Advantages of Using Powered Speakers for your PA rig

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Most working musicians who have been responsible for bringing a sound system have struggled with making decisions on getting the best gear for their budget which will fit into their vehicle or trailer and not require an army of people to carry the PA gear.

Often over looked by many performing musicians are powered speakers. At one time, power amps that made enough power to work well were heavy and once added to the weight of a speaker and made transporting the unit a difficult task. However, with the modern power amps, put into light plastic molded enclosures, often the weight of the speaker is almost the same as a non powered version. Especially when you consider many speakers are now made with neodymium magnet structures which are lighter than the traditional steel.

So what are the advantages?

* First most good powered speakers are already Bi-amped which means they have a power source for the low end being the main speaker and a power source for the horn. For those of you who do not understand bi-amplification, this process is simply sending all the sound below a certain frequency to the main speaker and above to the horn which adds clarity and definition increasing the quality of sound. To accomplish this with non powered speakers would require a crossover, more speaker cable, connections to make and several power heads for even a small stereo application.

* Second, most powered speakers come rated at fairly moderate to high power ratings depending on the price point you buy, often exceeding what you would get with a powered mixer or stand alone power head. However the real beauty is in the ease of use. One simply needs to run a XLR cable or 1/4 line cable out of the mixer and plug in the cable and power cable. Several wire solutions are available making the cable runs for both the signal and power a simple matter. CBI makes a Multi-Outlet Extension Cord that will offer plug outlets at various points along the cord. In addition CBI makes the CBI Power and Audio Cable XLR and IEC 50 Foot combining both xlr and power cords in one wire for powered speakers making for a simple one wire grab and plug in.
* Third the flexibility of powered speaker systems are great. For example a very small room for a gig as a solo or duo, you may only need one powered speaker. While a full band situation out doors you could bring as many as you have for the main mix and monitor mix with out worrying about impedance loads on your power amps. -A simple connection of xlr cables daisy chaining the speakers on the correct left or right main runs and monitor runs you are using. While many performers are getting away from stage monitors preferring in earmonitor systems, those who still use or prefer the stage monitor will like powered speakers because you can have as many separate mixes as your mixer will allow because each speaker is powered.

* Lastly, gigs which require Subs, can simply be added to this system. As many Subs these days are also powered with built in filters or cross crossovers no extra gear is needed to fill out the bottom end.

In summary, a band or musician, may own several mixers, a simple 4-8 channel mixer for small jobs and then perhaps a larger 16-24 channel mixer in a rack case with 31 band equalizers for larger jobs. Most mixers large or small these days come with some decent digital effects.

All of speaker manufacturers these days make a variety of powered speakers to do the job. Some of the more popular manufacturers include EV, JBL, Mackie, Peavey, Phonic, QSC, and Yamaha. You will also find that many of these speakers are designed to run as mains or stage monitors making them easy to configure to satisfy any job requirement.

If you are considering a new sound system or outfitting yourself or band with gear the idea of powered speakers is certainly worth considering.

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