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Most PA systems are commonly thought of as being stationary devices, remaining in a live music venue and rarely being moved from one place to another. However, as many musicians and DJs can attest – having a portable PA system can be very useful.
Being able to transport your PA system can open up many new opportunities, performing or putting on events in settings that lack the equipment needed to amplify sound to an adequate volume.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the best portable PA systems that cater to all varieties of live performances, venues, and budgets so that you can decide which is the best option for your requirements.
What are the Best Portable PA Systems?
Indoor and Outdoor Portable PA Systems Reviews
The Samson Expedition Explor Portable PA System is a must-have for anyone seeking a portable, reliable, and high-quality sound solution for indoor and outdoor use.
The first thing that struck me was its compact and lightweight design. Weighing in at just 15 pounds, it is light and easy to transport to gigs.
But the 3-way speaker setup with 200 watts of power is where the Expedition Explor truly shines. The sound projection is excellent, covering the sonic spectrum with clarity and full-bodied response.
The 8-inch woofer, dual 1-inch tweeters, and 3.5-inch midrange driver deliver a powerful, uncompromising sound, and it is versatile enough to handle a variety of applications.
The 3-channel mixer is a welcome feature, allowing the user to connect microphones, instruments, and even use Bluetooth streaming for backing tracks. The built-in global 3-band EQ made sound shaping a breeze, allowing me to fine-tune my sound to suit any venue or performance style.
The flexibility to set up the Expedition Explor vertically, tilted back, as a floor monitor, or mounted on a speaker stand added to its versatility. Furthermore, the 100-foot range of operation is a huge advantage. It ensured that I could move around freely without worrying about signal drop or interference.
It has an impressive 12-hour battery life which is a true lifesaver, and ensures that you don’t have to worry about recharging during extended performances or events.
I also appreciated the compatibility with Samson XPD handheld digital USB wireless systems, which made it easy to integrate wireless microphones for a cable-free performance.
In my experience, it has lived up to its promises, offering exceptional sound quality, long-lasting battery life, and a user-friendly design.
- Ultra-lightweight 15-pound design
- 3-channel mixer accommodates mics, instruments, Bluetooth etc.
- Global 3-band EQ
- Full-range sound and projection
- Ultra-lightweight design
- Offers a variety of setup configurations
- Build quality isn’t quite as sturdy as similar products
The FreePlay LIVE by Mackie is one of the most versatile PA systems you’ll come across. With its conveniently compact design, this device is perfect for the traveling musician, singer, or performer who needs to amplify their sound.
Thanks to its lightweight design, the FreePlay Live is very easy to transport from one location to another. It’s perfect for busking, rehearsing at a friend’s house, or simply blasting out your favorite tunes on a sunny day at the beach.
With a lithium-ion battery that boasts up to 15 hours of continuous play time, this device can be used away from a power source all day long. Furthermore, it is Bluetooth-compatible, meaning you can hook it up to your smartphone or tablet with ease.
To set the levels of the PA speaker, Mackie has designed a FreePlay Connect app that can be downloaded on your phone or tablet. The digital mixer makes altering the settings quick and easy.
In terms of connectivity, this Mackie PA speaker facilitates two XLR or ¼ inch jack cables simultaneously, so you can use it for both guitars, vocals, and a backing track.
- 150 watts of power
- Wireless battery operation up to 15 hours
- 2-channel mixer
- Makes it easy to perform in any setting
- Can be mounted on a mic stand
- Levels can be controlled with FreePlay Connect app
- Not as loud as some other PA systems
- Best suited to smaller venues
For buyers with a large budget to work with, the Fender Audio Passport Venue S2 Portable PA System may be the ideal purchase. The PA system is especially well-suited for indoor events in small and medium-sized venues.
The 600W PA system has a total of 10 channels, with individual volume control for each channel and a wide variety of inputs.
This means it is great for everything from outdoor events, right through to use by bands, DJs, and other musicians. Bluetooth connection is also possible, helping to deliver excellent all-around connectivity.
The Fender Audio Passport Venue S2 is fitted with a Class D power amp, ensuring it can deliver clear and powerful sound in spite of its compact design.
At less than 50lbs, it is light enough to be fully portable and can be either floor or pole mounted. The PA system is powered by a standard IEC AC power cable.
- Class D power amp for great sound
- Volume and reverb controls for each channel
- Pole or floor mounted
- Excellent sound quality
- 10 channels with individual controls
- Portable and suitable for various uses
- More expensive than many alternatives
- No option for battery power
For some buyers, the best portable PA system will be the system that offers the greatest versatility, and this means the Bose S1 Pro Multi-Position PA System could be the ideal choice.
The PA system can be easily switched between seated, stand-mounted and tilted configurations, allowing it to be set up just the way you want it.
The three channels have independent EQ controls, and an optional ToneMatch setting has preset for microphones and acoustic guitars, making it easy to optimize tone.
In terms of the sound itself, the Bose S1 Pro delivers clear sound, with wide dispersion and no hotspots.
Finally, one of the single best features associated with this portable PA system is its built-in rechargeable battery, allowing it to be used either plugged into the mains or unplugged with an 11-hour battery life.
- Built-in rechargeable battery
- Makes use of Bose ToneMatch technology
- Can be seated, tilted or stand mounted
- Either mains or battery powered
- Extremely lightweight at just 15lbs
- May not be suitable for large venues
- Only three separate channels
If you are keen to find a small PA system and you have a reasonable budget to work with, the JBL EON208P Portable All-in-One PA could be the ideal option.
Despite being small enough and light enough to be held in your hands, it can boast 300W of power and has a Class D amplifier, capable of delivering crisp and detailed sound.
Four inputs allow microphones, instruments, or other devices to be connected to the PA system, making it ideal for public speeches, public conversations, solo performances, or use by live bands.
Meanwhile, additional line-level inputs are provided for keyboards, music players, drum machines, and other similar media devices.
Volume, treble, and bass controls allow you to easily make adjustments to your sound and the dual speaker-driven JBL EON208P is perfectly set up for use in coffee shops, restaurants, cafes, and small music venues.
- Class D amplifier offers clear sound
- Compatible with mics, instruments and media devices
- Designed with portability in mind
- Excellent sound in small venues
- Ideal for solo performers and small groups
- Highly portable and quick to set up
- No option for battery power
For those operating with a more modest budget, the Behringer Europort PPA500BT Portable PA system represents an excellent option, delivering 500W of power. As a result, it is able to deliver big sound with great sound clarity.
Best of all, this is achieved in a small package that weighs less than 50lbs, ensuring the PA system is perfect for buyers who need an option that can be transported from location to location.
In total, the Behringer Europort PPA500BT offers six channels, with volume, treble, and bass controls for each.
Bluetooth connectivity adds an extra layer of compatibility and means the PA system is also perfectly suited to music streaming.
A microphone is included and the whole system and its contents can be packed away into a self-contained unit, making it easier to store and transport without the fear of losing any of the cables or components.
- 500W of power and fully Bluetooth compatible.
- Six channels, with volume, bass, and treble controls
- Comes with a handheld microphone
- Easy to set up, pack up, and store
- Designed with portability in mind
- Available at a mid-range price
- May not be ideal for larger venues
- No option for battery power
For those who want the best small PA system available, regardless of price, the Peavey Escort 60\00 Portable PA System has to be considered a serious contender.
The 600W portable PA system with two-way speakers offers a total of nine mixer channels, along with USB MP3 playback and Bluetooth connectivity for music streaming.
With a total of seven XLR mic inputs, the PA system is one of the best portable PA systems for outdoor events and indoor events alike. Luggage-style wheels also make it easy to move around venues and set up.
The two-way speakers have 10″ woofers and these, combined with the Class D power amp, output excellent sound quality, with great clarity and detail.
All of these features combine to make the Peavey Escort 6000 Portable one of the best small PA system options for speakers, singers, musicians, bands, and other performers.
- Class D power amp delivers great sound
- Seven XLR mic inputs and nine channels
- Bluetooth and USB MP3 playback
- USB, Bluetooth and XLR inputs
- Offers high-quality sound
- Luggage-style wheels are useful
- Not the most affordable option
- No option for battery power
When seeking the best portable PA system, the Yamaha STAGEPAS 400BT is another solid contender, which deserves attention.
Built with the ability to travel from location to location in mind, the 400W sound system is able to deliver clear, crisp audio and can be either pole or floor mounted, depending on your needs.
The PA system is perfect for smaller venues, but powerful enough to thrive in medium-sized venues and outdoor spaces too. A total of eight channels can be used, and two-band EQ is available on each channel.
Built-in stand mounts make it easier to configure the PA system the way you want it, and Bluetooth wireless connectivity makes it simple to stream music and other audio from a mobile device.
Additionally, it is quick and easy to connect additional speakers to the system for situations where you need extra power or volume.
- Eight mixer channels with 2-band EQ
- Bluetooth for wireless connectivity
- Includes built-in stand mounts
- Can be pole or floor mounted
- Ideal for smaller venues
- Easy to connect additional speakers
- No option for battery power
Buyer’s Guide – Finding the Best Portable PA System
A portable PA system, or public address system, can be an essential purchase for venues that host either indoor or outdoor events, allowing everything from speeches to be made using a microphone, to live performances from solo musicians or smaller bands.
Yet, the question of what to look for in a PA system is not always simple. In this buyer’s guide, we will cover some of the most important features to look out for and some of the key ways that you can separate the best indoor or outdoor portable PA system from the rest.
There are some key details to look out for when seeking the best portable pa systems for outdoor events and indoor shows.
Firstly, the total power is typically expressed in watts (W). This typically refers to the total power level the speakers can handle in short bursts, although some products may also list the root mean square wattage, which can be thought of as the amount of continuous power it can handle.
Most PA systems, including the Peavey Escort 6000, include support for numerous channels, meaning multiple microphones can be connected and used at the same time, or microphones can be used in combination with instruments or mobile devices.
The level of control the PA system provides is also important. Ideally, you should try to find a PA system like the JBL EON208P and Behringer Europort PPA500BT that includes at least volume, bass, and treble controls.
The best products will also allow these controls to be applied to each individual channel, so you can adjust the sound of individual microphones or instruments.
The connectivity offered by a PA system is also an important factor. Look for a portable PA system with inputs that support standard instruments and microphones, as well as any other devices you plan to use it with.
Bluetooth connectivity is also a desirable feature, as it allows for music streaming from mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.
Finally, most modern PA systems should also include USB ports so recordings can be made directly from the output. This is particularly useful if you want to record sets from live performances or monitor your improvements when practicing an instrument or singing.
When purchasing an indoor or outdoor portable PA system, there are also some other elements that should be weighed up, and these will largely depend on buyer preferences.
For example, some PA systems like the Yamaha STAGEPAS 400BT and the Fender Audio Passport Venue S2 are designed to be floor mounted, some can be pole-mounted, and some can be used in either of those configurations.
Physical size and weight can be important, especially when seeking the most portable option, but there is a balance to be struck here, as smaller PA systems, as a general rule, are likely to be less powerful. Then, of course, buyers also need to consider the budget they have available, and you should always buy within your means.
If a PA system relies on other equipment to work to its fullest potential, this will obviously make it less portable than one that you can use as a standalone device. For buskers, street performers, or musicians who often play impromptu shows, the less additional gear you need with your PA system, the better.
Speaker stands are often bulky and heavy, so it might not be a good idea to opt for a PA system that requires these for maximum efficiency if you want to keep your setup as portable as possible.
Furthermore, PA systems that have handles installed can also make them easier to move around, although this is sometimes not an option with floor-mounted models. Carry bags are often sold with PA speakers, so you can transport them more easily and so that they are protected when being moved around.
Another important thing to think about when choosing a portable PA speaker is the directionality. This essentially means the angle of the speakers within the enclosure when audio is played through them, and it has a significant effect on dynamics and overall sound.
As I’ve previously briefly mentioned, portable PA speakers come in varying designs. Some work best when they’re mounted onto stands, which can be effective for directing the sound toward a crowd at ear level, while others have a floor-wedge design, meaning they can be angled upwards without needing a stand.
Some PA systems are intentionally designed so that sound is clearest when standing in front of it, while others are designed so that there are no real hotspots in terms of sound clarity.
A PA system like the Bose S1 Pro Multi-Position PA System that has no hotspots is often going to be better, but it may depend on precisely what you want to use the system for.
Whichever type you go for, it’s important to make sure it will suit the specific environment in which you’re using it – if you’re performing in a large music venue, you’ll need speakers that have the power and the design to suit that space, and likewise, for a smaller room, or outdoors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Choose an Amp or a PA System?
When it comes to projecting the sound of an instrument or vocal, amplifiers, and PA speakers are the two most popular options. The one that you should choose depends on what you intend to use it for.
If you’re looking for a device that can handle a wide range of sounds and frequencies, then a PA system is going to be the best best. They can produce lows, mids, and highs with equal clarity and power.
Amps, on the other hand, are generally better suited to one specific purpose, such as amplifying an electric or acoustic guitar, or a keyboard.
Why Do PA Speakers Make a Hissing Sound?
If a PA speaker is producing a hiss or some other form of constant unwanted noise, this is usually due to an issue with the grounding. Alternatively, it may be caused by a faulty cable that is prone to picking up interference.