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To entertain a crowd or make sure they hear your announcements, you need PA (public address) speakers.
PA speakers won’t win any beauty contests. Their job is to cover large areas with loud, clear sound. And they have to stand up to heavy use for a long time.
Below you’ll find descriptions of the different types of PA speakers and a few tips on how to choose.
To learn a lot more, please read our live sound buying guides. For expert help with your speaker selection, please contact a Crutchfield advisor.
Powered PA speakers, also known as “active” speakers, have amplifiers and signal processors built-in. They’re popular for portable systems because they save time and space. You won’t have to haul around or connect separate amps. For small gatherings, a single powered speaker may provide all of the volume and connections you need. Plug in a microphone and/or a music player, and you’re all set.
Non-powered PA speakers are perfect for permanently installed systems or larger touring rigs. They’re lighter than their powered counterparts, so it’s much easier to hang them from the ceiling or attach them to a wall. The only connections are the speaker wires. You won’t need an AC power source for each speaker location.
Subwoofers add a ton of extra bass to the sound of a PA system. Powered subwoofers work well with powered PA speakers, of course. But they can also be used in systems that feature non-powered speakers. Non-powered subs require a separate amp. Check the sub's power range spec before you buy. Make sure your subwoofer amp has enough power, but not too much.
For more info, take a look at our PA speakers buying guide.
You’ll probably need stands or wall-mount brackets to support your PA speakers and get them aimed in the right direction.
Speaker cables are a must for non-powered speakers and subwoofers (and most speakers don’t come with cables). If you're connecting powered speakers to a mixer, check the mixer's output connections. In some cases, you'll need XLR cables, and in other cases, you'll use speaker cables with 1/4" plugs. In most cases, powered subs connect to powered PA speakers via XLR cables.
If your PA system is portable, speaker bags will come in handy.
If you’re using powered PA speakers, think about where you’ll need AC power connections. Do you have enough extension cords?
For more tips, read our guide on how to set up a PA system.