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Your Guide to Buying Affordable PA Speakers

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Your Guide to Buying Affordable PA Speakers

Public address (PA) systems have become an indispensable element of almost every event undertaken today, regardless of scale. The speakers are arguably the most important aspect of any PA system, but many event planners have no idea of what to expect when choosing a set of speakers to suit an event. With the guide below, any event planners will have no trouble in finding speakers with just the correct specifications, and just the right price.

Choosing the Ideal PA Speakers

Buying the correct PA speakers to suit the needs of the project is crucial, and requires thorough research into the types of equipment available. Speakers are the output components of the PA system, and so it is worth investing some time in research to allow an educated and informed decision about which speakers are best suited for the event to be made. The sections below explore the most important features of a PA speaker which must be considered when choosing the ideal one.

Speaker Power

It is often difficult to know what to consider when choosing the appropriate power rating for a speaker system. This section is designed to give a practical guide to make use of when choosing the most appropriate power rating. It is important to realise that the power requirements of any system will vary with its application; the larger the room, the more amplification required, and the more amplification required, the more power required of the system. The choice between battery power and mains power is usually a simple one. Although battery powered speakers are often more compact and portable than their mains powered counterparts, battery operated devices are dramatically less powerful compared to those running off the mains, and so are likely unsuited to any application where a large amount of amplification is required.

There are some important considerations to be made about the PA system before an accurate estimation of power requirements can be made. The table below provides an approximation of the power requirements (measures in Watts) for typical systems running under different circumstances. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that most professionals recommend significantly overestimating the power requirements of a system, by as much as 30 per cent, in order to ensure a crisp sound; overestimation of power requirements guarantees that any system will be able to more than able to compensate for even large spikes in the audio track broadcast. The system's amplifier should also be able to provide power in excess to that transmitted by the speakers, thus giving the assurance of a crisp sound at all times. It is also worth keeping in mind that playing music can almost double a system's power usage as opposed to transmitting spoken word alone, and so investigations must also be made into what type of sound the speakers must transmit before making a purchase.

Application

Room/Crowd Size

Recommended Speaker Power Rating

Small Gathering

80-100 square metres/50-100 people

100 Watt

Acoustic night/medium meeting

200-400 square metres/100-250 people

300-500 Watt

Band night/large meeting

800-1000 square metres/250-500 people

1000-2000 Watt

Although the size of room has a major impact on the power requirements of a system, switching to an outdoor venue of a similar size can cripple even those systems able to comfortably cope with a comparable indoor event. The walls and roof of a room reflect sound, thereby creating the illusion of amplification. Outdoor venues have no such reflective surfaces; sound is able to escape into the environment, and so speakers must have enough power to allow the sound they transmit to be audible, even in the absence of the convenient reverb from within the structure of a building.

PA Speaker Critical Properties

The properties shown in the table below make an incredible difference to the type of speaker required, and therefore must be kept in mind when choosing the appropriate PA speaker.

Properties

Description


Speaker Housing

An often overlooked aspect of speaker design is that of the housing in which the speaker is contained. The shape of the housing can dampen or amplify the sound, thereby leading to altered sound dynamics, as well as altered power consumption. The density of the material housing the speakers can also have a profound effect on the sound produced: dense woods can absorb sound and reduce transmission, while plastic has much less of an effect.

Frequency Range

Although human hearing operates over a range of 20-20,000Hz, it is virtually impossible to find a speaker which can transmit effectively over this entire range. Surround sound systems are often comprised of a multitude of speakers: woofers and subwoofers for the low frequencies, and tweeters for high frequencies, for example. PA speakers must attempt to cater for the broadest range possible without compromising on quality, and so it is worth investigating the frequency range of any PA speaker system before purchase, since this property can have a profound effect on the depth of sound transmitted.

Impedance

The impedance value of a speaker is simply a measure of the resistance of the component when AC current is passed through it. This value is of great importance when investigating whether the existing amplifier can handle new more powerful speakers, or whether a new amplifier is required. Since impedance is a form of resistance, it is measured in Ohms. Typical speakers can have impedance values of 4-8 Ohms. Matching the speakers with the amplifier in use shouldn't be too much of a problem, but it is a worthwhile step in ensuring that no component of the system is damaged by mismatched specifications.

Power

Speaker power is given in Watts. Estimating the power requirements of a speaker is a very technical and challenging aspect of setting up any system, and this must be given particular care and attention. The previous section should help with determination of the appropriate power requirements, but it is also important to keep in mind that the amplifier must be able to transmit around 30 per cent more power than the recommended rating of the speakers connected to it to ensure a clear sound, and to ensure that the amplifier is able to work well within its range, thus boosting efficiency.

Wired or Wireless?

The application of a PA speaker system will likely dictate the best way to connect devices together. A better sound quality is often achieved by running cables over short distances, but for longer distances, wireless connections may provide an interference-free and inexpensive alternative to lengthy shielded cables. Wireless speakers also provide the added advantage of easy setup, and a hazard free venue when planning events.

Buying PA Speakers on eBay

Finding PA speakers on eBay is best done via the categories found on the home page. From the home page, click All categories, then Musical Instruments<. Open the More categories dropdown under Pro Audio Equipment, and select Speakers & Monitors<. Instantly, several thousand results for speakers of all types are displayed, but this classification is still too broad for most users. The panels on the left of this category page allow precise selection of exactly the type of speakers required; in this case, check the box marked PA Speaker System<. Now several hundred results are displayed from a pool of thousands, allowing further refinement of the results. Searching for 'Wireless<' within this category displays eBay's selection of wireless PA speakers, and searching for 'All in one<' generates a list of results corresponding to single units containing all the essentials of a simple PA system.

Conclusion

By paying close attention to the specifications detailed above, and making use of the helpful tips given in the previous section regarding the process of searching for PA speakers on eBay, the previously arduous task of shopping for a PA speaker system will become simpler than ever, and a good-quality PA system will likely be obtained for much less than expected.

 
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