Nothing beats holding the power of a solid PA system in your hands (well, perhaps not literally). For those who like to MC, DJ, perform at church, schools or auditoriums, or merely want to play sounds to a large amount of people at a decently sized volume, you’ve come to the right place. Although many build their own, others are looking for the best PA system that comes with all of the necessary pieces of gear. Today we review the top 10 best PA systems for the money.
What exactly is a PA system?
A PA system or “public address system” is an electronic sound amplification tool with a distribution system that has loudspeakers, an amplifier and microphones. It is used when a person wants to address the public or a decent amount of people. This can be during the announcement of a movement at a rally, in air terminals or a sports stadium — you name it. This term may also be used when a system has a mixing console with amplifiers together with loudspeakers for music or for speech. It is used to reinforce the sound source like from recorded music or when a person gives a speech or when a sound needs to be distributed in an entire building or venue (here’s looking at you, singers and rappers!).
A simple PA system can be used in a small venue like a small bar, church or school auditorium. Those with many speakers and some higher power numbers are used in commercial buildings, larger locations, or institutions. It can be installed in a building and may have many microphones in different rooms and the occupants may respond to the announcement. With these, there are numerous possibilities and it all depends on what you plan on doing with yours.
Don’t forget there is always the route of building your own PA system (linked to a great article by Sweetwater) or PA systems in-depth (by Musician’s Friend). In here however, we review the 10 best PA systems that come ready-to-use out of the box, so just keep that in mind.
How to choose your PA system
- Your budget – We’ll be honest — we’re dealing with a pretty big range when it comes to PA systems. Some go for a few hundred bucks, while grabbing a top-of-the-line system could go up to a thousand dollars or more. If you have the cash, we say go high since this is a pretty big investment; however, if you’re on a decent budget, there are some options for you as well.
- How loud? This is all really dependent on your uses (which is down the list a bit) because it will determine how loud you’ll actually have to go. For those looking to power up a house-sized party, medium-sized church or other venues\environments that don’t need to reach thousands of people, most solutions in here will help you and you won’t have to worry about overall power or volume.
- Portability – There are some great PA systems out there that are strictly portable, while others come with both battery-powered and outlet capabilities. Technically, all PA systems are portable, but whether you need to fit it in a smaller car and don’t have a truck, need batteries-only and more will depend on your use as well. Make sure you’re near a power source if it isn’t battery-powered.
- Additional gear needed – Some need additional cables, an entire mixer (check out our best audio mixer guide), speaker stands, microphones and more, many of these give quite the package if that’s what you’re looking for. You may also need to factor these additional pieces of equipment into your overall budget before you spend it all on a PA system.
- The use of your system? We’ve stated this a few times, and although you may not know the exact use of your PA system yet (or what you plan on using it for in the future down the road), it’s important to see what you need to spend extra money on — portability, power, or all the gear possible? Are you using it for a karaoke system? Perhaps live musical performances or addresses?
The top 10 best PA systems for the money
To start off our list, here’s one of our top picks for the best PA system in the world today. The Bose L1 is definitely high-end and in the larger price-point, but it’s well worth the investment if you wanted something top-of-the-line. You’re getting some great portability, an integrated bass speaker in a power stand, two separate setup positions (collapsed for some spaces that are smaller or extend it for larger areas), two channels (they call it ToneMatch — fixed presets for mics and acoustic guitars), and lastly something called ‘Bose Spatial Dispersion‘ technology (helps portray yours end evenly across the stages and to your audience as a whole). This one is great for music performances, on-the-go DJ’s, classrooms, business outings and others — it’s super versatile to accommodate different types of setups with amazing sound technology. Not to mention it’s Bose — here’s our number one pick for the best PA system.
Up next, we have another high-end model to keep our best PA system guide going strong. If you weren’t feeling the L1 and wanted something a tad bit cheaper yet still high in quality, the Fishman SA220 is highly reputable in the PA system game. Here we have two mic/instrument channels, some high-quality preamps built-in the speakers themselves, a 3-band EQ, phantom power for your condenser or dynamic microphones, effects loops, feedback-fight help technology, and some nifty reverb if you’re into that. The specs include a whopping six 4″ mid-woofers, 1″ neoydmium soft dome tweets (level control to 20 watts), and an aux input with leve control. It isn’t the biggest and baddest, but it surely meets our criteria for the best PA system because of its ratio of price-to-quality — Fishman is famous in the PA world.
To get back down to more of the lower price-point if you weren’t feeling the previous high-end picks, this is one of the best PA systems because it’s a complete package for any person who wants to have an all-in-one 12 inch PA system. It comes with anything you may have in mind when it comes to additional features. The pro audio speakers are 12″ long with 1000 watts of total power — it isn’t going to break windows or anything but will get the job done for smaller crowds and other uses within that arena. The system has the master active speakers which feature a built-in amplifier with a second passive speaker that is also 12″. It also comes with stands which may be used to mount the speakers as well as connection cables and microphones. With only minimal set up, you will be able to get your party running in a few minutes. This is the best PA system recommended for those on a budget using it for smaller live music gigs, house-sized parties, karaoke and DJ applications. The Rockville RPG122K can be connected through USB or Bluetooth integration which is never a bad thing, either.
Fender Passport Event
This PA system has been in production for some time now and has gone through several different improvements. We all know Fender holding the higher-priced but top-of-the-line gear reputation in the market. This version has the best features compared to the older models and it reflects the best value for a PA system if you aren’t on a tight budget. The system is middle-sized and it offers a passport line while featuring Bluetooth connectivity. The Bluetooth connectivity is a self-contained portable audio system and it includes everything the user needs to enjoy a great sound wherever you go. The system is perfect for portability and can be carried like a suitcase as well as be flipped open to install it. This one also comes with a microphone, a powered mixer and of course the speaker cabinets. The Fender Passport Event can be used in meetings, worship or sporting events.
This is the best PA system if you were in need of a model that is wireless and portable for a perfect option within a smaller crowd or social gathering. It helps the user get access to a powerful audio output with wireless freedom and mobility around the area. The built-in pin dock or iPod lets the user connect to an iPhone and iPod in order to play their favorite music and it also keeps the device charged. The system is capable of powering a 500 watt system with 8 woofers and 3 compression speakers. The system has one VHF wireless microphone and it is used to operate at a certain distances — so keep that in mind if you intend to walk far away from the unit. The Pyle PWMA860i also has a telescoping handle with castor wheels to offer portability as well as uses a rechargeable battery. Not too bad for those looking to travel with their PA system.
Peavey Audio Performer Package
This is an all-in-one audio performer pack, and it is pretty complete and portable at that. It has a new Pvi 4B powered mixer and a PV series microphone with accessories and loudspeakers. The audio performer pack is easy to use and it has a powerful sound for small performances with multipurpose use in churches or schools and other intimate settings. It features rugged and powerful rotary controls that can be used in adjusting the level, tone and reverb. The Peavey Performer Package has a set that includes four balanced microphones with 1/4 TRS inputs with the tape and CD input together with the level control, the line out of the connection and external amplifiers in order to record the output. Peavey Audio is well-known for their popular audio products so give this one a look.
Behringer Europort EPS500MP3
This is a PA system that can be used to turn any room into an almost-auditorium. Behringer has made quite a few appearances in our shopping guides and reviews, especially as the budget-friendly recommendations. All the basic needs for sound-reinforcement are available in just a single and ready to go kit. At the center, there is a solid 6 channel powered mixer with the four “Xenyx preamps” with some comprehensive setup options. The dual 250-watt amplifiers offer decent power for the 8 inch loudspeakers of the system. The amplifier has been designed in such a way that it will house the mixer together with the microphones and the cables. Wherever you wish to use it, the Behringer EPS500MP3 will cover all your needs (unless you’re trying to power up an entire festival or something). The system can be bundled up in a compact package and you can also use MP3 with it.
PowerWerks PW50 RMS
This is a decent quality PA system from PowerWerks and it has been designed to be used with different PA applications like audio devices, drum machines, keyboards, instruments and vocals. It has a 4.5-inch speaker as well as a high frequency driver to get balanced mid-and high range sounds while it helps the vocals cut within the mix. It has a heavy-duty steel grill for durability and it features a 1/4 subwoofer output when there is a need to connect an optional subwoofer. The program has a master level control and twin 4.5 drivers with a high frequency horn. The PowerWerks PW50 RMS has a 3 channel mixer with instrument inputs, and the two can be used together. Powerlink circuits let the user link two or even more units in one system but you’ll have to buy those separately or use the ones you already have.
Yamaha STAGEPAS 400I
This is a powered mixer with a set of PA speakers which come in a single lightweight package with the ideal solution for practicing with bands, public speakers and solo entertainers. It has two lightweight and sleek speakers with a detachable powered mixer, a pair of speaker cables and a power cord. The system supports an iPod connection and the user can enjoy high quality playback. It can also charge the iPhone and iPod. The SPX reverb means that one knob will give access to four high quality reverb settings which are perfect for acoustic and vocal instruments. The only thing you have to do is turn the knob in order to change the reverb type or time. The feedback suppressor of the Yamaha STAGEPAS 400I also avoids any feedback that may be uncomfortable.
Fender Passport Venue PA
This thing is just a monster — you can achieve the sound you want with this PA system. Fender’s second model in here has a compact size but you should not let it fool you. The system supports 600 watts of power and it is an all-in-one unit. It has an integrated 10-channel mixer, which is enough input for an entire band. Every channel has a 2-band EQ, reverb and volume so that you may choose the volume you want. There are two speakers that give the user the coverage he wants with the best audio clarity. The USB ports can be used to play back the music and to record the music directly into a USB flash drive. The Portable PA has the functionality and the output that the user needs for the gig. If you want some powerful speakers and a mixer, give the Fender Passport Venue PA a good look — it tops off our list to finish strong.