When you are faced with the task of choosing the equipment for a new milonga, or upgrading the existing one, the lack of information is not the biggest problem that you are going to face. There are numerous reviews of sound equipment in the online forums, there are technical characteristics on manufacturers sites, and specific recommendation as well. The problem is, however, that most of this information is relevant to either club sound systems or live stage sound systems. The club sound systems are mostly intended and built for very loud reproduction of rock, techno, etc. music, which is quite different by its characteristics from the Golden Age tango music. The high-quality stage sound systems, or cinema sound systems would have been ideal for our purposes, but the price of such a system is way beyond the reach of most of the milonga organizers.
Nevertheless, the sound of many milongas venues can be significantly improved without breaking the banks of the organizers. This article is an attempt to show, how it can be done. It is based on my personal experience of studying various milonga venues across the globe, and assembling or helping to assemble several successful installations by myself.
The question “which sound card should I get” arises periodically in various DJ forums. The answers are often reduced to “I use card X, it’s the best!”, with an inherent possibility of a local religious war. The truth, however, is that nowadays there are plenty of good sound cards out there, with very reasonable prices and widely varied feature sets, and so you can make much better choice by looking at the specific features of the card that you need, rather than listening to someone’s opinions on what is “the ultimate best”.
In my not so long career as a tango DJ I have owned 10 (ten) various sound interfaces, and tried out even more. In this article, which emerged out of the Sound Engineering for Tango DJs seminars, and discussions in several Tango DJ groups, I will try to present a feature-centered, rather than opinion-based view on various classes of sound cards, suitable for Tango DJs, without delving too much either into the misty worlds of audiophile legends or stepping onto perilous grounds of digital sound quality issues.
There is a certain class of technical problems that you may face while DJ-ing in various milonga venues, namely:
- You increase the volume, yet, people who sit close to the not-so-well positioned speakers complain that the music is hurting their ears
- You increase the volume, and something, such as false ceiling, or speaker’s cabinets, or stage itself starts vibrating
- You increase the volume, but the organizer tells you that you just cannot do it – the neighbors are going to complain or call the police, or both
- You play some “airy” orquesta, such as Biagi, and realize that the audience simply does not hear half of what you play, so you increase the volume and… any of the above starts happening.
This article is about a simple and effective technique for getting the best sound out of your tango recordings. More specifically, we are targeting the electric recording era, from 1926 to 1949. The technique defines a set of simple rules which allow to obtain repeatable results in any tango venue, on any recording, with minimal adjustments between the tandas. It was tried and tested in several milonga venues in Toronto and further improved with the feedback from the DJs from all over the globe. I strongly believe that it can dramatically improve your sound, and, at the same time, you would spend less time tweaking the equalizer, cursing the bad recording and/or inadequate sound system, etc.