Every person on a stage—whether they’re a singer, an educator, or a corporate speaker—wants to get their message or music heard by the audience around them. If you have nothing but an instrument and your voice, however, achieving total audio reach can be quite difficult. This is especially true if you’re performing in a noisy music venue or speaking to hundreds of people in a large function hall. The best way to amplify your sounds is by using a public address system, or PA system for short.
Fundamentally speaking, this audio system is made up of various equipment that converts vocalisations and sounds into signals, processes and mixes these signals electronically, and broadcasts said signals through a speaker or speaker set. That said, there are different types of PA systems in the market, all with different features, capabilities, and functionalities that set them apart from the rest.
If you’re the type to hop from venue to venue, one type of PA system that may best suit your style is a portable PA system. As useful as this device is, it’s not for everyone. This article will delve into the things you should know and consider before picking a portable PA system. Let’s begin!
Types of Portable PA Systems
Portable PA systems are all-in-one PA systems that are designed for mobility. They tend to be more compact than full PA systems. They get the job done for smaller-scale venues like classrooms and dive bars, but they’re typically stripped of more advanced features due to their smaller size, making them less useful when amplifying sound in large venues like full-sized arenas.
That said, many portable PA systems in the market are still very usable and feature-rich. Portable PA systems come in different types, with each type being suited for different types of speakers and environments.
These are some of the common types of PA systems in the market:
- Wireless PA systems: This PA system utilises a wireless microphone, a rechargeable battery (4-6 hour battery life), a speaker, a wireless receiver, and a compact build. They’re small, handheld, and easy to carry, making them perfect for speaking events, guided tours, and lectures.
- Wired PA system: This PA system relies on physical cables to connect the microphone, speakers, and mixer. It’s often more stable in terms of connectivity compared to wireless systems. It’s ideal for venues where a consistent audio connection is critical, like musical performances or large indoor events.
- Bluetooth system: This PA system allows other devices to stream on it, such as cellphones, laptops, computers, or tablets. It’s preferable for casual events or conference meetings when you just need a PA system that offers a quick and easy set-up.
There are several PA systems in the market built for a specific purpose. Be sure to research and shop around to pick the right one for you. If you need more help narrowing down your options, you can read these tips for choosing a portable PA system.
How to Choose a Portable PA System
Portable PA systems come in various shapes and sizes, and it can feel overwhelming to pick the right one, especially considering their steep price tag.
If you’re stuck in that same dilemma, it’s important to organise your thoughts and focus on the fundamentals.
Here are some of the considerations you should consider when picking a portable system:
PA systems can range anywhere between $300 to $1,500. The lower end typically features basic models that are suitable for intimate venues or personal use. These systems have fewer features and lower wattage.
Higher up in price and you can get units with superior power output, more audio inputs, and added features in the mixture. The sound quality also improves drastically.
Before sinking your teeth into a portable PA system, take your needs into account first and foremost. If you don’t plan on using a PA system a lot, you can settle for a budget system. If you do intend to use it often and at large venues, invest in a higher-quality system that can last you a long time.
2) Power Wattage
The power wattage is a key consideration for all users of a PA system, but most especially musicians. For people or bands who tour and perform in large venues, having a wattage of at least 1,000 watts is optimal to ensure that the performance fills every corner of the room.
However, if you’re a lecturer or speaker talking in a somewhat large enclosed space, having a power wattage of 100 watts is usually more than enough.
In the end, it’s all about striking the right balance.
You don’t want to overpower the venue with your voice, but at the same time, you don’t want to feel like you can’t be heard by people far away from you. This is especially true in classroom settings where you want your tech to help students keep engaged and focused.
The portability of the device is another aspect to consider. Do you intend to set up your PA system in different rooms throughout the day? Do you intend to walk around different sections of a building with your PA system, like when you’re guiding a field trip or tour?
There are many PA systems that offer varying levels of mobility. Some can be wireless but the connection is tethered to the room where the mixer is. Others could be carried on your person anytime. Be sure to pick one that matches your intended use case.
4) Wired or Wireless
Wireless PA systems may seem like a no-brainer option if you want a portable device, but wired devices also offer their own unique set of perks. Wired systems tend to have better sound quality at a more cost-effective price point.
They also don’t ever run out of battery, making them a more reliable option. That said, if you find a battery life of 4 to 6 hours sufficient and plan to move around a lot, going wireless is the way to go.
5) Mixer Features And Cord Compatibility
The mixer helps balance the various audio inputs from their respective sources. It also helps change and enhance the sound quality, allowing people to change the reverb, faders, equalisation controls, and more. It can come in analog and digital form, with the latter being the more feature-rich option thanks to its preprogramming capabilities.
Furthermore, PA systems also come in different cords and connectors. These include XLR, one-fourth-inch jacks, and RCA, to name a few. Be sure to pick a PA system that can connect to your desired cords for an optimal audio-producing experience.
6) Speaker Type and Quality
Speakers interpret the signals coming from the mixer and amplifier, turning them into sound that can be heard by the audience.
There are different types of speakers. There’s a woofer type, which can reproduce low frequencies; a mid-range type, which can reproduce mid frequencies; and a tweeter type, which can reproduce the highest frequencies.
Furthermore, there’s another key classification of speakers buyers should be aware of, passive and active speakers.
Passive speakers require an external amplifier and are often chosen for their versatility and customisation options. Active speakers, on the other hand, have built-in amplifiers that are user-friendly and easier to set up.
Keep all these factors in mind when picking your PA system. Above all, be sure to choose a speaker that’s portable, powerful for your venue, and durable.