Best Portable Pa System For Outdoors – Thinking of taking your act to the stage? Then you need a good way to amplify it, and it all depends on what and where you play…
Most PA system articles begin by explaining how different types of speaker cabinets work, but this one tries to approach the subject from a different angle: look at common types of events and venues, and then suggest practical practices. PA solutions for them.
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These suggestions are based on the assumption that many of today’s musicians travel by car instead of a van, and therefore want something as light and portable as possible that can still get the job done well. Loudspeaker systems have become more compact and efficient in recent years, with the introduction of technologies such as switch-mode power supplies and class-D amplifiers. This means that active speakers may not weigh much more than their passive counterparts, although they are more convenient to set up because there is less need for wiring. There is another advantage to active systems in that adequate speaker protection can be, and often is, built in.
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Another advantage is that if each speaker has its own amplifier, you can confuse one speaker if the other fails. However, some small systems are based on two satellite speakers and a subwoofer, where all the power amplifiers are in the sub, so if the electronics subsystem fails, you lose your entire PA. This happened to me once while playing a small pub, but luckily we were able to use the powered monitors as a surrogate PA for the night; it pays to always have a backup plan.
For smaller concerts, acoustic instrument amplifiers often serve well as compact PA systems, as many include simple mixing functionality and can fit both microphone and instrument inputs.
If the performer relies entirely on an instrument such as guitar or electric piano for backing, rather than backing tracks, a combo amplifier designed for acoustic guitar is often perfectly suited for smaller venues. Unlike electric guitar amps, which are designed to transmit their own sound, acoustic amps are essentially miniature public address systems, meant to simply amplify the incoming signal. They almost always offer an XLR mic input in addition to the instrument input, making them ideal for singer/songwriter types. Speaker systems of this type of amplifier use small full-range drivers or a driver combined with a tweeter. All can handle the vocal range perfectly well, and most also include some basic effects, such as reverb, making them good all-in-one solutions.
As long as they are not too high off the ground, combos behind the performer can be used at a reasonable level before feedback becomes a problem. Most also include a pole-mount plug, making it easy to mount on a speaker stand.
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I would recommend at least a 70-watt model for small gigs, but keep in mind that the amp’s power rating alone does not give an accurate indication of how loud the amp can get. Speaker efficiency also plays a role, so when you read the spec sheet, SPL (Sound Pressure Level) is the most important number. To give you an idea of typical SPL figures, almost all small combos are capable of around 105dB (measured at one meter), but from a good full size 12 inch cabinet plus horn you can expect around 130dB, and sometimes even more.
AERs are considered by many to be the benchmark for compact acoustic guitar amps, but there are models from many other manufacturers at a variety of prices and power levels. I’ve had personal experience with AER, Schertler, Fishman, and Vox models, and I’ve also heard good reports of Tanglewood acoustic amps, so all of these brands are worth checking out.
Compact, active PA cabinets can be used as extension speakers to complement acoustic amplifiers or small PA systems.
In larger venues or where more sound dispersion is beneficial (those awkward L-shaped bars, for example), you can add an extension active speaker cabinet, as acoustic guitar amps often include an XLR DI output or link, which can also be used to power a large public address system at large concerts. A fairly small two-way cabinet (8- to 12-inch woofer and horn) rated at 100 watts and up will do the trick. I’ve used a Mackie SRM350 on many occasions, which has a 10-inch driver, and found it to work well, and for smaller bar gigs I’ve even used a Mackie SRM150 powered mini monitor as an extension speaker, with good results.
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The human voice and acoustic guitar usually do not produce low enough frequencies to require great bass extension, which is one of the reasons why compact systems can produce great sounding results. However, once you throw in backing tracks, electronic keyboards or a full band with bass and drums, good bass handling becomes essential.
The solution you choose will depend on the range of sizes of places you usually play. If youare only playing in pubs, one of the smaller ‘sub plus two satellite’ systems may be more suitable as they can still be compact enough to fit in a car, yet powerful enough to to produce a satisfying musical experience. Good examples of this type of system include HK Lucas smaller packages and LD Systems Dave setup. Because the sub takes on all the bass handling duties, satellite speakers can be made very compact, down to the size of a shoebox, and even the sub can just hold a 10-inch or 12-inch speaker in smaller systems. . Most of these systems can produce a good stereo image even if there is only one submarine because the very low frequencies are almost omnidirectional and it is difficult for the human auditory system to identify the source.
For smaller venues and simpler “singer/songwriter” acts, a basic two-speaker system without subwoofers may be all you need. Since it is difficult to combine small size with high efficiency, and since it requires more power to achieve the same SPL at low frequencies than at high frequencies, I would consider a system power of about 300 watts as the minimum for artists using backing tracks or a predominantly acoustic band playing the pub circuit. In such situations, the acoustic feedback often sets the operating level threshold well below the actual handling capacity of the PA system. Just keep in mind that if there are bass instruments that need amplification, you’ll need a more powerful sub. Also see the “Line Arrays” box, as smaller line array systems lend themselves to everything from solo artists, duos and acoustic acts to rock bands playing in smaller pubs and clubs, and most can be expanded for use in larger locations. I used the smaller Fohhn Linea 100 and HK Elements system with my own band and we always had a good vocal sound. Even with just a 12-inch subwoofer with the Linea, we were able to put guitars and keyboards through the system, but if you need more than a kick from drums and bass on the PA, step up to a 15-inch . sub (or two) should be considered as the minimum option.
If youare not ready to take the line array approach (and a decent line array can still be quite expensive for a band on a budget), there is plenty of mileage left in conventional 12- inch active plus-horn loudspeakers. They can be used alone where the main purpose is for vocals, acoustic guitars, etc., or in combination with a sub where bass instruments and drums need a little help. In theory, many of these so-called full-range boxes have a frequency response of up to 50 Hz or so, but the bass sound of this box is rarely good and the low frequencies consume so much space that the overall level of the system will be seriously compromised become In other words, if you need to boost the bass, add proper subs, don’t bash your main speakers. Both active and passive subs often include crossovers that reduce the amount of bass reaching the main speakers, allowing them to perform at their best in the vocal range and above.
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Secondary and higher PA systems can be extremely portable and have the advantage that you can only take the system elements you need to each performance. While plastic speaker cabinets like the popular Mackie SRM and JBL Eon models are strong and loud enough, many of the cheaper plastic cabinets (and some of the less cheap ones) can sound a bit resonant and fuzzy in the lower midrange. to a good plywood or MDF cabinet. Although wooden lockers are slightly larger, their flat, straight sides can also make them easier to stack in a car. Whether you go for wood or plastic though, one factor they all have in common is that the bigger the main driver, the harder it is for designers to properly match the frequency range of the woofer and HF horn. the middle Ten-inch woofers have limited power handling, but they tend to pair well with a horn, and the same applies to a well-designed 12-inch system. But once you get to 15 inches, they only look like the best designers
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