Whether you are heading a pep rally or working as an auctioneer and want to be heard above the crowd, investing in a public address or PA system is essential. These systems are available in a variety of models, with different sized speakers and a multitude of other options. Power output, the number of channels, and mixing components are typical considerations. If you’re on a budget or need something easy to transport and set up, consider these tips on how to buy a portable PA system.
Determine your needs. When buying a portable PA system, there are functional considerations. If you are a public official and need to address a small crowd using a podium, for instance, you will probably only need 1 microphone and a single channel mixer. The mixer is the part of a PA system that allows you to “mix” the volume and tone of each channel.
If you are addressing only a few people, choose a small sound system designed either as a single unit, with the mixer, power amplifier, and speaker in 1 cabinet, or in a 3 piece configuration, with 2 cabinets containing speakers, and the mixer and amplifier combined in another. For a public speaker or an auctioneer in a small crowd of less than 50 people, choosing a single unit should suffice. Some Microsystems can also battery operated.
Decide on the component features. Calculate how much power and how many channels you will need. Volume is rated in watts. For each person in the listening audience, 1 watt is generally needed, so for 100 people, you’ll need a 100-watt system. But the power you’ll need for adequate volume also depends on the size and shape of the room and the acoustical environment. If the room has carpet and drapes, it will absorb more of the volume.
Purchase the accessories. The accessories you will need to operate a portable sound system are the speaker cables, microphone cables, and microphones. For added convenience, use microphone stands. Speaker stands are also suggested, and may come included with the PA package. A speaker stand will elevate the speaker cabinet to the audience’s ear level, increasing the quality of the sound and the efficiency of the speakers.