sound, the operator works with a Reggae “preamp”, a specialized mixer, to control it. In the preamp, the frequencies are split from the beginning, making the sound cleaner, and giving the operator more direct control. Other classic feature are kill switches, that allow the operator to play the bass, mids, or highs alone, and controls and eq’s for microphones and effects units like echo’s, delay’s, and sirens; used to add to the ambiance, expand, and dub the music to new levels. Traditionally Sounds played vinyl on a single turntable, although nowadays many Sounds play CD’s or directly from a computer.

King Alpha Sound Control Tower

King Alpha Sound Control Tower – Ras Joseph on preamp, Ras Peter on Mic – Dub School March 2010 – (Peter Lionheart – Lionheart Sounds)

Even with the best equipment, a Sound comes down to the people controlling it. The operator (engineer) is essential to finesse a warm rounded sound out of the equipment, the selector to collect and choose powerful tunes, the mic man to introduce music and communicate with the crowd, and the dedicated souls who arrive early and stay late to string up and take down the heavy speakers and equipment. These people, their hard work, message, and selections, define the Sound’s character.

History of Reggae Sound Systems

While most people know Reggae from live band performances, it was initially studio-produced music, created to play on Sound Systems. There were many Sounds in Jamaica playing R & B in outdoor neighborhood venues before the local recording industry developed. However, in the 1960’s, Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat Sound System and Duke Reid began to produce ska and rocksteady music, which they tested on their Sound’s local crowds, cultivating unique styles. (This practice that continues today, with Sounds like King Alpha who only play their own productions.) When Reggae was born, the Sound Systems played a crucial role in exposing the new music, which was not accepted by radio or general society. As noted by I Warriyah, recording artist and mic man from King Alpha Sound and Fasimbas Afrikon Blood Sound, “Sound systems give local up and coming recording artists the opportunity and a medium to be heard loud and clear by the masses.”

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