When it comes to buying a PA system, it’s important to have a good idea of your intended uses in mind, as that is going to weigh heavily in your decision. Because PA systems can range from around $100 to thousands of dollars, it’s essential to know your budget and your requirements before going into the purchase.
We’ve included products that will fit any budget and have also provided a buyer’s guide at the end of the article, which can help make sure you’re making the most informed purchase.
The Bose L1 Compact is an ultra-lightweight, compact PA system. It’s great for small venues, one-man bands or duos, and corporate DJs.
Best PA System Overall
The Yamaha Stagepas 400I has been around for 10 years now, but they remain one of the best PA systems on the market, with portability, sound quality, and ease of setup all working in its favor. It lacks newer technology like Bluetooth connectivity, but for a wired solution, the 400I offers excellent value.
Best Sounding PA System
If sound quality is what you’re after, then JBL EON systems will be the best sounding. Keep in mind these are just under $900, but if you’re serious about sound quality, then this is a small price to pay. A versatile PA system for use with DJ gigs, live music, and conferencing. It has more than enough power for both indoor and outdoor use.
Best for Live Musicians
The best system for live music is the Yamaha Stagepas 400I. The system comes in at under $500 and delivers excellent sound quality for vocals, acoustic guitars, and keyboards. If you need a Bluetooth solution, then the JBL Professional EON208P will be our top pick.
Best PA Systems for DJs
There are quite a few really good options for DJing. Still, we love the performance of the Behringer Europort PPA2000BT, which comes with a lot of power, versatility, and Bluetooth connectivity. You’ll get a mighty 2000w output with good clarity and very little distortion near the high end.
Best PA System for Speech & Background Music
If you only need a PA system for speeches and background music for conferences, weddings, meetings, etc., we recommend an affordable option that doesn’t require as much investment. The LyxPro SPA-8 is our recommendation; at around $100, you can get a PA system with minimal investment. Though be aware that there are a lot of portable Bluetooth speakers on the market that can provide similar functions.
The Budget Choice
The LyxPro SPA-8 is again our winner here, this speaker is sometimes available for around $100, and while it is only a single speaker system, it is a great budget option. You don’t have to sacrifice much in sound quality with the LyxPro too.
The 10 Best PA Systems
Below are our selections of some of the best PA systems on the market. We’ve included systems of various sizes and cater to everyone’s budgets. When selecting these products, we excluded speakers which didn’t perform up to their price point, especially in the sound quality. While the user interface is an important feature, we didn’t exclude products with a steeper learning curve. Instead, we’ve noted this in our reviews.
The Yamaha STAGEPAS 400I is a premium PA system at an affordable price. The system comes with two powered 8” speakers and an 8-channel analog mixer. Two ¼ inch speaker cables and power cables for the speakers and mixer are also included. You will have to purchase the speaker stands separately.
The system is designed for the speakers to double as storage. On one of the speakers, there’s a recessed compartment with a cover to store all the cables. On the second speaker is a similar recess, but this one holds the mixer. So, excluding the speaker stands, you can essentially carry the entire system with a speaker in each hand. With everything stored together neatly, you don’t have to worry about forgetting cables, etc.
Yamaha also sells an awesome padded case that holds both speakers and an extra pouch for more cables and accessories. The case is on wheels, so it’s easy to move around one person. With or without the case, the STAGEPAS 400I will easily fit in the trunk of a sedan.
The STAGEPAS 400I compact mixer features four XLR inputs which can all be switched to mic or line level. Two of the XLR inputs are configured to take either XLR or ¼ inch connectors. The fourth XLR channel even features a high-impedance switch for instruments.
There are two stereo channels. The first channel takes either 2 x ¼ inch or stereo RCA connectors. The second stereo channel is set up for either 2 x ¼ inch, 1 x ⅛ AUX, or USB. These channels are great for keyboards, MP3, or other music players. The stereo channels can be switched between mono or stereo.
All the channels have bass and treble EQ with a 15dB cut or boost. Additionally, the four XLR channels have Yamaha’s SPX digital reverb with separate level adjustments for the effects. On the master control panel, you can choose between hall, plate, room, or echo effects. Yamaha has even included a foot-switch control so you can mute and unmute the effects.
If you operate as a one-man band or duo with no sound engineer, you’ll appreciate this feature. Having a foot switch means you can mute and unmute vocal effects without walking over to the mixer or, worse, leave the effects on at the end of each song. This small feature will make your performances look and sound a lot more professional.
The STAGEPAS 400I mixer also features a built-in feedback suppressor, which is great if you work with sensitive headset microphones. There’s also a pre-programmed EQ selector which allows you to choose between speech, music, or bass boost. The bass boost is useful when playing music from an MP3 player or DJ. There is also a phantom power switch that sends phantom power to channel 2 if needed.
All the outputs are ¼ inch jack-outs. Aside from the master left/right, you have a stereo monitor output and subwoofer out.
Each STAGEPAS 400I speaker features an 8” driver with 1” tweeter capable of producing 200W each. This is enough sound for about 150-200 people, depending on how the room is set up. The STAGEPAS 400I speakers deliver excellent clarity across the mids and highs with great intelligibility for vocals.
Without a subwoofer, the system does lack in sub frequencies. However, the STAGEPAS 400I does a good job of producing a solid punchy bass sound.
Due to the STAGEPAS 400I’s compact size, the system is perfect for one-man bands, duos, or even a three-piece. If you’re looking for a small utility PA for your school, church, or community center, the STAGEPAS 400I is versatile enough for a multitude of applications.
With only 8” drivers, the STAGEPAS 400I is not suitable for a full band with drums. The drummer will easily overpower this system.
Why The Yamaha STAGEPAS 400I?
Yamaha STAGEPAS 400I is a powerful PA system that can cater to medium to large-sized gatherings. We love that the STAGEPAS 400I is able to bring a lot of volume and features at under $1000. It’s a well-rounded PA system that can easily cater to larger gatherings.
The EON 208P portable PA System is one of the larger battery-powered systems from audio legends JBL. The EON 208 is an upgrade from the 206 models, which had fewer inputs and fewer power-handling capabilities.
The system is fairly lightweight and portable, and the mixer component can be detached for other applications. The total system is 300W and consists of two powered speakers, a mixer, and an AKG handheld microphone.
The included 8-channel mixer features enough inputs and outputs to power a small band rehearsal space, busking gig, conference, or a party with entertainment. The mixer has 4 x XLR/TRS combo inputs, 2 x TRS inputs, 1 x RCA input pair, and a 3.5mm auxiliary input. The mixer can also connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device.
Each channel has a two-bass Bass and Treble equalizer and inline reverb effect, and there is phantom power available across all channels. As for outputs, there is an L/R monitor/FOH out using either RCA or TRS cables, as well as a headphone out with independent volume control and a subwoofer output.
Each speaker has an 8-inch woofer, delivering full-bodied, deep bass and punchy sound. The system can get pretty loud and should have no problems powering a large party, coffee shop gig, or small conference.
The overall sound quality is typical of that of JBL, which works for most applications but lacks a bit of low-end bass, although the 2-band EQ on each channel strip certainly helps. However, there is no option for running an external equalizer or another effect in-line or side-chained. The provided AKG mic is pretty decent as well and works great for vocals (spoken word or singing) or instruments, and the cable is pretty well-made, too.
The EON 208P’s biggest challenge is that it feels as though it is not quite a full PA system, but also not a portable Bluetooth speaker. This can make it tough to know exactly what you’re getting with this, but in short, we feel as though the EON 208P succeeds in bringing the best features from both sides. The one downside is that volume isn’t going to be as impressive as a larger speaker and may lack the portability you’d find on a traditional portable Bluetooth speaker.
Since this portable PA system accepts 8 channels or four stereo channels, there’s a lot that can be done with this setup, including small gigs, teaching/conference, house parties, and mobile DJ setups. The whole system can be connected to form a suitcase-like structure for transport, and it’s incredibly durable. There isn’t a speaker stand included, but there is an option for one on Amazon, although it’s a universally-sized mounting hole, so any PA stand will work.
Why The JBL EON 208P?
The JBL EON 208P is not the largest or the loudest, but with a somewhat compact form factor, lightweight speakers, and Bluetooth connectivity, it’s a versatile PA system that can cater to around 100 guests.
The JBL PRX One is an all-in-one portable PA system suitable for practically any and all applications. The PRX One is a loud, powerful, and great-sounding system consisting of a 12” subwoofer and an array of twelve 2.5” tweeters.
The JBL PRX One has a 7-channel onboard mixer consisting of four XLR/TRS combo jacks, two TRS inputs, and auxiliary input, two of which support phantom power. The PRX One also accepts Bluetooth or USB connections for on-the-go playback. The mixer uses only one knob per channel and adopts the classic digital mixer approach to channel strips- where channels are selected and edited using one single window.
Running a frequency response of 20Hz to 35kHz, this system is incredibly accurate and sounds amazing for all styles of music, human voice, or other audio content. The total output is 130dB, enough to power a large show or party, and the system runs on 2000W of power. Fresh driver engineering techniques are used to develop durable, clean-sounding, and energy-efficient speakers, led by JBL’s engineering team.
The JBL PRX One can be used for practically anything since it’s a truly faithful, accurate, and easy-to-use system. However, some experience with digital consoles will help to learn this unit faster. The PRX One is quite attractive in design, so it wouldn’t look out of place in a restaurant/bar setting or even in your home if you like to entertain regularly. It’s not exactly small or lightweight, so for busking musicians, I’d recommend one of the more portable all-in-one options; however, for live venues, office spaces, or schools, this is an excellent option.
Why The JBL PRX One?
The JBL PRX One is an impressive and loud PA system, driven by a 12″ subwoofer; the PRX One does really well in the low-end response but doesn’t fail to sound bright and warm with the impressive array of 2.5″ tweeters.
The Fender Passport Conference is an ultra-compact PA system. When packed up, the Conference fits together like a suitcase weighing just 31 lbs which is small enough to carry in one hand. The system consists of two 5.25” powered speakers with a five-channel mixer. You also have the option of purchasing the accessory bundle pack, which includes speaker stands and cables.
The Conference mixing console is a simple five-channel mixer with three mono channels, which can take either XLR or ¼ inch jack. There is a tone and volume control for each of the three channels as well as a 20dB pad for instruments.
The stereo channel allows for two ¼ inch jacks or a single ⅛ inch AUX input. The channel also has a separate tone and volume control.
At the bottom of the mixer is a ¼ monitor or headphone output with its own volume control. At the top, you’ll find the master volume. The master left/right ¼ inch speaker outputs are on the rear of the mixer.
Having the speaker outputs on the rear is a good way to separate the inputs from the outputs making the Passport Conference a simple system to set up and operate, even for those who are not tech-savvy. The mixer is neatly laid out with clearly large rotary faders and no clutter to distract or confuse.
Each Passport Conference speaker features a 5.25” driver with two 2.75” tweeters. With the two large tweeters, the Passport Conference is perfect for speech and conference applications. The speaker delivers excellent vocal clarity, which is primarily what this system was designed to do. The small 5.25” driver offers enough warmth for vocals, background music, or an acoustic guitar.
The Fender Passport Conference was designed specifically to be a portable, easy-to-set-up conference PA system. It’s excellent for any spoken voice applications and could even be used for wedding ceremonies where there is no PA system installed. The system is best suited for small audiences of 50-80 people.
While the Fender Passport Conference could be used for a one-man-band setup, the mixer doesn’t have EQ or vocal effects. The Passport range from Fender includes two slightly larger systems, the Passport Event or Passport Venue, which are better suited for musicians.
Both the Event and Venue have vocal effects and EQ. The systems are also significantly more powerful than the Conference system for medium to larger venues.
Why The Fender Passport Conference?
The Fender Passport Conference is a compact PA system that creates excellent sound but lacks some volume. So while this system excels at small gatherings, there will be limitations on the crowd size it can cater to.
The Behringer Europort EPS500MP3 consists of 2 x 8” passive speakers with an advertised 500W powered mixer. The rear of each speaker is recessed for storage. On one speaker, you have an empty cavity that offers enough room for storing the two 20-foot speaker cables and the mixer’s power adapter.
The second speaker is designed to store the 8-channel mixer. Each EUROPORT EPS500MP3 speaker has a large handle and weighs less than 20 lbs making the system easy to carry and transport.
The EUROPORT EPS500MP3 comes with a feature-packed 8-channel mixer. There are four switchable mic/line mono channels with the option of either an XLR or ¼ inch input. Each mono channel has a volume control with bass and treble adjustment and the ability to switch reverb effects on or off. Volume for the reverb is adjusted on the master control panel.
The first stereo channel allows you to choose between stereo ¼ or RCA input, while the second stereo channel allows for stereo RCA or USB. The USB input can be via the master control panel with buttons for play/pause, skip forward/backward, and random or shuffle.
Lastly, you have a BEHRINGER wireless USB input. This input is compatible with the Behringer wireless handheld microphone systems. The USB port can take either a single or dual Behringer wireless handheld.
Beside the master volume control is a VOP button. When engaged, the VOP will automatically duck music under any speech, which is great for a quick announcement without having to turn down the music. Next to VOP is also the Contour button which has two pre-programmed EQ settings for voice or music.
The EUROPORT EPS500MP3 features two passive 8” speakers powered by the 500W mixer-amplifier. The 8” speaker does a great job of delivering a solid bass sound, even though it lacks in the sub-frequency range, which is expected of a speaker this size. The mid-range is good but a little boxy sounding with vocals. The highs are crisp and clear, giving the speaker good intelligibility for speech applications.
The EUROPORT EPS500MP3 is designed to be compact and out of the way in small to medium-sized venues. With the mixer mounted in the speaker’s rear, the speakers can be placed in a small area taking up a minimal footprint. The VOP feature allows you to have the system play without worrying about a sound operator turning down the music for quick announcements.
This is especially great for small venues that don’t have dedicated technical staff. If you choose to purchase the Behringer wireless microphones, you can set up the EUROPORT EPS500MP3 to play music off the USB port, eliminating the need for any cables.
With the mixer mounted in the rear of the speaker, you don’t have any equipment other than the speakers and microphones visible. Great for weddings and corporate functions where organizers regularly insist on equipment being hidden as much as possible.
The EUROPORT EPS500MP3 is also great for one-man bands or duos, churches, schools, and community centers. The system is lightweight, affordable, easy to set up, and delivers a significant amount of sound for its size. Great for venues of up to 100, depending on the layout.
The EUROPORT EPS500MP3 is not powerful enough for a full band with drums.
Why The Behringer Europort EPS500MP3?
The Behringer Europort EPS500MP3 is a fairly affordable, smaller PA system that is similar to the Fender Passport. The Behringer Europort EPS500MP3 does best at smaller gatherings where you need to cater to less than 120 people.
The PRORECK PARTY 15 is an affordable, complete PA system in a box. Included are two 15-Inch speakers with stands, a microphone with cable, a speaker cable link, and remote control.
Behind the speaker, grille is a built-in 4-color LED light system. A great feature to add to the mood of the party. Each speaker has built-in rubber wheels making them easy to transport and move around.
The onboard mixer has three channels, a ¼ inch input for the supplied microphone, a stereo RCA, and MP3 channel. The MP3 channel controls the SD card, USB, and Bluetooth input panel. The MP3 input panel has controls for switching between modes (SD, USB, Bluetooth), play/pause, skip forward/backward and repeat.
The panel can also be controlled via the supplied remote control and is great for creating a playlist on USB or SD and leaving to play as background music.
The system has a 5-band graphic EQ to make adjustments according to the venue.
Each PRORECK PARTY 15 speaker features a 15” driver with 1” tweeter delivering 100W RMS per speaker. PRORECK advertises the PARTY 15 is capable of 2000W P.M.P.O. This spec refers to program power which means nothing when it comes to the actual power output. You’ll never see a premium brand refer to this wattage specification.
The PARTY 15 is an average-sounding speaker. Vocals and instruments sound boxy without much clarity. Where the PARTY 15 does shine is for music and DJ setups. The 15” speakers deliver a significant amount of power with a good amount of bass for genres like hip-hop and dance music.
The PRORECK PARTY 15 is perfect for mobile DJs or for venues looking for a system for music and general announcements. At under $300, the PARTY 15 is affordable, with everything you’ll need to get started. So if you need a system on a tight budget, then the PRORECK PARTY 15 will be a great choice.
I would only use this as a music system for DJs, announcements, and speeches. The PRORECK PARTY 15 is not designed to handle instruments and singing, which put a lot of strain on input preamps.
Why The Proreck Party 15?
The Proreck Party 15 is a powerful speaker that boasts impressive volume while costing a fraction of other 15″ options; this makes it great for those on a budget looking for big sound.
The LyxPro SPA-8 is a single 8” speaker PA system with built-in inputs and mixer. The SPA-8 has an XLR Mix Out so you can daisy-chain several speakers together. As this is a simple XLR output, you can daisy chain the SPA-8 to any other powered speaker, mixer or amplifier for a passive speaker.
The SPA-8 has a mounting hole for speaker stand which would need to be purchased separately.
The LyxPro SPA-8 features two input channels with two input options on each channel. Channel one allows for XLR or ¼ inch jack. There is also a mic/line switch for gain adjustment. Channel two gives the option of ⅛ inch AUX or stereo RCA. Each channel has independent volume control.
There is also a third input channel for audio playback from SD card, USB or Bluetooth. The channel has an MP3 display indicating track, which input is in operation and the controls engaged. Below the display are the regular MP3 controls for play/pause, repeat, skip forward/backward.
There’s also a mode button to switch between the three inputs. On the main control panel is a volume control marked MP3 which is allocated to the MP3 channel.
The SPA-8 has a tone control for treble and bass but there is no master volume control which is unusual.
The LyxPro SPA-8 features an 8” driver with 1” tweeter delivering 100W RMS of power. The speaker is surprisingly loud with a decent amount of throw, meaning the sound from the speaker travels far and can easily be heard across a room.
While the SPA-8 doesn’t have much in the sub-bass range, it does have a decent low-end punch. The mids and highs deliver great clarity for both music and vocals.
The LyxPro SPA-8 is a versatile little speaker. You can use the SPA-8 as part of a left/right PA, a satellite speaker for music and announcements at an event, or even as an on-stage monitor for a DJ or musician. The speaker weighs a mere 14lbs measuring 14” high by 9.25” wide, making it easy to transport, set up, and store.
If you’re looking to purchase multiple PA speakers, then at only a little over $100 per speaker, the SPA-8 is an affordable option. With the daisy chain feature, you can connect multiple SPA-8 speakers together, which would be great for a distributed PA system at an outdoor sports event, wedding, or even a craft market.
The SPA-8 is best suited for playing background music and making announcements. Also available is the SPA-8BAT, which has a built-in battery with an 8-hour battery life.
If you need something with more power, the LyxPro SPA series includes a 12” and 15” powered speaker option.
Why The LyxPro SPA-8?
If budget is your biggest concern, the LynxPro SPA-8 offers a small, versatile PA speaker at around $100. While there are limitations in volume and sound quality that may not compare with some other products ohn this list, it does offer good value for money.
The Mackie Thump Go is part of Mackie’s portable PA speaker system range and is an excellent on-the-go, battery-powered speaker for parties, small busking gigs, conferences, and more. The Mackie Thump Go marries cutting-edge hardware with fresh digital technology to bring you a user-friendly and incredibly handy portable PA system.
The Mackie Thump Go accepts two wired connections in the form of XLR/TRS combo jacks, as well as supporting Bluetooth pairings. There’s a link/thru output for an additional speaker/monitor.
The Mackie Thump Go has several operating modes, each designed for specific purposes. There is a speech mode, which adjusts the frequency response to compliment the human voice, and a music mode to enhance music playback.
There are also outdoor and indoor voicings, which tweak the frequency response and imaging accordingly, as well as a music ducking mode, which automatically lowers the volume of music when signal from a microphone is detected, allowing your announcements to always be heard loud and clear above the music. Lastly, there’s a super handy feedback elimination system built in, saving loads of troubleshooting time, especially since there is no onboard equalizer on this speaker.
Otherwise, the Mackie Thump Go’s 8-inch speaker sounds incredible for all styles of music and at all listening levels.
Being super portable and lightweight, the Mackie Thump Go is great for busking shows, conferencing/events, or even for casual music listening or house parties. It’s rather limited in terms of connectivity, but if you’re after a simple, easy-to-navigate setup, this system is the one for you, and is priced very reasonably considering its capabilities.
Why The Mackie Thump Go?
The Mackie Thump Go is a unique-looking PA system that caters to smaller to medium-sized gatherings and is perhaps closer to a Bluetooth speaker than a traditional PA system. If you’re after the versatility that comes with battery-powered PA systems, this may be what you’re after.
The Bose S1 Pro is an ultra-portable PA system ideal for busking gigs, conferencing/teaching, or house parties. The S1 Pro is incredibly lightweight, durable, and easy to use. While it’s limited in terms of connectivity, its battery-powered and very portable nature means it should mostly be used for simpler setups.
The Bose S1 Pro has two XLR/TRS combo jacks and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for playback options. The XLR/TRS channels have inline equalizers for bass and treble and their reverb control- the auxiliary channel does not. The Bose S1 Pro also accepts Bluetooth pairings and can establish and maintain connections over an impressively long distance.
As for outputs, there is a line output (TRS or ¼-inch) for adding an additional speaker to the system. The volume controls for each channel are found on the speaker’s side rather than on the channel strip. This can be confusing at first but makes sense for quick adjustments, especially if you’re using it in its angled position for better coverage or for stage monitoring.
The Bose S1 Pro is surprisingly loud for its size and sounds incredible at all volume levels. The inline equalizer on each wired channel allows for some tonal tweaking, though the speaker itself has a built-in adaptive equalizer to shape the sound signature according to its surroundings or placement since it can either be straight, horizontal or tilted backward.
The Bose S1 Pro, unfortunately, can’t be mounted on a speaker stand, though the ability to tilt or rotate it makes it rather versatile. The S1 Pro can be either AC-powered or run on its battery, which lasts around 11 hours.
Since this is a lot smaller than some of the others on this list, it’s difficult to recommend it as a FOH-style PA for small gigs. However, I feel it can certainly do the trick under the right circumstances. I wish this speaker could be stand-mounted, but again, the tilt-able design sort of makes up for it. The Bose S1 Pro is incredibly easy to set up and use, and the onboard battery is a great bonus, especially considering it has quite a long lifespan of around 11 hours. The Bose S1 Pro is excellent for house parties, small gigs, or anything where you need one or two sources quickly connected, balanced, and ready to project.
Why The Bose S1 Pro?
In our opinion, the Bose S1 Pro is the best offering when it comes to the smaller, versatile PA system that brings with it a lot of the comforts of a portable Bluetooth speaker but with the functionality of a PA system. It also brings some of the best sound quality for a speaker of this format.
The Rockville RPG122K PA System includes one powered and one passive 12” speaker. There is a speaker output to link to the passive speaker for a left/right PA configuration. There are two speaker stands with a ¼ speaker cable to link the two speakers. Also included is a switchable cable microphone with a cable. The MP3 input can be operated via a remote control that is supplied with the system.
The primary Rockville RPG122K powered speaker also doubles as the mixer with all the inputs. There are three channels, each with independent volume control. The first two channels offer the choice of XLR or ¼ inch jack inputs, while the third channel controls the stereo RCA input and MP3 inputs. A switch allows you to select either RCA or MP3.
The MP3 input panel includes inputs for SD card, USB, or Bluetooth. There is a mode button to switch between the three inputs. Other MP3 controls include play/pause, track-skip forward/backward, repeat, and a six preset pre-programmed EQ. These settings can also be controlled via remote control.
In the master section is a master volume, bass, and treble adjustment. A ¼ inch speaker out allows you to link from the primary speaker to the second passive speaker.
The Rockville RPG122K is fairly loud, but there is a noticeable drop-off in the low range, which can also distort in the medium-low end when pushed too hard. The midrange is a little boxy, which will be an issue for live musicians and speech. However, the system was designed for music and DJ applications, and for this, the RPG122K is perfect.
Even for DJs, the RPG122K system does lack in sub-bass so consider purchasing one of Rockville’s RBG subwoofers which are available as 10”, 12”, 15”, or 18” active speakers. For the RPG122K, I would recommend either the 15” or 18” active subwoofer.
The Rockville RPG122K is an excellent rig for DJs, karaoke, and house parties. The system is designed for these sorts of music applications where you want to get a party started.
The Rockville RPG122K system is not recommended for live music applications due to the lack of features singers and instruments require. The microphone works well for announcements but won’t be great for long talks or speeches.
Why The Rockville RPG122K?
The Rockville RPG122K is another budget-focused solution that excels at connectivity, versatility, and ease of use. This is one of the better options for a larger system under $500.
Buyer’s Guide – What To Know When Buying a PA System
While we’ve listed our favorite PA systems for all budgets, whether you’re an event host or DJ. In order to assist you in making the best purchase decision, we recommend taking the following topics into account:
One of the most important considerations when purchasing a PA system is to consider the size of the audience you need to cater to. For smaller events, you’ll find some great affordable options that won’t break the bank. On the other hand, if you’re looking to cater to a 200-person crowd, you will need to invest considerably more money in a system. We’ve listed the crowd size these speakers should be able to cater to.
Sound quality is an important factor in most PA systems. If you’re going to be entertaining a crowd or hosting an event, you will want to ensure the experience is good for the crowd. Having bad quality sound in a PA system is a trait you want to avoid at all costs, as this could cause substantial damage to your brand. You’ll also want to ensure that the sound quality accurately represents the services you’re providing. Of course, not all uses require the same quality – so you’ll need to balance your sound quality needs with your budget.
If you’re going to be using your PA system for music, you’ll also want to consider the bass response, as some PA systems do well at the mids and highs but only really shine when paired with a dedicated subwoofer. It is often worth investing more in a PA system with larger drivers that do better in the low-end range rather than investing in a separate subwoofer.
For those who are looking for a dedicated PA system that remains in a single location, portability is not going to be of concern. However, if you’re a DJ, musician, or speaker that finds themselves moving their PA systems around a lot, you should consider the portability factor of your system to make your setups less frustrating. Larger systems will typically be more cumbersome by nature, but there are also systems on the market that offer the same volume capabilities but with glaring differences in their portability.
Consider the inputs and outputs you require for your PA system. While there are some standard connections (with XLR being the most prevalent), you’ll find that the number of connections offered by the mixer varies between models. Some PA speakers also offer Bluetooth connectivity, which can be very useful for smaller party environments.
Your budget is going to end up sculpting your buying decisions; it’s arguably the most important factor when going into any purchase. At the lowest tier, you should expect to spend between $100-$200 on a smaller PA speaker, typically those that are a PA/Bluetooth speaker hybrid. For a more traditional PA system, you can expect to pay around $500-$600 in the mid-tier and then expect to pay closer to $1000 for a larger system that caters to a bigger audience.
PA System Lingo Explained
Need some help understanding your watts from dBs? Don’t worry; it’s not as difficult to understand as it sounds. In this section, I’ll briefly take you through the technical jargon you’re bound to come across when buying a new PA system:
What Does PA Stand For?
PA is the acronym used for a public address system which refers to a speaker (or speakers) used to produce sound (speech or music) to an audience. A PA system can be made up of a single speaker with a microphone, MP3 player, or even multiple speaker set-ups found at concerts and festivals.
Wattage is often the primary metric people look at when buying speakers. Watts is the measurement of audio power transferred from an amplifier to a speaker. Wattage is important because it determines how powerful your speakers are. The more watts, the bigger the audience and venue you’re able to fill. Watts is not a measurement of volume – that is measured in decibels (dB).
It’s important to note that you should only take into account two wattage specifications when considering a PA system – RMS (root means squared) or peak output. RMS is the average power output an amplifier will produce, while the peak is the maximum power output.
Some manufacturers will include a Program Power (P.M.P.O.). This is an irrelevant metric and should be ignored. Only consider RMS and Peak, with RMS being the most important metric as this is the nominal/ average power output your speakers will produce.
In simple terms, a decibel is a measurement to gauge how loud something is. Similar to how miles are used to measure distance. The amount of decibels a speaker can produce is usually listed under ‘sensitivity’ on a specification sheet. This universal standard for calculating sensitivity is measuring 1W of sound at 1 meter.
The sensitivity and wattage specs should be considered together to determine how loud and efficient a speaker will be. It’s tough to gauge exactly – only when you actually hear a speaker can you determine the speaker’s “truth”. Look at our list of the loudest Bluetooth speakers on the market.
Frequency response is a difficult spec to determine the sound profile of a speaker on paper. Human hearing can pick up frequencies from 20Hz to 20kHz, which is often referred to as full range (as this is the full range of human hearing). Many speakers list a full-range response but what this actually sounds like in practice is something completely different.
This is because a frequency response is not perfectly linear. You can have a 20Hz to 20kHz response, with some frequencies being louder than others. For example, a 10” speaker is not efficient enough to produce sub-bass frequencies at high volumes but can produce mid-range and high frequencies very well.
The typical 10” speaker can have a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response, but the 20Hz to around 200Hz (all the sub-frequency range) will be up to 12dB lower than the rest of the frequency range. So listening to how a speaker performs is very important to determine exactly how much of the frequency response is audible and at what levels.
You can read more on frequency response and how it affects your music in our comprehensive guide.
EQ stands for equalization and can be used as a noun or a verb in the sound industry. As a noun, it describes a piece of equipment used to adjust audio frequencies. As a verb, you EQ a voice or instrument to boost or cut frequencies to get your desired sound.
Volume vs. Gain
On all professional mixers, as well as some entry-level units, you will have gain and volume on an input channel. At first glance, they appear to do the same thing – turn the volume up and down. They do, but for different uses.
Take a garden hose with an attachment on the end. By opening and closing the hose attachment, you can increase and decrease the volume of water that comes out. However, the tap determines the pressure you send to the actual hose attachment. So if the tap is turned on a little, you won’t have a lot of water to work with, too much pressure, and you’ll battle to control the volume of water effectively.
Think of gain as the tap and volume of the hose attachment. You want to open the gain so you have enough of an audio signal to work with but not too much that you can’t push the fader to at least 90% on the mixer.
A pad is an attenuation switch that allows you to decrease the input of a channel or piece of equipment. Usually, a pad will range from -10dB to -30dB (depending on the mixer). However, the most common is -20dB on a mixer input channel.
A pad is useful for instruments that produce a high-gain output – especially guitars, keyboards, and sometimes vocals. When the input signal is significantly high, and you can’t gain down any lower, a pad is used to drop the level giving you better control.
An XLR is a three-pin audio connector used in professional audio equipment.