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The 9 Best PA Speakers for Bands and Solo Performers

09/07/2024

If you’re looking to perform live music as either a band or a solo performer, a good PA speaker is absolutely paramount.

There’s a huge range of sizes, forms, and features available, so let’s cut through the noise by working out how to help you make your noise heard. This is our guide to the nine best PA speakers for bands and solo performers, in no particular order.

In a hurry?

Here are our top three choices for bands or solo performances in a nutshell:

SubZero D15Powerful PA speaker with DSP voicing controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and 600 W of outputCheck the current price
Bose S1 Pro+Compact portable PA speaker with Auto EQ, multiple positioning options and a versatile three-channel mixerCheck the current price
Electro-Voice ZLX-12P G2Next-generation powered PA speaker from Electro-Voice with versatile DSP, Bluetooth connectivity, mobile app control, and extensive Dynacord-designed effectsCheck the current price

The best PA speakers

1. SubZero D15

SubZero D15 Active DSP PA SpeakerKey features

  • 1000W power output
  • Integrated DSP features
  • Multiple positioning options

Pros

  • High power handling
  • Versatile DSP settings
  • Flexible placement options

Cons

  • Limited portability

The SubZero D15 Active DSP PA Speaker delivers a 1000W power output, making it a strong choice for live music performances. It has an integrated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) which offers a variety of settings, allowing you to tailor the sound to different environments and genres. This flexibility is essential whether you’re performing in a small venue or a larger space, ensuring optimal audio quality.

The speaker’s design supports multiple positioning options, including upright and wedge angles. So, not only can you adapt the sound to your environment, but the placement of the speaker, too, gives you versatility to suit various setups. However, at 24.5kg, the D15’s portability is somewhat limited, which might be a consideration to make if you’re a solo musician who frequently transports your own gear.

For full bands, the D15’s high power and comprehensive sound control capabilities help ensure that every instrument and vocal can be heard clearly. Solo performers will appreciate the DSP features for fine-tuning their sound without additional equipment.


2. Bose S1 Pro+

Bose S1 Pro+ Multi-Position Battery Powered PA SystemKey features

  • Auto EQ adjustment
  • Three-channel mixer
  • 11-hour battery life

Pros

  • Portable and lightweight
  • Versatile positioning
  • Bluetooth streaming

Cons

  • Limited power output for large venues

The Bose S1 Pro+ is a versatile, battery-powered PA system ideal for live music performances. Its lightweight and portable design, combined with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers up to 11 hours of playtime, makes it perfect for musicians on the go.

This system’s three-channel mixer with independent EQ, reverb, and ToneMatch presets provides comprehensive sound control for professional audio that’s precisely tailored to your taste. And to ensure you have optimal sound whatever the speaker’s position (vertically, tilted back, horizontally, or on a speaker stand), Auto EQ has you covered. This adjusts the sound curve for the best performance.

Full bands might find the S1 Pro+’s power output limited for larger venues, but it’s great for smaller settings and as a monitor. Bluetooth streaming is particularly good for buskers as it allows you to play backing tracks or music wirelessly. The Bose Music app gives you more control options, enabling wireless management of EQ and other settings.

If you’re after a compact, portable speaker for solo performances or small ensembles, the Bose S1 Pro+ is ideal. Read our full review of the S1 Pro+ here.


3. Electro-Voice ZLX-12P-G2

Electro-Voice ZLX-12P G2 12" Active PA SpeakerKey features

  • 1000W power output
  • Bluetooth stereo streaming
  • QuickSmart Mobile app control

Pros

  • High sound output
  • Advanced DSP features
  • Portable and ergonomic

Cons

  • Limited subwoofer compatibility

The Electro-Voice ZLX-12P G2 is a powerful next-generation PA speaker, delivering 1000W output with improved amplification and drivers. Its 12-inch woofer provides sound down to 48 Hz with a maximum output of 127 dB, and its sound is both powerful and exceptionally clear.

Ideal for full bands and solo performers, the ZLX-12P G2 offers versatile connectivity and control. The built-in digital mixer, powered by Dynacord, includes features like FX, EQ, automatic feedback suppression, and ducking, allowing you to manage your sound with precision.

If you’re a solo musician, Bluetooth stereo streaming and the QuickSmart Mobile app will suit you as they enable wireless control of the speaker and mixer settings. Plus, the ergonomic design of the ZLX-12P G2 makes it exceptionally portable, despite its robust build. It’s small, lightweight, and a practical choice for solo performers who frequently move their equipment.

On the other hand, if you’re part of a band, you’ll benefit from the speaker’s ability to handle high volumes and provide clear, even sound coverage across frequencies.


4. LD Systems MAUI 28 G2

LD Systems MAUI 28 G2 Column PA SystemKey features

  • 2000W peak Class-D power
  • DynX DSP technology
  • Two-piece column design

Pros

  • Intense audio output
  • Excellent sound dispersion
  • Easy to transport

Cons

  • Bulky subwoofer

The LD Systems MAUI 28 G2 is engineered for live music performances, delivering an impressive 2,000 watts of peak Class-D power. This system features dual 8″ woofers for deep bass and 16 full-range speakers for balanced mids, complemented by a BEM-optimised tweeter for uniform sound dispersion. Even at high volumes, the speaker delivers clear, distortion-free audio.

With an advanced design that caters to full bands and solo performers, the MAUI 28 G2 delivers comprehensive sound coverage and clarity across all frequencies, ensuring every instrument and vocal stands out. For solo performers, the integrated four-channel mixer with Bluetooth streaming offers significant control and flexibility, allowing for easy adjustments and connectivity options.

The two-piece column design enhances portability, making it manageable for solo musicians who frequently move between venues. Despite its powerful subwoofer being somewhat bulky, the overall system is easy to transport and set up.

Whether you’re performing at medium-sized gigs or fixed installations, the MAUI 28 G2 provides robust performance, flexibility, and superior sound quality, making it a solid choice for any live music scenario.


5. RCF ART 715-A MK5

RCF ART 715-A MK5 15" Active PA SpeakerKey features

  • 1400W peak power
  • Wide dispersion horn
  • FiRPHASE and XBOOST tech

Pros

  • High power output
  • Clear sound projection
  • Advanced DSP features

Cons

  • Limited portability

The RCF ART 715-A MK5 offers exceptional clarity and sound projection with its 1400-watt 2-way peak power. It features a titanium dome, 1.75″ neodymium compression driver for vocal clarity, and a 15″ neodymium woofer for precise low-frequency control. There’s also advanced DSP, handling crossover, equalization, phase control, soft limiting, and speaker protections.

This model is ideal for any kind of performer, whether you’re a solo artist or in a band. Its wide dispersion constant directivity horn ensures even sound coverage, which is crucial for larger venues. There’s also FiRPHASE technology, which optimises dynamics and phase patterns for balanced and controlled sound, enhancing vocal and instrument clarity.

The XBOOST Low Frequencies Enhancer further enriches low frequencies, making the ART 715-A MK5 suitable for bass-heavy performances without the need for a subwoofer. However, if you travel from gig to gig on your own, keep in mind that the speaker is quite heavy, i.e., not as portable as other options on the list!


6. Alto Professional Busker

Alto Professional Busker Portable Battery Powered PA SpeakerKey features

  • 200W power output
  • Alesis FX processing
  • Up to 24-hour battery life

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Versatile positioning
  • Bluetooth streaming

Cons

  • Limited low-end control

The Alto Professional Busker is a 200W portable battery-powered PA speaker designed for live music performances, whether for full bands or solo performers. Its compact and lightweight design makes it easy to transport, perfect for musicians on the go. And thanks to the built-in three-channel mixer with Alesis FX, it delivers polished vocals and guitars.

One of the most useful features of the Busker is its Bluetooth streaming. Combined with the battery-powered design, this is ideal for buskers who need to be able to quickly play backing tracks from their smartphone. The free Alto App provides further control and configuration options.

The Busker’s 200W might be a bit limiting for bands who perform in large venues, but with its 6.5″ woofer and 1″ tweeter, the speaker delivers a balanced sound suitable for small to medium-sized venues.

Its rugged construction ensures durability, while the versatile positioning options, including vertical, tilted, and pole-mounted setups, allow for optimal sound projection.

Giving you exceptional portability, the Busker’s long-lasting battery offers up to 24 hours of playtime in Eco Mode, so you can perform without worrying about power.


7. Mackie Thump215

Mackie Thump215 15" Active PA SpeakerKey features

  • 1400W Class-D amplifier
  • Built-in Feedback Eliminator
  • Lightweight, durable construction

Pros

  • High power output
  • Advanced audio management
  • Versatile connectivity

Cons

  • Limited low-end control

The Mackie Thump215 15″ Active PA Speaker boasts a powerful 1400W Class-D amplifier, ensuring clear and loud audio output suitable for various settings.

With a built-in Feedback Eliminator, it prevents audio distortion, so you can get closer to the microphone without worrying about unwanted noise, and its Music Ducking feature automatically reduces music volume when speaking into the microphone, ensuring clear announcements without constant adjustments.

Connectivity-wise, the Thump215 has dual TRS/XLR inputs and an additional 1/8″ stereo aux input, providing options for microphones, instruments, and media players.

The lightweight yet durable construction of the Thump215 makes it ideal for musicians on the go. It can be easily mounted on a pole or used as a floor monitor, offering flexibility in setup. Full bands will appreciate its high output and reliable performance, while solo performers will benefit from its portability and advanced audio management features.

The Mackie Thump215 offers a combination of powerful sound, ease of use, and portability, making it a versatile choice for both bands and solo musicians looking for a reliable PA solution.


8. Yamaha DBR12

Yamaha DBR12 12" Active PA SpeakerKey features

  • 1000W Class-D amplifier
  • Advanced DSP
  • Lightweight, durable cabinet

Pros

  • High sound output
  • Precise sound reproduction
  • Portable and ergonomic

Cons

  • Limited low-end extension

The Yamaha DBR12 12″ Active PA Speaker has a high-efficiency 1000W Class-D amplifier that ensures powerful sound output, capable of reaching an SPL of 132dB without sacrificing clarity. This makes it well-suited to front-of-house and stage-monitoring roles.

Equipped with advanced Yamaha DSP, the DBR12 delivers high-resolution sound at any volume. The 1.4″ precision compression driver ensures crisp mid-range and high frequencies, while the 12″ woofer provides deep bass with minimal distortion. These make the DBR12 a versatile option for both music and vocal applications, catering to the needs of full bands and solo performers alike.

The speaker’s compact and lightweight design, coupled with its durable cabinet, enhances portability, meaning it’s great for touring musicians. Its ergonomic handles further facilitate easy transport and setup. There’s also an onboard two-channel mixer with flexible input options, adding to the speaker’s versatility and allowing seamless integration of various audio sources.


9. SubZero MP8

SubZero MP8 Multi-Position Battery Powered DSP PA SystemKey features

  • 100W Class D amplifier
  • Built-in DSP FX
  • Multi-position design

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Versatile positioning
  • Comprehensive connectivity

Cons

  • Limited battery life

The SubZero MP8 is a 100W portable PA system tailored to small-venue live music performances. Featuring an eight-inch woofer and a one-inch tweeter, the MP8 offers clear sound across a frequency range of 60 Hz to 19 kHz.

The built-in DSP offers presets for music, speech, stage monitoring, and sub-pair applications, meaning you can tailor your sound to your preferences, no matter the application. The three-channel mixer, complete with Alesis FX, then provides control over volume, treble, and bass, and includes reverb effects. Channels support XLR, 1/4″ jack, RCA, and 3.5mm inputs, with Bluetooth streaming for wireless playback.

Portability is a key strength of the MP8, with its lightweight design and convenient carry handle. The rechargeable battery provides up to four hours of playtime, or you can use mains power for longer sessions. The multi-position design allows for versatile placement options: vertically for tabletop use, angled for audience projection, horizontally as a stage monitor, or pole-mounted as a traditional PA.

How to choose the best PA speaker for you

How many inputs do you need?

SubZero D15Inputs help to determine how many individual instruments you can run at once. For both bands and solo performers, you’ll need at least two – for one very simple reason. Two inputs will let solo musicians run a vocal mic and an instrument or backing track, which should cover most of the ground they’d need.

If your PA of choice includes a 3.5mm minijack input or Bluetooth connectivity for backing tracks on a third channel, this gives you further flexibility.

For full bands, you’ll tend to need a lot of inputs, far more than you’ll usually see on even advanced PA systems, but at least six or eight would be recommended. This will allow you space for vocal mics for three members, instrument inputs for three members, and at least one drum overhead mic.

However, for more elaborate band lineups, this falls apart quickly. Instead of depending on the inputs on a PA speaker, you’ll probably need a mixer. Then feed the master output channels on the mixer into your PA speaker inputs.

When running a mixer as well as your PA system, you’ll need just two inputs. This may require you buying your own mixer and running your own sound, depending on the venues you play, but it takes the pressure off of finding the rare and often expensive PA speaker systems with enough inputs to fit your lineup.


Wattage and venue

Wattage is a measurement of electrical power output. Whilst the relationship between wattage and volume or power of a PA system isn’t direct or linear, higher-wattage PA systems do tend to be louder. As such, consider the wattage of the PA system you have your eye on.

Does it work for the kinds of venues you’ll be playing? Will you need to upgrade to a higher model the second you play a slightly bigger venue or does it have enough on tap to keep up with you? Remember that for outdoor performances, you might need more power in order to be heard than you would in an indoor venue.

For a better understanding of your PA’s maximum volume, I’d recommend looking at your system’s maximum SPL output, this is a direct and more accurate measurement of your system power. However, as a rule of thumb, here’s our guide to the capacity that each wattage range suits:

WattsVenue Capacity
Up to 250W20 people
250W - 499W50 people
500W - 749W100 people
750W - 999W150 people
1000W - 1499W200 people
Over 1500WOver 200 people*

For larger-scale gigs of venues over 200 capacity, it’s likely that venues will supply their own suitable systems.


Built-in DSP

Bose S1 Pro+ with Guitar and Wireless TransmitterDSP, or Digital Signal Processing, has come a very long way in a short time. This relatively new technology gets implemented in PA speakers in a variety of ways and has become a big buzzword for manufacturers. It’s a huge benefit, often, but try to be mindful of how DSP is implemented in a product.

Is the DSP set up in a way that you’ll actually use, or will you ignore it? If it’s not up to your needs, is there a better alternative with similar features without DSP or at least a different DSP integration that might save you some money?

For example, SubZero’s PA speakers tend to use DSP to provide switchable voicings for a range of contexts, giving big bass for DJs dropping floor-fillers, a flat response for speeches, or a present midrange for musical performances.

Some DSP might just be built-in reverb and delay effects on the PA system’s mixer. Sometimes it’s innovative technology that prevents the speaker drivers from overextending for a clearer, louder sound. Yamaha uses it for FIR crossovers, making for a smoother transition between sounds.

Then, some brands have been using DSP to add comprehensive app control, letting you fully mix sets from a smartphone or tablet.

There are also PA speakers on the market now that come with advanced features you would typically only see on an advanced mixer for a fully integrated setup, or even channel presets that fit specific instruments, genres, and/or popular microphones for instant mixing.

There are all kinds of approaches, so make sure your system has one that fits you.


Portability

How easily will your system travel? There’s a range of ways to resolve this, from compact battery-powered PA systems to modular column systems. Getting the right size and weight for your needs is important if you’re going between venues.

Whilst battery-powered PA systems are very convenient, they tend to have less power and aren’t well-suited to bigger venues. Column PA systems can be pretty tall, but fortunately break down into multiple pieces, with a tower of tweeters and a large subwoofer unit. But is this too large for the space you’re in? Will you struggle to keep track of all its pieces?

Sometimes a standard pair of active PA speakers can be all that you need, but they’re also very heavy with their built-in amplification and don’t tend to have the coverage offered by column systems. Everything’s a compromise in some form, so try to consider what fits your logistics.


Budget

SubZero MP8Budget is also a huge consideration. The more power in your PA system, the more expensive it tends to be.

Combined with the added considerations of the correct number of inputs, DSP features, built-in mixers, app control, and whether or not you need to invest in a separate subwoofer to pair with your system,  the money can dry up quickly.

Obviously, there are ways around most of these issues.

Want specific DSP? Maybe choose a passive system and get a power amp with the DSP features you like instead. It’ll be lighter overall, too.

Need more inputs? Consider investing in a mixer to run into the PA system instead. But what you can’t make up for is a shortfall in power. If you can’t be heard, you can’t be heard.

Try to aim for that fundamental feature first, and then look at the bonus features after the fact and see what you’re willing to let go of.

The best PA speaker brands

Picking a good brand is also an important part of buying a PA speaker. Better brands mean better efficiency out of your speaker’s amplifier, which means you get more power and volume out of lower wattage designs, good DSP design, and a quality sound. Our top five brands all have placements on this list already, and for good reason!

Our first recommendation are the American brand Electro-Voice, which are one of the oldest brands in its field. Having a history that dates back to 1927, this speaker and microphone manufacturer was started by seasoned engineers whose innovations helped the communications of Allied Forces throughout World War II.

Bose are a more recent brand, with deep links to the renowned university known as MIT (or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), one of the leading institutions for education in science and engineering. Founder Dr. Amar Bose graduated from MIT in 1964 and began teaching himself acoustics after the stereo system he bought to celebrate the completion of his doctorate disappointed him.

From here, Bose started supplying power regulation systems to the military and government agencies, before expanding into headphones, which quickly found use in aerospace companies, and then into home audio and PA products. Dr. Bose would later give a majority of shares in the company to MIT itself and encourage academics who graduate from the university to work at the company.

This has made Bose a powerhouse of cutting-edge design and quality.

Yamaha are likely the oldest company in the audio space, having started out as an instrument manufacturer in 1887, producing organs, and later pianos, before branching out into mechanical design with motorcycles.

They’re now a leading manufacturer of all kinds of audio equipment, still renowned for their pianos, as well as guitars, drums, orchestral instruments, keyboards, synthesizers, and of course, home audio, studio, and PA speaker systems alike.

RCF are an Italian brand that was established in 1949. Dedicated almost wholly to audio equipment and custom audio installations, RCF use innovative materials and a precise approach to transducers and electronics to design their products, resulting in some of the best-sounding speakers on the market.

Alto Professional, founded in 2000, deliver superior PA speakers through modern manufacturing, cutting-edge DSP technology, and sophisticated design. Their products offer exceptional performance and value, catering to both live sound engineers and performing musicians.

FAQs

Which PA speakers are the best?

The best PA speakers are highly dependent on your specific needs and budget. Top brands like JBL, Yamaha, and QSC are renowned for their high-quality sound, durability, and advanced features. It’s important to consider the venue size, power requirements, and additional features when choosing the best PA speakers.


Are passive PA speakers better than active?

Passive PA speakers are not necessarily better than active ones; each has its advantages. Passive speakers require external amplifiers, which can offer more flexibility in system configuration. Active speakers have built-in amplifiers, simplifying setup and often providing better integration and ease of use.


Do PA speakers have good bass?

PA speakers can have good bass, especially models designed with larger woofers and dedicated subwoofers. High-quality PA systems from brands like JBL and Yamaha often feature robust bass performance. However, adding a subwoofer can significantly enhance the bass response in a PA setup.

Final thoughts

PA speakers are an integral part of live performance and come with a wide variety of features and form factors. Hopefully, our guide to the best PA speakers has given you all the information you need to perform your way in any venue, whether you’re a solo singer-songwriter or a metal band.

 

Content Writer - Live Sound

Callum is a former audio and music technology student who has a love of punk, rock, metal, and electronic music. In his spare time, he produces music, and DJs occasionally. He's also a freelance engineer when possible, helping local bands make their noise even noisier.

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