Hey guys,
My band is in the market for a new PA system...we're looking for something not too expensive, but good. It's for practice and small shows.
Any suggestions?

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powered mixer all the way. makes it a lot more convienent as far as portability goes. I've had bad luck with behringer so i wouldnt recommed them. Had good luck with fender mixers. obviously mackie is quality for speakers but can tend to get a bit expensive so depending on your budget. also i would recommend investing in a good set of speaker cables, not just using and instrument cable.
I wouldn't go for anything too cheap as you lose money when you have to update it. With cheap PA's you get poor quality horns and the vocals sound poor which kind of defeats the point. They also won't be very loud. Don't forget the mic's as the sound you get will only be as good as the sound you feed in and cheap mics can cause a lot of feedback problems.

If you do go for a cheap low powered PA choose one which can be used as monitors when you upgrade to something decent.

If you can afford it a powered mixer is a great start. The behringer PA stuff is better than their instrument amps and I have had no problems but there are alternatives. Peavey stuff is only a little more expensive and has better support if anything goes wrong and ther are other cheap brands but I don't know what is available over there.

I've written some guides to PA which you can find in the columns or via my profile. Start here http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/junkyard/sound_good_in_the_rehearsal_room.html

If you give us some idea of a budget we can make better suggestions.

Thanks guys, good help so far. I'm not fully sure, but there are 3-4 of us splitting the cost so I'd say 300-500 area?

I'll look into that guide, thanks Phil!

If it's a better alternative...we do have an old Peavey PA head, so if it would be better to spend more on good speakers, we could do that.

Thanks again!
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The old Peavey head means there's no rush to get something for rehearsals. If it has XLR sockets then that's a real win as you can use decent mic's without fiddling around. I picked up a couple of Yamaha s112's off ebay for £300 with the S118 subs which was a crazy bargain but you should get a couple of quality used speakers for that budget second hand leaving you enough for some mics and leads.

I'm a fan of the Yamahas, they aren't very flat but the horn is a gem and vocals really cut through. Lovely clear sound compared with most other bands. We've used them for 4 years and the subs have never been needed for gigs up to 200 people. Everything goes through them except for bass. This is the mixer we currently use for most gigs http://www.htfr.com/p/384651/phonic_powerpod_1860_plus_12_channel_mixing_desk__400_watt_per_channel_amp . We picked that up from ebay too, I think it was £120 though again we were lucky. Behringer do something suspiciously similar for less money. Before we bought this we used a Behringer mixer and power amp which worked perfectly for three years. We still use the amp.

I'd always go for quality used gear rather than new budget stuff.
Here's what our band uses for practice and small sized shows:




My speakers were a little more horizontal than this. It looks like the design is changed a little since I bought mine, but specs are pretty much the same.

Add in some cables, and you are still in the <$400 category. We have used this in multiple configs, like all guitar and bass playing through amps/stacks and vocals only through PA. We've also put all instruments into the mixer (all have mfx pedals).

Currently, we've been running all instruments and vocals into the mixer and we all listen via headphones on a headphone amp. Our bass player also plays drums, and had bought a Yamaha DT Express electronic drum kit. Our practices now are virtually silent, but sound epic in our headphones! We had problems with the cops getting called frequently, but not anymore.

Here's the headphone amp:

I gotta tell ya... if your drummer doesn't mind playing an electronic kit, the mixer/headphones is the way to go. I (lead) get panned left, rhythm gets panned right. Bass. vox, and drums are panned center. Volume wars and deafening drum beats are a thing of the past, and we can practice as late as we want. It also takes up less space and travels better.