Which PA system is best?
PA systems are a must in any situation where speech or music needs to be projected over a large space or heard over a crowd. Whether you’re a DJ, musician, promoter or venue operator, owning your own PA system is a much more convenient and economical solution than having to rent one as needed.
Easily used for public speaking engagements, small musical performances, weddings and even home karaoke systems, the Behringer 8 PPA2000BT Ultra-Compact 2000-Watt 8-Channel Portable PA System is the best PA system for anyone looking to cover all their sound requirements. It has a compact design and powerful audio output.
What to know before you buy a PA system
PA system parts
Power amps amplify your audio, allowing you to pump your sound into large speakers or subwoofers. Be sure your speakers and power amp are compatible to avoid distorted audio and damage to equipment.
A mixer allows you to determine the volume of each audio track to ensure sound is balanced to your needs. Some mixers also have adjustments for stereo panning, compression, EQ and effects.
The size and quality of your speakers determine the volume and fidelity of your audio. Larger speakers allow for more bass while smaller speakers tend to produce thinner but more detailed sound.
Subwoofers are speakers engineered specifically for bass. For DJs and musicians, an additional subwoofer will produce the low, rumbling tones audiences expect from their favorite music. A subwoofer is not necessary for a PA used for speaking engagements.
The term “monitor” often is used as a synonym for “speaker.” However, when it comes to PA systems, the word is used specifically to describe speakers that allow the musician or speaker to hear themselves. Monitors often are on the floor and pointed at the performer.
If you wish to project human speech, singing or an acoustic instrument, a microphone is necessary to pick up audio from the source.
Consider the purpose for your PA system as well as its location. For example, if you are looking to amplify acoustic guitar performances in a small cafe, an overpowered system is an unnecessary expense. However, if you are in a band and often play at weddings or large venues, investment in a powerful, flexible PA system is a requirement.
Some PA systems are compact, all-in-one devices ideal for intimate gatherings and performances. Others are made up of multiple, large components spread out to provide sound for large audiences. Select a PA system that meets your needs but does not take up so much space that it becomes a hazard or hassle to move.
What to look for in a quality PA system
Unless you own a venue, rehearsal space or other property where your PA system will be a permanent fixture, portability is important. While it’s hard to avoid the cumbersome nature of heavy speakers, audio technology has improved to the point where big sound is achievable using relatively small equipment. Some systems specifically made for buskers and solo musicians even include built-in wheels for easy moving.
Some PA systems include audio effects such as delay and reverb. These effects are not necessary for public speaking but almost all singers and performers enjoy at least a touch of reverb on their vocals. Built-in effects allow you to color the audio coming out of your PA, giving you more flexibility when it comes to achieving your desired sound.
The mixer is the centerpiece of your PA system. It accepts sound from the source of your audio and allows you to customize it before it sends it out to your speakers and monitors. Even those using a PA for small speaking engagements benefit from a model that allows for EQ adjustment to accommodate different voices, room characteristics and speaking habits. The more audio adjustments your mixer allows you to make, the better your results can be. Many mixers have power amps built in.
Some PA systems include speaker stands, microphone stands, cables and more along with their basic components. These kits make PA purchasing easy by providing you with everything you need to begin amplifying sound right away.
How much you can expect to spend on a PA system
PA systems for large venues, department stores and other professional applications can cost tens of thousands of dollars. However, whether you’re in a band or simply wish to project speech, small to medium PA systems that cost between $500-$1,400 will satisfy the needs of most users.
PA system FAQ
Can you blow the speakers on a PA system?
A. Yes. Using a power amp with a higher output than the speakers are rated for is a quick way to end up with destroyed equipment. The easiest way to avoid this outcome is to select a PA system that includes all the parts you need. This way, you can ensure compatibility between components without needing to know the technical ins and outs of building your own system.
Can you use a PA system to play music off of iTunes, Spotify, etc.?
A. Yes. A PA system can be used to amplify any audio as long as you properly connect the source to your mixer. Many of today’s mixers are Bluetooth compatible.
Can you run a portable PA system off a battery?
A. Some PA systems designed for extreme portability allow for battery power. These generally are marketed to street performers and buskers who often find themselves without AC power. However, these units are not very loud and are best used for their intended purposes only.
What’s the best PA system to buy?
Top PA system
What you need to know: This powerful PA system’s speakers and mixer pack into an easily transported case.
What you’ll love: This model from Behringer, a company known for producing affordable, quality sound equipment, provides a lot of power in a compact package. Eight channels of audio, a flexible mixer and Bluetooth compatibility make this PA system great for a wide variety of applications.
What you should consider: This PA system does not include cables, speaker stands or a microphone.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.
Top PA system for the money
What you need to know: This budget PA from Fender comes in a kit that includes everything you need to start using it right out of the box.
What you’ll love: This bundle includes speaker stands, a microphone and cables. Bluetooth connectivity and compact portability make this PA system a great value.
What you should consider: This PA system’s mixer provides very limited audio adjustment options.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This compact PA system includes a subwoofer and features a unique tower design.
What you’ll love: Great for quick, small performances and speaking engagements, this PA’s all-in-one design makes it discreet enough for home use. It’s low price makes it an excellent purchase for anyone who wants to learn how to use a PA system with minimal investment.
What you should consider: Only three inputs and very limited mixing options make this PA unit only appropriate for small, simple applications. No microphone or cable is included.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon.
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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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