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Small PA recommendations?


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So I've got this 3 - 5 piece folk band and it's getting to the point that we need our own PA for coffeehouse/bar gigs. I'm hoping that we're going to be able to pull off the one-mic bluegrass-style thing, but I'm guessing that about half the the time it'll be too noisy to pull that off, so we'll need at least 4 channels (2 mics, 2 guitars), preferrably 6 (add in another mic or guitar or two, to cut down on plugging and unplugging).

 

With all that in mind, and the facts that my budget is small and my wife isn't going to put up with a bunch of giant speakers taking up half the garage, what do you recommend I look for?

 

I'm all for used gear--craigslist, pawnshops and ebay are, imho, where it's at--but at this point I'm a little bit over my head, and there's so many choices, I don't really know where to start.

 

Any thoughts?

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stunningbabe is correct. Without a budget we really can't help. You might be one of those groups that would be perfect for the Bose L1. Not sure if you want to spend that much. A couple decent powered speakers on stands can work and there are lots of small mixers out there to choose from. A budget will help narrow the selection. A couple 12" powered speakers should do it nicely.

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I was afraid you were going to ask that. I don't really know, but I'm trying to avoid sinking too much money into it. And I'm not entirely opposed to buying in piece by piece as stuff comes up. I've got about $300 now and I'm hoping to spend less than $550 altogether.

 

Is that realistic?

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Possible, but it will be tough to get there. If you start with one (new) RCF ART 312a powered speaker, you could look for a used unpowered mixer for cheap. That might get you there in your budget. I don't recall whether the RCF allows you to use a single mic input without the use of an external mixer; if so, that will give you a slightly incremental approach via a "one mic" approach. Other than that, trying to provide advice on the possible universe of used equipment in your price range is going to be tough. Mark C.

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I like the idea of buying powered speakers over a powered mixer (so I can use the mixer for other applications, recording perhaps?), but from a PA/sound perspective, is there one advantage over the other (setting aside the typical ideas for the time being that you'll get the best stuff by buying all separate stuff, ie. mixer, amp & speakers)?

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I was afraid you were going to ask that. I don't really know, but I'm trying to avoid sinking too much money into it. And I'm not entirely opposed to buying in piece by piece as stuff comes up. I've got about $300 now and I'm hoping to spend less than $550 altogether.


Is that realistic?

 

You probably paid more than that for you instrument. I believe in the "buy once, cry once" adage. Spend some money and you will be a happy camper after the sting of the money you spent goes away. For $550 you will get a low quality system that will not sound good. You are looking to sound good aren't you? :)

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I was afraid you were going to ask that. I don't really know, but I'm trying to avoid sinking too much money into it. And I'm not entirely opposed to buying in piece by piece as stuff comes up. I've got about $300 now and I'm hoping to spend less than $550 altogether.


Is that realistic?

 

 

In the sense that there are cheap mixers and powered speakers, sure it's realistic. Is a budget of $550 going to get you very good stuff? nope. Figure $100 or so for a no frills small mixer like a Yamaha or Peavey and that leaves you $450, which is about the starting point for (1) 1/2 way decent powered speaker. IMO, there's only one worth owning at that price point and that is the RCF 310A or 312A. You can get 2 lesser quality speakers for that money but sound and reliability may be an issue. The fact you're not doing bass intensive material and the volumes will not be insane will give a lesser speaker a fighting chance of sounding OK though I guess. You could also go the powered mixer/passive speakers route. I'd keep my eyes open for either of those setups (powered mixer/passive speakers or powered speakers/mixer).

 

Actually, I have a mint condition mixer that would be perfect for what you're doing and I'd sell it cheap. It's a Yamaha MG102C. I used it for a few practices but it pretty much sits around unused as I have another small mixer. PM me if you're interested.

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One option might Carvin. Generally speaking I'm not really a Carvin fan, but have heard there LM and PM active speakers. Usually they are in situations where they are being asked to do way more than they are capable of... such is the life of small budget, big plans bands. For your application though, they might be a solid solution. I will say they do have one of the best mixer sections of any powered speaker going (3 channels with 3 band speaker EQ). You'll likely want more EQ control of individual inputs, then again, for low volume amplification of your material, this could be just ducky.

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I like the idea of buying powered speakers over a powered mixer (so I can use the mixer for other applications, recording perhaps?), but from a PA/sound perspective, is there one advantage over the other (setting aside the typical ideas for the time being that you'll get the best stuff by buying all separate stuff, ie. mixer, amp & speakers)?

 

 

I personally have gone the active (powered) speaker approach. The manufacturer can use internal DSP ( digital signal processing) to optimize the device's output, overload protection, and sound quality. In theory, the engineers can do a better job at figuring that all out than I could ever figure out on my own. YMMV; certainly there are folks on the forum who are competent to do their own mix and match optimizing.

 

To me, it makes more sense to combine the power amp and speaker functions (an active speaker) than to combine the mixer and amplifier (a powered mixer). I think that it is easier to scale up or down with a set of active speakers and a separate mixer, but that is just my experience.

 

I agree with the buy once, cry once appoach. Mark C.

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I have this one, but with the neo 12" woofer that they don't offer any more:

http://www.carvinguitars.com/products/group.php?cid=101

 

I'm using it for a solo guitar and vocal act. Set up and tear down is easy. It's light. It's easy to use. It didn't cost a lot. Musicians and sound guys alike ask about my system after gig; one musician that I respect a lot was totally floored when I told him how much I spent and then proceeded to exhibit a fair amount of GAS. Now, granted, there's lots of good stuff out there. Much may be better. Powered speakers do have the advantage of DSP to get the most out of the speakers. But set up then includes A/C and XLR's. Simple mixers all seem to have their own proprietary power supply, which is a pain in the ass.

 

There's no kick drum or bass guitar in your act, so the 10" woofer should sound fine, and take up less room in the garage. 10 lbs for the powered mixer. Loud enough for what you're doing. On board reverb keeps it simple. If you choose to go wireless in the future, two wireless units fit inside the top of the powered mixer. How cool is that!

 

I don't work for Carvin, yada yada.

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With that budjet IMHO you need to look for a used mixer.used set of passive speakers(they are all over the place with everyone going powered),used smallish power amp (GX-3).You already have mics,and stands.This route you should be up and flying with everything you need,(not waiting to buy another USED powered speaker) for between six hundred to a grand.Realistically.

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You can do that small Yamaha that absurd mentions and a single used EON15G2. That can be had for your price and, while the EON isn't the best speaker on the market, it is decent and can get very LOUD. A single speaker should be more then enough for your current needs.

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A word of caution concerning Carvin powered speakers, from the comments on their forum, they seem to have a fairly high failure rate. It's a topic that comes up quite a bit. I still own a few pieces of their gear which have proven themselves, but I've never used their powered stuff.--------Judge for yourself.

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A word of caution concerning Carvin powered speakers, from the comments on their forum, they seem to have a fairly high failure rate. It's a topic that comes up quite a bit. I still own a few pieces of their gear which have proven themselves, but I've never used their powered stuff.--------Judge for yourself.

 

 

Valid point and one that needs to be accounted for when considering budget gear. On the surface a peice of gear can seem perfect (it looks like a speaker and has a lot of features). There's no free lunch so it's cheap for a reason. Performance is a sliding scale so you don't expect cheaper stuff to sound as good. At the very bottom or when you're touting performance at a stellar price point, corners are cut on things that promote reliability.

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I do a lot of acoustic-guitar solo/duo/trio type things, (outdoor parties,B-B-Q's, type of thing) A single "quality" active speaker, and a small mixer, is all you really need, I just picked up a brand-new compact mixer at Musicians' Friends' eBay store. It's a Soundcraft Notepad 124FX, and I got it for $99. I would HIGHLY recommend this mixer for your application., You have four XLR mic inputs, hi-pass filters on every channel, built-in FX. At that price, it's a steal. These were selling for $249. up 'til recently.

 

Add an RCF 312A active-loudspeaker, for $450 (eBay), and you'll have a VERY respectable portable set-up,

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I do a lot of acoustic-guitar solo/duo/trio type things, (outdoor parties,B-B-Q's, type of thing) A single "quality" active speaker, and a small mixer, is all you really need, I just picked up a brand-new compact mixer at Musicians' Friends' eBay store. It's a Soundcraft Notepad 124FX, and I got it for $99. I would HIGHLY recommend this mixer for your application., You have four XLR mic inputs, hi-pass filters on every channel, built-in FX. At that price, it's a steal. These were selling for $249. up 'til recently.


Add an RCF 312A active-loudspeaker, for $450 (eBay), and you'll have a VERY respectable portable set-up,

 

 

I would agree about the Soundcraft, but how did you get that price. They are $179 at MF currently. Even the used ones are $152.

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I just checked eBay, and it seems that the Notepad 124FX is going for $179. now. If I can find it again at $99., I'll let you know.

 

One compact mixer that I use most often, is the Soundcraft EFX-8. That's a great lil' mixer, and if you can find one "used", I'd highly recommend that one too.

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I would agree about the Soundcraft, but how did you get that price. They are $179 at MF currently. Even the used ones are $152.

 

 

I came across it when I was mic shopping, about 10 days ago. It was listed at Musicians' Friends' eBay store,,, so I jumped on it. I couldn't believe the price.

 

I'm going to check my eBay e-mail sales-confirmations. Maybe there's a link to it there,,, and hopefully, they still have a few left.

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