When you’re searching for the perfect PA system, there are a few things to know about first. The type of PA system that you buy will be decided by what you’re going to use it for, and how much sound you actually need to produce. Finding something that can deliver a great quality every time you need it for live sound may seem difficult, but this guide will help you make the most informed decision possible.
The Basic Categories
There are three basic categories of PA system that you need to know about. The first category is personal PA systems, the second is Medium-sized PA systems and the last is Full Scale PA systems.
Personal PA Systems: These are single-unit setups or miniature speakers like these wireless sound system options from Galaxy Audio. These are perfect for traveling stand-up comedians (non-professional), musicians, speechmakers, business leads doing a talk or holding a meeting.
Medium-Sized PA Systems: Instead of single-units, this is a pair of stand-mounted devices that are typically placed on each far side of the stage or appropriate area. Supported by a few monitor wedges, so that you can hear yourself at the front of the stage, these are a popular option for lots of musicians in particular because they can stretch out to a slightly bigger audience.
Full Scale PA System: As the name suggests, this setup is more complex and full-on than the other two options above. There are usually multiple monitors and speakers widespread to create the ultimate noise output. These are built for arenas and large concerts or gigs, or even bigger events for business. It is usually a more professional setup and takes expertise and time to put it together properly.
The Types of Power
There are two distinct categories when it comes to how these PA speakers are powered. Firstly, there are active speakers, which have their own power source and no internal crossover, for instance, batteries. Then there are passive speakers that require an independent power source of their own.
Perks of Active Speakers: Who Are They Suited For?
Active speakers are highly portable, easier to store, less complicated to set up, and generally more convenient for restaurant owners, small-scale musicians and bands, and general team events for fewer people. They don’t require an external power source, which makes them fairly self-sufficient, as long as the battery is charged or durable.
Perks of Passive Speakers: Who Are They Suited For?
Passive speakers tend to be a part of a bigger system, which means they may have the edge when it comes to superior sound production. They are generally featured in bigger professional setups for larger crowds and larger areas.
The Watt Factor
Ultimately, if you don’t have enough power, the sound you’re producing will be compromised. This is all down to how much wattage a PA is built to handle. If you are looking for a big crowd sound, you might need at least 1500W to make the vision come to life. However, in a smaller crowd (say 50-90 people), anything around the 700 mark should be enough. It is essential to get this right because if you are pushing something that does not have the right capacity, your sound will not be the best it can be. This will lead to people not wanting to listen, and you not enjoying the experience as much as you are supposed to either.
Where do you go with your PA system? If the answer is here, there, and everywhere it is going to be important to carry the speaker around with ease. While it is always important to invest in proper protective casing, you don’t need it to be too heavy if you are a frequent traveling performer. Full-scale PA systems are not exactly a viable option if you are on the road a lot, especially if you are using public transport to get about because they are simply too big, with too many parts to lug around.
How much money you have to spend on the PA will of course determine what you are actually able to buy in the end. It is worth taking a good look at the second-hand market because there are often plenty of deals here for used PA speakers and even full systems that have been well-maintained and are now being sold at a fair price. Be careful if you go down this route because there may be the odd person out there with a bogus listing looking to make some quick cash from a PA that doesn’t work as well as it should anymore (or work at all).
Do You Need Mixers and Effects?
Are you a straightforward musician, or do you use advanced techniques in your set? If things like mixers and effects are important to what you’re putting out there, then you have to know which is the best PA system to support this. You may not need a separate mixer at all, especially if you are opting for the person PA system option as the majority of these devices have in-built mixer and effect dials on the speaker for your convenience. Yet, if you are looking for something that isn’t on offer with the PA system that you’re considering, it’s time to also start looking at ways to get what you need for your sound.
Do You Need a Subwoofer?
The next consideration is whether or not you need a subwoofer for your sound. Subwoofers essentially bring the bass as they are created to optimize the lower range of frequency on the scale. Subwoofers are fairly important, for instance, for bassists. They might not necessarily increase the volume of the whole set, but they will produce a fairer, more developed sound all around if they are used correctly. However, there is always the risk that the subwoofer drowns out or overpowers the rest of the PA, and it’s not always something that you need to have if it can be avoided. Some PA systems work just fine without one, especially for smaller outputs and fewer people.
The Question About Monitor Speakers
Monitor speakers are additional speakers used in sync with the PA. They are not always appropriate, but some performers like to have them as they can keep track of how they sound in a more direct way if a monitor is installed on stage in the optimal position. The need to hear yourself is nothing new, and it is especially important for band members, singers, and other categories of musicians who are doing their thing on stage, regardless of how big the crowd is! It can be hard to deliver the best performance ever if you don’t know how you’re sounding, and it tends to make a band play better together as well. There are two main types to consider.
Wedges: Wedges are called this because they are literally shaped like a wedge to maximize the efficacy of sound trajectory aimed at reaching the ears of the musician who needs it the most. They are subtle, and designed so that the audience is not impacted visually in any way while maintaining enough output to produce the desired effect for whoever is using it.
Side fills: Side fills are another option, and tend to be used on bigger sets where they are placed at the side of the stage. These are more common for larger setups.
When it comes to choosing the best PA system, you have a lot of things to think about. However, if you know exactly what you need, the process becomes a lot easier.