Best Portable PA Systems

The 10 Best Portable PA Systems of 2018

Do you need to be mobile and still make a noise? Don’t worry, we got you covered with this in-depth article on the best portable PA systems of 2018. Bear in mind these portable PA system recommendations are for small gatherings of up to a couple hundred people. We have not included PA systems for large format events.

In deciding what to add to this list, we’ve considered cost, the application, instruments, and voice so you can find the right choice for your portable PA requirements.

This article is not only about the products, to go with our product reviews we list recommendations for specific applications in our Buyers Guide which we’ll come to later in this article. We’ve also put together ’10 Top Tips for The Road’ to help keep you prepared wherever you may take your portable PA system. Let’s get started…

1. Fender Passport Conference PA System –  Our Top Pick

Fender Passport Conference PA System

Power Output
175W
Frequency Resp.
Unspecified
Battery
No
Bluetooth
No

If you’re familiar with music or sound then you would have come across Fender at some stage. Fender is most famous for their electric guitars, more specifically, the Fender Stratocaster or Strat as it’s commonly referred to. Having been in business since 1954 and being an American brand, you can expect a high quality and service from Fender.

Why the Fender Passport Conference is Our Top Pick

The Fender Passport Conference wins the Outer Audio Top Pick for the best portable PA system of 2018 for the following reasons:

  • Ultra-compact design. Packs up into a neat carry case protecting the mixer and speaker grilles. The speakers look neat and presentable.
  • Easy to set up and use. The Fender Passport Conference is easy to use with no clutter on the mixer.
  • Quality parts and service. Fender are renown for their quality parts and service and the Passport Conference is no difference. US based service and support.
  • Scalable. In the conclusion to the Fender Passport Conference below, you’ll read about the complete Passport range which caters for simple conferencing up to live music with FX and recording features. Fender also sell a whole range of other pro audio equipment so you can build on your system as you go.

Sound & Technical

The Passport Conference comes as a neat little case which opens to reveal 2 speakers and a mixer/amplifier. The system delivers a total 175W of power output perfect for small conferences, church groups or events in a small school hall.

Each speaker features a 5.25” driver with 2.75” tweeter. This configuration is perfect for vocal clarity and background music from a one-man band. This system would not be suitable as a DJ system or application requiring excessive audio levels.

Features

The Fender Passport Conference mixer takes a total of 4 inputs, 3 mic/line inputs, and one stereo input. Each of these inputs has separate volume and tone to give you absolute control over each channel. The 3 mic/line inputs also include a 20dB pad.

A pad is a simple button allowing you to attenuate a channel. In this case, the pad reduces the input level by 20dB. This is useful if the signal you are getting into the channel is excessively high. The pad will reduce the level and give you more control over the volume. This is a feature found on all professional audio mixers.

Each mic/line input allows for XLR or ¼ inch input. The stereo channel has dual ¼ inch inputs or a single ⅛ inch AUX input. There is also a ¼ inch headphone output with separate volume control. At the top of the mixer is a master volume. Everything is neatly laid out, the rotary knobs are large and easy to reach and there is no clutter to distract you. Fender has designed the mixer this way so that anyone can look at the mixer and immediately understand what is going on. No technical know-how needed.

The greatest feature of the Conference is the fact the PA system fits together into a single unit. The speakers clip either side of the mixer and the entire PA system is carried via the handle on top. Everything about the Conference is simple yet functional.

Product Conclusion

The Conference is designed for simplicity and to do one thing well, offer users a great PA system for conferencing or vocal amplification. That’s the good news, the great news is the Conference is only the smallest PA system in Fenders Passport PA system range. You can get the benefits of this great PA system in for larger applications with the Passport Event or Venue.

 

Fender Passport Event

Fender Passport Event

  • 375W PA system
  • 7 Channel Mixer (with sub out if you wish to connect a subwoofer)
  • 2 x 8” speakers with 1.2” tweeters
  • Bluetooth Input

 

Fender Passport Venue

Fender Passport Venue

  • 600W PA system
  • 10 Channel Mixer (with sub out if you wish to connect a subwoofer)
  • 2 x 10” Fender Special Design Speakers
  • Phantom power for DI boxes
  • Reverb for voice and instrument FX
  • USB recording

For an extra $100 you can get the Fender Passport Conference with Accessory Bundle. Included are 2 speaker stands, 1 XLR cable and 2 ¼ jack instrument cables. This is a great package for a one man band or even a conference system

2. Behringer EUROPORT MPA40BT-PRO

Behringer EUROPORT MPA40BT-PRO

Power Output
40W
Frequency Resp.
45Hz – 18kHz
Battery
12 hrs
Bluetooth
No

Having been around since 1961, Behringer are well known in the professional audio market. Behringer produce a massive range of pro-audio products so if you plan to purchase more audio equipment in the future, it might be wise to build an inventory of a single trusted brand like Behringer. Behringer have excellent US based after sales service and support.

Sound & Technical

The MPA40BT-PRO is an ultra-compact, lightweight PA system with a built in amplifier producing 40W of power output. The PA system includes an 8” driver with 1” tweeter producing a frequency response of 45Hz – 18kHz. This is perfect for both music and vocal clarity.

Features

Like the Fender Passport Conference, Behringer have designed the mixing panel on the EUROPORT to be simple, uncluttered and functional. No clutter, unnecessary buttons, switches or LEDs.

There are 2 mic/line inputs with the XLR/¼ inch jack input connector. A third channel is for pairing your Bluetooth device or RCA AUX input. All three of these input channels has its own volume control for independent mixing. There is also a master volume control as well as bass and treble rotary knobs for EQ adjustment.

A USB input is provided for one of Behringer’s ULM Series digital mics. These digital wireless systems are exceptional and easy to use. The ULM digital mic receiver is a USB device which plugs directly into the EUROPORT and connects to two ULM digital mics. Bear in mind, the ULM digital mics are not sold with the EUROPORT MPA40BT-PRO however, for an extra $150 or so you can purchase a Behringer EUROPORT/ULM Series combo here. The MPA40BT-PRO does come with a regular cable microphone so you don’t necessarily need to purchase extra mics if you only need the one.

The EUROPORT MPA40BT-PRO includes a built-in battery with a 12-hour continuous use battery life when fully charged. This is more than enough for most applications where you are away from a power source. The EUROPORT is on wheels and weighs a little under 20lbs so just about anyone can move the PA system about without any hassle. The speaker will easily fit in the truck or even on the back seat.

Product Conclusion

Our Top Pick was very close between the Behringer EUROPORT and Fender Passport Conference. Both come from reputable brands with quality parts and excellent after sales service. The Fender beats the EUROPORT on power output and this is the reason the EUROPORT comes a close second.

The EUROPORT is perfect for making announcements and playing some background music. Not recommended for parties, but this was not what it was designed for. The EUROPORT is best suited for little league, other single field outdoor sports events, church groups, town hall meetings and similar type events. The system is simple to set up and operate so anyone can learn to use this PA system.

3. ION Audio Tailgater iPA77

ION Audio Tailgater iPA77

Power Output
50W
Frequency Resp.
77Hz – 20kHz
Battery
50 hrs
Bluetooth
Yes

The iPA77 is a fantastic mini PA system offering the perfect mix of sound quality, features and portability. This is a versatile speaker which can be used as a simple Bluetooth speaker for a party, at the announcers table at a little league event or even a utility PA system for a church.

Sound & Technical

The sound quality from the iPA77 is great for playing music or as a public address system. The iPA77 comes with a microphone and cable so if you need something compact for music and commentary or announcements, you’re ready to go. The microphone sounds good, however, might battle to be heard over large gatherings or excessive noise. The microphone has a separate volume control so you can adjust this separate to the master volume.

The 50W speaker delivers a decent amount of sound for close proximity however, the sound will start to drop off when you go beyond 100 Feet or so. The frequency response is 77Hz to 20kHz, just about full range.

Features

The iPA77 comes packed with features you’d expect in 2018. It’s a Bluetooth speaker and if you have an NFC enabled phone you can pair with the iPA77 simply by tapping your phone to the top of the speaker. There is also a ⅛ inch AUX input and a ¼ inch jack input for the microphone.

One of the most impressive features is the iPA77’s 50-hour battery life. There is also a USB power bank so you can charge your phone or tablet. ION Audio has even included a recessed panel on the top of the iPA77 so your phone or device can sit on top of the speaker without sliding off. The recess is also a great place to keep your microphone when not in use.

The LED display on the front of the iPA77 indicates the input mode the speaker is in, battery life, Bluetooth indicator, and AM/FM station. There is a retractable antenna on top of the speaker for picking up AM/FM stations.

As well as master and microphone volume control, you can also control the paired Bluetooth device by skipping tracks, play, and pause. This is a great feature gives anyone using the microphone quick access to controlling the music.

Product Conclusion

The ION Audio Tailgater iPA77 is a versatile portable PA system. Great for a small conference breakaway room, church or organization, little league sports events or a tailgate system at the game. The iPA77 is more for vocal and music playback. I would not recommend this for instruments.

4. Rockville RPG122K Powered Speakers

Rockville RPG122K Powered Speakers

Power Output
250W RMS
Frequency Resp.
60Hz – 20kHz/span>
Battery
No
Bluetooth
Yes

The Rockville RPG122K is a party in a box. This portable PA system is built for the road with features you’ll find useful for just about any occasion or application. This is a complete PA system which comes with everything you’ll need to start making a noise as soon as you open the box.

Sound & Technical

The RPG12K features two 12” speakers delivering a combined 250W RMS and 1000W Peak. The primary speaker is an active speaker with built-in two-channel amplifier making this a stereo portable PA system. The second speaker is passive and connects to the primary via a ¼ jack speaker cable supplied with the system.

The frequency response of the RPG122K is 60Hz – 20kHz, perfect for music playback and vocals. If you want to run a band through this PA system, you may want to consider a subwoofer for better low-end. The bass guitar and drums will sound thin without a subwoofer.

Features

Rockville have made sure to include enough inputs to accommodate most applications. There are two mic inputs which can take either XLR or ¼ jack. There is also a stereo RCA line input. All three of these inputs have their own volume control so you can perform a little mix of the inputs. This is great for a one-man band. For example, you could have your voice in one input and guitar in the second. If you have backing tracks, you could connect this via RCA. The additional input could also be two microphones with the RCA input for backing track or karaoke. Other inputs include a USB, SD, and Bluetooth.

There is a master volume rotary control as well as bass and treble controls. The LED allows you to adjust further audio settings via pre-programmed equalizer settings. The LED control panel also allows you to control any paired Bluetooth device with buttons for play/pause, skip and volume control.

Included with the RPG122K is a microphone, 2 x speaker stands, remote control and all necessary cables. The remote control only allows you to change Bluetooth settings and adjust the speakers EQ mode. As the Bluetooth can all be controlled via your mobile phone, I don’t see the added value of having a remote control.

Product Conclusion

The Rockville RPG122K is a versatile portable PA system. Perfect for one man bands, small church groups, house parties and little league or school outdoor events. While you could use this PA system for a full band, I wouldn’t recommend the RPG122K for this application.

5. Pyle PPHP1037UB Active Loudspeaker

Pyle PPHP1037UB Active Loudspeaker

Power Output
350W RMS, 700W Peak
Frequency Resp.
40Hz – 22kHz
Battery
No
Bluetooth
Yes

The PPHP1037UB from Pyle is an ultra-compact, yet powerful active loudspeaker. This portable PA system is sold as a single unit so if you need a stereo PA system, you will need to purchase two PPHP1037UB.

Sound & Technical

The PPHP1037UB features a 10” full range driver with a 1” tweeter. The speaker delivers an impressive 350W RMS and 700W Peak power output. With this power, the PPHP1037UB will easily project voice and music across a sports field. A frequency response of 40Hz – 22kHz means the PPHP1037UB is only 20Hz shy of full range.

Features

Inputs on the PPHP1037UB include one microphone, one line level (with a choice of RCA and XLR input), ⅛ inch AUX, USB, SD, and Bluetooth. There is also a ¼ inch jack line output. This is useful if you wish to connect more than one active speaker, even another PPHP1037. Bear in mind connecting speakers this way will mean you lose any stereo imaging. This way of connecting speakers is perfect for multiple, distributed speakers for conferencing, sports events or similar public address requirements.

Each input, excluding USB and SD, has its own volume control. There is also a master volume as well as treble and bass rotary controls. A LED control panel allows you to control Bluetooth functions like play/pause, skip, etc. The PPHP1037UB also has a record feature which allows you to record to USB or SD card. This is saved as a WAV file which can easily be transferred to your PC for editing. This is a useful feature for a one-man band or duo looking to record a live gig.

The PPHP1037UB includes a red LED clip indicator beside the power LED. There is also a 110/220 voltage selector and a fuse to protect against any power surges.

Two handles either side of the speaker make for easy carrying and there is a hole for a speaker pole or stand.

The PPHP103UB is sold as speaker only with power cable. You will need to purchase speaker stands and other accessories separately.

Product Conclusion

The PPHP1037UB is the 10” version of the PPHP range from Pyle. Also, available is the 8”, 12” and 15”. The PPHP1037UB is perfect for outdoor events or a portable PA for school or church. You could also use this speaker as an on-stage monitor. If you want something for the band, go for the 15” version.

6. PRORECK PARTY 15 Portable PA System

PRORECK PARTY 15 Portable PA System

Power Output
200W RMS
Frequency Resp.
50Hz – 20kHz
Battery
No
Bluetooth
Yes

If you are looking for something to light up the party, the PRODECK PARTY 15 Portable PA System does just that! The PARTY 15 feature colorful LED lights which illuminate behind the speaker grill and perform a lighting effects show in time to the music.

Sound & Technical

PRODECK is one of those brands pushing P.M.P.O.  as its speaker power output. The PARTY 15 is rated at 2000W P.M.P.O. As mentioned, this means nothing when it comes to power output. The actual output is 200W RMS. With it’s 15” driver the PARTY 15 delivers a frequency response of 50Hz – 20kHz. Perfect for a house party and DJing.

The primary active speaker delivers signal and power to the secondary passive speaker via the supplied speaker cable. The system comes with a 30ft speaker cable but with a speaker-barrel, you can easily extend the length of your cable or, simply purchase a longer cable.

Features

The PARTY 15 features a ¼ inch jack input for the microphone and RCA line input, each with a dedicated volume control. Other inputs include USB, SD, Bluetooth and FM radio. On the front control panel is a 5-band graphic EQ with a +/- 12dB boost/cut at 100Hz, 330Hz, 1kHz, 3.3kHz or 10kHz. The LED display indicates the current sound mode and acts as a tuner for the FM radio. There is also a clip indicator to monitor when levels get too excessive.

On the front control panel, you can play/pause, skip, search any Bluetooth device paired with the PA system. A separate remote control allows you to perform the same controls as well as pair a Bluetooth device, adjust volume and EQ settings.

Product Conclusion

As the name suggests, the PARTY 15 is best suited for parties, DJ setups in particular. The PARTY 15 is specifically designed for this purpose and I wouldn’t use it for other public address applications. This PA system would be great for the church youth group, a mobile DJ or other entertainment type events.

7. LyxPro SPA-8 Portable PA System

LyxPro SPA-8 Portable PA System

Power Output
100W RMS
Frequency Resp.
40Hz – 19kHz
Battery
No
Bluetooth
Yes

The LyxPro SPA-8 is an ultra-compact, versatile PA system. The speaker is sold as a single unit so you will need to purchase two for a pair. At only 14lbs, the SPA-8 is a manageable weight for just about anyone to carry.

Sound & Technical

The SPA-8 features an 8” driver with 1” tweeter delivering an impressive 100W RMS. Also, impressive for a speaker this size is the frequency range of 40Hz-19KHz. While the SPA-8 does deliver close to full range it does lack definition on the bottom end.

Features

The SPA-8 has all the features you’d expect from a professional portable PA system. The first input channel allows for XLR or ¼ inch jack input with a mic/line switch. The second channel is line only and allows for ⅛ inch AUX or RCA input. Both of these inputs have separate volume controls. Other inputs include SD, USB, and Bluetooth.

A control panel with LED allows you to view the current input mode, Bluetooth pairing, and settings. Below the LED is a control bank to control a paired Bluetooth device.

There are two rotary controls to adjust bass and treble and separate master volume. There is also a clip indicator on the rear of the speaker.

While the SPA-8 doesn’t come with speaker stands, there is a hole for stand or pole mounts. Also, available is the SABT-8 or battery-powered version of the SPA-8. This is handy for events where a power socket is not close by.

Product Conclusion

The SPA-8 is a cost-effective, versatile little speaker and would be good as part of a PA system or alone as an onstage monitor. Perfect for churches, conferencing, schools, sports teams and mobile DJs. The SPA-8 is part of a range which includes 10”, 12” and 15” models. The 12” also comes as a battery operated option.

8. Alphasonik AKDJ105BTS Portable Loudspeaker

Alphasonik AKDJ105BTS Portable Loudspeaker

Power Output
100-200W RMS
Frequency Resp.
44Hz – 17kHz
Battery
No
Bluetooth
Yes

The AKDJ105BTS is the 10” version of Alphasonik’s BTS range which includes an 8”, 12” and 15”. The BTS range is tailored for the DJ/karaoke market with similar features to the PRODECK PARTY 15, including LED lighting behind the speaker grille.

Sound & Technical

The 10” model is said to produce 1600W but Alphasonik doesn’t specify what type of output this is. My guess would be this is 1600W of program output and the RMS would probably be somewhere around 100-200W, still decent for a 10” speaker.

The built-in amplifier incorporates internal protection and a special cooling system which Alphasonik say can handle running the speakers at max volume for extended periods.

The AKDJ105BTS delivers a full range of 44Hz – 17kHz, great for vocals and music. While I feel these speakers do lack a little bit of bass they are definitely loud! Perfect for a house party.

Features

The AKDJ105BTS features a switchable mic/line input and a second line only input. The mic/line input can take XLR or ¼ inch jack and the line input takes a ⅛ inch jack or RCA. Other inputs include USB, SD, and Bluetooth. A control panel below the LED display allows you to play/pause, skip, search, etc for a paired Bluetooth device. There is a separate rotary knob to adjust the volume of the MP3 section which includes USB, SD, and Bluetooth. You can also adjust bass and treble via separate rotary knobs.

The AKDJ105BTS is sold as a single speaker but allows you to link to a second speaker via the MIX OUT connection on the back.

Product Conclusion

The AKDJ105BTS is a great choice for mobile DJs, karaoke bars, and other party type applications. The speaker can be used as part of a PA system or as an onstage monitor. The 10” BTS packs a punch but for bigger venues or if you require more volume, go for the 12” or 15” model.

9. Pyle Pro 800W Portable PA Loudspeaker

Pyle Pro 800W Portable PA Loudspeaker

Power Output
400W RMS, 800W Peak
Frequency Resp.
35Hz – 20kHz
Battery
3 hrs
Bluetooth
No

The Pyle Pro 800W Portable PA Loudspeaker is a great all-in-one PA system. If you’re after a PA system that’s affordable, easy to cart around, includes a tonne of features and easy to set up and operate, then the Pro 800W is what you’re after.

Sound & Technical

The Pyle Pro 800W is a 3-way speaker system with 10” subwoofer, mid-range driver and tweeter. The PA system produces 400W RMS (800W Peak) with a frequency response of 35Hz-20KHz. Perfect for both music and vocals.

Features

As mentioned, the Pro 800W is feature packed. Pyle has made sure to cover all bases and even included a recessed iPod dock on the top of the speaker. The iPod dock allows you to play music and charges the device at the same time. This dock is for Apple products with the large 30-pin connector.

The Pro 800W features 5 ¼ inch audio inputs; 2 mics, 1 guitar, 1 line and 1 iPod/MP3 (separate from the iPod dock input). Each input has its own volume control so you can mix each channel independently. USB, SD and FM radio are also included.

The Pro 800W includes a built-in rechargeable battery making it fully mobile, even when there is no power socket available. The battery is said to last around 3 hours depending on usage.

Pyle has been nice enough to include 3 difference wireless microphone choices. There is a standard wireless handheld microphone, a lapel and headset microphone. Keep in mind the lapel and headset use the same belt pack so only one of them can be used at a time. This is useful for Q&A type scenarios because you can have the lapel or headset for the MC, or person leading a Q&A, and then the handheld as a roaming microphone for people to ask questions.

The Pro 800W has a set of wheels and telescopic handle so anyone is able to move the system around, no carrying necessary. There is also a hole in the bottom of the speaker should you wish to mount the speaker on a pole or stand. Worried about reaching the controls in this scenario? The Pro 800W also comes with a remote control so you can adjust the volume, change tracks on the iPod dock device and scan the FM radio.

Product Conclusion

The Pro 800W is a fully mobile, easy to move around portable PA system. This is a great choice for church groups, schools, personal trainers at the gym and even sports events. This PA system will be good for a couple hundred people but will struggle for bigger audiences.

10. Hisonic HS120B Portable PA System

Hisonic HS120B Portable PA System

Power Output
40W
Frequency Resp.
Unspecified
Battery
8 hrs
Bluetooth
No

If you are looking for an affordable PA system for voice-only applications, then the HS120B from Hisonic is a great choice. Some of the PA systems in this article we have referred to as ultra-compact or lightweight, the HS120B is ultra-ultra-compact. This is essentially a handheld speaker weighing a mere 6lbs.

Sound, Technical & Features

At 40W, the Hisonic HS120B packs a serious punch for its size. The HS120B can operate off socket power, its built-in Lithium battery or 2 x 9V battery which Hisonic are kind enough to provide with the HS120B. The battery lasts an impressive 15 hours on standby and 8 hours of continuous usage. More than enough for most applications. If you have extra 9V batteries, there is no reason to charge the HS120B and you can keep going till your batteries run out!

The HS120B comes with a wireless handheld microphone, lapel and headset microphone. There is only one belt back so you can only use either the lapel or headset at one time. A ¼ inch input allows for a 3rd cable microphone as well as a 4th microphone input for a ⅛ inch cable mic. The ⅛ inch cable microphone is only ever used on PCs so I’m not sure why Hisonic included this. Each input has a separate volume control and a single volume control for the wireless mics. There is also a ⅛ inch AUX input and AUX output. A ¼ inch jack out can be used to link to an external 8ohm speaker.

There is a master volume, tone control, and echo if you’d like to add some dramatic FX to your voice while announcing. The wireless handheld microphone and belt pack connect to the HS120B via VHF so it’s as easy as switching on and you’re ready to go.

Product Conclusion

The Hisonic HS120B is best suited for events where the location is fairly remote and you don’t want to have to carry speakers and equipment. The HS120B is lightweight, can be carried or even put in a backpack. This would also make an excellent PA system for a booth at a trade show where you perhaps want to move around your stall while performing product demos for potential clients. Auctioneers will also find the HS120B useful for visiting remote auctions where you want something to plug and play and then quickly pack up afterward.

Buyer’s Guide

The products listed above are all great choices for those looking to purchase a portable PA system. If you’re still unsure about which one to choose, below is some helpful information to help you decide:

Technical Jargon

Let’s quickly cover some equipment basics and terminology so you can better understand this article and make ultimately make the right choice when purchasing your portable PA system.

What Does PA Stand For?

PA stands for public address system. A PA system can be described as a single speaker, the speakers at a sports stadium or a massive sound rig you find at a concert. In basic terms, a PA system is a speaker or speakers being used to deliver sound to an audience. Hence, the name, public address system.

PA System Terminology

Here are some quick answers to some commonly used phrases and terminology for PA systems:

Watt

Watt is a universal measurement for power output and is the standard used in sound reinforcement and electronics. In speakers, a watt is the measurement of power a speaker produces.

Manufacturers will typically indicate power output as either RMS or Peak. RMS stands for root means square. It’s not important to understand what that means, all you need to know is, this is the power delivered when operating at the speaker’s optimal power output or 0dB.

Peak is the maximum power the speaker will deliver. While a speaker can operate at its peak power output, continuously running a speaker or PA system at peak will lead to failure and possible damage to your speakers.

You will notice some manufacturers will indicate watts for “program power” or “ P.M.P.O” and other watt ratings. In terms of power output, these figures mean nothing, so don’t be fooled by this deceptive marketing ploy some retailers use. RMS and Peak are the only power output metrics you should follow when purchasing a PA system.

Decibel (dB)

A decibel rating refers to the volume of sound a speaker produces. Basically, dBs indicate how loud a speaker is. This is often listed under sensitivity in the specs.

Passive vs Active/Powered

In the most simplified terms, a passive speaker requires an external amplifier while an active or powered speaker has a built-in amplifier. All the PA systems in this article are active, however, where the second speaker in the system is usually passive and receives power from the primary active speaker.

Clip Indicator

A clip indicator is an LED (usually red) found on the rear of most powered speakers. When you drive a speaker too hard, the internal amplifier overloads and the LED will illuminate or flash. Simply turning down the volume will stop the speaker from overloading. Continuous clipping will lead to damage and possible speaker failure so keep an eye on the clip LED when playing loud music.

Types of Cables

Although the cables in a PA system all look the same, they are different and each serves a specific purpose.

Microphone/Signal Cable – Microphone or signal cable is used for microphones or instruments (including some DJ mixers). These signal cables are typically thin and will either have XLR or ¼ inch jack connectors.

RCA Cable – RCA is probably the cable most people are familiar with. RCA is the red and white connector most commonly found in home audio equipment. This cable will usually be used for CD players and AUX inputs for your portable PA system.

Speaker Cable – Speaker cable is almost always thicker than microphone cable. The flex and feel of the speaker cable are similar to that of a power lead. Speaker cable is used to connect an amplifier or link two speakers with a large barrel type connector.

Power Lead – Pretty self-explanatory but, the power leads are used to plug equipment in and have standard plugs to connect to a socket.

Best Picks

Still undecided? Not to worry, here are the winners of each category:

Best Value Portable PA System

Our best value pick goes to the ION Audio Tailgater iPA77. This little powerhouse features a 50W of power, 50-hour battery, Bluetooth and it comes with a cable microphone all for under $100! The iPA77 is not just great value for money but also one of the most versatile portable PA systems we have reviewed.

Best Portable PA System With Wireless Mic

If you require a portable PA system with wireless mic then our best recommendation is the Hisonic HS120B. The HS120B is easy to carry and you have the option of using a handheld, lapel or headset microphone. The AUX in allows you to play some background music if necessary.

If you need a PA system with wireless mic but also a little more power to play some loud music, then the Pyle Pro 800W is the better choice.

Best Portable PA System for Live Music

The best portable PA system for live music would be the Fender Passport Venue. We reviewed the Passport Conference in this article but the Venue is part of the same range and is designed specifically for live gigs. Sound starts to get tricky when you put a live band through the speakers so you need a decent PA system. You may want to consider adding an 18” subwoofer for the drums and bass guitar.

Best Portable PA System for DJs or Parties

The best portable PA system for a party is the PRODECK PARTY 15. This PA system has everything you need to get the party going with 15” speaker which are perfect for dance music. You may want to consider an 18” subwoofer if you’re going the party is for more than 50 people, the bass will thin out the more people you have.

Best Portable PA System for Acoustic Guitar and Vocals

If you simply need a PA system for acoustic guitar and vocals, then we would recommend the Fender Passport Conference. You have 3 input channels so you can have 2 vocals or two guitars. You can then use the stereo channel for backtrack if needed or, background music between sets. If you purchase the Passport Conference with the Accessory Bundle then you’ll have the speaker stands and cables needed for an acoustic setup.

Best Battery Powered PA System

The best battery powered PA system we reviewed is the Behringer EUROPORT MPA40BT-PRO. Our choice is based on an impressive 12-hour continuous use battery life and Behringer’s quality parts and service.

The EUROPORT is unsuited for excessively loud music so if you need some extra power then again the Pyle Pro 800W is a good alternative. The battery on the Pyle Pro is only going to last you around 3 hours.

Best Portable PA System Under $200

If you only have $200 to spend then the LyxPro SPA-8 is going to be your best option. While the SPA-8 doesn’t come with microphones, stands or any other accessories, it is a quality speaker. The SPA-8 is part of a range of SPA speakers from LyxPro so you can build your system up over time if you wish to. Even the LyxPro SPA 15” model is under $200 if you need some extra power.

Best Portable PA System for Karaoke

If you are looking for a PA system for Karaoke, the Rockville RPG122K is a great choice. The system has two microphone channels and even comes with one cable microphone. Both backing track and vocals will sound good through the 12” speakers. The Rockville RPG122K will also be great for church and school halls looking for a versatile, portable PA system.

Tips For Taking Your Portable PA System On The Road

If you’re looking for a portable PA system, you’re probably looking to head out on the road. Even if your PA system is just for a little league a few blocks away, these tips can help save you time and hassle.
The first rule of going out and setting up a portable PA system is, ALWAYS be prepared. Often when you are setting up a portable PA system, there is little or no time to “quickly” pop back to the house, store or office to get something you have forgotten. Here are some tips to make sure you are never caught off guard and to prolong the life of your PA system.

Tip 1 – Make a Checklist

So simple but so many people don’t do this. Even if you only have a couple items, create a checklist with two check columns. Check the item is prepped, and then check the item is in the car. This way you won’t leave anything behind. Your checklist should be detailed and even include things like batteries, tape, etc.

Tip 2 – Bags and Cases

As your portable PA system is destined to move around a lot, it’s a good idea to invest in some canvas bags. You can purchase them ready made like these from Gater Cases or get them custom made. Often the manufacturer will sell these as an added extra so have a look on check out. These bags will prevent scratches, dust, and moisture, thus prolonging the life of your PA system and accessories. You can also get a custom road case with wheels for your PA system to fit inside.

Tip 3 – Have a Dedicated PA Box

Even if you only have a couple PA accessories, get a dedicated box or grate for your equipment. Preferably, something that closes so nothing falls out or someone walking by picks up and moves. For small PA systems, I’ve found it’s best to use a large toolbox. Place your cables and microphones in the bottom compartment with tape, connectors and other small miscellaneous items in the top. Try to keep this crate or box clean and uncluttered so you can easily see if something is missing. If you have a lot of PA equipment, perhaps think of investing in a large road case.

Tip 4 – Remember The Extras

One thing people never think of is all the extra items you need when out and about with your portable PA system. Here are some items I always have with my system:

Electrical tape – Good for fastening cables to speaker poles and taping wrapped up cables when you pack up.

Gaffer tape – Probably one of the most important things you’ll ever need! For some reason, gaffer tape always comes in handy. You can tape cables to the floor in walkways to avoid trip hazards as well as fix many other problems you never thought you’d need gaffer tape for.

Batteries – One set of batteries is never enough, have at least 2 extra sets just in case.

Sharpie & regular pen – Like gaffer tape, you will always find a use for a sharpie. The regular pen is for making notes which you often end up doing, even at a little league game.

Torch – Not so necessary during the day outside but for all other times a torch will come in handy. Don’t rely on your phone torch, the battery runs out quickly and you then have the problem of charging your phone.

Snacks & water – If you’re managing your portable PA system on the day of an event, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t have time to grab a snack or drink, sometimes even getting to the toilet is a challenge. Take a packed lunch and enough to drink for the time you’re with the system.

Portable battery & charger – Always take your phone charger and a portable battery if you have one. Often you might be running music off your phone or just making a tonne of calls organizing the day’s event. Having these two items will come in handy when the battery starts to die.

Tip 5 – Trash Bags

Not for the trash, for your equipment. If you’re operating your portable PA outdoors, often when it is drizzle or light rain, the event still goes on. You can cover your PA system with trash bags to protect them from the weather and still operate the sound as normal. This is where your gaffer tape comes in handy as you can fasten the trash bag under the speaker so it doesn’t blow off. If you have forgotten your raincoat, a trash bag is a good alternative. Cut a hole in the top and sides and you’re good to go.

Tip 6 – Spares & Extras

Always have a backup and spares on hand. Even if your backup PA is a Bluetooth speaker or megaphone for announcing, it’s something to make a noise while you fix any issues. Include extra cables for the speakers, microphones and power cables. If you are using a wireless microphone, make sure you have a spare cable microphone on hand, ready to go if the wireless goes down.

Often a wireless microphone will go down while someone is talking, having the cabled mic ready to go so you can hand it to the person speaking will mean they can carry on talking. This smooth transition will eliminate any frustration from the speaker or audience and they’ll probably forget it even happened. On the other hand, if you have to fumble about finding a mic cable and then plugging it in and testing it before the speaker can carry on, this will annoy the speaker and audience.

Tip 7 – Extra Power Cables

So important for a portable PA system, especially when you are operating outside. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an extra 200 or 300 feet of power cable and it still hasn’t been enough. If you are working with the PA outdoors, make sure you have enough to get across at least a width of a football field, 160 – 200 feet.

Tip 8 – Don’t Clip or Limit

Be aware of the capabilities of our PA and don’t allow the system to clip or limit too much. This simply means, don’t run your PA system at max volume continuously. Peak limitations are set by manufacturers as the max a system can go to and for brief moments. A PA system is not supposed to run at its max power output for extended periods of time, it will overheat, a speaker driver will blow or the internal amplifier will burn out.

If your PA system has a level meter, try to keep the meter crossing from green to yellow and try not to hit red. If it starts hitting the red, notchback the input volume till its in the yellow. No one will ever remember the guy who didn’t blow up his speakers but they always remember the fool who blew up the system and ended the party early!

If your system doesn’t have a LED meter check the clip indicator, when that comes on or flashes, turn the volume down until that LED turns off. If your system has none of neither a meter or indicator, listen to the PA system. If it’s distorting at all, turn it down till the sound returns to normal.

Tip 9 – Insure your Gear

Portable PA systems take a fair amount of abuse from the wear and tear of being moved around. If you have invested a significant amount of money in your PA system, consider taking out insurance on loss and damage. Portable PA systems are popular among thieves and you are often going to public spaces where theft could be an issue. Damage is also a real issue so, it’s better to be safe than have to fork out for another PA system.

Tip 10 – Get Some Wheels

I don’t know about you but I hate carrying gear. If you’re setting up a PA system on a field or location within a building or complex, there will be times you can’t park your vehicle right near the setup area. It’s wise to invest in a utility cart. I have one similar to this model. You can load the cart up and wheel your gear to where you need to go. Not only can you carry more but you’ll save yourself some backache. Speaking from experience!

Conclusion

The first thing to remember is always be prepared. Follow our 10 Top Tips for The Road and you’ll be prepared for most mishaps while out with your PA system.

Be wary of some jargon manufacturers use. Things like power output can be deceiving so always check what the RMS or Peak output is. P.M.P.O. and program power is an irrelevant measurement and should not be considered when choosing your PA system.

Think carefully about the application you are purchasing a portable PA system for. If you need something versatile as an all-rounder, then getting an all-in-one system like the Rockville RPG122K, ION Audio Tailgater iPA77 or PRODECK PARTY 15 might be a good option. But, if you need something to deliver excellent vocal clarity and possibly an acoustic guitar, I would probably go for something like the Fender Passport Conference, LynPro SPA-8 or Pyle Pro 800W.

Don’t always go for the cheapest option. When it comes to audio equipment, the cheaper the equipment and the cheaper it will sound. In some cases this is fine but if you are looking for a PA system that’s going to last more than just a few years, then purchase from trusted brands like Fender or Behringer. Both of these brands manufacturer high-quality products. These brands have built their portable PA systems to handle the challenges that come with moving equipment around, the bumps, drops etc. They’re also more likely to repair the PA system should something go wrong.

We hope you have found our recommendations useful and enjoy making a noise with your new portable PA system.

Matt Hallowes

Matt Hallowes

Matt has worked as a sound engineer and tour manager since 2003. His work as a sound engineer includes both live production and venue installations. With a passion for the industry, Matt shares his knowledge and expertise with us.

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