If you’re a professional DJ and play at shows, set up events, or just like to listen to quality music while camping out, a set of PA speakers is a must-have. AKA active speakers, they can bring life into a party and get the mood going. The best thing about them – you won’t need to carry an amp around! There are lots of options on the table, though, and every single brand claims to have the best offer.
So, how do you make the right pick? Don’t worry: I’ve got your back! Today, we’ll focus on finding the Best powered PA speakers for the money. I already did most of the “heavy lifting” and tested dozens of best-selling and crowd-pleasing products. The following list includes my top-five picks. Alright, let’s get right to it!
Table of Contents
Best powered PA speakers for the money Review
1. Mackie THUMP Series – Best PA speakers for live music
I want to start the list with Mackie because this is arguably the most balanced option on the market. It’s got an equally satisfying representation of the lows, mids, and highs, which can’t be said about most PA speakers in this price range. Thanks to features like DBR (Dynamic Bass Response), it delivers a steady, consistent low-end response. And if you DJ a lot and want to quickly set everything up, THUMP has got your back.
In the back of the speaker, you’ll find a switch that toggles between four different performance modes. Another big pro: safety features. Mackie implements an advanced power-factor correction technology that easily handles unstable AC power. The universal supply, in turn, makes it easier to get the speaker connected. My only complaint has to do with the included cable: it’s not particularly long.
- Dynamic Bass Response for accurate low-end representation
- Power factor correction + universal internal power supply
- Four application-specific modes for a fast setup
- The included cable is a bit too short
For a modern-day DJ/concert organizer looking for a reasonably-priced and all-around solid PA speaker THUMP can be a great pick. With a strong low-end response, advanced safety features, and four different pre-set modes to get you started, it is, indeed, a bargain.
2. Alto Professional TS310 – Best powered PA speakers under 500
Moving up with the list, let’s see what Alto has to bring to the table. Its biggest selling point is, of course, the low price. Compared to the market average, it is significantly cheaper – keep that in mind if you’re struggling with the budget. The affordable price comes at a downside, though: average-at-best low-frequency response. The ten-inch woofer is decent, but not powerful enough to fill a big room with bass.
But, that’s well-compensated by the premium-quality D-Class amps. Together, the HF and LF cones deliver 2000 watts of sound, which is very impressive. So, you can stop worrying about the volume/loudness, because there’s gonna be plenty of that. This is a US-made product, by the way, and is heavily tested before hitting the market.
- Pro-grade D-Class amp with a 2000W output
- Designed, built, and tuned in the States
- Available at a very affordable price
- The bass lacks that “oomph”
In many ways, Alto Professional is a sure pick if you’re a bit low on cash but still want to get your hands on a powerful PA speaker. Now, while the bass might not be very strong, the combined 2000W output and the integrated mixer with an EQ make it all worth your while.
3. JBL Professional PRX825W – Best rated powered PA speakers with Wi-Fi
PA speakers are meant to be portable: they have built-in amps and mobility is their main appeal. With that said, you gotta think about the build quality. If it’s mediocre, or if the cones are fragile, you’ll end up breaking the equipment sooner or later. That won’t be an issue with JBL, though, because it features a reinforced, sturdy design that keeps the speakers from harm’s way.
The company’s trademark DuraFlex finish (tour-proven) adds even more protection. On the downside, PRX825W is pretty heavy. It weighs 82 pounds and might require two sets of hands for transportation. But, you can control JBL through Wi-Fi using the dedicated app. It’s only fully available on tablets, though, and the wireless range isn’t that impressive.
- Reinforced design for heavy use: can take a beating
- Covered by the JBL DuraFlex finish for protection
- Can be controlled remotely through Wi-Fi
- Heavier than you’d expect (82 pounds)
If you’re looking for a PA speaker with remote WI-Fi control, JBL might be a reasonable investment. It’s one of the most durable offers on the market and is fully reinforced for tour use. That also means it’s pretty heavy, however, and not very easy to move around.
4. QSC KLA12 – Best powered PA speakers for the money budget
This next product is a bit different from all the other units that we’re reviewing today. And the most significant difference is in the design: QSC is a line array loudspeaker. It can be used for daisy-chaining (connecting several identical speakers in a chain for a powerful output). KLA12 comes packed with an advanced rigging system that can be deployed without any extra tools/hardware.
So, in a way, it is more like a platform, but it does deliver a very strong, high-quality representation of the entire frequency spectrum. In addition, thanks to the unique DSP technology, this speaker has an extended bass response that’s perfect for low-end-rich dance/house music. As for the cons, QSC is a really pricey speaker (but worth it if this is exactly what you need for your setup).
- Premium-quality line array loudspeaker for daisy-chaining
- Includes a rigging system for standalone deployment
- Deep DSP technology for extended bass
- Way too expensive for most DJs
The steep price is KLA12’s biggest turn-off. But, it’s got a long list of pros that make up for that. These include daisy-chaining features, a premium rigging system, and one of the most accurate bass-frequency representations among powered/active PA speakers.
5. Electro-Voice ZLX-15BT – Best powered pa speakers with Bluetooth
Electro-Voice is available in four different configurations, and they all sound pretty great. In addition, thanks to the SST (Signal Synchronized Transducers) design, this PA speaker boasts minimal distortion even at near-peak volumes. Around the back, you’ll find a rather helpful LCD panel. It displays the volume settings and warns when the audio signal is clipping. Last, but not least, ZLX-15BT features strong Bluetooth connectivity.
For wireless audio streaming, it has an extended range and delivers steady performance. And what about the disadvantages, you might ask? There is one, and it has to do with customer support. It’s a bit slow to respond and not very helpful. While the speaker is covered by a two-year warranty, there’s no return policy.
- High-quality, stable Bluetooth audio streaming
- SST technology for minimal distortion
- Features a helpful back-panel LCD
- Poor customer support/return policy
Despite the disappointing client support, Electro-Voice is still a bargain if you’re looking for a quality PA speaker. It’s not very expensive but has features like Bluetooth streaming, a minimal-distortion design, and even an LCD that helps control the audio output.
Tips for Choosing the Best-Sounding Active PA Speakers for the Money
Ok, that is it for my list of the best powered PA speakers for a modern-day DJ. Now let’s talk a bit about the key factors that set poor-quality speakers from market-leading products. Don’t worry: I won’t get into boring technical details – just the most important aspects that can make a difference:
Output Power – Peak vs. RMS. Volume/loudness is a very important parameter in PA speakers, and manufacturers use two different ratings to describe it. In most specs, you’ll see the peak power (dynamic), and it’s NOT an accurate representation of how loud the speaker can get. As the name suggests, it’s the peak, maximum limit – if you blast the speaker at peak levels, it might break down.
That’s why you should always check the RMS (continuous) rating. It describes the wattage/power output that the speaker can handle for a long time without getting damaged. RMS is always significantly lower than peak, and 200-500 watts is usually enough for medium-sized and even larger halls and areas.
Woofer/LF Driver Cone Size. With the “volume wars” out of the way, we’ve got the cone sizes to discuss. When we use the term “cone”, we talk about the low-frequency driver, also known as the woofer. And in this case, the rule “the bigger, the better” applies, because larger cones are much better at producing bass/low frequencies. Say, an 8-inch speaker will be great for vocals, guitars, and piano, but not very convincing with the bass.
If it’s a small band, 12” should be a good place to start. For a DJ, I’d recommend 15 inches or more, as dance music is very bass-heavy.
Equalizers and Limiters. This is more of a nice bonus, of course, since most DJ equipment has lots of equalizers, compressors, limiters, and all kinds of effects. Still, it would be nice to have at least a basic EQ built into the speaker(s) and a limiter to control the peaks.
Things To Consider When Buying Powered PA Speakers
With the technical stuff out of the way, it is time to focus on things like mobility, engineering quality, and the manufacturer/company. Since PA speakers are intended for constant transportation, you gotta make sure they’re sturdy and portable enough to handle it.
Portability/Mobility. If you do lots of gigs and need the speakers to be mobile, the first thing to check should be the weight. Now, active speakers come with built-in amps; that means they’re generally heavier than passive speakers. What we’re looking for is a proper balance between quality and portability, and you’ll get that with a 20-/30-pound speaker. The size also matters, of course: a big, bulky unit will be harder to carry around.
Oh, and see that the PA speaker can fit in your car; otherwise, you’ll have to carry it on top of the vehicle, which isn’t very safe. One more thing to check is the handles, or, rather, their location. Sometimes, it’s way harder to carry a lightweight speaker than a heavier one because the handles are all wrong.
Build Quality. By this, I mean how much “abuse” the speaker can take. In general, audio equipment tends to be fragile, but with PA speakers, it’s very well possible to find a secure, well-protected unit. If you’re looking for something like that, the JBL speaker from the list will be the right pick.
The Brand. Do you know exactly what you’re looking for in an active speaker? Then the brand won’t matter that much. You can just check the specifications and find a speaker that’s got the right wattage, cone size, and extra features. Still, market-leading brands would be a more preferable choice, because it will be easier to get help from their support agents, and, potentially, even a replacement/refund.
What’s the average price tag on a decent-quality PA speaker? And what are the most reliable and important interfaces/connectivity technologies? Is a strong low-end response more important than safety features? These are some of the questions that we’ll discuss in this guide.
#1: How much for the Speakers?
Some people believe they’ll have to save at least 1000 bucks to get a solid active speaker, but I’m happy to say that they’re wrong. In fact, there are lots of excellent offers on the market that cost $300-400. For that kind of money, you’ll get not only steady performance but also a strong power output and lots of extras (like an EQ, for example). Moving up to the $500-600 range, you’ll find a better bass-frequency response and bigger/wider cones.
Plus, the speaker will be more portable and maybe even feature a reinforced body for extra protection. The list of additional features will be wider as well and include a limiter, DSP, or Wi-Fi support. Speakers that cost more aren’t always worth the price, by the way, unless they have a feature that you really need or if it’s a line-array unit.
#2: Connectivity Options
No matter how cheap the speaker may be, it will always feature at least one connectivity option. However, a more expensive unit will have lots of inputs and outputs that work with different equipment/gear. With speakers, there are three primary interfaces slash connection types – RCA, TRS, and XLR. You’ve probably seen RCA before: it’s the red and white cables that most devices have.
It’s an unbalanced connection, though, which means distortion/interference. TSR, in turn, is very common among headphones and can be both balanced and unbalanced. If it says TSR, that means it’s balanced; TS is the unbalanced option. Finally, XLR is the obvious champ, as it provides the best audio quality. For wireless streaming, we’ve got Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
#3: What about the Extras?
Another thing to consider is the extra features that some speakers have. I already mentioned most of them when we were talking about the average price. On top of an equalizer, limiter, DSP, and wireless connection, there’s also SST (ensures minimal distortion), safety measurements like power factor correction, and an LCD.
#4: The Package
Last, but not least, check the package: does it only include the speakers, or maybe also a set of cables? Sometimes, PA speakers come with a manufacturer’s warranty; if you see that in the specs, it’ll be a very good reason to consider this brand over the competition. And if the manufacturer is particularly generous, they’ll also throw in a protective bag as a bonus.
And that concludes my review! PA speakers are one of the most powerful “tools” in the hands of a DJ, party planner, or concert organizer. Without a decent-quality set, you won’t be able to do much. The biggest pro of PA/active speakers is their mobility. All you’ll have to grab is your DJ set/controller, and that’s it! Speakers come in all shapes and sizes, and today, we checked out five top-notch products.
Next, we talked about output power, sound-shaping features, the cone size, and more. So, you can use the FAQ and Buyer’s Guide as your “cheat sheet” when navigating through different PA speakers. If you’re on a tight budget, go with Alto. Mackie, in turn, is the most balanced option, while QSC is a premium line-array loudspeaker. Take your pick!