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"Humble but scrappy" PA system for a small band

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Mark Suszko
"Humble but scrappy" PA system for a small band
on Feb 21, 2019 at 3:58:40 pm

I'd like opinions and buying suggestions from pro people who've been around PA systems a long time...

I'm in a 9-member ukulele band, mostly acoustic, though some of us play amped acoustic-electrics or solid-body electrics, and everybody's also a vocalist. I'm starting to shop around for a modest but good-value portable PA to reinforce our outdoor public gigs and larger indoor ones. The audience size runs from 30 to around to a max of 100, though usually on the lower end; at bigger venues, we rely on venue-supplied sound systems. The setup I'm shopping for would be more for gigs at small cafe's, nursing homes, libraries, and outdoor gigs in a park-type setting. Looking at maximum "grunt" for the minimum outlay, of course. Portability and simplicity are factors. I'm not a brand fanatic and am quite happy with no-name brands, IF they work well.

I tend to like the suitcase-style systems like Fender Passport and JBL Eon, having worked with them before, but with 9 or more sources to mix, that's more inputs than something like a Passport's mixer can handle, especially on my budget. To get that many inputs on a Passport or EON is going to drive the cost way out of my budget range. Is it better to just buy powered speakers and find a mixer board with enough dedicated mic inputs? Or non-powered speakers, power amp, and board? That's more stuff than I care to shlepp around with my bad back...

How many watts output is considered "nominal" for the audience sizes I'm talking about?

I know I can troll the pawn shops and ebay and put together a "frankenstein" package of powered speakers and a mixer, but I'm trying to keep things simpler. If you were in my shoes, looking to spend under a grand, all-in, what would you suggest I look at? Assume mics and mic stands are already supplied. This is for the PA system amp/speakers/mixer.

For extra credit, if your budget was only 500 bones, how would you best spend it to do the same job? Again, assume mics, cables, and stands are already provided.

I've considered as-needed rentals, as probably the best way to go from an accounting standpoint, but local availability in our area is haphazard and the band's more interested in owning. A lot of our gigs are charity things we play for free.

Make and model numbers , or links, and favorite vendor info appreciated.

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James Dow
Re: "Humble but scrappy" PA system for a small band
on Feb 21, 2019 at 5:12:46 pm

Hi Mark. I've been using JBL EON powered speakers fee by a Mackie 12 channel mixer. For the crowd size your talking about I think a Passport (which I also have) might be a little light. You can probably find a used 16 channel Mackie pretty cheap. I just traded one. If you can find a couple of used powered speakers you should be in business. If you get in a bind give me a call. I might be able to help you out.



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