Best Portable PA Systems

With the increasing demand on artists and audio engineers to supply their own PA systems, investing in a reliable and great-sounding portable PA is important for gigging musicians. Portable PAs are a great solution for smaller ensembles playing at coffee shops, larger bands who need to lift things like vocals, keys, and samples over louder instruments, DJs playing smaller venues, or audio engineers setting up for small to mid-sized conferences and events.

The Power of Portability: 3-in-1

Traditional PA systems are typically comprised of three separate components: 1) a mixer, 2) power amp, and 3) speakers. Portable PA systems combine these three components into one compact system. When you’re searching for the right portable system, take the following into consideration:

  • How many inputs will you need?
  • How quickly do you want to setup the PA?
  • How much volume will you need from the system?
  • Would you like the option to expand the system in the future?
  • Do you need wireless connectivity for devices or mics?
  • Do you need a stereo PA, or is mono acceptable?

The following five PA systems are all compact, easily portable, and weigh under 50lbs., so you know you won’t wear yourself out carrying these around to all your gigs (although the same can’t be said about most tube amps or drum sets).

Our choices for the top five portable PA Systems:


Behringer Europort PPA500BT

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Behringer Europort PPA500BT

Overview

Starting at $488

Behringer is known for mass-producing some of the most affordable and utilitarian audio gear on the market. The Behringer Europort PPA500BT is the least expensive unit in this review, yet it still has advanced features typically found in more expensive models including a useful five-band master EQ, 500 watts of power, Bluetooth device pairing, and 100 built-in effects.

Pros
  • Connects with any Bluetooth device to play music
  • 100 built-in effects presets including reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, pitch shifter, and multi-effects
  • 1/8” aux input
  • FBQ Feedback Detection system
  • 5-band master EQ (63Hz, 250Hz, 1kHz, 6.3kHz, and 12kHz)
  • 2-band EQ on each channel (bass and treble)
  • Phantom power
Cons
  • No monitor outputs
  • Only 2 mic/line inputs and 2 stereo line inputs
  • Limited expandability. If you’re looking for more flexibility but still want the affordability of Behringer, check out the Europort EPS500MP3. It has more inputs but fewer advanced features like no Bluetooth compatibility and no 5-band master EQ.

Yamaha Stagepas 400i

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Overview

Starts at $699.99

Yamaha has been making solid instruments and audio gear since 1887. The Yamaha Stagepas 400i is designed as a sturdy workhorse for solo artists, bands, small venues, and audio engineers alike. The number of useful features packed into such a lightweight system is astonishing. For the price point, you won’t find a better portable PA with as much power, functionality, or flexibility.

Pros
  • 4 mic/line inputs, including one Hi-Z instrument input
  • 2 stereo/4 mono line inputs, including 1 stereo 1/8” input
  • 2-band EQ on each channel (low and high)
  • SPX digital reverb (hall, plate, room and echo)
  • Footswitch input for reverb
  • Feedback suppressor system
  • L/R monitor outputs
  • Subwoofer output
  • 1-Knob Master EQ to help optimize the PA for speech, music, or bass
  • iPod/iPhone digital connection and charging via USB
  • Phantom power for two mic/line inputs
Cons
  • No pan controls
  • No wireless connectivity
  • No separate monitor mixing from the main mix

Mackie Reach

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Mackie Reach

Overview

Starting at $899.99

Portable PA systems modeled after larger line-array speaker systems often found in medium to large-size venues have been very popular in the past few years, especially since the introduction of the Bose L1 systems in 2003. The Mackie Reach promises many of the same advantages of these systems including wide sound dispersal and portability, but it is much shorter than a classic line-array system and boasts some unique features like separate side monitoring speakers. The Reach’s advanced feature set, expandability, and ample power make it a great choice for bands and artists looking for portability without compromising sound quality or flexibility.

Pros
  • Earshot personal monitoring system includes small speakers on either side of the PA with separate volume controls from the main array
  • 4 combo XLR/¼” inputs
  • 3-band EQ for each channel (80Hz, 2.5kHz and 5kHz)
  • Bluetooth pairing for audio streaming
  • Wireless control over all mix parameters via the Mackie Connect App for iOS and Android devices including 3 user presets for instant recall of all parameters
  • 16 digital effects including reverb, delay, and chorus
  • Feedback eliminator
  • Footswitch input for turning effects on and off
  • 1/8” aux input
  • 720 watts of power, the most of any unit reviewed
  • Expandability to link two units together for a stereo PA or add a subwoofer or extra speaker
Cons
  • No phantom power
  • Mono speaker system (unless linked to an additional unit)
  • No separate monitor mixing from the main mix
  • Expensive
  • Learning curve for onboard digital mixer controls

Fender Passport Venue

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Fender Passport Venue

Overview

Starting at $979.99

Best known for their industry standard guitars and amps, Fender also pioneered the compact and portable PA system with the introduction of their Passport PA series. The Fender Passport Venue has the most inputs of all the reviewed systems, and combined with its 600 watts of power can serve the needs of most bands in small venues. For louder bands with more input needs looking to bring their vocals, acoustic instruments, keyboards, and/or samples above the mix, this portable system will deliver in spades.

Pros
  • 4 XLR inputs
  • 2 ¼” Hi-Z instrument/line inputs
  • 2 ¼” or 1/8” stereo inputs
  • 2-band EQ on each channel (bass and treble)
  • 1 mono monitor output with separate level control
  • 1 subwoofer output
  • Stereo USB input for recording and playing music
  • Onboard reverb
  • Phantom power
Cons
  • No wireless connectivity
  • No separate monitor mixing from the main mix
  • Expensive

Fishman SA330x

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Overview

Starting at $999.95

The newly released Fishman SA330x is modeled after the more traditional style of portable line-array speaker systems similar to the Bose L1 Compact system, but includes a larger feature set more useful for a variety of professional applications. The SA330x is great for smaller acts with limited input needs, but has the flexibility to expand down the road. If you’re looking for the lightest and most portable PA system with the easiest setup that can still deliver professional sound, this is it.

Pros
  • 20lbs, the lightest of all reviewed PAs
  • Built-in reverb
  • 3-band EQ for both XLR/¼” combo channels (50Hz, 750Hz, and 10kHz shelf)
  • Phantom power
  • Tweeter level adjustment (-6dB to 0dB)
  • Bi-amped speakers
  • Footswitch input for reverb or master mute
  • 1 XLR subwoofer output
  • XLR monitor input and output
  • ¼” and 1/8” aux input
  • Anti-feedback low frequency notch filter
  • DI outputs for each mic/instrument channel (pre-EQ) and master mix (post-EQ) which can be used to record performances with a separate device
  • Expandable with the Fishman SA Expand Channel Mixer (sold separately) giving you 4 additional combo XLR/¼” inputs
Cons
  • Only 2 mic/instrument inputs
  • 330 watts, the lowest power of all the reviewed systems
  • No wireless connectivity
  • Expensive for the feature set
  • Mono speaker system
  • No separate monitor mixing from the main mix