There’s a first time for everything, including buying a PA system. It’s high time to have your own and become familiar with the processes that come to play in events, gatherings, and parties.
Whether you are performing as a DJ or a musician in events, renting out sound equipment as a business, or practicing to become a sound engineer, this guide is for you.
Define PA and SR
The challenge in getting your PA system is twofold. The first one is to put together the components, and the second is to set them up in line with the layout of a venue or room.
But first, you need to quickly go over two terms that have been used interchangeably and have something to do with each other and you.
PA stands for “public address system,” which is typically used in buildings, schools, hospitals, stadiums, department stores, ships, airplanes, and other places to play recorded music or speech. The PA system usually consists of microphones, amplifiers, and loudspeakers.
For live music and performance, a type of PA system called sound reinforcement system, or SR, is specifically used. The SR usually has a mixer as the centerpiece.
Now that’s been said, are you ready for your first-ever PA system?
What Are the Units That Make Your Whole PA System?
Get to know the main parts:
- Speakers are classified as passive (unpowered) or active (powered). Their difference lies in the active speakers having amplifiers. Passive speakers are often part of a larger system, while powered ones are for smaller settings with their plugs and cables.
- Mixers are at the core of PA/SR systems and have many functions. With a mixer, you can adjust the tone and volume of audio sources and combine them. The mixer can have many inputs, outputs, buttons, and features like connectivity.
- Amplifiers can be included in speakers, as noted above. If you have the unpowered one, then you’ll need an amp.
- Audio cables establish links between and among units (e.g., microphones, instruments, and speakers). These cables have connectors like XLR, jack, speakON, and RCA.
- Microphones for talking, singing, and more.
- Monitor speakers that face the performer on the stage rather than the audience.
- Subwoofers are included in speakers or as standalone units.
- Stage boxes, or DI boxes, connect microphones and other audio input to the multicore cable, which then leads to the mixing console.
- Mic stands, adapters, and speaker stands are something to consider in the future.
How Do You Want to Set Up Your PA?
You can set up your audio system in a straightforward way. The mixer is at the center of the setup with microphones, speakers, and input devices. Your configuration can be a combination of a powered mixer and passive speakers or of powered speakers and a passive mixer.
The more complex or larger the venue, the more advanced the audio design needs to be. You can imagine subwoofers, amplifiers to power speakers, and stage monitors included in the setup.
With many connections, cables, and components thrown into the mix, it’s reasonable to get confused. That’s why complete PA systems exist. These packages include the essentials such as a mixer, speakers, and microphone. The whole thing is all set and ready to go.
These PA systems are compact and convenient to carry around for the next wedding, corporate party, conference, outdoor concert, and the like. They generally come with connectivity for related audio equipment.
How Often Do You Travel?
Portability is a significant concern when you travel to DJ or perform in events as you take those pieces of sound equipment with you all the time. You may have to run by a list to include everything or risk forgetting something. More importantly, you have to handle them with care and ensure they are transported safely.
While you want to bring your subwoofers, effects, and all else, you can opt for all-in-one systems that do the job. This setup often fits into a single enclosure or case that you can stow in your backseat or trunk. With fewer pieces to set up, you will have everything up and running on stage in no time.
How Much Power Do You Need?
It’s an essential question when setting up a PA system as it relates to a power amplifier. You want to create a sound setup that provides the right amount of power to fit your venue and style of music.
Speakers and amplifiers have power ratings that reveal the loudness of the sound measured in SPL, or sound pressure level. Ultimately, you want to have an amplifier power that results in your desired SPL.
Per this website, you will consider the (a) sensitivity of the loudspeakers found on the data sheet; (b) peak headroom measured in decibels (dB); (c) listener distance, which measures how far the speaker is from the farthest listener; and (d) music genre.
The total amplifier power required also takes into account the venue, particularly, its size, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, etc. For example, your performance venue entails basic amp needs that can be matched by a straightforward compact PA system.
How Much Does It Cost ?
Budget remains a critical point when looking to buy sound equipment for a new or existing setup. It’s highly plausible that you will need to upgrade, add, or replace the main components or accessories. Factor in add-ons like batteries for portable systems and enclosures/cases.
Bundled PA systems look like an affordable, mobile, and lightweight option for an initial setup. As your business or need demands, so does your music system. Just be ready for these eventualities.
In every performance, you want your audience to hear everything loud and clear and appreciate what you do in the live sound department. That’s the goal of having a sound reinforcement system that comes with all the technical configurations and terminologies. Your equipment, along with practical experience in performing, is your best teacher.