. It can take a few seconds for these pieces of gear to fully discharge, so bear that in mind.
  • Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) are useful for preventing against Murphy’s Law, i.e. your equipment suddenly losing power in the middle of a performance. Consider investing in one to safeguard your gear.
  • There are pieces of gear like DSP units that require amps and speakers to be off prior to powering up. You do not want to risk damaging equipment.

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Don’t let those horrible POPS make you look and sound like an amateur! If you follow these handy rules, then you should technically have a fool-proof strategy for powering on/off equipment. Play safe, kids!

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