Portable P.A. Systems

Jul 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Steve La Cerra



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It used to be that you needed a degree in rocket science to set up a P.A. system. Mixers, compressors, reverbs, delays, crossovers, power amps and loudspeakers all required careful matching and a fair amount of technical background to ensure proper operation. As technology has progressed, becoming more efficient and miniaturized, many of these components have been simplified and/or integrated.


Portable P.A. Products

The portable-P.A. market has certainly grown since the mid-1990s, when the first powered loudspeaker intended for sound reinforcement was introduced, and today it is experiencing something of a boom, with a plethora of products ranging from powered speakers with onboard mixers to compact line arrays that can be set up easily by a single (non-bodybuilder) person.

photo of DAS Aero 38

DAS Aero 38

Hartley Peavey, founder and CEO of Peavey Electronics Corp., has seen his share of changes. “Back in the 1960s when I entered the sound reinforcement market,” he says, “you had a choice of the Shure Vocal Master or Kustom K200 [which was basically a warmed-over guitar amplifier]. At the time the Vocal Master retailed for $1,000, and if you scaled that amount to today it would be about $10,000. With the first Peavey 100-watt ‘packaged’ P.A. selling for around $600, we were trying to bring the price down to a point where musicians could afford it. We really have come a long way in terms of the value we can offer our customers for their dollars, and packaged P.A. is still a very large part of our business.”

Richard Ruse, senior director of global sales for JBL Professional, sees “an incredible surge in portable P.A. sales in the price range between $600 and $1,000. That is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of portable P.A. right now and it is essentially powered speakers. Until the time we introduced the original EON, you needed an external amplifier, and if you planned to use a subwoofer you’d need another amp and a crossover. If you really wanted to run the system correctly you’d also need an EQ, a compressor, and somebody who knew how to wire everything together and set them up so that the system did not sound like a telephone. The men and the boys were separated technologically by how much gear they brought to the gig.

photo of JBL PRX425


“These days, it’s all about simplicity and convenience,” Ruse continues. “People want to get in and get out. Take the average customer of a mobile DJ: the wedding party. They don’t care about the technical details, but in general they’re exposed to better audio now than they were five or 10 years ago. It’s similar with the local blues band.”

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