best portable pa systems
Music Production

10 Best Portable PA Systems 2023

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Written By Will Fenton
Music Production

10 Best Portable PA Systems 2023

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If you’re a performer or musician who plays live gigs, you need to wake up and get a portable PA (public address) system – stat.

Pushiness aside, a portable PA system will take you places, allowing you to enhance your vocals and instrumentals. 

The best part?

You don’t need the physique of a bodybuilder to tote your portable around from live gig to underground show to cozy cafe.

The new generation of portable PA systems can fill a room with beautiful, resonant sounds – don’t underestimate them because of their lightweight body and small appearance.

These ain’t your grandparents’ PA systems! Check out our round-up of the best portable PA systems.

Best Budget-Friendly PA Systems

1. Behringer MPA40BT

Behringer MPA40BT, Best Budget-Friendly PA Systems.

Specifications

  • Power output: 40W
  • Speakers: 1 x HF driver, 1 x 8-inch LF driver
  • Connectivity: 2 x XLR/jack combi inputs, RCA (phono) stereo input, Bluetooth
  • Effects: None
  • Power supply: Battery (onboard rechargeable pack) and mains (IEC connection)

One of the most affordable and high-powered portable PAs on the market, this is an ideal model for smaller and more intimate gigs.

It will only set you back a couple of hundred dollars, which we want to scream from the rooftops.

It is simple as heck to use, with four-channel packs, and offers 40 watts through its 8-inch speaker.

It has aux inputs and Bluetooth so you can pick your poison.

It can be run on both electricity or battery which is one of the most compelling features.

This means you can tote it around for traditional gigs, take it to outdoor shows, or when you want to perform in a pinch.

And how could we forget – it has a retractable handle and wheels, making it a clear winner for musicians on the move. 

It also comes with an ¼ inch microphone – talk about generosity, Behringer!

This is a compelling budget option but be advised that it doesn’t come with any effects like reverb or delay.

2. Mackie Thump GO

Mackie Thump GO portable PA system.

Specifications

  • Power output: 150W
  • Speakers: 1 x 6″ LF High Excursion woofer, 3 x 2.25″ HF drivers
  • Connectivity: 2 combo XLR – ¼” inputs, 3.5 mm input, Bluetooth input, ¼” TRS line output
  • Effects: Reverb
  • Power supply: Rechargeable battery included (11-hour play time) / Standard IEC AC cable

With both battery and EV capacities and a hardworking 200-watt Class-D amplifier, the Mackie Thump Go is, well, always ready to go.

This is an attractively-priced alternative to some of the ritzier models on this list, and it comes courtesy of a reputed, innovative brand with serious name recognition in music tech circles.

It features two independent channels and allows you to stream via Bluetooth.

It has four application-specific modes (music, speech, monitor, and sub), which are finetuned to take the headache out of configuring the best sound for your environment.

It is hyper-lightweight and ideal for small to medium shows, both inside and outdoors.

We would recommend this model for intimate gigs, streetside busking, and jamming in the park. It is a budget-friendly option at approximately $500 USD.

3. Bose S1 Pro 

Bose S1 Pro portable PA system.

Specifications

  • Power output: 150W
  • Speakers: 1 x 6″ LF High Excursion woofer, 3 x 2.25″ HF drivers
  • Connectivity: 2 combo XLR – ¼” inputs, 3.5 mm input, Bluetooth input, ¼” TRS line output
  • Effects: Reverb
  • Power supply: Rechargeable battery included (11-hour play time) / Standard IEC AC cable

The top of its class, Bose has a reputation that precedes it, and the S1 Pro does not disappoint.

It weighs a scant 15 pounds, so no gym sessions are required to incorporate this gem into your gig set-up.

It is ideal for acoustics and singer-songwriters because it has the stellar Auto EQ to mitigate resonance and ambient noise in the room.

Be advised that the Bose S1 Pro won’t be loud enough for a larger or more hectic gig.

You can count on this model to deliver pure sonic thrust and flawless output with Bose’s patent ToneMatch technology.

It can also be tilted up or down to direct the amplification in a given direction.

It can be mounted or stood on the floor, offering enhanced customization. 

The S1 Pro runs on battery power, making it ideal for non-traditional venues, outdoor performances, or even impromptu fireside shows.

It features two channels with independent EQ and one auxiliary channel for ⅛ inch devices.

It also has Bluetooth for ease of use and convenience.

Versatility knows no bounds where the S1 Pro is concerned.

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And at approximately $600 USD, why not?

4. Roland Cube Street EX

Roland Cube Street EX portable PA system.

Specifications

  • Power output: 50W
  • Speakers: 2 x 2-inch HF drivers, 2 x 8-inch LF drivers
  • Connectivity: XLR/jack combi inputs x 2, stereo i-CUBE LINK audio input (4-pole miniature phone type), 2 x 1/4-inch jack line inputs, 1/4-inch aux input/stereo link in, 2 x 1/4-inch line outputs, 1/4-inch stereo phone jack
  • Effects: COSM guitar effects, Chorus/Delay, Reverb
  • Power supply: Battery (8 x AA size) or mains (13V DC adapter included)

A cube of dreams, this Roland model is one of the most popular, reputable practice amps in the game, so all you guitarists out there may already recognize the name.

It is ideal for guitars, yes, but vocal performers, too.

It features two 8-inch drivers and two 2-inch speakers.

It has microphone and/or instrument inputs and stereo line inputs.

The tuner and reverb, delay, and chorus effects give you bang for your buck.

The 50-watt maximum output is ideal for louder environments, but we love that the Cube has both 25-watt and 10-watt output power modes to save battery.

If you love your tech, you’ll love the CUBE JAM app and iPhone recording via the i-CUBE LINK function.

Fun and handy bonus? A built-in tuner and COSM amp sound modeling.

It also offers lead and acoustic simulator options for electric guitars and a preamp for acoustic guitars – what a blessing.

You are truly getting a two-in-one package deal with an impressive list of features, particularly if you are a busker, renegade street musician, or folksy outdoor performer.

It retails for about $600 USD.

Best Mid-Range Portable PA Systems

5. JBL Pro EON ONE Compact

JBL Pro EON ONE Compact, one of the best portable PA systems.

Specifications

  • Power output: 150 W
  • Speakers: 1 x 8″ woofer
  • Connectivity: 2 x XLR/jack combi inputs, 1 1/4″ jack guitar input, 1/8″ aux input, 1/4″ jack pass through output, 1/8″ headphone output, 2 x USB, Bluetooth
  • Effects: Reverb, chorus, and delay
  • Power supply: Rechargeable swappable battery

Compact and lightweight, this model has the reverb, chorus, and delay effects you need without the wild price tag or burdensomely heavy body.

You can configure it with Bluetooth and it comes with a nifty and efficient rechargeable battery that lasts up to 12 hours.

It can be set up both vertically or monitor-style, making it a shapeshifter for both indoor and outdoor performances.

This is an everything-but-the-kitchen sink model where you get everything you need and then some. 

It features four channels and is ideal for guitarists, vocalists, and singer-songwriters.

Metalheads might want to look elsewhere.

We love the onboard FX, which links to an app that works flawlessly on iOS and Android. 

This is probably one of the best battery-only models on the market, and you’ve probably seen it around the block at cafes, outdoor local markets, and subway busking zones.

If you want high-powered sound in a chaotic, loud bar this might be a bit restrictive, but for more nontraditional purposes, it is a stunner.

It retails for about $700 USD.

6. LD Systems Maui 5 Go 100

LD Systems Maui 5 Go 100 portable PA system.

Specifications

  • Power output: 200W (RMS)
  • Speakers: 4 x 3″ neodymium speakers and 8″ ferrite subwoofer
  • Connectivity: Mic in, Hi-Z in, stereo Line in MP3 in, and Bluetooth
  • Effects: No
  • Power supply: Mains/ Battery

So portable you’ll want to ditch your handbag for it, the LD Systems Maui is sleek, compact, and lightweight as a dream.

When you have portability, you have flexibility, and we love how this model empowers you to perform on the go and stage shows in unusual, creative environments.

Its lithium-ion battery delivers 12 hours of continuous play when set at 98 dB.

This is pure bliss for the spontaneous and free-spirited musicians among us.

The 3-inch neodymium speakers, located at the top of the column, offer clarity and purity.

The 8-inch ferrite subwoofer at the base of the unit delivers consistent, satisfying bass.

While it does not have reverb effects, it is ideal for laidback musicians who don’t need the bells and whistles.

It has a maximum output of 120 dB and is ideal for smaller venues or audiences of under 100 people.

This is an absolute winner for small gigs, coffee shop shows, and street-side busking.

It will set you back roughly $800 USD.

7. Roland BA-300

Roland BA-300 portable PA system.

Specifications

  • Power output: 30W
  • Speakers: Four 6.5″ Speakers and two tweeters for wide stereo projection
  • Connectivity:
  • Effects: EQ, reverb, delay, and wide (on/off per channel)
  • Power supply: Powered by AC power or by eight AA batteries

An all-rounder with style and substance, the BA-300 works overtime to get you the best audio possible.

It has six inputs across four channels.

This comprises two microphone/instrument inputs and two stereo line inputs.

It has all the built-in effects you know and love: EQ, reverb, delay, and wide.

There are four 6.5-inch speakers and two tweeters for a powerful, far-ranging sound that will fill the street, studio, or coffee shop.

This model is ideal for medium-sized shows with up to 100 spectators.

It runs on both AC and AA batteries, increasing its flexibility and dynamism for both indoor and outdoor shows.

There is no setup required with this one, just plug it in or flip it on, and go.

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It also comes with a built-in tilt-back stand so you can monitor and project at an optimum angle.

At around one grand, it is comfortably mid-range. 

Best Premium Portable PA Systems

8. Yamaha StagePas 1K

Yamaha StagePas 1K, Best Premium Portable PA Systems.

Specifications

  • Power output: 1000W
  • Speakers: 12” Subwoofer/ 10 x 1.5″ Line Array Speakers
  • Connectivity: 3 Mono Mic/Line Inputs, 1 Stereo line Input
  • Effects: Reverb (4 types)
  • Power supply: Mains

So powerful it’ll get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.

The Yamaha StagePas 1K is a beautiful, sleekly designed portable PA that is handy to tote around and set up where you please.

But don’t let its diminutive size fool you – it has a robust 1000-watt system, 12-inch subwoofers, and a line array with 10 1.5-inch speakers.

We love the speaker columns that slot into the sub-unit, the one-knob EQ, and the simple mode control layout.

It also has a five-channel mixer and powerful reverb, so your sound will leave a strong impact long after the venue’s doors are shut.

It also has Bluetooth connectivity, so you can link it to your laptop, phone, and tablet for heightened convenience. 

We love how convenient and efficient the StagePas is to set up, perfect for those of us who are always running behind or hate the set-up portion of performances.

It is perfect for newbies who don’t want to spend an hour getting their heads around more complicated models.

The Stagepas does its best work in small to medium-sized venues.

It will set you back around $1,100 USD, though. 

9. Bose F1 Model 812

Bose F1 Model 812 portable PA system.

Specifications

  • Power output: 1,000W
  • Speakers: F1 812 flexible-array loudspeaker with eight 2.25-inch vertically oriented high/mid drivers and a 12-inch low-frequency driver
  • Connectivity: USB
    Effects: None
  • Power supply: Standard IEC AC cable

Certainly one of the most portable models featured on the list, the F1 is professional and premium at its very best.

If you are willing to splash out, we recommend investing in two, which will garner you jaw-dropping wattage.

They are much more compact and lightweight than you would assume, given their sheer voltage and impact. 

You can also pair them with the F1 subwoofers for a wider and more dynamic frequency range.

The standard frequency range is 43Hz-20kHz so the whole array of sounds you dish out will stun your listeners into silence. 

Its 812 flexible-array loudspeaker packs eight 2.25-inch vertically oriented high/mid drivers and a 12-inch low-frequency driver.

The bi-amped design helps maintain clarity and sonic purity so high/mid drivers are never compromised.

You also get unbeatable control over your coverage pattern, and you can quickly mold the speaker array into C, J, Reverse J, or a straight-on pattern, depending on the interiors and acoustics of a given venue or studio.

At around $1,200 USD it is an investment worth saving for. 

10. Electro-Voice Evolve 50

Electro-Voice Evolve 50 PA system.

Specifications

  • Power output: 1000W
  • Speakers: 6 x 2.8” neodymium drivers, 10″ sub
  • Connectivity: 4x XLR/TRS Combo Jack Line / Mic Input 1x 1/4″ TRS HI-Z input 2x XLR/TRS Combo Jack for Stereo Line Input 1x Stereo RCA Input 1x 3.5 mm Stereo Input 1x Wireless Stereo Bluetooth® Audio Input 1x 1/4″ Foot Switch Input 1x XLR MIX OUT Output 1x XLR AUX OUT Output
  • Effects: Chorus, delay, flanger and reverb
  • Power supply: Mains

A small and hard-working portable PA system with premium sonic quality and broad coverage.

The 12-inch subwoofer and eight 3.5-inch drivers lead to stunning, resonant audio that will fill a room with dynamic, lush sound.

It has a three-channel mixer for microphones, instruments, and other gear.

The onboard DSP will help you flawlessly land the right sound profile.

With eight channels and features up the wazoo, you’ll be hard-pressed to sound bad.

It has chorus, delay, and reverb that packs a real punch and can be turned on and off via a footswitch.

It comes with a helpful QuickSmart mobile App that enables you to mix your sound wirelessly.

It does not come with battery-operated capabilities, however, and is less lightweight than some of the other listings here, but in terms of sheer horsepower and dynamism, it is an unparalleled winner.

If that is, you have $2,000 USD to spare.

How to Choose the Best Portable PA System

We’ve walked you through the best portable PA systems in the game, but how to choose just one?

If we could have it our way, we would each have all ten on hand, but realistically, that ain’t happening.

You know yourself, your music, and your gig schedule best, so we recommend familiarizing yourself with the following considerations. 

Power requirements

How hardy and powerful do you need your PA system to be?

This is super dependent on the size of the venues you play at and how rowdy and high-energy your gigs get.

For spacious, crowded, chaotic bars and concerts, you are going to need a high-wattage PA system.

If you are playing at cafes or small, intimate venues, or if you are an acoustic instrumentalist or vocalist, you may not need the outsized wattage and impact. 

Are you playing outside or inside?

When playing outdoor gigs, you will want a portable PA system with staying power, as you’ll be competing against the ambient noise of the elements, traffic, and urban life.

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If you reach out to customer support for the product of your choice, they can often tell you what size of gig the respective portable PA works best for.

Battery system

Would you prefer a battery or a non-battery-operated PA system?

Battery-powered options offer flexibility, to be sure, particularly when traveling and playing at non-traditional and outdoor venues.

That being said, battery-operated PA systems won’t be the most reliable or efficient for musicians who play consistent gigs.

If you are playing at bars, restaurants, and venues, it is slightly redundant to have a battery-operated system, as all of these venues will have more than enough electric power to hook you up.

You don’t want to be in a position where you have to recharge after every nightly show.

Luckily, most of our selections offer you both power options.

Budget

Ah, money, the great equalizer.

Your budget is going to dictate your options and is the most salient (but least flexible) parameter.

We have offered a range of price points in our list, but your specific needs will be unique to your career ambitions, income, and expectations.

If money is no object, or you are a professional or touring musician, it makes sense to splash out.

But if you are a newcomer or just booking your first gigs, it might make sense to save your money for other gear, like top-quality instruments or a production laptop.   

Inputs

All of the best portable PA systems will offer multiple inputs.

How many you need is up to you and your performance preferences.

We recommend looking for as many as you can get if you have multiple instruments, microphones, backing tracks, and mixers to link up to your portable PA.

How often do you link your laptop or phone up to your PA?

Do you want to switch instruments mid-track?

The more you can get the better, if it doesn’t break the bank.

Why Do You Need a Portable PA System?

PA systems amplify your sound and help project it throughout a given venue.

Portable PA systems are no longer bulky, complex, and unwieldy. The older generation of models featured mixers to send signals to the speakers and were pretty ponderous to drag around.

Nowadays, portable PA systems are light and compact and offer a one-stop shop for all of your amplification needs.

Having your own portable will also embolden you to perform near and far and will decrease your reliance on the venues that you play at.

Portable PA Systems: Some Keywords to Know 

You’ll encounter these words in our list below.

Here’s a refresher.

Chorus: Chorus is an audio effect that occurs when individual sounds with approximately the same time, and very similar pitches, converge.

Delay: Delay is an audio signal processing technique that records an input signal to a storage medium and then plays it back after a period of time.

When the delayed playback is mixed with the live audio, it creates an echo-like effect.

EQ: Equalization, or ‘EQ’ for short, is a standard form of audio processing that allows you to adjust the volume level of a single frequency or a frequency range of a specific sound or audio signal.

In essence, EQ allows you to manipulate the tone or timbre of a sound.

Flanger: Flanging is an audio effect produced by mixing two identical signals together, one signal delayed by a small and gradually changing period, usually smaller than 20 milliseconds.

Reverb: Reverb is an effect that brings a sense of spatial depth and width to sound, by adding reverberation or reflections to the sound signal.

Reverb is the result of sound reflecting and echoing against the walls, ceilings, and floors of a space.

What Features Does My Portable PA System Need?

We get it – some of the tech phrases and buzzwords in this article might sound pretty obscure, particularly if you are more into the creative side of music, and less enamored of the technical aspects.

What features do you really need?

What effects and power specs are nice to have versus necessary to have? 

If you can get your hands on a portable PA with effects like reverb, chorus, and delay then we say go for it.

But if you are a singer-songwriter or acoustic guitarist, you can usually get away without all of these effects if they are financially prohibitive for you.

A robust and reliable EQ section is recommended, regardless of what your use case is.

Mobile apps and compatibility are nice to have, in our opinion, but are not necessary for analog musicians, or those who prefer the traditional way of setting up and performing.

It is convenient for tech lovers, however, and can greatly increase your enjoyment of your portable PA system.

How We Chose the Best Portable PA Systems

We focus on features, value for money, and brand reputation above all.

Fancy aesthetics and trendy gimmicks are cute and fun, but ultimately the reliability, ease of use, and dynamic capacities of the PA system matter most.

At the end of the day, this is a big investment, and you want to purchase a portable PA that will be with you for the long haul.

You may be playing in your friend’s garage today, but you could be performing at a local fair or a buzzy bar the next.

Consider a portable PA that can support you as you develop your career and make waves across a variety of different venues. 

Best Portable PA Systems – Final Thoughts

Well, that’s a wrap!

Better go pick up a portable PA and get practicing.

We are confident that this is an investment that will serve you well and bolster your career and creative journey.

See you on stage. 

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Will Fenton

Introduced to good music at a young age through my father. The first record I remember being played was "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley, I must've been six years old. By the time I was seven, I was taking drum lessons once a week. The challenge but the euphoric feeling of learning a new song was addicting, and I suppose as they say the rest was history. Favorite album of all time? Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones Best gig you've ever been to? Neil Young at Desert Trip in 2016 Media mentions: Evening Standard Daily Mail

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