Study Hall
Sponsored by
Audio Technica

Tech Tip Of The Day: Setting Front-of-House Delay

How can I easily set front-of-house delay to match backline sound?

By PSW Staff June 30, 2010

Provided by Sweetwater.

Q: I work with a lot of smaller bands in local clubs and have been doing so for quite a while now. I’d say my mix chops are really starting to

However, lately I’ve been in a few places where I really needed to dial in the delay between the mains and the backline, but I really didn’t know how.

Can you help?

A: As you’ve noticed, in many smaller club settings your main sound system can face competition from the signals generated by the backline – the drums and amplifiers onstage.

These project into the audience and can cause timing-related problems that are perceived as “smeared” audio.

There’s a relatively simple way to combat this and produce a cleaner, more pleasing FOH sound.

First, it’s worth noting that large sound companies use sophisticated room analysis software to calculate the correct alignment times necessary for their FOH systems to sound their best.

This function is built into many boxes, like the DriveRack and other popular models. However, for every average club engineer out there, here’s a much less scientific – and more approximate – method.

Since the idea is to counter the sound coming off the stage, start by selecting the loudest acoustic source onstage. This is usually the snare drum. Have your drummer play single strokes on the drum, about one per second. Make sure he or she plays at “gig” level!

Start with the approximate formula that 1 foot equals 1 millisecond (rounding the speed of sound down to 1000 feet per second). Measure the distance from the snare to the drivers of your sound system and set the delay that’s connected to your FOH system accordingly.

Be absolutely certain your sound system volume is as close to equal the acoustic snare’s volume as possible. This won’t be your gig level; it’s just for purposes of setting the delay.

Now use your ears and add or subtract delay amounts until you hear the closest possible attack consonance between the stage sound and the speaker sound. You’ll get better at this with practice, it will improve your ear training, and it won’t cost you a dime.
For more tech tips go to



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tagged with:

Subscribe to Live Sound International

Subscribe to Live Sound International magazine. Stay up-to-date, get the latest pro audio news, products and resources each month with Live Sound.

Latest in Uncategorized