Because most of the venues you play in don't have their own PA system, it's time to start thinking about getting your own. But you'll need one that you can bring with you. Also, if you don't have a van or pickup, you'll need something that can fit in the back of an Uber.
For that reason, the best portable PA system for live music not only wows your audience with unfettered sound quality but is easy to move around.
Portable PA systems came about fairly recently. Back in the days before electricity, concert hall design emphasized acoustics. Ceilings and walls were built in a way that ensured sound echoed around the massive gallery. By the 1920s built-in PA systems were the norm. But it was The Beatles who kicked off the massive concert systems we're so used to today.
At Shae Stadium in 1964, more than 40,000 screaming Beatlemaniacs completely drowned out the Fab Four's tiny 135-decibel PA system. Changes came rapidly after that. By 1970, bands were using 1,000-watt systems, many of them portable.
You don't need the same PA that KISS used. You just need the best portable PA system for live music.
How to Find the Best Portable PA System for Live Music
The best portable PA system for live music is the one that fits your needs the best. We don't mean to be long-winded. But the fact is that there are so many different portable PA systems to choose from and so many different needs, that we can't declare a single one of them to be "the best." However, there are criteria that we can use to determine if a particular PA system is good or not.
Firstly, having your own portable PA system is just good business sense for a live performer. You've probably already noticed that more and more venues are without their own PA systems.
For instance, it's rare to find one in a coffee house or a school auditorium. Then there's the issue that many venues simply don't want to pay for maintaining a system. If you have your own PA, you'll be able to book more venues.
Second, you want to look at three key features when deciding what is the best portable PA system for live music. Those are size, weight, and portability. It should be small enough to fit into the trunk of a car, and light enough that you can carry it yourself.
Also, it should be easy to set up and tear down. Chances are that you don't have a road crew of sound engineers to handle this for you, so you want something that assembles easily.
That said, there are some other factors at play, as well.
Size of your audience
Image via Pixabay
The size of your audience will help you figure out which portable PA system to get. With small groups of under 100 people in a coffee house, the best portable PA system for live music is drastically different than at a large outdoor venue such as a folk festival with thousands of people.
If you're just starting out, or if the majority of your shows are in small, intimate venues, then go with a smaller PA system. As your career takes flight and you begin to book larger spots, you can upgrade. Until then, you don't need to spend a lot of money on mostly useless hardware.
Image via Pixabay
Another factor that will determine which PA system to get is whether or not it supports wireless mics. More and more, you'll need a wireless mic over a more traditional wired mic. Thankfully, we live in an age where technology has advanced to the point where you can't notice a difference in sound quality between the two.
Having a wireless mic gives you the ability to move around the stage and interact with your audience. It also reduces the chances of equipment damage due to tangles.
However, once again, it all depends on the venue and size of your audience. If you play to a smaller crowd and remain seated with your guitar on your lap, then you can get away with either mic. But if your act requires striding about a stage, dancing, or even joining the audience, you'll want a wireless mic.
The best portable PA system for live music will include almost everything you need to get going. You won't have to worry about matching parts and pieces or fussing with compatibility issues because everything is there in one package.
Most portable PA systems are modular and feature a mixer, power amp, and several speakers. Many of them include one or two microphones.
That means you can skip on buying many of the accessories you would otherwise have to spend money on. So when you're looking for the best portable PA system for live music, pay attention to what additional accessories you'll need to buy. If there are no mics, or it doesn't include a mixer or cables, you may want to pass.
We set out to find the best portable PA system for live music for you. Because everyone is different, we ended up finding several portable PA systems which we consider "the best." To do this, we hunted down the systems which met our criteria and took a look at their specs. Are they loud enough for the outdoors?
Or maybe they're too loud for small indoor venues? We tried to find a PA system for both. Then we took a look at customer reviews to see what real people felt about their purchase.
If any of the PA systems we chose had an overwhelming number of complaints, we discarded that system from our list. What we were left with is a decent list where you can find the best portable PA system for live music.
Because we tried to find a portable PA system for different needs, we weren't able to come up with a single one. Instead, we have a great list that we feel will help you choose your next PA system. We didn't list these in any particular order.
Gemini ES Series ES-210MXBLU Professional Audio Portable PA System
First up is the Gemini ES Series pro system. The first thing you'll notice when you see this are two 10-inch speakers that can do the job of 4. They both have woofers and voice coils built into them, and thanks to a 600-watt amplifier, they can pump out some decent sound.
There's an eight-channel mixer included in the system, which has four line-mic inputs with individual volume and effect controls. Included with this are all the lines, and a wired mic, but you can connect USB, SD, and Bluetooth through the amplifier, giving you more equipment options. The system costs between $275 and $350.
On Amazon, customers gave it 3.4 out of 5 stars, with many of them praising the output of the speakers. Several people said these speakers have great bass and can easily fill a room. On the other hand, many people complained that the components are cheap plastic which break easily.
- FULLY IMMERSIVE MULTIMEDIA AUDIO: The ES-210MXBLU Serves As An Integrated MP3 player with Connections For USB, SD, and Bluetooth. The 600W Peak, 150W RMS Class D Built-In Amplifier Will Motivate You To Share Your Sound
- COMPLETE CONTROL: The ES-210MXBLU Portable PA Features An 8-Channel Powered Mixer with An On Board Digital Echo Effect. The Unit Also Houses Individual Bass and Treble Effects and Volume Controls for 4 Line/Mic Inputs To Completely Customize Your Sound
- DESIGNED WITH TRAVEL IN MIND: The PA System Is Built For The Road With Top and Side Handles for Easy Carrying and Flyable & Stand Mountable Capabilities. This Speaker Only Weighs 44 lbs and Sits In A Sleek ABS Impact-Resistant Nylon Fiber Cabinet.Wide dispersion horn with forward firing bass reflex ports
- WHAT'S INCLUDED: Two 10" LF Woofers That Feature 2" Voice Coil, All Of The Needed Cables For Operation, and A BONUS Free Microphone with 15V Phantom Power For Capacitance Mics Making This Portable PA System A Top Value
- TRUST GEMINI, AN INDUSTRY LEADER: Since 1974, We've Provided Innovative Products For DJs, Musicians, Sound Contractors and Professional Installers Around The Globe. This Is What Drives Us As An Industry Leader Is DJ and Audio Equipment
Fender Passport Venue Portable PA System
Normally you wouldn't think of using a conference system as your live music system, but the Fender Passport Conference system has everything you need to play in a larger room filled with several hundred people. The system is perfect for weddings or parties.
There's a 10-channel mixer with 13 inputs, two 600-watt speakers, all the cables you need, and a phantom power switch. Best of all, there's a USB input which allows you to record directly to WAV or MP3 straight from the mixer. The only things this system is lacking are microphones, and an amplifier if you need it. You'll pay between $1,000 and $1,200 for this Fender system.
Customers on Amazon gave it 4.3 out of 5 stars. Almost everyone said that the speakers were great and loud, and many people loved the ability to record to MP3s as they played. Also, a lot of customers loved how portable it is. There were no complaints about the system itself.
- All-in-one PA system with 10-channel powered mixer and full-range speakers
- 600 watts
- 13 inputs (four XLR mic/line, two 1/4" instrument/line, two 1/4" stereo, two 1/8" stereo, one USB stereo)
- USB record/playback system records WAV files and plays WAV/MP3 files
- Phantom power switch and high-impedance (hi-Z) instrument/line switch
Hisonic HS120B Lithium Battery Rechargeable & Portable PA System
Not everybody needs a massive PA system with mixers. Sometimes you just want to play a set around the campfire. In that case, the Hisonic HS120B portable PA system is perfect for you. It's small. Think of a portable AM/FM radio.
Except that it's a 40-watt speaker with a one-channel mixer built into the top of it. The unit is completely wireless, and you can charge the battery using your car lighter. The included microphone is also wireless, and a belt pack transmitter comes with it. You get a lot in this system, and it only costs between $100 and $150.
Customers loved it, giving it 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Many of them raved about how loud this tiny system gets, pumping out crisp, clear notes. One couple even used it at their outdoor wedding and loved it! One of the more common complaints was that the included microphone is poorly built and cuts out often.
- Stand-alone portable PA (public address) system seamlessly combines a 6.5” full-range 40-watt speaker and UHF wireless microphone system for voice amplification applications, multiple wireless microphones are included: a handheld microphone, a belt-pack transmitter to use in conjunction with a lapel or a headset microphone for hands-free applications
- Triumphs over outdated, inferior VHF systems with newly upgraded 900 MHz 16 channels selectable UHF wireless microphone system for a noise-free and interference-free transmission, easy system expansion, and frustration-free user experience
- 3-way powered: 120V AC wall outlet (power cord included), 12V DC (cigarette lighter cable included), or rechargeable lithium ion battery that lasts up to 8 hours with a full charge, suitable for indoors, outdoors, and on the road
- Make yourself be heard without straining or even permanently damaging your vocal cords, a convenient and indispensable tool for classroom teachers, public speakers, fitness instructors, coaches, tour guides, product demonstrators, sporting events officials, bingo callers, marriage officiants, auctioneers, and alike
- Lightweight and portable design, self-contained and effortless to operate, 1-year manufacturer’s warranty and free bi-lingual (English/Spanish) technical support
BEHRINGER 8 PPA2000BT Ultra-Compact 2000-Watt 8-Channel Portable Pa System
Next up is the Behringer 8 ultra-compact portable PA system. In our search for the best portable PA system for live music, this particular kit nearly wins it outright. The entire system clips together to form an 80s-style ghetto blaster with the mixer in the middle.
That's the ultimate in portability. Plus, with 2,000 watts of sound coming out of those enormous speakers, you'll be able to dazzle most venues. The eight-channel mixer has four mic inputs with preset amp settings. There's a wired microphone included. You can buy this one for between $700 and $800.
On Amazon, customers gave it 4.7 out of 5 stars, making it one of the highest rated systems we looked at. They were amazed at the amount of power that this small, light unit pumps out. The only problem people had was the wheels, which seem to break off easily.
- Ultra-compact 2000-Watt, 8-channel portable PA system.Four Mic Preamps with 48 volts
- Perfect for parties, schools, corporate and educational presentations, seminars, aerobics, auctioneers, working musicians, tour guides, weddings, etc.
- Enormous power, incredible sonic performance, and super-light weight means no more lugging around dead weight
- Extremely powerful 10'' woofers and 1.35'' aluminum-diaphragm compression drivers for incredible sound reproduction
- Connect your iPod, iPhone, iPad* or any other MP3 player via Bluetooth*
Yamaha STAGEPAS 400I Portable PA System
Yamaha is a leading brand in the music industry. The STAGEPAS 4001 system continues that trend. Two 340-watt speakers dish out plenty of sound through a 10-channel mixer. You'll love the mixer for its master equalizer knob.
There's also a built-in feedback suppressor SPX digital reverb, resulting in clean, crisp sound. You won't play a large venue with this system, but you'll fill your local coffee house with music. Expect to pay between $400 and $500.
Customers on Amazon rated it 4.6 out of 5 stars. Almost everyone loved the sound the speakers put out, with one person saying he regularly plays to a venue of over 200 people and it works fine. The only complaints were about cheap speaker cases.
Rockville RPG2X10 Package PA System
Next, we looked at the Rockville RPG2X10 package. Thanks to the speaker stands and the boxy power mixer, this resembles a more traditional built-in PA system. Don't let that fool you, because the system is portable and will fit in your backseat with no problem.
Two 10-inch speakers put out 800 watts at peak. They're pole-mountable, so you can screw them onto the included stands and set them up wherever you need. That's great for controlling sound direction. Two wired mics come with the set. Best of all, it only costs between $250 and $350.
Customers gave it 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Many customers praised the sound quality that pumps out of these speakers. Several reviewers play acoustic gigs, and they said it was great for both indoor and outdoor use. The only complaint was from one person who said the mics have a lot of feedback.
- Rockville RPG2X10 Package PA System With Mixer/Amp, 2 10" Speakers, Stands, Dual Wired Microphones, and Bluetooth Connectivity. PA system with 4-channel powered mixer. Complete Portable Pro DJ System.
- Compact and light weight system delivers distortion free sound even at extreme SPL. Two collapsible speaker stands. Speakers.
- Two 4 Ohm high power long-throw 10 woofers with 1.5 aluminum voice coils and 60oz magnets provide incredibly deep bass and acoustic power. 200 Watts RMS / 400 Watts Program Power / 800 Watts Peak.
- State-of-the-art 1.75 crystal piezo compression horn tweeter. Two way cabinet architecture. Horizontal / Vertical position stage monitor. Pole mountable. Frequency range: 65Hz - 20KHz. Sensitivity: 92dB. Maximum SPL: (110 Watts) 109dB.
- Transducer compliment: 10 woofer premium high frequency driver with an exponential horn. Impedance: 8 Ohm. Input connections: Two 1/4 jacks in parallel.
Yamaha STAGEPAS 600BT Portable PA System
We've already looked at one Yamaha STAGEPAS system. Then we looked at the STAGEPAS 600BT. When it comes to professional-grade portable PA systems, this is the king. Everything is light, and all the speakers include carrying notches for your hands.
The 600-watt speakers themselves get mounted on stands, giving you omnidirectional sound. We love that the 10-channel mixer packs right into the back of one of the speakers. There's a wired mic and two instrument wires included. The system costs between $900 and $1,100.
On Amazon, customers gave it 4.6 out of 5 stars. They praised the sound quality, with one guy calling it "Frucken Trucking Awesome!" Complaints revolved around poor customer service from Yamaha when issues did arise.
Bose S1 Pro Multi-Position PA System
Finally, we looked at the Bose S1 Pro, which is a single speaker with everything you need built-in. Because of its multi-angled cube shape, you can position the speaker however you need.
Facing forward, facing up, on a tilt. Options are endless. There's a three-channel mixer built in the back, and it has Bluetooth for wireless streaming. You'll pay between $600 and $800.
Customers on Amazon rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars, raving about how loud and clear the sound is. They also loved that everything you need is right in one speaker. The only complaint was that it put out a lot of high-frequency noise from time to time.
- Rugged Lightweight PA System
- Integrated Tone Match Processing
- Multi-Positional Design(Monitor, Tripod, Tilt Back)
- Built in 3 channel mixer with reverb and EQ controls
- Bluetooth For Wireless Music Streaming
Some Parting Thoughts
Finding the best portable PA system for live music is a matter of choosing one that fits your needs the best. We've found a wide range of decent systems from all price points.
Just remember to think of the size of your audience when choosing a portable PA. Once you have your new system, get out there and make some beautiful music for your fans!
Do you have a favorite portable PA system? Let us know in the comments.