How To Choose A Small DJ PA System

Yamaha DXR

Yamaha’s new DXR range offers various combinations of active mids/tops and subwoofers that can be assembled into a PA system for small to medium gigs.

So you’re looking at DJ PA systems. Maybe you read part one of this two-part series, Small PA System Vs Monitor Speakers For DJing. Or maybe you’ve been asked to play some parties, or got a paid-for DJ booking.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided it’s time to upgrade your gear with a DJ PA system but you’re not sure where to start, in this article we’re going to arm you with all you need to make an informed choice.

The type of small PA system we’re looking at
Small PA systems come in all shapes and sizes. Karaoke type systems. Outdoor-style all-in-one system. Complex systems with equalisers and mixers built-in. For general DJing purposes, though, we’re going to make some assumptions that’ll help narrow down the field. We’re going to assume that you want to play to 50 to 200 people, with maybe 100-150 as the average.

We’re going to assume you’ll be running your DJ controller right into your PA, and any microphone use will also go through your DJ controller (or a small external mixer along with the output of your DJ controller), so you won’t need loads of inputs on the PA. And we’re going to assume you want something reasonably portable, that you can maybe even use in your practice studio instead of monitor speakers.

In short, we’re looking for versatile, reliable, good sounding and smallish. Oh, and of course cost is an issue – you’re going to want to know what the top whack brands for DJ PA systems are, but also what mid-range systems may also do the job and save you some money (cheap is always a mistake, we’re not going to go there).

But first, let’s get to know the various options and parts of PA systems a little better.

Get informed: What’s important when choosing…

Powered/active speakers vs separate amplifiers and speakers
In the past, it was usual to have amplifiers and speakers separate from each other, and it’s still quite common. But increasingly, powered or active speakers (the terms often get used interchangeably, although there is a technical difference) are more common. These are speakers with amplifiers built right there into the cabinet. (In some systems, the amplifier may even be built into only one cabinet, and the other speaker or speakers just link up to the “master” cabinet. We’ll look at some of these next week.)

B212D rear

The back of a typical active speaker. Note it has its own power, audio inputs and basic EQ/level controls. (Click to enlarge.)

Active systems have the advantage of the amps being matched perfectly to the speakers, of being less complex, and being easier to set up as well as carry. You don’t need to worry about things like active vs passive crossovers, bi-amping and all that stuff either. The disadvantage, though, is reduced flexibility. Generally, we’d recommend you go for powered/active speakers.

(If you do choose to go for passive speaker and amplifiers, make sure the amps are rated at at least a third more power output than the speakers are designed for – half as much again or even more is also fine. Contrary to popular belief, it’s speakers being driven by underpowered amps that tends to blow them, not overpowered.)

Subwoofer or not?
A subwoofer is a big, usually floor-standing speaker, that is designed to handle very low frequencies. While the “main” speakers are always sold as being up to this task, if you are playing to more than 150 people or if you are a bass lover (ie pretty much everyone reading this), you’re going to want a subwoofer. That’s why they’re pretty much a given for most DJ PA systems.

Typically, one subwoofer on its own is enough – bass is not very directional, so whether or not you need two is more dependent on how many people come to your parties than filling more of the room. As a rule, if you feel your small PA system is struggling, add a subwoofer to it rather than getting a bigger PA – it could be all you need to fix things.

What size speakers?
For 100 people parties, you may get away with 10″ drivers (that’s the size of the biggest of the two speakers each cabinet will typically contain), but 12″ or even 15″ would be better for 150 to 200 people. These will simply be louder.

From 250 up to 500 watt power or higher is about right (per speaker), although some all-in-one systems that we like deliver less; these are best for home and family party use. As far as the subwoofer goes, 12″ as a minimum for small events, but 15″ or 18″ is about right for size, and subwoofers should deliver at least as much power as your main speakers, and preferably more. Bass gets “soaked up” easily by roomfuls of people.

Plugging it all together
There are two types of connectors: Balanced and unbalanced. Unbalanced are always RCA-type: similar to the red/white leads and sockets you’ll have on your DJ controller. They’re fine for short distances. As soon as you want to use longer leads (say over 20ft), balanced are best, and that’s what I’d recommend you use to connect your controller and PA system – they are less prone to interference.

XLR connector

A balanced XLR lead. These are typically what you’ll use to get from your PA from your controller, although TRS balanced leads are also common.

They come in three types: Speakon, XLR, and TRS. Which you use doesn’t really matter, and will be dictated by what type of output you have on the back of your DJ controller (it’ll be TRS or XLR), and of course what type of inputs your powered speakers or amp have.

If your DJ controller doesn’t have balanced outputs at all, you can get away with RCA assuming your PA has RCA ins: I use it on our cheapo party PA all the time. But just be aware that if you’re using longer leads, interference is more likely. Balanced is always best for PA connections.

By the way, when it comes to wiring subwoofers or extra speakers in, most speakers some kind of “loop thru” system. That is how you can plug three (or more) speakers into the two outputs from your DJ controller.

Stands
It’s important to budget for decent speaker stands too. You don’t need them for the subwoofer, but you do for the two main speakers.

Stands have multiple advantages. As well as getting your speakers up out of harm’s way (ie nobody can put their drinks on them), stands let you position them at head height, and point them exactly where you want (usually at the dancefloor). This increases the effectiveness of the speakers, meaning you get louder, better sound for the same speaker than if you tried to position them on chairs, tables or worse, on the floor.

Obviously the most important thing with stands is safety, as you don’t want them toppling onto your crowd, but also bear in mind how small they fold up (and how easy they are to assemble), and how much they weigh.

All-in-one systems vs separates
Generally, your two main speakers and your subwoofer will be separate – their own power, their own built-in amplifiers, and so on.

Matrix B52 1000V2

The Matrix B52 1000V2 all-in-one small PA system packs down into its own small bag, complete with wheels.

While they will be designed so you can incorporate the subwoofer without needing a separate output for it (see above), and the manufacturer will suggest matches across their range for audio compatibility, that’s about as far as integration goes. They will also be sold singly.

But there are DJ PA systems that are more integrated. In these, all of the amplification is done in one speaker, and the others are merely slave speakers that feed from the master unit.

These can be light, portable and good value for money, but bear in mind the lack of flexibility – for instance, for very small gigs where otherwise you may choose not to take your sub-woofer, you’re stuck with it. These systems generally are aimed at filling smaller rooms, too, and bear in mind that if you’re planning on using your PA at home as well, such a system may be a more practical choice.

Brands and models

A good example of the all-in-one style would be the Matrix B52 1000V2 (above), which is the kind of system that can handle 50-100 people OK and is easy to cart around.

Moving up to DJ PA systems that can handle around 150 people, you’d be looking at mid-range brands like Behringer (Eurolive series, try the B212D or B215D speakers with B1800D subwoofer), Wharfedale Pro (look at the Titan range), and brands like Alto and Peavey too. Pricer brands include Mackie (the near-legendary SRM450s, or the Thump series), QSC (K series, of which we’ve heard good things about the K12 speakers and Ksub subwoofer), JBL EONs (515XT /518S) and systems from HK Audio, Yamaha and Electro-voice.

Finally…

It really isn’t worth buying dirt-cheap unheard of brands, as you really do get what you pay for with speakers. If you can’t afford a good mid or top brand, why not look at second-hand instead? This is nearly always the more sensible route.

We hope to carry a number of PA reviews over the coming months, but if you’ve got a PA you’re happy with and you care to share in the comments, I am sure it’ll be useful to readers looking to buy their first system.

So – do you own a PA system? Did you struggle to choose it? How does it perform, and are you happy with it or do you wish you’d chosen differently? Please feel free to tell us what you’ve got and how you rate it in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Very useful article thanks Phil. I am after a system for exactly this purpose / number of people. JBL EON 210p system looks super portable but given the requirements you talk about (and the fact you mention the bigger ones) I’m thinking it is too small?

    • Dj Cl.ear says:

      The advantage of latest EON’s speakers is that JBL invented and patented the unique Differential Drivers, which means they are the only Company with this Tech.
      In practical terms, these speakers are a third (A THIRD!) of the weight of the rest of good drivers, for the same output, plus comparatively better resolution up to 2kHz.
      On higher frequencies, they are fairly similar to others, unless you are able to locate models that use their excellent 2″ compression drivers, again the rest of the industry goes only up to 1″ or 1,5″, but I doubt JBL has released these Mid-High drivers in other lines than their top of the line… yet.

      So if you are looking for light and good speakers, EON is a good choice. And there are models with higher wattage and separate Subs as well, check specs.

  2. Good article. I especially agree with the bit about buying quality speakers. The speaker is potentially the weakest link in the audio quality chain and trying to get a decent sound out of a flimsy cabinet is doomed. Buy the products of companies that specialise in speakers, not the DJ electronics companies that just badge-up generic rubbish. They may be a bit cheaper, but their value for money can be atrocious.

  3. Great article!

    How about you add in another article the setup process (room equalization, feedback kills, delay compensation)? Most of the times I’ve experienced a PA system outside a club, nobody had done anything about these processes.

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      I can do that for you, but if you want to EQ the room, you’ll need at least a 24 (but preferrably a 31) band graphic EQ in line with the Line-Ins, typically you’ll need one for each channel, (so 2, left and right). I also recommend a flat mic, a pink noise generator and a real time graphic EQ for your computer.

      • Thanks for the info. I’m doing that already with a DBX 2231 eq + an Alesis 3630 compressor as a master limiter.

        However, I still find it difficult to prepare everything while in an empty room. When the place is packed, the sound is altered dramatically (obviously), so it renders all adjustments obsolete.

        You got any tips for that?

      • One big thing of note, it is best to have more tops if you are accommodating more than 200 people or a larger room than trying to crank the volume up. You’ll end up getting distortion or blowing the speakers or worst frying the amp. This is for powered systems that posh 500 watts or less. A sub with built in crossover helps tremendously.

  4. I am looking forward to your reviews on PA Systems. I recently upgraded from an entry level passive system to an active system. I really do like the new passive system I got but still prefer the monitoring ability provided by a passive system – where everything is in one place and you can monitor the amps more easily. The active system is much smaller and lighter so its a pleasure to move around and setup. Everything has it’s pro’s and con’s but I would recommend the active system I got to anyone looking at buying great sounding, light and easy to use speakers.

    I listened to many different speakers when deciding on upgrading – from JBL Eon and PRX, RCF Art 7 series, HK Audio Premium Pro and Linear 5 range, Alto, Behringer, Yamaha DXR and DSR, JB Systems, Synq, Hybrid, dB Technologies, etc. There are really many different options available which makes it a long process and leaves you with a very difficult choice at the end of the day. All objective reviews are extremenly valuable to any buyer but I would always recommend that you go and listen to the speakers before buying anything.

    The setup I ultimately got was the FBT ProMaxx 14A mid/hi units with the 15AS subwoofers. This in my opinion was one of the best systems I have heard even though the speakers have been available for a long time now. Out of all the speakers I listened to they are also one of the most versatile systems on the market and sound great with any kind of music (for bands and DJs) and are great in any venue. I did like the HK Linear 5 speakers but their L SUB 2000A subwoofers are far too big for what I was looking for and not all that impressive, the 15 inch tops are good though. RCF was also pretty good and the DXRs are very nice. But still, I would recommend the FBT ProMaxx to anyone needing to balance size, weight, high SPL and professional sound quality. And the FBT 15AS Subs are great – I previously had 2 Wharfdale Pro and 2 Hybrid 18 inch subwoofers and would take the FBT ProMaxx 15AS over all of the others without any hesitation.

    • 2 things about the FBT PROMAX14A:

      1. They are ugly this is an important point in the corporate scene and weddings.

      2. The bass response is good but not as good as the HK LINEAR 112 FA i’ve done this test.

      but i do agree they are probably the best in class if
      you use a sub for bigger performances.

  5. FYI – Vidsonix is a company that puts out excellent “no-name” Pro Audio speakers. Just sayin’. No I don’t work for them :-D

  6. Didnt see void on the list so taught id comment.
    I use a void basys system. They aint cheap but cant recommend it enough for anyone looking to purchase a decent system.
    Its got a great punchy sound that isnt compromised when you blast it.
    The sound fills the room nicely without the people at the front being deafend. Has not let me down even in a large 300 cap ball room.
    worth looking at and no i dont work for void just a fan of their gear.

  7. My advice is to buy quality over quantity. A single EV Live X will have more (and much cleaner) output than a pair of Mackie Thumps… for the same price. You can always buy additional speakers down the road if your events get larger. But in the beginning, buy the BEST you can afford, not the MOST.

  8. I’m glad you mentioned wharfedales. I have the Titan 12as and love them. I listened to many speakers in the price range (peavey, JBl Eon, behringer) and the clarity in the mid -high range was so much better than the others(shrill and piercing for the others with the peaveys actually fatiguing my ears noticeably at the end of a gig I rented them for) I haves them now for 3 years. Still working great. As a note I did not like the sound of the Titan subs so I am running a Eon 518s. It fills out the bottom end well enough, I heard better subs- even in the price range, but with size and weight considerations (I set up by myself most gigs and fitting everything into my car) it was the best option for me.

  9. I just bought a 4 channel PA system from guitar center. It is the Harbinger HA120. It comes with a 4 channel mixer and two 12 inch speaker cabinets. Great sound and was only $300. I may want to add a subwoofer just to get more bass but this system did provide a decent amount of bass for the house party I did.

    • Those are more geared towards bands and such due to the fact that it’s got a multichannel mixer built in and the sound is mono. If you’re happy with it, that’s great. I just know I had looked at them initially and quickly decided the money was better put towards a better system. I ended up with a pair of RCF ART315As. There’s a huge price difference, but sound quality is important to me.

  10. Firstly let me echo (if that’s not the wrong word to use in connection with speakers) the comment about Wharfedale. We have a number of different versions including some Titan 12s and 15s but our favourites are the EVP range. They are great for both Vocals and Disco use and sound for buck offer great value.

    When looking at speakers on thing that you seem to have overlooked is the efficiency, and how it is measured. For every 3dB increase in efficiency you can half the amplifier power, 10dB equates to an perceived doubling of volume and you need to increase amplifier power by an order of magnitude to achieve this. It’s a heck of a lot better value to get (and place) your speakers bearing this in mind. Obviously don’t go cheap, quality will always tell, and learn to read the often misleading specs. Very few discos can have speakers in half space conditions. A frequency response without reference levels is no use at all. Look for the peak and continuous SPL as this will give you a fair idea of loudness.

    As a point of interest we are phasing out integrated speaker amps as we have found them to be typically unreliable and failing to deliver, once one part dies it takes two items of equipment out and anyway as you’ve said they lack flexibility.

    Amplifiers are another much misunderstood area with the likes of Gemini making totally ridiculous claims and many people just not understanding how to read the ratings. I’ve got a small bit about this on my web site ‘blog’.

    Lastly might I suggest that people try hiring equipment before they buy, there’s no direct cost and they can try things out to find what works for their requirements and many, like us, will often sell ex hire equipment at bargain prices.

  11. Thank you for publishing this article. I have always felt that all the DJ blogs terminate the audio again at the controller or the mixers. We need more articles talking about EQ, amplifiers, speakers, mix board………Am looking forward to the follow up articles.
    Good work DDJT.

  12. I run 3 Wharfedale Pro Titan 12D’s and a Titan 15A sub. One 12D as a monitor and the other two facing the crowd. From the controller or mixer I use RCA’s then daisy chain the rest via 20meter XLR cables. The sound is solid and balanced. Connects in minutes. Also fits easily in the car with the back seat down.

  13. DJ Ross Easterby says:

    I play in a high end bar and use a Traktor S2 I bought a Mackie Thump 15a to act as a monitor and give a bit more oomph around the DJ box. Couldn’t be happier, sounds great without having to push it very hard. It wasn’t too expensive and I can use it to practice at home with.

    As an aside, I got the Technics 1200s out a hooked up my mixer to my new speaker and wow, sounded amazing.

  14. Good article!
    However i do recommend this: don’t go out and buy two massive 18″ subs for small parties. You may think that you can just ‘turn them down’ but most 18″ speakers require a lot of power to have the heavy speaker cone working efficiently, it will not sound the same as two 12″ subs working harder.
    I also reccomend the brand Audioline. I have two passive 15″ top/mids. Inexpensive for the quality which you get out of these, amazing titanium tweeters.

  15. Also if you can look past the ‘fashionable name’ aspect and do blind tests you might probably be surprised by how good and solid some of the newer behringer ranges actually are. Especially since they aquired Midas Klark Teknik and Turbosound!
    Ps good call Kebzer – youll be amazed how much difference a bit of carefully thought out speaker placement or proper eq can make (or how badly done can make even top end equipment sound off).

    • Thanks for the reference Mike! Indeed, I always notice that people leave out of the equation speaker positioning/room EQing.

      I am not that accustomed with PA, but I got enough studio / mixing experience and I can tell that amp power/size of speakers means nothing. Literally. This is commercial stuff for pushing units, not for choosing them.

      We def’ need more articles on the sonic side of things. And we need that from professionals like Phil!

  16. Awesome article! I’m so happy I found this site. I am a relatively new DJ and got my setup together with a Pioneer DJM-T1 and two Technic 1200m3d’s. Next up is to purchase exactly what this article and these comments discuss! My polk audio Monitor series home theater works well enough in the living room but obviously doesn’t have the specs to take it anywhere. Can anyone who is willing to help email me or friend me on Facebook so I can find the best PA system for my needs? Thanks :) and keep up the good work!!!
    Eric

  17. I did not see this comment/observation mentioned so I wanted to chime in.

    I have personally observed over the years DJs that buy expensive speakers and under powered amplifiers. If you must do this at least do it the other way around. The low powered amp your scrimped on will burn up your nice speakers and clip. I have seen Gemini (god forbid, right?) speakers hooked up to a QSC GX-5 (500 watts/channel into 8 ohms) sound great(ish) and not clip and not fall over no matter how much the idiot DJ pushed everything into the red. You will NOT get good results with JBL cabinets hooked up to that ~150 watt per channel amp you thought was a good deal and sounded good at home when you tested it..LOL!

    My bottom line? Spend the $$ on the amplifier first and foremost and the low end speakers will sound pretty good. Buy the status symbol speakers when you have the money.

    One more thing… get a subwoofer… without a sub, it’s background music :)

  18. Some general rules of thumb:
    1-A passive speaker+ external amp versus an Active speaker(the amp goes inside) produces 30% or more volume (SPL). Since amps do heat up (even class D ones) and the heat reduces dramatically the efficiency of the internal drivers.

    2- A pair of 12″ spkrs + separate Subwoofer (versus a pair of 15″ or 18″ spkrs without subwoofer), produce 30% or more of volume (SPL). There is a mathematical relation that applies here, since at amplifying each freq by itself( midds and bass apart)the Bass is not amplified first and then an inefficient internal crossover gewts the HOT sound signal and separates it into higs, middsa and lows. Using a separate SUb allows to get a COLD line leval signal and extract the Bass freqs and only then amplify it in its own dedicated Bass amp.

    3- A pair of 12″ spks + separate Subwoofer (versus a pair of 15″ or 18″ spkrs without subwoofer), results in much clearer middle frequencies and better Lows. Because 12″ and smaller sized drivers are better for Midds than 15″ or 18″ where you have one big driver to produce all freqs.

    4-Don’t buy in the bigger is better 15″ separate spkrs + 18″ sub. It will sound better with 12″ separate (mid and highs)) + 18″ Sub for the bass.

    5-DO watch the high freqs!! When they say up to 20 KHz, make sure it is at +/-3dB and not +/-10dB. because the latter means that if the sound actually reaches 20KHz it does it at two or three times less volume than the noraml volume the spkr delivers to the midd and rest of freqs. It is useful to find out the diameter of the Compression driver 2″ is best and 1″ a minimum.

    6-If you may spend a little more cash, check JBL differential Drive technology speakers. It is patented (so no other manufacturer can have this better tech) and they deliver the same (or better) sound than the rest around, but at less than half the weight. Check the fact that JBL new 2012 tweeters in their spkrs lines come in 2″ comp drivers. AVOID buying earlier cheaper models. As a seasoned mobile Dj the less weight and the best sound is something you WILL value on the years you will use it.

    • 2″ JBL drivers for 2012? Where??? All I see are 1.5″ and nothing new in powered portable speakers so what are you talking about?

      • About the JBL drivers, their real advantage was in the Differential Drive Technology that is NOT present in all their lines.
        EONs for about 3 years have had it. And VRX (expensive line) has always had it. The same as their VERTEC & HLA Hi-End line for Stadiums and Installations.
        Last year they launched their improved Compression Driver Tech called D2 which shows in the specs, because producing HIGH volume High quality Treble is not easy and Ribbon tech or Bullet Drivers cannot reach high volumes with good dispersion, unless done with expensive esoteric speakers…
        This JBL D2 compression drivers is new tech and has not yet trickle down to smaller cabinets, but soon.
        http://www.fohonline.com/home/72-product-focus/6378-jbl-professionals-revolutionary-d2-dual-driver.html

        JUST MAKE SURE YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE Frequency Response (-/+ 3dB) figures AND NOT TO THE SO CALLED Frequency Range (-/+ 10dB). and that the RESPONSE numbers reach the 20KHz or 22KHz AT any Mid/high speaker brand or model you might be considering

    • Thanks djcl.ear for your opinions, more for people to chew on :)

    • So I plan on getting an 18″ sub and have a pair of 12″ and 15″ speakers which speakers should I use?

  19. DJ_Emorpheus says:

    Hello readers,

    i was just wondering, but has anyone heard of Seismic audio? they are a speaker manufactorer that is said to produce top of the line speakers at really low prices. their excuse for doing so is that customers actually buy straight from the company (which is an online store only).

    im looking at what seems like a bundle of speakers that are too good to be true, and im wondering if you could review them, or if i could get some insight on them, before i get my heart set on owning them. i dont have much money to my name and i want an outlandishly good set of PA’s for a good price.

    Seismic audio is offering 2 18 inch powered speakers and 2 pairs (4 speakers) of 15 inch active speakers with built in crossovers.

    all of these speakers specs read that they are all around 800 watts rms and 1600 dynamic.

    and all this is for about 1200 bucks. i’ve seen single 15 inch powered speakers go for 1000 dollars. it blows my mind and i want truth.

    thank you readers

  20. DJ Andreas says:

    Another point to consider before purchasing a sub woofer for sound re-enforcement is to look at another set of speakers. I have a pair of JBL EON 515XT speakers. I looked at getting the sub woofer for these speakers, but then also looked at the option of getting another two JBL 515XT speakers. This is a cheaper option, gives you more redundancy and allows you to spread out your speakers for outdoor PA functions.

    • Yes, but there is no substitute for a proper subwoofer. Not matter how many tops you have, you can’t re-create the low frequencies the way a sub can.

      • DJ Andreas says:

        Totally agree about the sound quality. Problem I see is that many of my friends have the subwoofer and never use it except for larger functions. Many venue’s also complain about the sound that travels. The other point I mentioned is cost and being on a limited budget. By two more speakers or get the subwoofer? The other alternative if I had to start over again is go for much smaller speakers (10″or12″) and a sub.

  21. DJ Doughboy says:

    I recently decided that I needed some type of PA system after having to lug around a bunch of mix matched home stereo equipment to a couple of weddings. (It sounded great, but definitely unpractical) So I did some research on musicians friend and guitar center and the brand Alto Professional kept coming up. I had never heard of them before, but the more I read reviews, the more I liked the sound of them so I took a trip to guitar center and I was very pleased with the sound. I didn’t want to blow up everyone’s eardrums in the store so I couldn’t quite hear them at their full potential, nevertheless I decided to purchase two of their TS115A active/powered loudspeakers with stands. So I took them home, hooked them up to my new Numark N4, and WOW!!! These things sound awesome and one of them alone was louder than my whole home stereo setup. They sell for $349 a piece, which might seem cheap (for powered 15″s), so I got out at about $800 for two of them with stands. Couldn’t be happier. Do your research, read reviews, and always listen before you buy if possible. I had originally debated on getting out cheap with some harbingers and I’m so glad that I didn’t. I highly recommend the altos. They might not be quite as good as the JBLs or Mackies, but the price difference to get a couple of those definitely wasn’t justifiable in terms of sound. The behringer eurolive series sounded good also, but the altos took the cake. Portable, simple, great sound!

  22. when i had to choose passive versus active, i went the passive way. the reason initially was price. correct me if im wrong but the passive speakers plus an amp for the same size/power speakers was always less expensive compared to the powered ones of the same spec.

    In time i realised that my choice had other advantages:
    Cables. For every single powered speaker you will need electric. But in the case of passive you only need to power the amp(s). i also like the speakon connectors most amps and speakers provide. in this case i can connect my controller with rca and 1/4inch addaptors to the amp (short distance) then thick long speaker cables to the speakers from the amp.

    monitoring as someone else said. amps usually have level indicators and you can always check the levels and adjust them, either from the controller, or the mixer, or the amp itself. Also you don’t need to adjust the settings of each speaker individually.

    i know the amp is an extra piece of kit to carry. but if you are prepared to carry big speakers, then carrying an amp (much smaller size and weight compared to a speaker) should not be an issue.

    Now a question, if the venue has a small half descent pa say for backround music, do you hook on that one too? i have done in the past and i thought it provided a “fuller” sound. but it was always playing up in the back of my head not to push it too much.

    and an other one. im thinking of expanding the system. do i get a sub (active sub ;-p) or two more fullrange speakers. im suspecting that running the cables for the fullrange speakers to be far enough from yhe existing ones might not be efficient/possible. cables will sometimes be getting in the way, danger of people tripping on them etc.

    • Regarding your question, I find if a venue has a PA that can “fill in ” areas (ie seating areas, outdoors etc.) then it’s great to use it too, at a lower volume.

  23. I have a QSC P.A . Hands down the best self powered speakers on the market. The K series revolutionized self powered systems by adding what’s referred to as peak “burst ” amp
    . :
    A) it allows a security blanket for the already 1000′ watt amp by providing a reserve 200 watts ( this alleviates concerns of newbie DJ’s hitting red and blowing my system)
    B) it provides some reserve bass just incase the particular track isn’t mastered correctly ( or is mastered perfectly ;). …. They are pricey but I fill out 550 at half notch and have never blown one ever in 3 years

  24. Quote:
    (If you do choose to go for passive speaker and amplifiers, make sure the amps are rated at at least a third more power output than the speakers are designed for – half as much again or even more is also fine. Contrary to popular belief, it’s speakers being driven by underpowered amps that tends to blow them, not overpowered.)

    Hm…. I use compact Peavey 1012, 4 Ohm, 12″ speakers rated at 500w RMS. On occasion I have travelled to Peavey’s UK HQ in Corby. Their engineers recommend matching these speakers to the PV1500 amplifier which provides 500w RMS per channel @ 4 Ohm.
    Combined with this recommendation went the comment “their only 12″ speakers”.
    This combination does not provide the optimun sound quality, however it does guarantee robustness and long component life.

    • Uhmm underpowered amps distort and THAT distortion blows speakers.
      Overpowering speakers with more power than they can handle is another way of blowing speakers.

      Noth Underpoweredamps and overpowering amps may blow your speakers…
      A failproof usage condition is>
      NEVER DISTORT YOUR SOUND and your speakers will never be blown.
      You need to be gentle on the controls or with sudden spikes and be attentive for single distorting freqs (usually ringing at your speaker freq weak points) on your audio playing.

  25. james mcguffie says:

    hi.
    Over a period of time and trial and error I found that quality sounds can be found through S/hand mackies the cost?? this is less hard on the pocket but for proven sound time after time you can not fault a good pair of 450s and at least 15″ sub mackie as a mono setup if you can go the whole way a pair of 15″ subs as a balanced setup will handle anything thrown at them I have used these for years and can’t fault them.
    On this subject of speakers I have found whilst holidaying over the years I noticed lots of places use a sound speaker called AUNA I don’t know anything about the make but heard some quality sound coming out of plenty of these speakers has anybody got any answers regards these ?????????
    mac

  26. Hey Phil,
    Very nice article!I would like to ask you if there is any diffirence on the speakers that am going to use indoor and outdoor.
    Thank’s a lot!

    • It’s two things: firstly, sound doesn’t carry as well outdoors (wind can literally carry it away), and secondly the practicalities (weather etc). Things will of course sound profoundly different out of doors as there’s usually little or no reflections. But I’ve never set up PA specifically for outdoor (ie usually I’ve just used what was there), so maybe someone with more experience of outdoor shows could join in the conversation here.

      • Im not an expert Phil, but i thought that by outdoor speakers they just meant the ones that are more robust against the weather, rust etc. and are usually plastic. Never thought of the wind issue and could definitely be wrong.

        What about wooden vs plastic? aren’t wooden always heavier but usually more bassey?

    • for me. outdoor speaker has a harder cone and a higher power capacity to overcome the suroundings. Harder cones are much likely to do longtrow sounds and protection on the weather. Modern woofers used polypropylene on their cone for weather protection and a neodymium magnet for lighter woofer.

      the finish of the wooden box are different from indoors.
      mostly the outdoor speaker are lighter for easy installation.

      hope to help you.

  27. Just glad to see a few people here know about RCF speakers,,,best damn speakers I’ve ever owned.They don’t seem to get the props they deserve,,,at least here in Canada.I’ve got a pair of ART312A’s and they’re just great!!! Hope to get a sub soon,,,,

  28. Can’t fault the Mackie 450 v2’s, can push them hard for a long time, defo worth the money

  29. Hi

    Great thread. If only it’d appeared 3 months back when I was looking for a small pa to boost my gear. Better late than never…

    After much research and fretting, I got RCF Art 312’s. Mackie were in the running too but after listening hard I opted for RCFs. Mackie’s sounded really harsh up loud. RCF’s are much smoother sounding and aren’t built in China! 2x RCFs cost nearly £850ish but are worth every penny. Wanna to get a sub to lift the PA for bigger rooms but these are £800.

    And get decent stands too. Got 2x Ultimates for £150 but again really worth it. If you’re spending up to £1k on speakers, don’t buy cheap stands. Seriously.

    Hope this all helps.

  30. Back again!

    Forget to say ensure you budget for decent speaker cases/covers and connecting cables too. Got proper RCF covers for the 312s, which are pricier than generic covers but fit like gloves with key holes/slots so they can stay on speakers when used. Again, I got a purpose made bag for the Ulitimate stands.

    Re: cables – everyone’s got their fav’s. For now, I’m using Proel Challenger xlr’s.

  31. great article

    i own a 2nd hand peavey sp4 with a black widow woofers.
    it was a passive system so i used crest ca6 or ca9 for amplification and it did sounds good. it has a dual 15 inch driver so it also give a good bass. but when the place became larger. im about to get some folded horn to extend low frequency.

    and i’m about to use a yamaha 15in horn loaded for indoor used. it was a clown of ‘hd115 i think’ but a straight port under the wood horn.

  32. Great article Phil!
    It’s great that you went into more than just the systems, but everything else that is involved with it, ie: cables, stands, etc. It should be said that cable quality is quite important, without good signal to your sound system you won’t get good sound. Rule of thumb for me is to buy the best cables you can afford and treat them well. Wrap them properly, not using the hand-to-elbow stretch method, which will give you years of use without stretching or internally breaking wires. (I even wrap my extension cords with care.
    As for the systems you reviewed, I actually use a B52 1000v2 system. I have been using it for over 2 years. I was a recommendation from another DJ that runs 4 of them and his oldest is 7 years old and still runs like a champ. I have to disagree with your statement though, regarding the B52 to be good for 50-100 people. The smallest event I have used this system for was a 30 person retirement party, the largest was a 3000 person outdoor car show/airshow on a 1000 acre airport and manufacturing facility. This system may be small in size but can rip heads off. At the outdoor airshow event I was able to put the system to the test, it performed flawlessly and considering it is only two 10″ satellites and a 15″ subwoofer it was heard over a 1/2 mile away….CLEARLY. Prior to this system I lugged around a dual 15″ passive speaker setup, amps, mixer, and more, and will never go back. The B52 system packs up nicely and loads out easily. It is a little large, and will not fit into the back of a car, but neither will most satellite/subwoofer systems.
    And on a final note, I again agree with you that you get what you pay for, so those looking into systems buy the best you can buy and you will be sure to get more longevity out of your money. Buy cheap and you will end up replacing cheap and spending more money in the long run.

    Keep spinnin’
    Maxx

    (ps. I am not a B52 representative and the above statements are not just my opinion but the knowledge gained from 15 years of djing)

  33. Thanks so much for this! Although I have had been successful using two Behringer B215’s for crowds up to 200 people, I have never used a subwoofer and always felt something was missing. I plan on getting one this month (specifically the Behringer one mentioned in this article). Thanks again!

  34. Dave England says:

    Speakon a balanced connection? I use it as a speaker connection plug ;)

  35. Dear Phil, I have read through your knowledge and understand that there is quite a bit of research to do in setting a good sound system up. I am interested in a few products but see that you have not mentioned anything by Kam! I am currently looking at Kam set up using Kam RZ 15 of which do offer an active version and an unbalanced Kam KBA 1000 watt(Peak)amp. What do reckon to this set up?

    • We haven’t reviewed those items so can’t say unfortunately.

    • How strange…no one seems to have reviewed any Kam gear. Anyway thanks Phil. Incidently I reread my question and it was terribly worded..lack of editing here…guilty your honour….any way I meant to say a Kam KBA X 1000 amp and a set of Kam rz15s (passive)…sorry. Since time has past and after hours on the web and ringinging around talking to DJs and stores, not the building itself…that would be a bit lunar. It really is a matter of making the choice and finding a decent dealer and checking them out first at least you will or can change your mind before you empty your bank balance abd possibly the wives, kids and aunties in some cases..maybe even sell the mother in law…no that might be a matter of sacrifice there give the mother in law away and sell the dog. Anyway I my choice is made and I will be testing the 12 against the 15 in the passive Kam RZ series with a Kam KBA X 1250 which is around 1/3 bigger than the 12s. I am on a budget and will only be doing barbys and small events so the low end though would be nice will take a little longer if it really is needed at all. Cheers for the advice I found this a joy!

  36. Ps. The mother in law is well safe innit! I am not even married folks. Anyway just an option I myself am considering. Being a table top selector I like the amp underneath my laptop stand as some would place a mixer in a booth then the controller at the side and this for unbalanced audio is perfect for the 1/4 jack leads form the controller to the amp are only 2 meters long! The Speakon speaker leads are 5 meters! Again with only a low paid part time dogsbody bow wow job like yours woof woof truly I have a really tight budget and most of my equipment is 2nd hand ie my laptop and controller. This means I have to make the painful choice of settling for the 15″ speakers which would compensate,slightly, for no sub and risk a shy mid and top end or go for the 12″ and have good mids and hi end with probably better vocals but maybe a little less power in the bass section. Any way I have gone for the Amp and passive over the Active mainly because of 1. The pleasure of having the control at my fingers tips on the table. 2. The unbalanced problem will not come into the equation. 3. I get more power for my money. 4. It is highly likely I may have better overall sound quality. 5. You can chop and change your set up. 6. Less power cords. 7. The family is happier, and the dog stays.

  37. PPS. I think the 12s would be the better choice…why?…because for the lowly happy Kitchen skivy that I am i could always get the subs at a later date and though I have not heard the Kam RZ 12s yet I reckon a 12″ bass cone at an average for the intended gigs being around the 150 watt max mark per speaker and two of I think they will be just fine. But I am not putting all my eggs into the 12s baskets…I mean there not Jesus are they…but at least like you said Phil they will keep the upper ranges at a later date rather than having a glut of bass as I would if I bought the 15s primarily. And it also stops a lot of running around and dragging my wretched sin riddled carcase all over the place selling off the 15s on eBay, again because of the glut of bass. On top of that as you have mentioned is the weight and size I do find the 12s a good size and weight as opposed to the 15s and definitely opposed to the 15 actives which around 4 stones a piece…about half the weight of your dream girlfriend in her 20s! Cheers, Steve.

  38. PPPS In conclusion I can improve on the 12s without having to get rid of them or overdoing the bass. I can move the power up to 15 or 18″ subs and maintain a good clean mid and hi end. That is my plan at least…may God give me strength. Thanks, Steve.

  39. Leonard Collins says:

    Hey guys! I’m new to the DJing business as a part time job, as it is indeed a great way to make some serious and easy cashola! I purchased two yamaha DXR 12s and 1 DXS15 inch sub. (I was gonna buy the 15″ speakers but the guy that sold It to me told me to get the 12″s with one 15″ sub instead) The speaks are only an incredible light weight of 42.5lb each and the sub understandably being 83lbs which is still pretty light considering! (My friends dad is a local dj/singer/karaoke dj and his equipment Is old school and back breaking to carry!) the dxr12s are 1100watt each and the sub is 950watt. Gotta say I love the sounds from these self powered active loud speakers and sub! I have played 5 times so far @ approx 100 people. They love the crystal clear sound! As do I!:). The bass is incredible! ; to the point where I had to turn it down almost all the way on certain songs! I bought a Simons mixer, a mic, the cords needed, the 2 speakers and the sub for approx $3000. All brand new though! Do you guys think that was a fair price?

  40. Leonard Collins says:

    Also I would like to add, regarding the yamaha dxr and dxs active loud speakers: they both have a red light-limiter on the back which indicates if you are putting out too much! Also instead of the speakers of sub blowing, they have a DSP protection for maximum output! In other words they will shut themselves off instead of blowing a speaker! Yamaha has even put out some kind of challenge to DJs, betting they cannot blow a speaker or sub. Pretty cool huh?

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