Side by Side: Portable PAs

August 1, 2012

When the show goes outside the studio, there's almost always a need for some kind of sound reinforcement, even if it's just for the off-air (or mock off-air) signal. A boom box is common, but has limitations and rarely fills the space. There's also an advantage to being able to talk directly to the crowd.

We looked at several systems, keeping portability in mind. These five systems are all compact enough to be hauled and set up by one person. Two of them offer battery-power options, which could be useful in some situations. One important accessory would be stands to elevate the speakers.

In all cases, we looked for units with at least one mic input and one line input. Adding a small tuner or a backhaul feed from a codec can provide the on-air feed. And with two line inputs, the studio mix-minus backhaul can be mixed with the local audio feed. An iPod dock might be handy for some.

ModelAlesis Transactive MobileFender Passport 150 ProRoland BA-330Samson Expedition XP308iYamaha Stagepas 300
Styleall-in-onespeakers and ampall-in-onespeakers and ampspeakers and amp
Inputs1x XLR/TRS mic, 1x TS instrument/line, 1x RCA stereo2x mic XLR or line TS, 2x line 1/4" TS or 3.5mm TRS 2x mic XLR or TRS instrument, 2x TS stereo line, TRS link, RCA aux4x XLR or TRS mic/line, stereo TS/RCA, stereo RCA4x XLR or TRS mic/line, stereo TS/RCA, stereo RCA
Outputs1/4" TRS line3.5mm TRS linestereo TS link,stereo TS linestereo TRS line, RCAstereo TS line, RCA
EQ, Effectsnonetone on channel, master tone, reverbtone on channel, bass and treble on master, antifeedback, reverb2-band EQ on channel, speech/music master, reverb2-band EQ on channel, speech/music master, reverb
Frequency Range63Hz - 80kHz20Hz - 40kHznot provided20Hz - 20kHz20Hz - 20kHz
Output Power16W2x 150W2x 15W2x 150W2x 150W
Speaker Spec8" woofer, tweeter5.25" woofer, 2.75" tweeter4x 6.25" woofer, 2x tweeter2x 8" woofer, 2x 1" tweeter2x 8" woofer, 2x 1" tweeter
Special InputsiPod dock--iPod dock-
Featuresbuilt-in wheels and extending handle, battery indicator, iPod charger, internal speaker pole mountjoins as single unit for transport, internal speaker mount, storage bin in amptilt-back stand, pole-mount adapter, battery indicatorjoins as single unit for transport, internal speaker mount, storage bin in speaker, amp can be removedamp can be removed from speaker, storage bin in speaker
AC Power100 - 120Vac, 220 - 240Vac100 - 120Vac, 220 - 240Vac12-16V/4A from ac adapter100 - 240Vac100 - 120Vac
Battery Powerinternal lead-acidnone8x AA batteriesnonenone
Battery Life12 hours-alkaline: 8 hours
Ni-MH: 10 hours
Dimensions (inches) 15 x 18.5 x 1119 x 25 x 1116.375 x 14 x 2019.1 x 20.1 x 10.610.875 x 18 x 10
Weight (lbs) 33.83030.537.439.7
MSRP$599 $560 $899 $680 $789

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