Speakers come in many shapes and sizes, from tiny desktop speakers to colossal dual 18” bass enclosures.
It’s common sense that the louder you want your audio to be and the bigger the venue is, the more power you need.
But also, different applications require different types of speakers. For example, some speakers excel at speaking and conferences, whereas others excel at music events.
This guide will explore everything you need to know if you’re looking to hire a sound system.
Sound systems come in many shapes and sizes, from small PA setups to colossal professional audio systems for gigs, concerts and festivals.
First off, the term “PA speakers” refers to speaker systems designed for public use. PA stands for “public address”. Your average PA speaker is a powerful full-range speaker that can produce a decent level of volume for virtually any audio application, including speech and music.
While a couple of PA speakers are powerful enough for small events, large events and music events will often need a larger system. PA speakers are sometimes separated from what some call “pro audio speakers” or a “pro audio sound system”. Pro audio speakers require external power from amplifier units.
However, it’s worth pointing out that modern PA speakers are powerful and are appropriate for a wide range of events.
There are a few different types of professional speakers that are worth knowing about:
Full-range speakers: Full-range speakers handle the entire frequency spectrum, from the high-end to the mid-range and low-end. These all-purpose speakers handle most applications but lack the high-end and low-end of purpose-built speakers.
Tops: Tops are speakers designed to handle the higher end of the frequency spectrum. Higher frequencies require different speaker designs to lower frequencies, i.e. the actual speaker itself is smaller and more directional.
Subs/bottoms/bass bins: The opposite of tops, subs are designed to handle the lower range of the frequency spectrum – or bass. Subs typically have large speakers of 12” to 18” or so. Subs are essential for most forms of music, especially bass-heavy electronic music, rock, pop, hip hop, RnB, etc.
Monitor speakers: In live audio, monitor speakers are usually full-range speakers designed to be placed behind the front of the stage so band members or performers can hear their instruments. In a studio setting, monitor speakers are clean, balanced speakers designed to make music production easier.
Line array: Line array speakers are specialist speakers that are installed above the floor. They’re designed to produce audio that disperses across a large area and are ideal for large venues and outdoor arenas.
Chaps PA stocks all types of speakers, from simple PA speakers to larger systems and line arrays. We’ll help you decide on what types of speakers and power you’ll need for your event.
When it comes to hiring a sound system, there are a few interchangeable terms that can be confusing. We’ll do our best to unravel these terms here.
Speaker is the generic term for any device that generates sound. There are speakers everywhere; you can find them inside your phone, headphones, TV, on your desk, etc.
Speakers can be anything from studio monitor speakers to massive bass bins.
Sound systems are generally assembled from multiple components, including the speakers themselves, separate amp units to power the speakers, a mixing desk and monitors.
Larger speakers don’t have built-in power and rely on external amplifier units. They’re usually connected to a mixing desk so a sound engineer can mix the levels and apply equalisation or other effects.
Sound systems can mix and match different speakers and components to create the ideal system for an event.
PA stands for “public address”. PA speakers are large and powerful enough to produce audio for public use.
PA speakers are usually powered, so unlike pro audio speakers, they come with built-in amplifier units. This makes them more portable and easy to set up. However, a small quantity of PA speakers may lack the ‘teeth’ of a larger audio system made from multiple full-range speakers, subs, etc.
You wouldn’t want to rely on PA speakers for a large music event, but they’d likely be fine for a wedding or birthday.
Monitor speakers can be divided into two broad categories:
Studio monitors: Studio monitors are used in recording studios. They’re designed to provide clean, accurate audio for music production purposes.
Live audio monitors: Monitors are used in live audio settings, where they’re placed on stage or behind the DJ booth. Monitors quite literally allow performers to monitor their performances.
Line arrays are specialist live audio speakers assembled in a line or arc.
They can be assembled from tops, full-range and subs. Line arrays offer superior audio projection for larger outdoor events or big venues than large front-of-house systems. They’re often used in combination with front-of-house systems.
Speakers are rated in watts, a unit of power, but wattage doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, a high-wattage speaker system made of full-range speakers might lack the bass of a lower-wattage system with subs.
Using the right mix of speakers is essential for any event. If you’re unsure, Chaps PA will help you determine the speakers you need for your event.
As a rule of thumb, here are the recommended minimum sound system wattages for different events:
In reality, there are many factors to consider, such as the venue size and acoustics, the type of audio being played (e.g. speech vs music) and more.
Aside from the speakers themselves, there are a few things to consider when hiring a sound system.
Sound systems with multiple speakers will benefit from a mixing desk. Mixing desks are essential for complex sound systems with four or more speakers, especially when different mixes are needed (e.g. monitor mixes).
Speakers often require stands and other hardware for set-up. PA speakers are often mounted on poles, for example.
Distros are required if you plan on running a sound system from generators.
Don’t forget about cables. Different speakers use different cables, e.g. PA speakers often use XLRs or TRS, whereas pro audio speakers often use NL4s.
Processors are used to set the frequency ranges of speakers. Limiters help protect the system from volume spikes.
The cost of hiring a sound system varies depending on the event requirements. Sound systems range from compact PA systems to colossal pro audio systems for festival stages.
As a ballpark figure, a small-to-medium-sized system will likely cost less than £250 to £500 to hire for an evening, whereas a large pro audio system could cost anything from a few hundred to thousands.
Larger systems require more cables, hardware and other extras like mixing desks, which bumps up the cost.
If you’re looking to hire a sound system, contact Chaps PA. We’ll listen to your event requirements and suggest an appropriate system with a budget that suits you.