PA Systems

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PA Systems

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A PA system is suitable for a whole range of situations such as bars, schools, sports events, seminars, work conferences, advertising stands: for this reason, musicians and sound engineers are not the only ones who need to know about them. Your first thought of PA speakers might be those used at concerts or sports stadiums, but there are so many more applications for a PA system that you might need to buy one yourself in the not too distant future.

Welcome to HiFi Tower, where you can find audio solutions to cheer up your parties, events and any situation where you need a portable and flexible audio system. From active and passive PA sets to individual PA speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers, in our online shop, you can find devices with excellent performance, attractive design and, above all, an extremely affordable price. When it comes to PA systems, it's essential to understand your music playback needs first, as you don't always have to spend a lot of money to get a quality product. Take a look at the items on sale in our online shop, and read on to find out which are the main parameters you need to consider before purchasing the right PA system for your needs.

What does a PA system consist of?

A PA system, where PA stands for "Public Announcement" or "Public Address", is an audio system used for small or large performances. Essentially it consists of a set of portable speakers - in most cases active - usually combined with a subwoofer. The presence of the subwoofer is not strictly necessary, but recommended and preferred because it gives more body and strength to the bass frequencies, improving the overall performance of the portable PA system. The latter, therefore, can also be composed of only one or more speakers. For optimal use, however, a basic PA system is made up of:

  • 1 or more active two-way full-range speakers;
  • 1 subwoofer
  • Audio Speaker cables
  • 1 Mixer, especially in DJ sets

Active or passive speakers: which PA system should you choose?

PA systems are the set of loudspeakers allowing the signal coming from the control desk to be conveyed to the public, and basically fall in two categories: passive PA sets and active PA sets.

A passive PA system needs an external power amplifier, which can be chosen according to taste and needs, while scrupulously respecting the factory instructions about the load and impedance of the PA speakers. It is important to follow these instructions to avoid damaging the equipment and yourself.

Furthermore, if the control desk does not allow to send a specific frequency range to the subwoofers, it is necessary to use a crossover device that appropriately divides the frequency spectrum between subwoofers and other speakers. An active PA has its amplification circuit installed inside the speakers, making it more practical. However, the sound and power characteristics cannot be modified by external additions, making it particularly important to evaluate the system before purchase.

PA system with monitors

Stage monitors are handy for musicians so that on stage they can hear not only themselves but also the other performers, to keep the timing during the performance. Stage monitors are also divided into active monitors and passive monitors: for practicality, we recommend to choose active monitors, as they are easier to manage.

A stage monitoring system is a second PA system of varying complexity, with the speakers, directed backwards towards the performers rather than towards the audience. In the simplest one, everyone can hear the same mixed program, while in the most complex setups they rely on a dedicated mixer, called stage mixer, which sends a different ideal program to each artist.

While electric guitar, bass guitar and keyboards can be amplified at any practical level to balance the drum level without the risk of feedback, on the other hand, there is a limit to the level increase for vocals before feedback becomes an issue. Feedback possible with drum miking is generally avoided in all events, especially small ones, by amplifying it directly through the main sound system only.

The most familiar model of a stage monitor speaker is the so-called Floor Wedge, which is positioned at the feet of the artist to direct the sound towards his head. This loudspeaker is generally a two-way system with one or two 12" woofers or a 15" woofer as first way and a horn with an ac compression driver for the second way: this allows to overcome the sound masking that, in concerts, derives both from the sound level present on the stage and from the one emitted at the back by the primary PA system. Some PA systems have smaller speakers, generally used by small groups in small spaces. In the majority of models, the monitor speakers are passive with built-in crossover filters, but there are also two-way loudspeakers with active filters and external amplifiers, and more recently even internal amplifiers and built-in DSP.

Important features to consider for your PA system

Many variables can determine the best use of a PA system. For example, a street musician generally needs a lightweight and portable speaker, while a venue owner would need much more power. Still, the speaker itself is not the only essential part of the gear. The sound you want people to hear has to be captured by the passive monitors before a mixer processes and amplifies it. To make a better choice, it’s essential to consider how you are going to use the PA system, such as the location and the average size of the audience. Then you’ll need to find the right price range for your investment.

All-in-one or portable speakers are best if you do not want to delve into the intricate details of PA. They contain a built-in equaliser, making it unnecessary to use an external mixer and a power amplifier that increases the signal voltage. The benefit of using a portable speaker for your PA system is that everything is contained in one unit. As the name suggests, it is compact, making it convenient to store in the back of the car. However, there are no different models of portable speakers, and not all of them are from the most comprehensive range of sounds and configurations that are usually obtained with separate components unless they are expensive models with internal speakers of 15″ inches mostly. Therefore, the purchase of a portable speaker should be made based on its intended use.

A more refined platform would consist of a microphone, connected to a preamplifier to increase the line level, then to the mixer, then possibly to a power amplifier, and finally a loudspeaker. These are best for large venues where higher definition sound is required. The disadvantage is that you (or some poor roadie) will have to transport all this heavy equipment to the site and then set it up.

Choosing the right PA system: some examples

    When dealing with live music or DJ sets, you are faced with very different situations ranging from very intimate concerts in small venues to concert halls or outdoor events. Whether you are a sound engineer in a venue or a musician performing live shows, let's look at three classic examples to find out what may be the best PA system to achieve an optimal result

    • Scenario 1: small room
      In the case of tiny and intimate stages, it is essential to calibrate power and sound pressure correctly to obtain a good sound performance that makes listening pleasant for the audience, while keeping the volume under control. The ideal configuration for these situations is certainly a 2.1 system composed of a pair of 8" or 10" active loudspeakers and a 12" sub to have an optimal performance over the entire frequency range. Alternatively, you can opt for a compact column system that is easy to carry, aesthetically appealing and with full-range sound reproduction. To support your PA system, it is a good idea to use a simple mixer to manage the different sound sources and intervene on the EQ to optimise the diffusion.

    • Scenario 2: medium-sized room
      In the case of medium-sized stages ready to accommodate bands or DJ sets the need is for a full range system with a lot of power and good sound pressure to get the right result and achieve more intense performances. In this case, to combine optimal performance and ease of use, the choice falls on a modern system composed of two full-range columns. Alternatively, you can opt for a satellite-subwoofer combination consisting of active speakers with 10" or 12" cones supported by a compact 15" sub. If the size of the stage allows it, it is possible to add a reduced monitoring system for musicians composed of one or more 8" or 10" monitors. It’s essential to use a mixer with an adequate number of inputs and effects.

    • Scenario 3: concert hall / outdoor
      When dealing with generously sized concert halls or a small outdoor concerts, it is essential to have plenty of power and sound pressure over the entire frequency range, also bearing in mind the need for wide diffusion for acoustic performance throughout the hall and on stage. The diffusion in the hall will therefore be entrusted to a system composed of 2 18" subs and two satellites with 15" cones. There is also the need to provide dedicated monitoring for individual musicians with a suitable arrangement of the monitors on stage. A digital mixer with an adequate number of channels is fundamental in the management of a stage that is already starting to have a considerable size.
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