Although many venues offer
installed house-sound systems, a musician
is never truly free until he or she can
gig anywhere and anytime with a personal
P.A. For solo artists and bands on the go,
we looked at 11 new and recently released
systems that are uber-portable—meaning
they can fit into the back seat and/
or trunk of a sedan, and can be easily set
up by one person.
Watts. Power alone doesn’t necessarily
equate to volume, as efficient speakers
can pump out a lot of level from lowwattage
amplifiers. Happily, we found
each system powerful enough to do its
duty within the “Recommended Venues”
slot we put it in.
Mixer Channels. Here’s the difference
between systems that can handle just a
solo or duo act (two to three channels),
and systems that can power a small band
(eight or more channels).
Inputs. All of the systems include XLR
inputs for professional-level mics, and
1/4" jacks for instruments, wireless receivers,
and hobbyist-quality microphones.
Added flexibility is offered on some systems
with RCA and 1/8" inputs that can
accommodate mp3 players and other
Phantom Power. If a system doesn’t
have phantom power, you won’t be able to
use condenser mics. This isn’t a big deal, as
there are tons of excellent dynamic mics to
choose from, but some singers feel condensers
are better matches for their vocal timbres.
Likewise, singer/songwriters may prefer to
mic their acoustic guitars with condensers.
Speakers. Systems with low-frequency
(LF) and high-frequency (HF) speakers typically
offer more tonal separation, as well
as better sonic dimension. Multi-speaker
array systems can deliver wider dispersion
of sound (depending upon how the individual
speakers are positioned within the cabinet).
Good single-driver speakers can serve
up a focused and balanced sound output.
EQ. Two-band EQ gives you control over
preset high and low frequencies—which
is nice—but if you like tweaking the mids
on vocals and guitars, you’ll be happier
with 3-band EQ. A system that adds a 5- or
7-band EQ on the stereo master is good for
fighting feedback and tailoring your sound
to the performance environment.
Onboard Effects. Signal processing is
always handy to spice up your mix. It’s not
essential, however, as performance spaces
will have their own “room tone,” which
can diminish the need for additional ambience/
Extras. A list of some key “added value”
features included with the system.
Weight. You will be lugging these systems
around, so make sure the weight is comfy
as you assess load-in/load-out factors such
as stairs, distance from car to venue, and
lifting out of your car.
Recommended Venues. This is our editorial
assessment on where each system will
The editors chose four performance categories,
and evaluated each system with
“mic ratings,” as follows: one = “Not
Happening,” two = “Adequate,” three
= “Real Good,” four = “Excellent,”
and five = “Truly Kick Ass.”
Sound Quality. We plugged in vocal
mics, acoustic and electric guitars, and prerecorded
stereo music tracks (via mp3 or
CD player), and listened for clear and articulate
mids, airy highs, and taut lows. We
also checked for distortion, lack of headroom,
muddy or indistinct playback, and
dispersion of sound (how wide of a field
of audible sound is pumped into the performance/
Portability. Are the components easy to
carry? Can one person do it all—load-in,
set up, and load-out—without sweating all
over his or her stage clothes?
Flexibility. We determined if a system
could be easily deployed for mixed usage—
solo artist and band sound reinforcement,
DJ gigs, public address (speaking), music
playback, and front-line monitors.
Ease of Use. Is the system so butt-simple
you can operate it without reading the
manual? Is a complete set up fast and easy?
Are all operations laid out in a super userfriendly
2 x 450w
4 x XLR, 4 x TRS, 6 x 1/4", 4 x RCA, 1 x 1/8"
10" LF, 1.35" HF
2-band (channel), 7-band (stereo master)
Feedback detection, Voice Canceller,
Behringer XM 1800s mic, 20' mic cable.
Small clubs and performance spaces
130w (mono system)
1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" TRS, 1 x 1/8" TRS, 2 x RCA
1 x 8" LF, 6 x 2" HF
2-band (mic channel only)
ToneMatch preset EQ curves.
Coffee houses to small clubs
2 x 250w
6 x XLR, 4 x 1/4", 4 x RCA
10" LF, 1.5" HF
3-band (channel), 7-band graphic (stereo master)
Two Carvin M50 mics, cables,
auto AC switching (120v-240v), USB power.
6 x XLR, 6 x 1/4", 2 x 1/4", 2 x 1/8"
10" LF, 1.2" HF
USB port, subwoofer output.
220w (mono system)
2 x XLR, 2 x1/4" (line), 1x1/4" (aux)
6 x 4" midrange drivers, 1" HF
Dual effects loops, XLR DI outputs, tuner output,
channel mute, phase and notch filters, 10dB pad,
stand, carry bag with wheels.
2 x 150w
4 x XLR, 4 x 1/4" 2 x1/4" TRS, 2 x RCA,
1x 3.5mm stereo
150w (mono system)
2 x Neutrik XLR/1/4" combo
Dedicated stereo channel for iPod, etc.
Personal monitor to quiet coffee houses
4 x XLR, 3 x 1/4" (line), 2 x 1/4" (stereo),
2 x RCA
10" LF, piezoelectric horn HF
2-band (channel), 5-band (stereo master)
Peavey PVi dynamic cardioid mic, mic
cable,stands, FLS Feedback Locating
2 x 10w
1 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8", 2 x RCA
2 x 6.5"
Built-in wireless receiver, wireless mic,
battery powerable (8 x AA).
Street busking to coffee houses
4 x XLR, 4 x 1/4", 2 x 1/4" (stereo channel),
4 x RCA
8" LF, 1" HF
iPod dock, RCA Recording output.
4 x XLR, 4 x 1/4" (mono), 4 x 1/4" line (for
two stereo channels), 4 x RCA
10" LF, 1" HF
Built-in compressor/limiters (channels
1 and 2).
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