The Best PA System Buyers Guide

by Andrew Bishop

Buying A PA System

You need a PA system to be heard, both to create a balanced mix of your vocals and instruments and to make sure that that mix can be listened to clearly by your audience when your band is gigging. The same applies if you’re a DJ, a fitness instructor, a presenter, running a fairground ride or making the announcements at the local village fete or school sports day. Good sound gets noticed, and getting noticed gets you the good gigs. 

What PA Gear Should You Buy?

The first thing that you should think about when buying a PA is the size of the venues that you’re going to be playing in for the foreseeable future, how noisy (or quiet) your audiences are going to be and how loud you want to be.

A DJ playing house parties or birthday and wedding celebrations is going to have very different needs from a battle DJ, while a band playing small folk clubs is probably going to need a lot less in the way of PA gear than a heavy metal band playing in a big pub. Fortunately, PA speakers, amplifiers and mixing consoles come in a wide range of powers and sizes, so putting together a system that will do precisely what you need isn’t going to be difficult.

Carrying It Round

Next, you need to think about transport. Do you want something that will fit in the boot of your car, the back of an estate car, or are you thinking of a using a van to travel from gig to gig? Then there’s storage. Where are you going to keep your PA when you’re not gigging. Do you have space under the stairs, space in a garage that you can commandeer or an affordable local self-storage facility where you can keep everything?

Getting The Biggest Bang For Your Buck

Finally, you’ll have to consider how to get the best value for money from your PA purchases. If you’re working in small venues (church halls, pubs and restaurants, for example) as a solo artist, a fitness instructor, a DJ or as part of a duo or trio, then a PA system based around active (self-amplified) compact loudspeakers will probably suit you best as it will be easier to handle, quicker to rig and de-rig, and easier to fit into the back of your car.

If you run a hire company or are starting to get booked into larger venues, you might find that you need the flexibility of passive (unpowered) loudspeakers and amplifiers. However, depending on your precise requirements, it could well be that active speakers will work best for you in those situations.

No matter which route you take to fulfil your current PA requirements, active or passive, it is a good idea to look ahead to the next stage of your career. If you think about how you will handle bigger gigs in the future, you’ll probably find that you’ll get the best value from your purchases if you start out with a system that can be upgraded or repurposed.

In the next instalment of the BishopSound PA Guide, we’ll look at what your options are when putting a PA system together, where the traps lie for the unwary and how to avoid them.