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Buyer's guide to portable speakers and PA systems

Buyer's guide to portable speakers and PA systems  ·  Source: Soundboks

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Summer is the time to get outside, hang out with your friends, have a barbecue, or chill out and watch a game in the park. With powerful, battery-powered speakers or a portable PA, your open-air event will be even better! We’ve put together a list of speakers that’ll take your outdoor gathering to the next level.

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Note: This article was originally published in German on bonedo.de. It has been adapted for gearnews.com.

Needless to say, good portable speakers should be rugged and durable, but not too heavy. If a battery-powered option is available, that’s another big plus, as it makes you independent from power outlets. Preferably, they should also have a built-in mixer with  several input channels, so you don’t have to pack an external mixer in order to connect various input sources such as microphones, guitars, or music players. A wireless Bluetooth connection is another very nice feature, as it allows you to stream music from your phone without a cable.

Note: For each speaker on the list, we’ve listed the approximate crowd size it can handle (PAX – Persons Approximately). While these numbers are meant to give you an idea of where to start, they’re of course highly dependent on the location and application.

Battery-powered portable speakers and PA systems

We’ll begin with rechargeable, battery-powered Bluetooth speakers for your next hangout in the park. All of them have built-in mixers for connecting instruments, line-level sources, and microphones. That’s a big plus if you’re going to be using them for live music, in addition to streaming music from your phone over Bluetooth.

For music playback on portable speakers, Bluetooth streaming will generally be the most convenient option. The only catch is: When you get a call, the music stops. Some speakers feature ports for a USB thumb drive and/or an SD card, so you can listen to your favorite songs and playlists without having to deal with unexpected dropouts.

A powerful portable speaker that runs on a rechargeable battery certainly isn’t cheap. Most models will set you back significantly more than traditional, AC-powered systems with comparable specs. But they have one big advantage: You can party anywhere, even miles from the next electrical outlet. Some models offer enough power for groups of up to 65 people. Apart from the sound quality and connection options, be sure to check the maximum battery life and power output. Other things to consider are portability and ease of handling. Some models offer extras like wireless microphones or built-in media players.

The only portable speakers on this list that are fully weather-resistant and can take a rain shower without breaking down are the two Soundboks models. All others should be raised above the ground and covered with something like a trash bag (preferably an unused one!) in the event of unstable weather and impending rain.

LD Systems Road Jack 10

Portable speakers LD Systems Roadjack 10

Roadjack 10

The meaty-looking LD Systems Road Jack 10 weighs about 16 kilos (35 lbs) and comes with built-in casters for easy transportation. The two-way system consists of a 10” woofer and a 3” tweeter. It delivers a maximum SPL of 96 dB and a frequency response of 65 Hz to 18 kHz. A built-in master EQ helps to balance out the sound. In addition to Bluetooth, the Road Jack 10 offers microphone, line, and guitar inputs. The built-in media player reads SD cards and USB thumb drives. The amplifier puts out 25 watts, which is enough to entertain a group of about 10 people in a 14m / 45ft radius for about 12 hours.

LD Systems Road Jack 10

LD Systems Road Jack 10

Customer rating:
(122)

Fun Generation BP 112 A and BP 115 A

Portable speakers Fun Generation BP 112 A

BP 112 A

The Fun Generation BP 112 A and BP 115 A are two very affordable portable speakers with built-in casters. They’re powered by rechargeable batteries and offer dual preamps, media players, and Bluetooth. The smaller model features a 12-inch woofer and a 1-inch compression driver. According to the manufacturer, it delivers 120 W (peak) / 45 W (RMS) and 109 dB SPL, with a battery life of up to five hours. The BP 115 A takes the stage with a 15-inch woofer, 140W (peak) / 50W (RMS) of power, and a maximum SPL of 112 dB. Both are also available in “Party Sets” that include a pair of speakers, cables, and stands.

Fun Generation BP 112 A

Fun Generation BP 112 A

Customer rating:
(29)
Fun Generation BP 115 A

Fun Generation BP 115 A

Customer rating:
(19)

the box MBA120W MKII

Portable speakers the box MBA120W MKII

MBA120W MKII

 

Thomann’s the box MBA 120W MKII is a powerful and sleek-looking portable speaker powered by a rechargeable battery. 120 watts of power are enough for a crowd of about 20. The 3-channel mixer offers microphone and line-level inputs. In addition to Bluetooth, the MBA 120W MKII offers a built-in media player that reads SD cards and USB drives. A decent-sounding wireless microphone or headset microphone is also included, which is great for announcements. With a 10-inch woofer and 1-inch compression driver, the speaker delivers a frequency response of 55 Hz to 18 kHz. The battery lasts for about four hours at maximum volume. The MBA120W MKII tips the scale at 19 kilos / 42 lbs and is easy to move around thanks to its built-in casters.

the box MBA120W MKII HT

the box MBA120W MKII HT

Customer rating:
(19)
the box MBA120W MKII PT

the box MBA120W MKII PT

BOSE S1 PRO

Portable speakers BOSE S1 PRO

S1 PRO

While it isn’t much larger than a shoe box and only weighs about 7 kg / 15 lbs, the BOSE S1 PRO delivers a clear and transparent sound and enough power for a crowd of 25. The battery lasts for about three hours at maximum power or for up to nine hours at a moderate volume. The portable speaker features an automatic master EQ for four different placement options. In addition to two line/instrument/mic inputs with built-in reverb, there’s a Bluetooth/Aux channel for connecting your smartphone or media player. Highly recommended!

Bose S1 Pro

Bose S1 Pro

Customer rating:
(28)

Soundboks Gen3 / Soundboks Go

Portable Speakers Soundbox Gen3

Soundbox Gen3

If you’re looking for an outdoor-ready Bluetooth speaker that lasts a full weekend, look no further than the Soundboks Gen3. It packs two 10-inch woofers, one HF tweeter, 3x72W of Class-D power, and 126 dB max. SPL – all with an extremely long battery life of up to 40 hours and a low weight of just 15.4 kg / 34 lbs. Moreover, the enclosure is weather-resistant, so you can really take it anywhere. In addition to two XLR-1/4” combo inputs for microphones or instruments, the Soundboks Gen3 offers Bluetooth and an 1/8” Aux input. You can link up to five speakers wirelessly to create an SKAA network.

Soundboks Soundboks Gen3

Soundboks Soundboks Gen3

Customer rating:
(52)

The smaller Soundboks Go is no less rugged and equipped with one 10” woofer and one 1” silk dome tweeter. Its Class-D amplifier puts out 2×72 watts. This variant also lasts about 40 hours on a single charge of its LiFePO4 battery. While it lacks the XLR combo inputs, it does offer an 1/8” stereo input and Bluetooth, including the option to link up to five speakers.

Soundboks Soundboks Go

Soundboks Soundboks Go

Customer rating:
(4)

Battery-powered column PA systems

Both LD Systems and JBL offer column PA systems powered by rechargeable batteries. While they’re a bit more complicated to set up, they offer considerably more power. In a mono configuration, these systems pack enough oomph for a crowd of about 65 – we’re talking about professional, off-grid PAs. While both lack built-in media players, they offer fully-fledged onboard mixers and a stable Bluetooth connection. One thing to keep in mind: they’re not weatherproof.

LD Systems MAUI 5 GO 100

Portable speakers LD Systems Maui 5 Go 100

Maui 5 Go 100

As a convenient alternative to the AC-powered variant, the MAUI 5 is available with a built-in rechargeable Li-Ion battery. This means that you get a fully wireless system if you connect your sound source over Bluetooth. In addition to one XLR-1/4” combo input and one 1/4” instrument input, it offers a 1/8” stereo input and Bluetooth. The built-in 4-channel mixer allows you to control all four inputs independently. You can also adjust the subwoofer volume and HF boost.

At under 13 kg / 29 lbs, the MAUI 5 GO 100 B is easy to move around and quick to set up. With 200 watts of power, it delivers up to 120 dB SPL and a frequency response of 50 Hz to 20 kHz. The battery lasts about six hours on a full charge. One advantage of the column design is that the sound is spread out evenly across the entire audience. Two MAUI 5 can be linked to form a stereo system at the push of a button.

LD Systems Maui 5 Go 100 B

LD Systems Maui 5 Go 100 B

Customer rating:
(18)
LD Systems Maui 5 Go 100 W

LD Systems Maui 5 Go 100 W

Customer rating:
(3)

JBL EON ONE MK2

JBL EON ONE PRO 2

EON ONE PRO 2

The JBL EON ONE MK2 follows a similar concept, but with even more power. Its amplifier puts out a whopping 1500 watts, which is enough for a maximum SPL of 123 dB. The frequency response is 37 Hz to 20 kHz. According to SPL, the battery lasts for up to six hours, which is quite impressive for a system this powerful.

The 5-channel digital mixer leaves nothing to be desired. It offers three XLR-1/4” combo inputs, one 1/4” instrument input, and an Aux channel with a stereo mini jack input and Bluetooth. In addition to a dbx dynamics section with gate and compressor and a 3-band EQ per channel, there’s a selection of Lexicon effects. JBL even offers iOS and Android apps for easy configuration. When you’re ready to pack up, the three column elements simply slide into the back of the sub. While it isn’t cheap, the EON ONE MK2 is a solid, fully-featured, and highly versatile off-grid PA.

JBL Eon One MK2

JBL Eon One MK2

Customer rating:
(3)

AC-powered stereo systems

Needless to say, single speakers like the ones listed above only deliver a mono signal, unless they offer the option to link two speakers over Bluetooth. The next section focuses on compact, portable stereo speakers ready to rock your next outdoor party. These systems require an electrical outlet and you should take care to protect them from moisture – nothing kills a PA system as quickly as a rain shower. We’ve put together a selection of affordable, powerful, and compact stereo bundles that come with all required cables and stands.

Most of these systems don’t offer fully-fledged onboard mixers or Bluetooth. You can add wireless connectivity with a Bluetooth dongle such as the Alto Bluetooth Total 2. The adapter plugs into your PA’s XLR input and allows you to connect your smartphone or another device wirelessly.

Alto Bluetooth Total 2

Alto Bluetooth Total 2

Customer rating:
(15)

Here’s a tip for AC-powered systems: Remember to unwind the power cable completely from its reel when you’re using devices with a high power draw, in order to avoid destroying your cable through induction and insufficient heat dissipation. For the same reason, it isn’t recommended to connect several extension cords in a series, as high transition resistances can lead to overheating.

Fun Generation Party Set M / Party Set XL

Here are a couple of sets that offer great bang for your buck. They each consist of one active and one passive speaker (the active one powers the passive one). The Party Set M is based on the BP 112, which delivers up to 109 dB SPL with a 10” woofer and a 1” compression driver. The system offers a frequency response of 80 Hz to 18 kHz and a continuous power output of 160 watts.

The remote-controlled media player reads SD cards and USB drives. In addition to this, the built-in mixer offers a mic/line combo input, a stereo Aux channel, and wireless Bluetooth connectivity. There’s also a 2-band master EQ. The system comes complete with cables and stands. If you need more bass, you can opt for the larger Party Set XL, which includes the 15″ BP 115 speakers, or add a couple of subwoofers.

Fun Generation Party Set M

Fun Generation Party Set M

Fun Generation Party Set XL

Fun Generation Party Set XL

the box Pro ACHAT Mini Bundle

This sleek bundle includes two satellite speakers, one 8” subwoofer, stands, and cables. At 220 watts of power, the system reaches a maximum SPL of 116 dB – enough for a crowd of about 40. The frequency response is 40 Hz to 20 kHz. While the stereo input on the back of the subwoofer is available in XLR, 1/4”, and RCA formats, it’s line-level only – you’ll need an external mixer to connect a microphone or mix several input sources together. The Achat Mini Bundle offers no Bluetooth connectivity.

the box pro Achat Mini Bundle

the box pro Achat Mini Bundle

Customer rating:
(30)

the box CL 106/112 MKII Basis Bundle

The CL 106/112 MKII Basis Bundle is another great value set that includes two satellite speakers, a subwoofer, cables, and stands. It’s a straightforward PA system – all you get is a stereo line input without any bells and whistles. The sound and quality are spot on, though: With 360 watts of power and a maximum SPL of 118 dB, it’s more than ready for your next block party. The 12” sub reaches down to 40 Hz, while the highs top out at 19 kHz.

the box CL 106/112MKII Basis Bundle

the box CL 106/112MKII Basis Bundle

Customer rating:
(3)

Portable multipurpose speakers

Last, but not least, we’ve picked a couple of portable multipurpose speakers. While they also require a power outlet, they really pack a punch and are perfect for large crowds and block parties. Like the battery-powered portable speakers, these systems are mono, but they’re affordable enough to buy two to make a stereo system. With built-in mixers and digital signal processing, they’re ready for pretty much anything.

These active speakers are a great value and you can use them upright, as floor wedges, or on a stand. While they don’t offer Bluetooth, you can always use a dongle like the Alto Bluetooth Total to add wireless connectivity.

the box PA 12 DSP

With a 12” woofer, a 1” compression driver, and 400 watts of power, the DSP-controlled PA 12 DSP reaches up to 128 dB with a frequency response of 50 Hz to 20 kHz. You can tune the sound using the built-in DSP features, and connect microphones, line-level sources, and Hi-Z signals via the 2-channel mixer. All in all, it’s a package that’s hard to beat – you probably won’t find more power and features for less money anywhere else.

the box PA 12 DSP

the box PA 12 DSP

Customer rating:
(75)

the box Pro DSP 112/115

Thomann’s the box PRO DSP 112 is another excellent value and follows a similar concept as the PA 12 DSP, but with even more power and sound shaping options. It delivers 600 watts and up to 132 dB SPL. The 2-way system consists of a 12” woofer and a 1” compression driver and offers a frequency response of 53 Hz to 19 kHz. The PRO DSP 112 has two combo inputs for microphones, line-level sources, and instruments. If you need even more power and low end, there’s also the 15-inch PRO DSP 115 with 700 watts and 136 dB SPL.

the box pro DSP 112

the box pro DSP 112

Customer rating:
(253)
the box pro DSP 115

the box pro DSP 115

Customer rating:
(422)

* This post contains affiliate links and/or widgets. When you buy a product via our affiliate partner, we receive a small commission that helps support what we do. Don’t worry, you pay the same price. Thanks for your support!

Image Sources:
  • Roadjack 10: LD Systems
  • BP 112 A: Thomann
  • MBA120W MKII: Thomann
  • S1 PRO: Bose
  • Soundbox Gen3: Soundboks
  • Maui 5 Go 100: LD Systems
  • EON ONE PRO 2: JBL
Buyer's guide to portable speakers and PA systems

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2 responses to “Buyer’s guide to portable speakers and PA systems”

    JP says:
    0

    Yamaha StagePAS?

    3EMA says:
    0

    Redatt — a simple Papuan word means “unlikely to take part in evening games”. (Mr. Stephen Fry’s Trefusis)

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