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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: PA Speakers

8. Choosing your Speakers

Whether you are a performer, a sound engineer or a venue manager, your choice of speakers is fundamental to your success. Even at the highest levels of the profession, great performances are compromised by inadequate sound systems - read the reviews of the Rolling Stones gigs at Twickenham in 2006 to see how even the very best can be let down by their sound systems.

It doesn’t have to be about cost. Depending on your needs, you can get an excellent system at a very reasonable price. It’s also not all about volume - clarity is the key. Distortion can be unpleasant to listen to even at low levels, while a big, clear sound can still be comfortable.

First principles

What, exactly, do you need? There are some essential points to consider from the outset:

  • How much volume do you need? Be realistic about the size of the venue. And if you are a working band, remember that once you start playing bigger or more professional venues, they will usually have their own systems.

  • How much carrying capacity do you have? The PA is often the most cumbersome thing to carry, other than the drums. There is a trade-off to be made between sound quality and portability.

  • What kind of noise do you make? The sound reinforcement needs of a heavy metal band will be significantly different to those of a church hall. Is the system for a whole group, just for speech, or for vocals and a brass section? Choose your speakers on the basis of the frequencies that need the most support.

  • How much money do you have? Balance your budget against your need, and if necessary, build your system in stages, buying the most essential elements first.

A good basic PA system usually requires a combination of compact full-range cabinets, with perhaps a subwoofer to handle low bass frequencies if your music requires it. The full-range cabinets would usually be placed on poles, either side of the stage, while the subwoofer can be placed almost anywhere on the stage, because our ears don’t detect the directional elements of bass frequencies nearly so well. A good degree of physical separation between the cabinets is important though, to prevent frequencies from canceling each other out.

Active speakers

A pair of satellite active speakers with a subwoofer

Active speakers are full-range cabinets with their own amplifiers and crossovers built-in. They have the advantage of portability, and the fact that everything is engineered to work together - no head-scratching impedance matches to worry about. This configuration is ideal for most small and even medium-sized venues, though it is a good idea to support it with a subwoofer if you want really meaty kick drums and basses.

Modular systems

This is the standard for real all-purpose sound reinforcement, and is suitable for even quite large rooms, depending on the power-rating of the system. It has the advantage that it can be scaled to suit the venue - you can leave some elements behind for smaller gigs - and is essential if you are likely to need higher volumes and good clarity. Note the poles to separate the high and mid-range cabinets from the subwoofers.

Line arrays

Larger venues need larger sound-reinforcement systems, with more square inches of cone to push the air. The trouble is, the more speakers you have, the greater the risk that some of their frequencies will cancel each other out, and you will actually end up with a worse sound than with a single speaker. ‘Line arrays’ are designed to combat this problem, and have become the standard for larger arenas and outdoor events. They are built using speaker modules with clearly defined beam angles - that is, the breadth of coverage of the air pushed out. By aligning these modules carefully with each other, you can actually build a single, cylinder-like column of sound in which all frequencies are transmitted without conflicting with each other. You can also distribute a full sound to a large and scattered audience of the kind you get at festivals. With a good system, the audience may not all get a decent view, but they can get a decent sound.

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in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Thomann GmbH. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

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PA Speakers overview

Elektron Digitakt tc electronic Flashback 2 Delay Vox Adio Air GT Harley Benton CST-24T Ocean Flame Gator G-PG-335V Bag Harley Benton HB-40B 2017 Millenium ST-95 Denon DN-300C MKII ADJ Pro Event Table Presonus Studio 26 Boss GT-1B Bass Multi-FX Pedal Mooer Baby Bomb 30 W
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tc electronic Flashback 2 Delay

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Vox Adio Air GT

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Harley Benton CST-24T Ocean Flame

Electric Guitar Deluxe series, Body: Mahogany, Top: Flamed maple, Set-in neck: Mahogany, Fretboard: Roseacer, 24 frets, Pearloid Dot fretboard inlays, Scale: 635 mm, Nut width: 42 mm, Pickups: 2 Wilkinson WHHB Alnico Open humbuckers, 1 Volume control, 1 Tone...

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Gator G-PG-335V Bag

Gator G-PG-335V Bag, ProGo Ultimate series, semi-hollow and v-style e-guitar gigbag, front and side handles, removable and adjustable backpack straps, micro-fleece interior, internal block Shock Absorber, padding: 25 mm, ultra thick paddes, Tablet-compartment, big accessory compartment with cable management and...

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Harley Benton HB-40B 2017

Harley Benton HB-40B 2017, compact electric bass combo amplifier, 40 watt, 10" custom voiced speaker, TEC tube-emulating circuit, instrument input, gain control, integrated compressor with LED indicator, 3-band equalizer (bass, parametric middle, treble), volume control, headphone output, aux-input for play-along...

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Millenium ST-95

Standing Aid Ideal for keyboardists, guitarists and DJs, Seat height, backrest and footrests individually adjustable, Seat upholstery and backrest with cover, Seat height adjustable from 545 - 965 mm, Padded seat, Weight: 6 kg, Material: Steel, Colour: Black, Suitable...

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Denon DN-300C MKII

Denon DN-300C MK II, CD/USB Player, Slot-In CD - Drive, USB Audio Player, USB plays MP3 audio file formats, 3,5 mm Jack Input, Display, symmetric XLR Output, stereo RCA Output, adjustable speed ±15%, Random, Repeat and Power-on-Play, IR Remote, 10-key...

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ADJ Pro Event Table

ADJ Pro Event Table, Compact and collapsible, Lightweight, around 18 kg, Functional and professional looking, table height: 880mm, dimensions table 1200x580mm; Dimensions (LxWxH): 50” x 24” x 45.5” / 1270 x 610 x 1155 mm, Dimensions for own Logo (WxH):...

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Presonus Studio 26

USB audio interface 2 x 4 USB 2.0 audio interface with 192 KHz, 2 Combo inputs: Mic/Line/Inst (XLR/jack), Jack inputs switchable from "Inst" (high impedance) to "Line", 2 Low-noise XMAX-L microphone preamplifiers, 48 V phantom power can be connected,...

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Boss GT-1B Bass Multi-FX Pedal

Boss GT-1B Bass Multi FX, effects pedal, Bass Multi Effect, 90 effect types, 32 seconds looper, approximately 7 hours of operation time with batteries, 99 Presets, 99 user patches, 3 Footswitches, 1 expression pedal and 1 additional footswitch/expression pedal input,...

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Mooer Baby Bomb 30 W

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