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A Beginner's Guide to PA Speakers

What are PA speakers?

A PA (public address) system is an amplification structure that takes a source signal at input and makes it louder at output. Its basic structure typically consists of a sound source, an amplifier and a loudspeaker, the latter part of which is the main focus of this guide.

Different types of PA speaker

There are two different types of speaker, active and passive. Actives, which are generally looked on as ideal for those who do not know a lot about PA systems, have built-in power amps, making the system much simpler as all a musician needs to set one up are the speakers, leads and a mixer. In addition to convenience, they can also help to improve sound quality. Conversely, passives - which do not have built-in power amps - do have some advantages. They are significantly lighter and if something goes wrong, it is probable that the user will only lose the use of the speaker, not both the speaker and the amp. Those setting up their PA system correctly, however, regardless of which amp they choose to use, will likely be able to stay clear from any such problems.

What to look for when buying a PA speaker

Power is a big issue to consider before purchasing a PA speaker. In general, the more watts a speaker has the louder the volume it is able to produce. Those hoping to use the speakers so that acoustic instrument or vocal sounds can be heard above a drum kit should probably be looking at models with 200 watts continuous power per side and those who do not require such a level of volume can make do with less.

Size is also an important factor. A HF compression driver or 12-inch low-mid drivers and piezo horn are suitable for those using the speakers for vocals or instruments that do not have much low frequency, although 200 to 300 watts of power will be required to help the sounds be heard above a full band. For low-frequency instruments and brass then 15-inch low-mid drivers and a one-inch HF compression driver with at least 300 watts output are a better fit. A sub will be required for those with further bass frequency demands.

PA speakers on the market

There are a host of active and passive speakers available in the market place. The 180W 10" Active PA Speaker for example costs £129.95 and offers users crisp and clear audio in the live concert environment. It is designed to produce loud, high quality sounds in addition to providing users with a quick and convenient setup.

In a higher price bracket is the Yamaha MSR100 Powered PA Speaker for £319. Built to be small and light, the multi-purpose loudspeaker can act as a small-scale FOH PA system, a personal stage monitor or a utility speaker for the most common band instruments, including keyboards, drums, guitars and vocals.

Nearer to the top of the range is the Mackie SRM450 V2 Active PA Speaker for £499. The 400-watt 12-inch bi-amplified portable device boasts pure studio monitor-quality sound and control at big-time live performance sound levels. Power-efficient technology means heat from the device is reduced, which in turn improves sound quality and ensures it has a longer lifespan.

An example of a passive device is the £39.95 P-12H 150W PA Speaker. The 12-inch instrument features a piezo tweeter and is designed to offer a clear and focused sound, good treble and mid-range definition and solid bass response to those seeking good value for money.

Geared more towards professionals is the Peavey Messenger Pro 12 PA Speaker for £110. Built to look and sound good, the 12-inch speaker can deal with 1,000 watts of power at its peak and can also manage 250 watts RMS continuous and 500 watts program.

Posted on 22 May 2009 16:43 to category : Tips and advice

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