View Full Version : Sound Program?

04-10-2007, 09:33 AM
I am trying to see which computer based programs that most haunters trust for their sound system. I am toying with the idea to do a PC style system to operate all the sound in the haunt or if it is cheaper to just buy a bunch of cd players or something in that nature. Let me know what you all use. And where I could get it.

Keyword: economically priced!

I am poor

Thanks you guys, you always help out a ton.


04-10-2007, 11:47 AM

Could you be more specific about your haunt size and layout?

04-10-2007, 11:56 AM
Sure I can

We are looking at a 5,000 s.f. haunt with about 4,000 s.f. of mazes with about 20 rooms within the haunt portion. I would love to have a different track playing for almost every room but I know that might get pricy so I would love to have maybe between 5 to 15 tracks capability. So that as the theme changes from haunt sections to haunt sections there will be matching music.....(Mainly from Virgil, HE HE HE). I hope that gives you the info that you need. My strengths in haunting does not fall in the sound area yet.

Thanks again.


04-10-2007, 12:03 PM
Okay, now..
what's your budget for sound?

04-10-2007, 12:07 PM
That is a great question.... the budget is still being FUDGED!

I would say around 500 to 2,000

Cheaper the better in my view.

Am I crazy for thinking that I could do a computer style with that budget?


04-10-2007, 01:02 PM

The 4 main "themes" for my haunt this year are:

Victorian house
and government hospital (insain asylum)

which CD's do u recomend? I already have the hillbilly and klown one but dont think they would really work to well



04-10-2007, 05:40 PM
You might consider cheap boomboxes with CD player capable of repeat mode. Another idea is to have individual audio repeaters in each room, but they will be more expensive : you'll need amplifier and speakers for each system

I am curious how you would plan to use a computer to control sound? That might help me think of other possible solutions as well...

Jim Warfield
04-11-2007, 07:16 AM
"Canned" music and sound effects "tell" a customer they are in a haunted attraction, no such tracks or effects make them wonder and remove a little more comfort they might be feeling because in my place they are in a very scary to nervous place that is haunted.
Sort of like the wonderfull music in a movie reminding you you are watching a movie, look at Blair Witch, no sound track of music and it sure seemed to effect alot of people waiting for the comfort/disclaimer of that music that never came.
With a music track playing I can't hear the scared ones fart. If I fart, I just blame it on them, "Too scared Honey? There,there now."
What is more scarier than being in a room with 15 strangers and .."someone's ......farting?".....
Passing gas replicating the first three or four musical notes of a popular song is one sacry "theme" to follow us through the rest of a haunted house by. "Follow" it may!

Mr Nightmarez
04-11-2007, 09:48 AM
You can get some CD players w/ nice Wattage for pretty cheap under $50 each or splurge for something more - Or even do portables w/ Amped Computer Speakers.

They do make a controller software that could possibly interact and utilize motion sensors and MP3 sound files. However, this would blow your $2k budget.

I guess my first question: Is this a seasonal haunt - meaning it will move again and again? If yes - Go w/ portable CD/MP3 Players and Amplified Speakers. If you will remain in the same building for years to come... look into doing more sophisticated. IMO.

Good Luck

04-11-2007, 10:54 AM
The reason that I ask is that I have found the item "Monster Brain" by Animated lighting and I am just curious if any one has ever used this item and would this work in a medium sized haunt. It seems to be within budget for a full system but defineatly could have its limitations.

What do you all think?



04-11-2007, 06:21 PM
The BooBox has is around $400, however it is a controller, mp3 player and amplifier.....that is what I am going to use. It can play ambient sound and a seperate sound if you want for the scare.

04-12-2007, 10:38 AM
Do you feel that the boobox is best for all your rooms or do you feel that the boobox mini could work for a lot of your rooms?

If you have a room as small as 100-200 s.f. then wouldn't the mini work just fine, if you placed 4 speakers around the room?

500.00 bones is a lot to spend on each room just for sound for my budget,
200.00 is a bit easier on the wallet.

What do you think?

Do you any of you use this system?

04-13-2007, 08:42 AM
I'm glad you began this thread as I have been wondering the same thing. Music and sound is something I put HUGE emphasis on. But, have always used either boomboxes or stereos. This season, I want the same CD (Virgil's music!) to pretty much permiate most of the haunt. Do we purchase large speakers that you see DJs have, affix them to tall speaker holders and let it blast? Personally, I'd rather purchase a good stereo for several hundred dollars, get wall speakers and place them several places. I think that would be a better experience for our customers, plus we can control where the sound goes better that way.

04-13-2007, 08:43 AM
The 4 main "themes" for my haunt this year are:
Victorian house
and government hospital (insain asylum)
which CD's do u recomend? I already have the hillbilly and klown one but dont think they would really work to well

For the pirate scenes, "Fade To Black" is my take on it.
"Dark Hollow" is a good general use haunt CD so you might check that out.
Insain asylum? Well... Midnight Syndicate's "Gates of Delirium" is THE
asylum CD IMHO! :wink: It's my all-time favorite haunt CD.

04-13-2007, 08:45 AM
That is a great question.... the budget is still being FUDGED!

I would say around 500 to 2,000

Cheaper the better in my view.

Am I crazy for thinking that I could do a computer style with that budget?


E-mail me your contact information.
I'll get with you this weekend.
You have lots of options but I need to
get more of an idea of where you're heading
with your haunt.

04-13-2007, 08:50 AM
Oh, one other thing we've used -- DVD players with amplified computer speakers. That works also. :)

04-19-2007, 05:53 AM

I do sound design for theme parks, nightclubs, tours, and of course haunted attractions. This is a HUGE topic that rarely gets discussed.

Sound is usually the last item on the budget after all the props are bought (or built), sets designed, costumes, etc. While we spend tons of time finding the right music or sound fx to use we rarely give a second thought about the design, layout, or most importantly the "dynamics" of using sound. We all seem to realize how important it is (turn the sound off on a horror movie sometime and see how scary it is) but have you ever noticed at major theme parks there is sound EVERYWHERE... and not just sound but GOOD sound!!!! I have spent weeks getting the sound just right in the bathrooms of one of these giants. In a haunted attraction sound is equally if not more important. Sound can completely immerse the guest into the fantasy world you are creating for them. The big boys know this and audio is often second on the budget list as they understand how important it is....count the loudspeakers at HHH at Universal Studios sometime.

Now....on to your question. Last year I put together a "master" control center for a haunt that had 7 soundtracks and wanted everything running off a single computer. It is possible and actually affordable. Here is what you will need.

P4 computer with min 512 RAM (need to have some speed here as the software can strain the machine)

M-Audio FireWire 410 (this will give you 8 discrete outputs off a single firewire output from your computer)


Then you just need to software to run it. There are a few programs that will work, but the one I found worked best for straight playback of multiple tracks (and allowed routing of each to a separate output) is Sony ACID (4.o or greater) You can probably find a used copy of this on Ebay for around $50. This program is easy to "upload" your soundtracks to and set up for multiple routing of playback.

From there you run the 8 lines into whatever you want. Amplifier with loudspeakers connected, powered loudspeaker, etc.

This setup was used to create 7 different "house" soundtracks in various parts of the attraction. Output 8 was used for the LIFESAFTEY system. If something went wrong in the attraction, track 8 was selected which muted all other outputs and broadcast a pre-recorded "PLEASE EXIT THE ATTRACTION THROUGH THE NEAREST EMERGENCY EXIT" over and over again. Your fire inspector will like this a lot and is easy to do with this type of set-up.

The above system is designed for "soundtrack" playback to create the mood within each scene, room, etc. In order to do triggered sound playback there are a number of options. I have found that when I am working with a pressure mat or IR type sensor for an animatronic or scare zone, I like to use the Fright Ideas boxes as they are easy to use and pretty cost effective. There are some pretty high end devices that you can use here (including some computer matrix systems) but the simple trigger boxes will do a great job to fire a "scream" or "boo" type sound for dynamics and depth to a scene or animatronic.

Now put all the elements we have gone over so far (7 soundtracks, surprise screams or yells triggered by the guests themselves walking thru the attraction) your set design, costumes, actors, DO NOT FORGET TO USE GOOD LIGHTING (this is key) and you have put your guest into a movie that they are now in the middle of. I like to use the movie analogy as it is easy to understand. There is a reason that THX (and/or Dolby Labs)exists and why they demand a certain amount of SPL at certain frequencies at certain distances, etc, etc, etc in a THX approved theater...it is to totally immerse the movie goers in the world the producer/director created (yup I do large cinema design too)

While you said your budget for sound was around $2000...how does that compare to the rest of the items you have bought for your attraction? That’s less than the cost of a typical animatronic, yet will be a HUGE part of your show (some would say upwards of 50% of the guest experience) but for this exercise lets break SIGHTS, SOUNDS, AND SMELLS equally and we will call it 33.3%....now does $2000 seem like a good number? I am not saying to second mortgage the house to get all new sound gear, just make sure its in your budget and do not make it the last on the list (that statement is not just for Ryan BTW :-)

Please feel free to contact me direct with any questions you may have.


Pro Audio Dude

04-19-2007, 07:08 AM
Jay, excellent advice!! I give it 5 skulls!

04-19-2007, 09:33 AM
If you want to use the M-Audio box with 8 outputs and want trigger-able effects as well as routing audio, i would recommend SFX Show control software, it is usually used for Broadway plays and the like, however it works great in this situation.



04-19-2007, 05:45 PM
I do not understand the value of centralizing on a PC. If I have to buy a PC and the sound software and the sound board and deal with all of the issues related to a computer, how is it not cheaper and easier (not to mention more resilent) to just use individual CD players for simple audio playback.

04-20-2007, 08:59 AM

cd players are alot cheaper then the whole sound computer set up but... it's ALOT more convientent to have all your sound being controled from one centeral area. That way you can control what happens instead of running room to room. We had used cd players with wires running to speakers in each room and we were constantly having to press play and repeate and what not. If you have the $$ a computer is the way to go. Your looking at 3,000 to 5,000 for the set up.


04-20-2007, 11:14 AM
We've had problems in the past with CD players in rooms with fog/smoke effects. Residue on CDs and on the players' lens made some CDs skip. We had to encase the players in boxes to seal them up a bit. Didn't happen all the time, but yet another reason to look at going with a computer/solid state sound reinforcement.

04-22-2007, 01:54 PM

One of the biggest reasons for doing a single point audio source is SAFETY. If one of your fire alarms trips you can kill ALL audio to the attraction and feed an emergency message all in about 2 seconds (manually) or you can go high tech and have a relay do it for you in about 1/2 of a second. I am not sure about the fire laws in your state but many I come across insist that in the event of an emergency (i.e. fire alarm triggers) all distracting sounds, noises, strobes, etc be shut down immediately

It also gives you more control of your show (from the comfort of the production office). It allows you to make changes on the fly (if need be) as well as be assured that Audio Track 6 is playing in Zone 13 as you can see it, and monitor it from your computer.

I have done many shows with multiple CD players in various locations but it made for several points of failure within a season (it also allowed actor intervention to the sound system….I would walk thru and hear a Snoop Dog track playing in a certain scene rather then the “Virgil” track the director had selected). If you break down the costs (which I have many times) your source, whether it be multiple cd players, ipods, etc VS a computer (that you probably already have) they are not all that far apart. What really makes a cost difference AND THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE IN THE SHOW is what’s on the other end of the source. If you bought it at Best Buy or Radio Shack it’s probably not moving the earth. If you bought it at Sam Ash or Guitar Center you are probably reshuffling internal organs :-) This is the difference in consumer audio and PRO audio. Marantz, Denon, Fisher, Radio Shack, Sony, Bose, etc is consumer audio.

EV, Dynacord, VDosc, EAW, etc is Pro Audio. These types of systems are designed for what we do. It’s a commercial application. Extreme weather conditions most of the time (unless you have a great space like The Netherworld…Hi Ben) and will hold up to long term, high SPL, high output, etc. Consumer audio is built for your living room and works well there….leave it there. Ever wonder why those computer speakers sound AWESOME at your desk and sound thin and not very loud when you put them in a space any bigger than an office? It’s the way they are designed. Pro Audio is not built for your living room nor would it work that well in there (unless you like it really loud all of the time). It is designed to get loud….typical noise floor of a Haunted Attraction (before any audio is played) is 102dB…think about the pneumatics alone. A consumer sound system cannot overcome this.

While pro audio is MUCH more expensive than consumer audio. Long term it is the correct and best investment. Please keep in mind my previous post (just a couple above this one) about relating the cost and importance of sound –vs- the cost of everything else we do in an attraction.

Hope this helps you understand a little about why we do it this way.

Please contact me with any questions….


04-22-2007, 04:02 PM
Jay brings up many excellent points and I'm so happy that someone with his experience and knowledge is willing to enlighten the rest of us.

Two points that provide strong argument for centralized control (not only of sound but of lighting and prop control as well):

1) Safety

What if you had a person have a panic attack with standalone systems? (I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced this). You've got no simple way to disable your show. With centralized control, One actor/security person can activated switches located at multiple locations and disable problem zone only or whole show and instead provide safety lighting to help get person out nearest exit.

2) Flexibility of control.

Changes on the fly. Making each groups experience different by running a random sequence of multiple show configurations. Disabling reactivation of prop/scene once triggered - these are just a few of many advantages. Not to mention changing your show up for next year.

Jay is absolutely correct about sound budget. It is the thing that is most often overlooked. Earth and wall shaking bass creates an uneasy feeling and an animated prop without a loud sound is not nearly as effective.

Thanks Jay for your outstanding advice and insight!!!

04-22-2007, 09:54 PM
Can you reccomend a specific amp to use. Also, is the 50 amps that the Boobox comes with sufficient for prop sounds.

Did I misunderstand you, do you reccomend centralizing sound but not prop controls

04-23-2007, 06:04 AM
I do believe in centralizing prop controls/lighting for the same reasons as stated for audio. On the safety front, you can disable props and turn on appropriate lighting in the problem area. It is much more flexible and easy to modify. For example, you can alternate which props actually get fired for different groups, thereby creating a more unpredictable experience for return visitors.

The one problem with centralized control is failure of that control takes out the whole event instead of one scene, but that can be overcome by 1) Buying Industrial Controls which are much more reliable and 2) having a backup system.

This is not as expensive as you think - especially if you build your own animations. If not, some prop builders/suppliers are willing to sell without stand-alone controller and discount prop. At a certain point, generally a few animations, it becomes cheaper to have centralized control.

I do not have recommendation on amp. Jay is much more knowledgeable in this area, but to answer your question on the built in 50Amp being loud enough - It depends on how big of an area it will be located in and how much ambient noise you have. Obviously, you will want it to be louder than ambient. You may have to test it to find out.

Gore Galore
04-23-2007, 07:06 AM
I think this is probably one of the most helpful topics I have seen in a while. This is the kind of topic that helps haunters take their events to the next level. It really would be nice to see most haunts have both centralized complete scene control from prop, lighting, audio, and safety. If you can keep an eye on everything in your house from 1 location you have an upper hand when things do happen, and they always do.
But it is an expensive project to undertake.

04-23-2007, 03:25 PM
I'm a big fan of centralized control. It can get more complex and you have to run more cable, but every time something seems to come up that makes me glad I did it (emergencies, need to make changes, fixes, etc).

As far as audio gear goes, I can't tell you how many haunts I've been through where everything looked great but the tiny blown speaker in the ceiling that was trying to pump out some massive bass-heavy sound effect was really distracting me (Greg: remember Old Town Haunt?) I guess I'm kind of an audio snob, but still... Even if you don't go with pro gear, don't go too cheap either.

I prefer to have smaller (but good) speakers in each room rather than have one giant set of PA speakers at one end of a haunt trying to cover the whole thing. That way you can create a different ambiance for each room. Also, the sounds are much closer to your victims, possibly giving them the illusion that whatever they are hearing is a much more immediate threat.

Try to position your speakers appropriately for whatever is making the sound. If it is a monster, put it in or near the monster's head. If it is an electric chair, it should be near the chair. If it is thunder or something else more diffused, place your speakers farther away to avoid localization, but not so far away that your whole haunt hears them. If they have to be close, use several to spread out the sound source.

For audio interfaces, I have a FireWire 410 and it works great. TheGallows: Get a couple of them and that will give you about the number of outputs it sounds like you need. Other posters have pretty much covered software you could use if you go this route.

If that is still outside your budget you could do the CD player thing. I would still centrally locate them, however, to protect them from environmental factors (especially if you use cheap ones) and make operation easier on you. I actually prefer to use MD instead of CD for my cheap sound sources because the players have shock protection/buffer memory to protect them from bumps, etc. which pretty much eliminates skipping. If you go the cheaper CD/MD route, you can still trigger them as an effect if you want. Just open the player up, solder two wires to the pins on the "Play" button, then connect these two wires to whatever sensor/switch you want. It's ghetto, but it works if you are looking for cheap.

For amplification, Samson makes some amps which are pretty good quality but arent too expensive (Servo 200, about $170 for 2 channels). $85/channel isn't horrible. They would be good to use wheter you go with a FW-410 or with cheap CD/MD players.

04-23-2007, 05:14 PM
Hey Scott...good to see you posting. I am sorry to be dense, but if the amp has two channels does that mean I can use it for two completely different sounds /scennes?

So if I had a 20 room haunt that had a seperate ambient sound in each scene with a pnuematic prop in each scene and lighting effects in each scene (I realize that this is not likely, but it will help clear up my confusion) what would the equipment layout look like to control all of that in a central location.

04-24-2007, 05:29 PM

This is where is gets interesting. Lets say 20 rooms, with sound for props and ambient "house" sound in that room. You can "share" a loudspeaker and amp channel if you dont mind them coming from the same location (this can actualy has a very strong pyscological effect with the prop scream coming from the overhead area where the "house" sound is as opposed to from the prop...they call this pyscoacoustics and I use it all the time in many different ways...but I digress) OR if you want a different loudspeaker for each effect (house sound, and prop sound) you will need 40 channels of amplification (which equates to 20 dual channel amplifiers). Thats a lot, but gives you the ultimate in control.

I am short on time right now but will elaborate more this weekend. There are ways to use Boo boxes in the scene yet still contol them from a master control center along with your "house" sound.

I concur on the smaller speaker concept. Just because its "Pro" does not mean it is big...just more powerful and has more impact. I will elaborate more on this later as well.

Sorry I am short on time but I am actually teaching a matrix audio class this week and my attendees are waiting for me to take them to dinner...



04-24-2007, 05:32 PM
I appreciate the fact that you are willing to help. I am new to the haunt industry and I have to say that it is the first business I have been in where people were so willing to help. What a great community this is.

04-25-2007, 01:15 AM

Two channels does indeed mean you can run two separate effects with the one amp. Just think of it as if someone stuffed to completely separate amps in one box. Even if they call it a "stereo" amp it means you have two channels to play with.

Elaborating on what proaudiodude said, think of each channel as a grouping of sounds. If you want two speakers with a different sound coming out of each then you need two amp channels. If you want four speakers but they all would have the same sound coming out of them then you only need one amp channel. If you have two sounds, but your design dictates that they can both come out of the same speaker then you only need one amp channel.

As you are designing your sound you first need to figure out what sounds need to come from where, then break it down into how many different playback/amplifier channels you need.

As far as layout goes, in your master control room you would have a computer with a multi-out sound card. Let's say we're using the FireWire 410, which has 8 outputs. Next to that you would have a stack of 4 2-channel amplifiers. The 8 line outputs of the sound card would each go into one of the 8 amplifier inputs. You would then run speaker wire from the 8 amplifier outputs out into wherever the speakers are in your haunted house.

Your source and your amplification are all centrally located in master control so you can make adjustments to them while you are kicking back drinking Red Bull or whatever. The only things out in your haunt exposed to the elements and customers are some speakers and some speaker wire.

You also mentioned lighting and pneumatic props in your scenario. Central location of lighting control is easy. I use a light board and dimmer packs for all my stuff, so the light board goes in master control with a DMX cable running out to the dimmer packs throughout the haunt. Need to bring up the lights in the entire haunt quickly? Just bring them up on the light board with the hand that's not holding the Red Bull. If you don't have dimmer packs you can run the power cables from all your lights to whatever switch box/dimmer panel you are using for control. After a couple years of running that much cable you will want dimmer packs.

Centrally controlling props depends on how you are activating them. If it is manually, run wires from your solenoid valve to a button in Master Control. If it is triggered by a motion detector you could run the wires from the detector to Master Control, through whatever controller/relay box/etc you are using, then back out to the solenoid valve. This gives you the ability to trigger the prop manually if you'd like or disable it if necessary. You could also use that same motion sensor signal to trigger a sound effect that goes along with your prop.

That was kind of rambly and oversimplified but I hope it answered your questions.

Dead End Haunted House
05-16-2007, 06:54 PM
THanks for all of the great advice on music and audio everyone u helped me out alot! Mason Healy www.deadendhauntedhouse coming to salt lake fall 2007!!

04-11-2011, 11:53 PM
Say if you have a m-audio 1010Lt or Firewire 410..etc and you want to make you sounds triggerable, how does this work? Are the sounds playing constantly and then your seloniod turns on the amp? aka, what are the triggerable methods when using centralized DAW type pc equipment/software ? Is there really a way to have a sound paused and played when a prop is activated within the software such as cubase, reaper or sonar?

RJ Productions
04-12-2011, 02:37 AM
All great posts with a lot of helpful info. But most of it is leaning ot the technical side.

Jim Warfield made a good comment that kinda got glossed over....

What REAL environment has a musical sound track???
Now if the haunt is supposedly trying to put you IN a movie it might work,
but if you are trying to add a sense of realism, reality doesn't have a music track!!!

I'm not downplaying music setting a tone. We use music exclusively OUTSIDE the attraction.

Once they are IN the haunt, I want a high level of realism. There is a soundscape, but it is
strictly environmental. We have an all around sound that is heard everywhere in the attraction.
The Asylum has the sounds of a hospital, moans and occasional muffled screams, PA announcements
calling doctors to various rooms.The Hotel is supposed populated by the ghosts of people killed there.
You hear background screaming, moaning, "ghostly" noises.

Individual props are triggered with specific sounds for that effect.

Music IN the haunt would be effective say if you had it playing out of an old radio in a setting room.

So we utilize a 70volt PA system that provides the ambient sound throughout the entire haunt.
The other advantage is that with this system you have a mic input which allows you to also utilize
it as your emergency sound system. You can also make announcements to your cast, either before
you open, a closing announcement or even a special warning message.

Example: you have a group you want to keep an eye on. You make a themed code announcement,
"Paging Dr. Jones to Admitting." Everyone hears it and knows it is code to watch out for a group in
the haunt.

A lot depends on the level of realism you want to have in your attraction. Personally I just feel
real life doesn't have a music track. Music in the attraction should have a realistic reason for
being there, organ music coming out of an organ, music coming out of a radio, voices coming out
of a TV, but not a music track for inside the haunt, outside...perfect!

Just an opinion!

Good Thread!


04-12-2011, 11:05 AM

Running triggered sounds off of a DAW isn't effective. I gave up on that a few years ago. It requires running huge amounts of cable (at least in our haunt. A single trigger cable could be 500') for little to no gain and most software has no way of accepting a triggered command. If you have a small haunt and don't mind running cable, I would suggest something like Alcorn's 8TraXX, but it's a huge cost for again, little to no gain. It also adds unneeded complexity to what should be a simple circuit. I ultimately ended up using small powered mixers at each prop, usually with a 10" cab, paired with a HauntBots Wav Runner (http://www.hauntbots.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=66&products_id=182). PLENTY loud, great bass response, etc. There are other triggerable audio players out there like the WavRunner, but I'm a huge fan of Pete's gear.

House (ambient) sound is a totally different game and I agree 100% with Jay. My house system consists of a Presonus FireStudio Lightpipe, using Alesis DEQ830's for EQ and D>A. From there the front of house sound ends up going through some additional mixers, compressors (sidechained to a mic for auto-ducking), finally through a 3way crossover, out to the amps and finally to the top and sub stacks.

The rest of the house audio is pretty basic, it comes out of the DEQ's and most run straight to the amps, from the amps to the speakers. Some are constant impedance, some are 70v, it depends on where the speaker is, what use it has and how many there will be. Our haunt is pretty large, over 200' wide and over 500' long in a campus layout.

The beauty of a central system is multifold. The system is expandable in banks of 8 channels from 8 to 32, all controlled by a single piece of DAW software. I can adjust volume on the fly, from a central location. I can mount speakers where they belong (IE, high) and I can also cover larger rooms with 2, 3, 4 speakers if need be. I can mount them to reflect and bounce off of walls so you don't "hear" it from a single point, more of an all around you type of feel. Have you tried mounting a boom box on a ceiling? I prefer to use multiple small speakers to cover an area rather than a single large speaker, it's more natural that way. A few switches to turn on the rack at the start of the night, click play on the DAW and the entire house is up and running. This takes away the tech crew needing to go around a turn on boomboxes every night. Volume is all central. Crazy Friday or Saturday night when the house is at capacity? I can turn up the entire system with a few small tweaks. I can kill all ambient audio in a matter of a half a second and then do an emergency page if needed (thankfully, we've never needed! But, I have the ability)

Is it expensive? Maybe. Haunts, IMO generally don't invest nearly enough coin into audio, which is just as an important sense as seeing the haunt is. Everyone will go out and buy a $5000 prop that looks AMAZING, but it comes with the cheapest guitar amp/speaker or computer speakers that they can find with the absolute lowest quality chipcorder sound playback they can get their hands on. Seriously, a small powered mixer with a proper cab and playback device isn't THAT much more expensive than what they include now and its a night and day difference in sound quality.

Back to the expense bit, centralized audio requires running LOTS of cable. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 7000' of audio cable run through our haunt. Long cable runs require large cable (all of my runs are 12/2), cable alone will blow many haunts budgets. Source gear is pretty reasonable priced. If you wanted to start out with 16 channels, you would need ~$1500 worth of gear (not including interconnects, amps or computer, this is just the source gear), which works out to a little less than $100 per channel, very reasonable. 32 channels works out to less than $80/channel.

I'll post up pics of our racks (currently being re-racked for this season) if anyone is interested.

Nightmare Forest
04-12-2011, 12:23 PM
So all this info is great, but I have a question. How far can you run speaker wire/DMX wire? We are an outdoor event and are looking into centralizing our sound/lighting, but we are worried about the distances. We are talking about rough estimate of 1000ft from where the source would be to the furthest point from the source. Any thoughts?


04-12-2011, 03:19 PM
Thanks! I've never seen much posted on triggerable sounds via pc software so I sorta thought I might have missed something here. But, as you clarified...centralized sound systems are sounds are 100% ambience/atmospheric and/or it's just not feasible to make them triggerable---although, would there be a way to do this if say your prop PIR/sensor activated a switch in the mid-line run from the PC to the speakers for the prop. So in other words, the prop 'A' sound is always playing looped, however, the wire run is disconnected by a switch that when the prop 'A' is activated it flips the switch on to allow the sound to "flow" to the prop 'A' speaker. The downside, when the switch gets activated the loop maybe in middle of it's cycle so might now sound that great.... just thinking it through. I'll check out hauntbots site... thanks for your input. I think this is one of the best threads going on now. What's the name of your haunt? if don't mind, sounds like you have a heck of a setup going. NM, your haunt name is on the bottom of you posts, da me...lol

04-12-2011, 03:59 PM
Speaker level and DMX control are two very different things. DMX over proper DMX cable, like Belden 9829 can go ~1500'. If you're using CAT5, it's recommended to keep it under 500' (and additionally, don't use Category cable for temporary DMX cables, only use Category cable in a permanent install).

Speaker cable on the other hand... If you're running a constant impedance system, you can go a few hundred feet with it, but keep in mind you need to run heavy cable (as I said, I run nothing but 12/2 anymore) and you're still going to get a pretty decent voltage drop. My constant impedance speakers that are ~400' out definitely require more gain than one that's only 60' away. It also depends on how much power you're actually trying to send down the cable. If you're trying to power a sub stack a few hundred feet away off of something like a pair of Macrotech 5k's, you best be looking at #8's (of course, ideally in that situation, you're going to have your amps in your FOH rack).

If you go with a 70v system, you can go hundreds, even thousands of feet on basic 18/2 or 16/2 zipcord. 70v systems have the added ability of not needing to worry about impedance, since it's a constant voltage system. The biggest drawbacks are that it's almost always more expensive to do (additional transformers drive the cost up, plus you're paying for "commercial" gear) and it's not always the best for things with low end bass as the transformers can become saturated quickly.