What to Consider When Choosing a PA System For Outdoor Use

by Andrew Bishop

Before choosing a PA system for use outside, many factors need to be considered. Here are the top 5 things to consider when buying a PA system for outdoor use.

1. What is the size of the likely audience?

Outdoors, a rough guide is to allow 3 watts RMS per person. Therefore if you expect 100 people select a 300w RMS speaker. If you intend to deliver over 80 decibels at 15 metres from the speakers, double it.

80 decibels is equal to the sound from a jackhammer at 20 metres! See Loud Speakers! How Loud Is Your LoudSpeaker? – BishopSound

2. How weatherproof are outdoor PA speakers?

If you have a purpose built stage with a cover over it and the speakers will never get wet, then you can select self-powered Active Speakers. If you have no protection from the great British Weather consider waterproof covers.

Most Passive PA Speakers can withstand the odd shower as the speakers have acoustic foam behind a powder coated grille. With a passive PA the amplifiers are housed in a dry room with only signal cables going to the speaker not mains.

3. What is the power supply?

Avoid battery powered PA if you are planning an event with loud music, as the battery life is very short. Battery PA is fine for low volume speech, but not enough energy can be stored in the lightweight batteries in professional PA.

Mains power for outside use needs ELCB protection and Power Conditioners if running off a generator.

Always use class AB amplification if your mains is subject to fluctuation due to high dependency equipment, as class D amplification can be a little sensitive. See  Why your PA system needs a power conditioner – BishopSound

4. Can the outdoor PA system be wireless?

Many Active Powered Speakers have Bluetooth with a range of up to 30m (line of site). This can prevent trip hazards caused by cable runs. However, be aware that Bluetooth does not deliver the same sound quality as a hard wired PA speaker.

With TWS Bluetooth, stereo can be transmitted and received so a pair of PA speakers can be linked to one Bluetooth enabled phone, tablet, laptop or other Bluetooth transmission device.

5. Portable PA for outside events?

If you want a simple quick outdoor PA system, then set up must be quick and easy. The most simple outside PA system is point source. Point source is simple to remember as you point the speakers towards the audience stacked on a stage or on stands.

Many outdoor PA speakers are easy to move as they are fitted with wheels and numerous handles.

Line Array on the other hand can take over 24 hours to set up correctly and many hours to dismantle and store.

In conclusion outdoor PA speakers for large gatherings need plenty of power and demand larger drivers and amplifiers to give the same effect as you hear inside. Sub-Bass frequencies disappear outside as there are few if any walls to retain the bass. This is easily remedied by deploying some 18" Subwoofers.

PA systems for DJ's or live music are the same so if you are looking for outdoor DJ speakers or outdoor PA speakers the principles are the same.

For help on the best positioning and set up of outdoor PA systems get in touch today. We will provide advice to make sure that the outside PA system works perfectly for your outdoor live event.