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is there an unclippable DJ mixer?
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frans
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6th April 2013
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is there an unclippable DJ mixer?

I often encounter the situation that after a night with DJs some part of the P.A. is damaged. Talking to the DJs or explaining why & how they damaged equipment is pointless as those who do that don't listen or will be on pills and stuff next time again anyway. So is there a battlemixer for DJs that's un-clippable, no matter what they do with the knobs and faders?
We already tried (at different locations) to mod existing mixers or even 'close off' some knobs, covering them with plexiglass at youth clubs. I get by with stuff that's happening after the mixer, limiting and protection on amps and protection on cabs, but if they smash the signal already in the mixer to hell and back...
I can insert DC removal or filters/transformers to shave off extreme sub frequencies and too much high end from overdriving or bad homecooked mixes but I'd rather like to prevent a wrecked signal as early as possible.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frans View Post
So is there a battlemixer for DJs that's un-clippable, no matter what they do with the knobs and faders?
I know of one, but unfortunately it is no longer in production...it is the Tascam X9 and analog controlled digital mixer I think. It had a secret, recessed knob on the back of the mixer which can be regulated to limit the input levels of the mixer and the DJ can not override the preset level with any of the controls on the mixer. It was like a brick wall limiter on the the inputs of the mixer.
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Originally Posted by frans View Post
I get by with stuff that's happening after the mixer, limiting and protection on amps and protection on cabs, but if they smash the signal already in the mixer to hell and back...
That's why any protection downstream would really need to manage both peak and average levels, possibly even on a multiband basis.
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7th April 2013
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So far it seems I got to build one myself.
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99.9% of DJ's would not know gain structure if it bit them in the ass. I have had one say that they love the sound of their mixer sitting in clip.

They love to peg their PPM meters into the red. Dumbasses.
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7th April 2013
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For god's sake this is just plain stupid.

DJs like the sound of their mixers clipping.

Guitarists? Do they not have a history of liking the sound of clipping their pre-amps to produce distortion? I'd love to hear what Metallica would have sounded like had a load of whiney sound engineers come on and told them that it was incorrect to distort their signal, and produced an un-clippable pre-amp. I bet making Metallica sound like Chuck Berry would be brilliant.
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7th April 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
For god's sake this is just plain stupid.

DJs like the sound of their mixers clipping.

Guitarists? Do they not have a history of liking the sound of clipping their pre-amps to produce distortion? I'd love to hear what Metallica would have sounded like had a load of whiney sound engineers come on and told them that it was incorrect to distort their signal, and produced an un-clippable pre-amp. I bet making Metallica sound like Chuck Berry would be brilliant.

Guitarists have their own amps and are welcome to treat them as they like.

DJ's play through £20,000+ worth of a "Whiney sound engineer"s gear (read livelihood)

Clipped signals can easily damage that gear (read livelihood).

And for the record - 99.9 % of the time a clipped audio signal on playback sounds utter sh*t. It really does.
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Originally Posted by 440HzMusic View Post
Guitarists have their own amps and are welcome to treat them as they like.

DJ's play through £20,000+ worth of a "Whiney sound engineer"s gear (read livelihood)

Clipped signals can easily damage that gear (read livelihood).

And for the record - 99.9 % of the time a clipped audio signal on playback sounds utter sh*t. It really does.
+11111111111

Wow I can't even believe it was necessary to point this out to anyone...
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the allen and heath xone62 or 92 is the closest ive found to this, really good sounding and even with all the knobs all the way up it still rarely clips. djs dont like them though as the crossfader action and cueing is not what they are used to
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 440HzMusic View Post
Guitarists have their own amps and are welcome to treat them as they like.

DJ's play through £20,000+ worth of a "Whiney sound engineer"s gear (read livelihood)

Clipped signals can easily damage that gear (read livelihood).

And for the record - 99.9 % of the time a clipped audio signal on playback sounds utter sh*t. It really does.
If you can't sort out your rig so that a DJ can play clipped tracks through it then you would be an absolutely numpty to work in the club industry. It'd be like taking a racing car on Safari and moaning about it getting dusty.

And it may sound shit to your ears, but if it gets them the reaction from the crowd that they want, then they are doing their job properly and as artists you have no place to tell them to change that.

If you are a decent sound engineer with decent kit you should be able to leave them to it and sensibly not give a flying dustbin.
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Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
If you can't sort out your rig so that a DJ can play clipped tracks through...

And it may sound shit to your ears, but if it gets them the reaction from the crowd that they want, then they are doing their job properly and as artists you have no place to tell them to change that.
Seriously, I don't give a toss how it sounds, or if it's clipping or whatever. At five in the morning it's not just "clipping", it's more like a full square wave rectifier. I leave that to the "as artists". It's just if they damage stuff - that happens regularly - they "as artists" refuse to take responsibility. It's like I rent them a car, they drive it into a wall and then complain "the car's shite anyways, matey!". If I can - to qoute your first sentence - can't sort out my car so that a DJ can drive it the way they feel fit... see, I don't care if they break stuff because they are on pills, alcohol and what they need to feel their art: I would prefer it if they paid the bills without a lawyer involved. I'm not only talking about teenagers in youth clubs, this happens also with 'world famous' DJs and their bus full of entourage.

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Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
taking a racing car on Safari and moaning about it getting dusty.
I wasn't exactly about dust. I was more about four-figure bills. I'd prefer dust: I'd get a maid and have her do the work in a nice uniform, you know?

Once I opened the hi/mid bins to witness that the solder inside the cab had molten and been running across all tracks and connections. I guess from your wording that you're not facing these situations and I would prefer it if you handed me down some clues as to prevent all the trouble instead of telling me to leave them alone and pay it from my pocket. It's not even my pocket, it's the club owners and they have been asking me for help and solutions.
By the way, can I borrow your car....?
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We have had bass bins full on catch fire. Fire extinguisher job. So what?

If you don't like it, don't do it. It's a long known fact that DJs run their mixers in the red. If you're happy with standing at your desk whilst that goes through your system, great; if you're not, don't.

Nobody is forcing you. If you don't like how DJs work, don't work with DJs. Go engineer for an acoustic folk artist or something instead.
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i´m a dj for over 15 years now, i ask all the time to give me more headroom at the beginning of the party.
9 out of 10 times they refuse my request and tell me to set my mixer output to maximum in fear i could play too loud later....
most of the time the volume gets set when the club is empty and it´s not loud enough at prime time.
if i am lucky the sound guy is still nearby when i play and i can talk him into turn up the mains while i turn down my mixer.
same game everytime....i had maybe a handful of clubs where they really have a clue of gainstaging and the system has enough power without safety limiter crap with 1 second release times.
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8th April 2013
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It's not a distorted sound that damage speakers afaik it's just the level so adjust the level between the mixer at the speaker on the main house desk so it's fine when the mixer is in the red. If that volume is not loud enough when in the green then get some louder speakers.

In other words, better to have a system that is too loud for the venue than amps that are too loud for the speaker no?
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Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
If you can't sort out your rig so that a DJ can play clipped tracks through it then you would be an absolutely numpty to work in the club industry. It'd be like taking a racing car on Safari and moaning about it getting dusty.

And it may sound shit to your ears, but if it gets them the reaction from the crowd that they want, then they are doing their job properly and as artists you have no place to tell them to change that.

If you are a decent sound engineer with decent kit you should be able to leave them to it and sensibly not give a flying dustbin.
Are you for real...I actually choose not to work with DJ's for the most part, unfortunately, they are a part of the festival entertainment that I end up dealing with. My gear can cope, no problem, and I place safeguards into the signal chain so they can go nuts. The reality is, it is distorting and sounds like shit. Period. Not artistically creative, but just plain shit. I can appreciate creativity and I push gear all the time to do things that it should not. But give the people on this site some cred. Shit is shit.
Dj's who push the limits are great. However, sitting the DJ mixer into the red with zero dynamics and severe distortion does not actually get the punters king. More often than not, they are shaving transient information and loosing punch and just adding severe second order harmonics.
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i make a point of using a very violent limiter over the DJ input to my console at festivals. If 110dBa at foh (50 meters away from the stage) isnt enough for a deaf DJ i couldnt give a ****. the punters love the sound and are up dancing, the promoter pays me, i smile and nod when given "advice" from DJs
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Perhaps you could make a simple box with some resistors inside to turn down the level coming from the CDJs into the mixer. Tune it so that the DJ can just get into the red on the DJ mixer meters but can't drive the mix too hard. Then you can turn up the PA and you have effectively forced him/her to gain stage properly?
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The only mixer that I know of is the Rane Empath - discontinued, but WORKS.
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8th April 2013
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To ignore everyone that has an opinion about wether DJs should or shouldn't push their gear or if they have a birthright to damage what they want (without even noticing) and having somebody else pay for it, because the world revolves around their greatness, humbleness and glory:

I don't got any problems with a healthy signal, no matter if high or not. The equipment has headroom for days*, there's a wall of bass bins and a tower of amps at most places and I can think of one place where the DJ monitor is as big as a door and has roughly a 2kW amp. I have a problem with signals that are so distorted that it sounds like you chained two guitar preamps full on. Even if I'm not concerned with the sound of it, the DC content and high frequency spectral parts are poison for speakers.

The friendly folks from the distributor of Eminence sent me info on these:
D-fend™ Loudspeaker Protection Technology | Eminence Speaker
and I think I'll give it a try and outfit every driver with one of these.
It seems -after contacting a few companies that build DJ mixers- they don't put idiotproof/vandalismproof mixers too high on their list and I got to tackle the problem from the speaker side.

*and way up high there's a limiter

Quote:
Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
We have had bass bins full on catch fire. Fire extinguisher job. So what?
Ahhh… if I had known you're into that kinda thing! Would you PM me the club where you shine your glory? I suddenly feel the urge to DJ there. Let me describe my set: I don't need a stinking mixer or decks or CDs or a laptop, I just bring cables to connect the speakers directly to tri-phase-power, and for a lightshow I jumper all the breakers in your house wiring. It's a pretty minimal set, but the punters and the firemen love it!
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8th April 2013
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Damn, Eminence have the means to hinder my "art"! Look at the video where they plug a speaker into an outlet.



Sorry, ..errr...what's your name again... tc something - I can't DJ at your place. I gotta go and hug the friendly elves at Eminence.
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Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
If you can't sort out your rig so that a DJ can play clipped tracks through it then you would be an absolutely numpty to work in the club industry. It'd be like taking a racing car on Safari and moaning about it getting dusty.

And it may sound shit to your ears, but if it gets them the reaction from the crowd that they want, then they are doing their job properly and as artists you have no place to tell them to change that.

If you are a decent sound engineer with decent kit you should be able to leave them to it and sensibly not give a flying dustbin.
So, in a situation that depends on two parties one party should be able to do whatever they want and the other side have to deal with it or they are the unprofessional ones. Since you seem to believe there is a way for that to be practical, then what exactly do you propose as the solution? Or perhaps more realistically, if an 'artist' wants to deliver the best result to their audience shouldn't they want to work with any others involved in that?


I know of several speaker manufacturers have been looking at incorporating the D-Fend into their products and I spoke with Eminence about the possibility of a standalone box either pre-programmed for specific speakers or with simple settings.
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I do remember some older versions of the DJ mixers (maybe the Rane or an old DJM) had a small gain pot on the back of the mixer (either a small knob or I think one even had a tiny internal pot you had to change with a flathead screwdriver). Try to find one of those and then either pull that pot off and/or tape over it and hope they don't realize it's there. Otherwise, you've basically stuck with limiters. Make sure they're coming into a line level input, and don't be afraid to compress or limit the sh*t out of them. Even if they are flat out red-lining their mixer, it doesn't mean you should be clipping anywhere once they're in your system. Let them know there are limits and if they keep turning up they are only going to sound like sh*t, but they won't actually be getting any louder.
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Somebody please put the troll back in his cave. He clearly does not have a clue.

The best DJ's I have ever heard have had a good working knowledge of sound systems and gain staging.
Working from this assumption I do not have high hopes for his sets.

Also Jobsworth, a clipped signal can certainly damage speakers. If a signal actually clips at amplifier end, it causes a square wave to be sent to the drivers. This causes the drivers to move back and forth from maximum excursion, which can cause tearing and worse.
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Originally Posted by 440HzMusic View Post
Also Jobsworth, a clipped signal can certainly damage speakers. If a signal actually clips at amplifier end, it causes a square wave to be sent to the drivers. This causes the drivers to move back and forth from maximum excursion, which can cause tearing and worse.
It's only a problem if the power amplifiers are being clipped, basically it does not matter how hard he pushes his mixer if he does not clip the power amps he will not blow the speakers...

Assuming that the amplifiers are properly matched to the loudspeakers, if you attenuate the level going to the amps so that the signal level never goes beyond 'green' the DJ could play in red all night and never blow anything.

I've noticed that this problem never seem to come up when purpose built DJ systems are installed in dance clubs by specialists. It's usually when regular PA guys/companies are asked to install or rent systems for a DJ that these situations come up and this is simply because the PA world does not really understand (and sometimes they also don't respect) the DJ/club world.

Many years ago I got a guided tour to check out the systems of two NYC clubs the Tunnel and Limelight...the Tunnel's main room system had enough EAW KF 850 tops and subs to easily cover 20,000 fans in a normal outdoor concert. I think there were over 30 tops and 30 subs plus additional SB 1000 subs for good measure plus there were smaller boxes covering the bar and various nooks and crannies. I was told the capacity in the main room was either five or seven thousand and when I looked at the wall of amplifiers powering the system at full tilt, all the amplifiers had a single green LED that was lazily blinking...the system was not stressed at all. It was loud to the point of being concussive but it was clean and nobody complained.

I'm not suggesting that every bar or club run out and get a similar system...this just underlines the point that it is a question of headroom, we can even argue that the DJ's are unreasonable in their expectation of how powerful the system should be, but it really is just a question of headroom...especially low frequency headroom. A system might have 'headroom for days' for a regular rock and roll band and would never satisfy the needs of a band like The Prodigy.

As the technical director (stage, backline, lights, sound and video) of a festival in the south west of france which welcomes more than 90,000 fans, the sound contract for the DJ stage will go to a specialist company. The difference in the proposals I have received from the specialists and the general PA companies is telling, The gear is standard fare for the most part it's just the amount of loudspeakers and amplifiers and the absence of line arrays (from the dance specialists that) make the big difference. I do not condone the willful destruction of property and equipment by anyone (band or DJ), but I also believe that promoters owe it to performers to provide the right equipment and facilities to allow them to do their best job.

If DJ's can't play above a certain level (for whatever reason) maybe that should be stated in the contract.
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Couldn't agree more.

My comments relate specifically to comparatively small systems that are run by small companies / individual sound engineers or in small clubs where funds are limited.

These systems often have to deal with a lot of different program material and people like the previous poster seem to have no regard for other peoples hard spent money.

But yeah Systems shouldn't clipping at the amp. But it does happen in installs where they perhaps don't have the in house tech they need.

Doesn't mean they should be destroyed by some plank with no regard for other peoples equipment though.
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Originally Posted by Samc View Post
It's only a problem if the power amplifiers are being clipped, basically it does not matter how hard he pushes his mixer if he does not clip the power amps he will not blow the speakers...
Clipping is clipping, the effect to the shape of the signal is the same regardless of where in the signal chain it occurs and with a heavily clipped signal the average level starts to approach being the same as the peak level, in other words a very limited crest factor. You may be able to attenuate downstream and probably want to avoid additional clipping but once the signal is clipped much of the damage in terms of the waveform is done.

EDM and some other genres often contain sustained, high level, low frequency content. Even without clipping, those signals can represent extremes in terms of the average power levels the system must support and can start to relate to power compression and thermal stress. Add clipping and the system may be expected to support long term levels close to the same as the peak levels and to do so without power compression and without thermal failures. To account for that you may have to run the system well below the actual full possible output.

If the system is not up to that task whose fault is that? Maybe the PA provider under estimated what was required. But maybe the venue, production company, artist or whoever only asked for or was only willing to pay for so much. If the party hiring the PA provider does not hire or the venue does not have what it would take to let the DJ run wild then that may require everyone compromising.
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Fran,

The DBX 160A compressor has so-called "beyond infinity" ratios.

Basically once past the threshold it makes things get quieter instead of just holding the line. Put a pair of those across the output and tell the DJ what you've done. Give a demo if time permits!

They've mislabelled it a bit. The "beyond infinity" ratios are labelled "-5:1" but really should be "5:-1". If 4:1 is 4 dB in, 1 dB out, then 5:-1 would be 5 dB in, -1 dB out.
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Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
For god's sake this is just plain stupid.

DJs like the sound of their mixers clipping.

Guitarists? Do they not have a history of liking the sound of clipping their pre-amps to produce distortion? I'd love to hear what Metallica would have sounded like had a load of whiney sound engineers come on and told them that it was incorrect to distort their signal, and produced an un-clippable pre-amp. I bet making Metallica sound like Chuck Berry would be brilliant.
Utterly uneducated. We are talking about two completely different types of distortion and purposes. Even if a DJ were to put something in the loop to add distortion, whatever is downstream will have to be considered. You cannot overload a mixer the same way you overload a preamp of a guitar amp.

Yeah, just keep on clipping the inputs of the amplifiers or powered speakers and see what that gets you.

I have yet to meet a great DJ who also has a grasp of gain structure, who could do the math to determine how much power they need for their speakers, etc. All I see are doofuses bringing broken crap into the shop.
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Originally Posted by museAV View Post
Clipping is clipping and the effect to the shape of the signal is the same regardless of where in the signal chain it occurs and with a heavily clipped signal the average level starts to approach being the same as the peak level, in other words a very limited crest factor. You may be able to attenuate downstream and probably want to avoid additional clipping but once the signal is clipped much of the damage in terms of the waveform is done.
Well....If the power amplifier's input is well below clipping (not overdriven), the loudspeaker(s) will not see a clipped signal regardless of how hard the DJ's mixer was clipped. The loudspeaker will receive a sine wave but the audio will be distorted.

This is exactly what happens when a guitarist distorts his amp by overdriving the input and that signal passes through the PA system, the PA does not clip but we hear that the guitar is very distorted.


Quote:
EDM and some other genres often contain sustained, high level, low frequency content. Even without clipping, those signals can represent extremes in terms of the average power levels the system must support and can start to relate to power compression and thermal stress. Add clipping and the system may be expected to support long term levels close to the same as the peak levels and to do so without power compression and without thermal failures. To account for that you may have to run the system well below the actual full possible output.
All things being equal...amplifier with appropriate output stage and power supply properly matched to the loudspeakers etc...even under normal use components will get hot But if you clip the power amplifiers hard enough and long enough you risk causing damage regardless of the type of music being played. The problem is almost always headroom, especially in the low-mid and sub region, adding more sub woofers and power amps would usually solve these problems in smaller venues.
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8th April 2013
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Originally Posted by 440HzMusic View Post
Somebody please put the troll back in his cave. He clearly does not have a clue.

The best DJ's I have ever heard have had a good working knowledge of sound systems and gain staging.
Working from this assumption I do not have high hopes for his sets.

Also Jobsworth, a clipped signal can certainly damage speakers. If a signal actually clips at amplifier end, it causes a square wave to be sent to the drivers. This causes the drivers to move back and forth from maximum excursion, which can cause tearing and worse.
I am no a troll looking for a reaction.

I am a real life sound engineer who works in clubs on a nightly basis that actually works with DJs all the time, rather than a hobbyist with a PA system who thinks they know it all.

If you think you are going to get a piece of gear that stops DJs clipping their end, you thoroughly do not understand DJs. You must not work with them. Whatever you give them, they will drive the living sh!t out of it and then some more. No amount of crusades will change that - except for the ones that care. They will run decent levels and yes it will sound better - providing you have a sound engineer on call to turn the rig up and down. Problem is clubs leaving the rig 'switched on' and DJs will do whatever they can to 'make it louder'.

Now if you know what you're doing and you know how to do business, you just accept it. Yes it can damage your speakers, but how much money are you charging the club? If you're a numpty going out at £100 a night just to get some work, sure it'll get trashed but our system is on a weekly residency, club's only open 4 nights... we probably go through a full set of Mids and Tops a year and bass bins bi-annually. The cost of the damage is absorbed into what we charge. That is the way it works.

If you know what you're doing you can limit the amount of damage people can do to a system, obviously there is no way of making it idiot proof. But there is really no point trying to give the DJs an un-clippable mixer or trying to educate them. Nobody gives a poo what it sounds like really because frankly when you're stood 3 feet in front of a full stack of Nexo or Funktion One turned up to buggery you ain't gonna hear much anyway, your ears are no more able to deal with it than the clipping mixer. People just love the bass and dancing around like a looney. So whatever makes it louder.

To be honest when you work in the better clubs most of the DJs run at sensible levels. You introduce yourself and show them that you can make the PA system in the roof deafeningly loud or embarrassingly quiet and it makes no odds what they do, and they will keep it sensible. Most of the *good* full time professional DJs do know about levels.

But there is no way to work around the dump ones. Just give up. Either work through it and accept it as part of the job, or work in rock n roll where you set the levels, not them.
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