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Portable PAs: Big Sound in a Small Package

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Portable PAs: Big Sound in a Small Package

Can everyone at the back hear me?

When it comes to buying or renting a PA, whether you are looking for a single microphone system for a speaking engagement, or a full rig for a wedding or dance hall dust-up, the less you have to worry about the better – particularly in the inevitable panic leading up to a show.

Once upon a time it took a small truck to lug around a basic PA system, including microphones, mixers, amplifiers, preamplifiers, EQs, crossovers, reverbs, monitors, and sets of speakers the size of small refrigerators.

Each PA component was “its own box”, and it took a lot of time, technical expertise, and milk crates full of wires and cables to assemble and get up and running.

In this situation, it's easy to see how the expression “the most important piece of PA equipment is a good soundman” emerged.  Indeed, nothing can replace an experienced soundman, and a high-level of engineering expertise is mandatory for any major sound installation or music event. 

Designed for mobility, Yorkville's 43-pound, 400-watt Excursion Mini Compact PA  features a powered subwoofer with an integrated 4-channel mixer, and high-efficiency stackable satellite speakers that connect via an innovative "pole-through" conductor design, so no extra cables are required.

 

What power and size of PA do I need?

Larger clubs and bars that regularly host musical acts usually have a permanent in-house system, and regular or on-call soundmen familiar with the room and setup. But for venues where a sound system isn’t provided, there are great sounding portable PA systems available that won’t break either your back or your pocketbook, nor require the knowledge of a mysterious guild to plug in and configure.

Thanks to compact mixers and powered speakers,  PA components are increasingly being combined together by manufacturers into fewer modular units. With fewer working parts and cable connections, there is less chance of something getting plugged in backwards, or worse, a blown speaker or mismatched amplifier going up in a puff of smoke – not the best way to end an evening!


 

Monster Truck Ghetto Blaster
Taking no chances:  erring on the side of enough power

 

To choose an appropriate PA, there are few things you should establish right off:

• How big is the space or venue?
• How many people will be in the audience?
• What kind of musical environment is it?

Amplifying a dance band with a live drummer and heavy bass, or an electronic duo with a drum machine and keyboards requires significantly more power than a solo singer-songwriter in an intimate nightclub setting.

Naturally you want to attract as many listeners as possible, but unfortunately the more people there are in the audience, the more sound they will absorb. 

Its usually a good idea to err on the side of more than enough power. You can always turn down, but you can’t always turn up.

The following chart is rough guide to give you an idea how much PA system power you might need depending on the venue, style of music, and audience size:

 

 

Conference room or café
(50 people)

Small club or auditorium
(200 people)

Theatre, church, or dance hall
(500 people)

Speech

50

200

500

Acoustic (w/singers)

100

400

1,000

Jazz band

150

600

1,500

Classical group, chorus

200

800

2,000

Rock band

225

900

2,250

Dance, electronic

250

1,000

2,500


PA system requirements (in watts RMS)

 


Keywords: pro audio, PAs, portable, mixers, speakers, amplifiers

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