Okay, I have a budget of around $1500, would love to spend way less if I could.
I'm looking to find myself a fairly versatile setup with room to expand. Perhaps, hire out for a couple of dollars on whatever days I'm not using it myself.
In the early stages it will be used mainly for acoustic, solo gigs at parties/small venues. as most of the lager places in town have their own setups.

EDIT: Having room for a 4 piece band would be great too.

The style of music I want to play is a little varied, some of it acoustic(while solo) a bit of blues, alternative. Certainly nothing loud and thrashy, in fact, I'd prefer a system that has perhaps quality over volume.

I'm happy to buy second hand.

Problem is, I have no idea if I should go for active/passive, wattage.
I just need something simple thats already set up. I like the PA packages some companies have come out with but they seem like they're more suited for spoken word kind of stuff.

I've found a listing on ebay I'm looking to go and check out. I'm not entirely sure if the amp is matched to the speakers properly, which also look like they weigh a ton. I don't know, thoughts?


I've read plenty of forums trying to get an idea, even more confused now. Thought it was time to ask the questions myself.
Last edited by Casuist at Jul 21, 2011,
you ought to be able to get just what you need for that price even in Oz where I know things are a bit more expensive than here. Go for top quality and don't forget to price in a really good mic as you can only pump out as good a sound as you put in.

Decide what you want to achieve. At the bottom end of the scale though with great sound is something like the Yamaha Stagepas 300. Which is tiny/light simple to set up and has a great sound for an acoustic set. It doesn't have loads of bass and won't carry a full rock band but it is surprisingly loud for most bars.

If you want to have a PA for a band then go for something with a 12" speaker +horn or a 15+horn. You'll need more channels on the mixer too. When you look at mixers get at least two channels more than you think you will need and only count channels you can put a mic into; the manufacturers are claiming 8 channels for a mixer that will only take 4 mics/instruments and two stereo inputs. The 2x15 you are looking at will be too big for an acoustic gig and you will grow to hate lugging it around if you don't need to.

You need a mixer an amp and two speakers (plus stands and leads) the amp can be in the mixer, in the speakers or free standing. I'd go for a built in amp preferably in the speakers so you know the amp matches the speakers. A few of active speakers have mixable mic and guitar inputs so you could do your acoustic act with just one speaker and leave the mixer at home. This might be a feature you should look for.

Try reading this http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/gear_maintenance/a_guide_to_live_sound_speakers_and_amps.html
There are other articles on PA you can find via my profile.
I like having the speakers, amp, and mixer as separate entities. Although the setup is not quite as simple, it allows for modular upgrades as a particular component becomes a constraint. Speakers not big enough to fill the room or give enough bass? Upgrade only the component needed. Band size outgrows the mixer? Get one with more channels. It's also easier/cheaper to replace when something breaks.

I have a Behringer 1202fx mixer that I use for recording, practice, and gigs. I also have a Pyle PTA1000 amp, and 2 10" monitor speakers that I've also used as mains at smaller gigs. Altogether, the whole setup cost me about $350 or so, not including any cables. I also have a 1400W Mackie and a pair of 2x15" JBL's, which have only been used ONCE. I bought them because they were an amazing deal, but they are way too big for most stuff our band does.
$350 awesome. Well I have a Behringer 1202 mixer I use for recording, I kinda wish I went for the one with fx now.

A stage pass 300 setup, with mixer, 4 mic inputs is around $750 in this catalogue I just picked up. Perhaps I'd be better off with a second hand setup.

After some research I'm keen on getting active speakers, and I'm looking at getting a yamaha setup, maybe upgrade my mixer with a few more options, output channels for recording and some built in effects. I looked around and most of the venues in town carry their own setup, many big enough for my needs. So I guess I'm looking for something portable enough that I can use if their supplies fall short.

Is 300 watts big enough for an acoustic setup? What should I be aiming for? I also don't want to be running the setup at 100% volume all the time. :P

Edit: if I can get something for well under $1000 I'll be happy, I was working around $1500 because that's what i got told to do. I'll even be using it for practice too, so I can get used to tweaking my live sound.
Last edited by Casuist at Aug 9, 2011,
My recommendations:
Option 1: Buy used: Check craigslist or ebay and wait for something to come up. This is your best bet for the best bang for the buck since pa gear tends to depreciate in value rather quickly. You can often get great deals on high end mixers and snakes that have one or two bad channels. Also oftentimes you can buy a whole set up at once. However it does come with a higher risk since there are a lot of places for pa equipment to short out.

For an acoustic gig in a small venue 300 watts should be plenty. Once you add a drumset I wouldn't go any less than 500-600 watts though. Outdoor gigs, larger venues, or putting bass and drums through the pa will require more (>1000) For these gigs chances are you'll need a sub or two as well.

Option 2: Buy combo new/used: A small unpowered mixer. I recommend the alesis multimix series (it also doubles as a great recording interface). 4-8 channels depending on how many instruments you need to run through the pa (Vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards) I would skip micing electric guitars, bass, and drums for now; until you start playing larger venues it'll just muddy things up and create more sources of feedback which is never a good thing. However if you have the money go for more channels from a quality brand so you can expand down the road. If you buy a mixer used you can often get a great deal on a high end mixer with better preamps and more channels. Also look for aux pre fader sends (important for monitor mixing). If you can get a 4 band eq or a sweepable mid on each channel instead of 3 that is good although not necessary. I wouldn't worry too much about onboard effects as they are often of poor quality; especially on cheaper mixers however having reverb can be nice.

And lightweight powered speakers (JBL eon series is great). And a cheap monitor. The reason i recommend this option over a powered mixer is it is easily expandable in the future. It is also easier and cheaper (although less customizable) than the mixer -> power amp -> passive speaker route. Down the line you can purchase bigger mains (probably the aforementioned power amp -> passive speaker route), subs, etc. and use the lightweight powered speakers as monitors.

A note on mics:
Go with a shure SM58 or a similar mic from another brand (esp seinheiser). I wouldn't reccomend any cheaper than this (although if necessary the PG58 isn't bad either). More expensive prob isnt going to improve your sound much unless you upgrade your preamps as well.

Other things to think about:
Playing acoustic acts, small venues a bare bones will be fine but as you expand your pa you'll also probably want a snake (which are more expensive than you would think) and several eq units for feedback control.
Last edited by jim_smith at Aug 12, 2011,
Thanks heaps for the info. I'm not sure if I'd be looking to expand all that much, as most places I'd wanna play it around here have their own setup, and if I others showing up wanting to join my band they can contribute their own gear.
I've been thinking quite a bit over the time since I posted this thread, and I'm thinking of just keeping it small now. Like a PA I can bring along to a party, or smaller intimate venues.

I'm in no rush at the moment so I'm able to be patient and wait for a good deal to show up. I'll keep an eye out for those JBL eons.
See I still need to get some cash together to buy a decent DI for my acoustic as I want to use the pickup system that came with it. (didnt spend 2k on a guitar just to replace the electronics)
But I'm slowly working my way there, along with heaps of gear from past bands and trends I need to get rid of.
I like knowing the option is there to upgrade if I need to though.

I could probably get away with using the crappy mixer I have and getting those JBLs.

Thanks for the help, I have a much better idea of what to do now.