Video: Buying Your First PA System and Setting It Up the Right Way

Say you're in band that just got a rehearsal space of its own or a promoter tired of renting speakers for your shows—you can find plenty of options for PA systems on Reverb. The basic components are a mixer, a power amp, and speakers, which can be found in all manner of configurations. In the video above, we take a look at the different options.

The simplest is an all-in-one system, which can be as small as one powered, plug-and-play speaker (that is, a speaker that contains a power amp and an on-board mixer). Just plug a microphone directly into the back, adjust the volume (and perhaps change some tone), and you're good to go. This type of setup is ideal for a singer-songwriter, a karaoke night, or other scenarios where you don't need many voices or instruments to be amplified, as these plug-and-play PAs generally only have one or two inputs.

Popular Plug-and-Play PAs

A very popular type of PA system today is one that includes two powered speakers and a non-powered mixer. These mixers—which can be very lightweight and inexpensive—take the signal from mics or instruments, allowing users to treat them with EQ (and sometimes effects). They also include auxiliary inputs so that you can use the signal from cell phones, laptops, or other devices. Because the mixer doesn't amplify the signal itself, the wattage of your powered speakers will decide how loud the system can be.

Popular Mixers & Powered Speakers

The reverse scenario is also a popular option: a powered mixer and passive speakers (aka non-powered speakers). In this scenario, the speakers are often lighter, since they don't contain the power amp, while the mixers are heavier and more expensive. Manufacturers like Yamaha, with its StagePas 400i and 600i PA systems, or Fender, with its Passport Venue or Passport Event, will sometimes sell these powered mixers/passive speaker setups as a package deal.

Popular Powered Mixers & Passive Speakers

A fourth option involves both non-powered mixers and non-powered speakers with a standalone power amp between them providing the amplification. A benefit of this option is you can match the output with many different types of speakers, but this is usually not ideal for amateurs looking for the easiest option. (This type of PA system, broken down into its various components, is most often found in professional setups at venues and concert halls.)

To learn tips and tricks for getting the most out of your system, no matter its configuration, be sure to watch the full video above.

Buying Guide: PA Systems
What to consider and how to choose the best portable PA system for you.
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