If you’ve ever heard live music at a bar or danced to a DJ at a wedding, then it’s likely that you were listening to self-powered, or active, speakers. Since these active speakers contain built-in amplification and crossover, they’re much more transportable and affordable than passive speakers which require bulky external amplifiers. These features make self-powered speakers the most common type of speakers used in small-to-medium events!
However, active speakers are not one-size-fits-all. After all, a speaker system that works for a small church or a karaoke bar won’t always work for a touring band. And since there are many different kinds of powered speakers, it can be difficult to choose the perfect one for your event or venue.
That’s why we made this guide to help you find exactly the self-powered speaker system you need!
First, let’s run through some of the different kinds of powered speakers that you can find.
All-in-one personal powered speakers contain two speaker drivers in the same box, one that focuses on higher frequencies and one that focuses on lower frequencies. Since these are some of the most compact and affordable speaker options available, you can find them pretty much anywhere. These speakers are commonly placed on stands for extra range and sometimes include built-in mixers as well.
Dedicated powered subwoofers can be added to any powered speaker arrangement to enhance the lower-frequency of your sound. Sending your low-frequency sound to a dedicated subwoofer also frees up power in your main speakers, increasing the volume and quality of your mid-to-high frequencies as well.
All-in-one powered speaker columns (also known as portable line arrays) are very similar to the personal all-in-one speakers discussed above, however they feature a main speaker that extends as a column above a dedicated subwoofer. While more expensive than the personal powered speakers, they generally offer a more controlled and cleaner sound.
Although most line array systems are passive and require external amplification, powered line array systems exist too. Line array systems consist of multiple speakers placed in a vertical row to extend sound coverage and quality. Powered line arrays are less portable and much more expensive than the other powered speaker options, but they offer the best quality of sound and volume that one can get with powered speakers. Plus, the way they can be installed in a space are almost endless.
Powered monitors are used in live performance situations where musicians and singers need to hear what they’re doing. These speakers generally sit on the ground and are pointed upwards towards the performers. Monitor speakers are only for the performers, and other speakers will be needed to provide sound to the audience.
Now that we’ve explored the basic kinds of speakers, let’s talk about the kind of powered speakers you might use in a few common scenarios.
Generally, DJs will want to take a few points into consideration when it comes to their audio system: budget, power, and—especially if they are touring or traveling—portability. With that being said, what are the best powered speakers for DJs?
Once again, the benefit of using powered speakers is that they are speakers with built in amplifiers, making them more portable. That means, generally speaking, that all of the speakers mentioned above will work for a traveling DJ. So portability, overall, shouldn’t be a huge problem.
Then the other two points of consideration come into play: budget and power. For the smaller DJ who is looking to pack a punch at a lower price point, we would suggest a simple personal powered loudspeaker setup. If the DJ puts a couple of the all-in-one powered speakers on stands to the side of their touring setup, they should have plenty of volume and coverage for events around a hundred people—all for under $1,000 new (or $500 used, if you find a good deal).
DJs who host more popular and larger events might want to consider investing more into the power and sound of their setup. We would suggest adding a dedicated powered subwoofer for each all-in-one powered speakers that a DJ has. As mentioned previously, not only will this maximize the DJ’s bass sound (which is ideal for electronic or dance music!), it will clarify and amplify their middle and high frequencies as well, giving them much a louder sound overall.
For Live Bands
The average live touring band will likely want a similar setup to a larger DJ. A couple sets of all-in-one loudspeakers attached to dedicated powered subwoofers should provide plenty of power for an audience of 100–200 people. The best powered speakers for a live band would also have to include powered monitors covering each member of the band, so they can hear what the band sounds like and what they’re playing.
Since this setup uses budget powered speakers, a touring band can get a great live sound for a relatively low cost.
If a live band wants something even more portable, they might consider investing in an all-in-one speaker column or two. This would be great for a touring band that often performs for smaller bar spaces or that wants a less powerful, but cleaner, sound overall. Not only are these columns extremely transportable, but they offer divided main speakers and subwoofers for a very clear sound.
For Karaoke Venues and Bars
Unlike the powered speaker setup mentioned above, the best powered speakers for karaoke venues will probably be installed, rather than portable, setups. Smaller venues may just put two all-in-one speakers on stands to the side of the stage and call it a day. Professional karaoke venues and bars with live music often install powered speakers on their ceilings directed towards the audience.
For these larger venues interested in permanently installing a sound system for their professional karaoke or live band setups, we would suggest investing in a small powered line array system and a dedicated subwoofer that sits on the floor. This will provide the best clarity and spread of sound for your audience. Plus, making your karaoke singers sound fantastic and providing quality sound for your audience will ensure that everyone comes back again for some more karaoke fun.
Out of these different scenarios for powered speakers, church sound systems are by far the most varied. Some smaller congregations might just opt for a simple all-in-one speaker column on a stand. Others might invest in a full powered line array system that they install in their house of worship. Regardless, for your church speakers, you want something that provides your congregants the best experience for listening to your worship leaders and musicians.
For larger venues, especially wide ones like traditional churches, audio engineers should pay attention to the field of sound and power that their audio system provides. Every speaker different in terms of the cone of sound that it produces, and it’s imperative to understand these differences before purchasing, and especially installing, powered speakers for your church.
Speaker power also determines the overall distance that your church’s sound system can throw sound. A good rule of thumb is that, in a space free of obstacles and other objects, the relative “loudness” of your speaker system will fall by about 6 dB SPL each time you double the distance between yourself and the speaker. In other words, a speaker producing 26 dB of sound at 10 feet distance will only create 20 dB of sound at 20 feet.
Taking these factors into consideration should allow you to pick out great powered speakers for your church.
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