New (expanded) PA System – November 22 2019, by Douglas Ronald Lee on douglasleemusic.com
For many years, I’ve used a pre-owned 1980’s era Roland keyboard amplifier with many instruments: keyboard, acoustic guitar and bass guitar. And more recently as a PA (public address) system for family events, such as my mom and dad’s various birthday and anniversary banquets including their 60th anniversary. Its seems like just yesterday we were celebrating their 50th! Next event: my daughter’s wedding dinner next year.
Even though the keyboard amp is not a true PA system, it packs a punch with a 12″ driver (speaker), rated at 160 watts. However, it is very heavy and is designed to sit on floor. And I’ve discovered that in dinner banquets, the sound tends to blast out those nearby and be blocked by people and tables so that the sound doesn’t carry very well to those seated several tables away. I did cut a 2×4 and drilled 100’s of hole in it (well, I don’t recall how many, but it has more holes that wood remaining to reduce the weight!) to tilt the bottom of the amp upward. That helped slightly at a Christmas program at my church (keyboard) and at the 60th anniversary dinner (vocal PA mics) by directing the sound upward from the floor. But for a wedding banquet, there will be more guests and tables in a noisy restaurant environment. For a PA system to work properly, the sound (at least the treble and mid ranges) needs to project over the heads of people in order to reach the far side of the banquet area and not blast out the people nearby.
After some research, I found a relatively low cost, but effective solution: a slim, narrow, active (powered) PA amplifier. It resembles one of those super narrow, rotating portable ceramic heaters. Inside the black cabinet are two 4.5″ drivers plus a 3.5″ tweeter. It is super light weight, easy to carry with a side handle, and mounts on a standard speaker tripod. It has 5 input ports (2 each of XLR and 1/4″, plus an 1/8″), 3 channels and a built-in mixer with EQ (equalization).
A unique feature is that this PA amp is expandable by connecting a standard XLR (balanced microphone) cable to another amp, so that each amp is linked together by line out/in signals. Unlimited expansion as far as I can tell. It even has a subwoofer out port with a built in crossover circuit to send out anything under 150hz.
I was going to wait until later next year, but found two used models, less than a year old. With two of these mounted on tripods to the left and right, and with the keyboard amp on the floor in the middle, this should be a sweet sound system.
Reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Musicians are ditching big, heavy speaker cabinets for these. Even though they are tiny, people have used them in small to mid-size rooms with up to 300 people. They apparently work great for speaking, solos and small ensembles, especially when using an external subwoofer so that these amps can focus on the mid and upper range sounds. One reviewer even posted a review and photos of using these as a portable sound system on a trailer (powered by generators) in a parade!
I’m looking forward to using them. Now I’m ready to use the portable keyboard nearly anywhere! I still prefer acoustic piano with real strings and heavy keys, but sometimes portable electronics work well too. One advantage of electronic keyboards: they never need tuning!