Best PA systems for bands 2024: active PA speakers to ensure your band gets heard

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Local band playing on stage

(Image credit: Getty/Viktorcvetkovic)

1. Our top picks
2. Product guide
3. Buying advice
4. How we choose

As local-level musicians, we spend countless hours perfecting our craft. Nowadays, we are no longer just musicians. Instead, we are songwriters, booking agents, social media managers, graphic designers and sound engineers. Unfortunately, many band members shy away from the latter as PA speakers and mixing consoles can be very intimidating. That said, the best PA systems for bands can unlock a group's true potential, allowing them to finally achieve the live sound they've been searching for - so it pays to spend some time choosing the right PA system for your band and learning how to use it. 

No matter the size of the band, be that a fully-booked wedding band, a weekend warrior covers band or an original ensemble looking to hit the big time, every band needs a PA system, and we've hand-selected a few of our favourites to ensure your music is heard in the best light. Despite there being various types of PA speakers available, we've decided to keep it fairly traditional for this guide, opting for active, pole-mountable units from reputable brands we trust. 

We have reliable units from Yamaha, affordable options from Alto and Mackie, as well as hi-tech choices from Bose and QSC Audio, so no matter what your budget or specifications, you'll be sure to find your band's next PA speakers here.

Daryl Robertson
Daryl Robertson

I am currently the guitarist and songwriter of the Dundee-based rock band Dinosaur Death Pose and I've played in many other bands, from thrash metal to hardcore punk and was even the bassist of a 70s classic rock covers band. Away from playing in bands, I have a passion for live sound, having worked as a sound engineer in a number of venues around Scotland. I've worked for various bands, as well as my fair share of pantomimes, dance shows and opera. I have also operated the sound for some of the country's top comedians, including Alan Carr, Ed Byrne and James Acaster, among others.

Best PA systems for bands: Our top picks

Yamaha's DBR range may not be the most expensive in the Japanese brand's extensive offering, but it's undoubtedly a solid choice for many working musicians. We've opted for the Yamaha DBR15 as our top pick, as it perfectly balances reliability, sound and ease of use. With a fabulously deep bass, clear midrange and singing high frequencies, the DBR15 will more than do justice to your band's sound. In fact, we think with a set of these at your side, you'll sound better than ever. 

For sheer affordability, we have to give a shout-out to the Alto Professional TS412. Delivering a room-filling 2500W at an unbeatable price, a pair of these Alto speakers is an ideal option if you are looking for your band's first-ever PA system. They are easy to set up, fairly lightweight and better yet, they sound superb.  

Best PA systems for bands: Product guide

Best PA systems for bands: Yamaha DBR15

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha DBR15

A dependable loudspeaker from the market leader in sound reinforcement

Specifications

Power output: 1000 W
Speakers: 2-way, Bi-amp powered speaker
Connectivity: 2 x Combo, 2 x RCA, 1 x XLR3-32
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
Very durable
+
Plenty of power
+
Crystal-clear sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Some bands may prefer the 12" version

Like many professional musicians and sound engineers, we see Yamaha as one of the leading forces in sound reinforcement. Producing many PA speakers at varying price points and sizes, there's a Yamaha system for every situation. 

For this guide, we've chosen to focus on the DBR range - and in particular, the DBR15 - as they are the most likely to appeal to most bands and performing artists. These incredibly rugged and portable powered loudspeakers come loaded with the same technology that's seen in its sister lines, DSR and DXR, just without the premium price tag. 

The newlydesigned lightweight cabinet means carrying these speakers is a breeze, while Yamaha's renowned Class-D amplifier provides an earth-shaking 1,000W and a whopping SPL of 132dB - plenty for most bands! 

Best PA systems for bands: Mackie SRM450

(Image credit: Mackie)

2. Mackie SRM450

This famous Mackie speaker is a venue staple around the world

Specifications

Power output: 1,000W
Speakers: 12″ high-output LF driver / 1.4″ titanium dome compression driver
Connectivity: Integrated 2-channel mixer featuring dual Mackie Wide-Z inputs, RCA and Thru
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful sound 
+
Multiple speaker modes and feedback destroyer

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as polished sounding compared to the Yamaha

The Mackie name is synonymous with reliable PA speakers that are accessible and simple to use, and the ever-popular SRM450 is no exception. Famed for its rock-solid build, this unassuming black box has been the go-to option for bands in almost every genre imaginable since it hit the live music scene in 1999. 

The SRM450 has a few tricks up its sleeve, allowing you to perfectly dial in your band's sound wherever you find yourself playing. Have you ever played a venue where, no matter what, you can't seem to tame the uncontrollable squeal of feedback? Well, luckily, you can eliminate vicious feedback with the press of a single button, thanks to the onboard Feedback Destroyer. 

Better yet, Mackie gives you some handy EQ presets to choose from so you can ensure you're getting the best from your speakers. With PA, DJ, Monitor and Solo modes, this speaker has most situations covered. 

Best PA systems for bands: Alto Professional TS412

(Image credit: Alto Professional)

3. Alto Professional TS412

A powerful yet affordable option from Alto

Specifications

Power output: 2,500W
Speakers: 12” driver and 2.5” high-temperature voice coil
Connectivity: 2 x Mic/Line input and Bluetooth channel
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
Very accessible price point 
+
Onboard Bluetooth streaming

Reasons to avoid

-
Some bands may prefer a 15" speaker for better bass response

Alto Professional have a pretty noble mission statement, they are looking to "produce products that deliver superior performance at affordable price points for use in live performance settings" - and that's something we can most definitely get behind. 

While we had plenty of speakers to choose from, we've selected the TS412 for this guide to the best PA systems for bands. Delivering an eye-watering 2500W (peak), these inexpensive speakers are equally suited for your front-of-house mix or monitors, making them a perfect choice for local bands. 

But wait, there's more. With the ability to stream audio via Bluetooth direct from your mobile device, you've even got the pre-show music sorted! 

Best PA systems for bands: LD Systems ICOA 15 A

(Image credit: LD Systems)

4. LD Systems ICOA 15 A

A truly versatile speaker

Specifications

Power output: 1,200W
Speakers: 15” speaker with Ferrite magnet
Connectivity: 2 x 6.3 mm jack Combination sockets, XLR, 1 x 3.5 mm TRS
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
Rotating horn for vertical and horizontal use 
+
Very well built

Reasons to avoid

-
Pretty heavy 

LD Systems are arguably more well-known for their portable PA systems, such as the MAUI and MAILA ranges, and while we could've certainly chosen one of these systems for this guide, we instead decided to keep it traditional and opt for a more conventional loudspeaker. But don't be fooled by the simple design of the ICOA 15, as it houses some pretty fancy tech. 

Like most - if not all - of the speakers on this list, the ICOA 15 is able to be used as either a front-of-house system or as a floor monitor thanks to its contoured edges and sleek design. Where the ICOA 15 differs from the rest is in its ability to rotate the horn, meaning you can perfectly - and easily - optimise your speaker for every situation. 

For further flexibility, LD systems have included a number of EQ presets to further balance the sound of the PA speaker, no matter if you are hanging it from the ceiling, mounting it on a pole or using it as a fold-back monitor. 

Best PA systems for bands: RCF ART315A

(Image credit: RCF)

5. RCF ART315A

A rock-solid option for local bands

Specifications

Power output: 800W
Speakers: 1'' Compression Driver/15'' woofer
Connectivity: 1x XLR
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
Fairly lightweight
+
Built like a tank

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as much power as others on this list

Dependability is one of the most crucial factors to consider when choosing a PA system for your band. The last thing you want is a speaker cutting out mid-set! So with that in mind, we had to include a system by PA pioneers RCF - and specifically the ART315A. 

For us at MusicRadar, we strongly believe RCF is one of the most reliable names in the industry, creating robust, fab-sounding speakers, mixing desks, studio monitors and more - not that you'd expect anything else from a company that's been in the sound reinforcement game since 1949. 

In terms of feature set, the ART315A may be a fairly basic affair, offering a rudimentary set of controls, but what it lacks in features, it more than makes up for in tone. This plucky speaker sounds warm, balanced and very punchy in the low end, perfect for a myriad of genres. 

Best PA systems for bands: Bose F1 Model 812

(Image credit: Bose)

6. Bose F1 Model 812

Bose takes the time-honoured PA speaker in a completely new direction

Specifications

Power output: 1,000W
Speakers: 8 high-output drivers and a 30-cm high-power woofer
Connectivity: 1 x XLR input, 1 x RCA/ Jack input
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
The most flexible speaker on this list
+
Seriously powerful 

Reasons to avoid

-
Overkill for many bands

On the surface, the Bose F1 may look like the unassuming black boxes that are peppered around venues up and down the country, but we can assure you it is not. 

Utilising the technology Bose pioneered with their portable line array systems, the F1 features a whopping eight high-output drivers and a 30-cm woofer placed behind, resulting in a powerful, full-frequency solution that's sure to transform the sound of any band. 

The beauty of this Bose system lies in its incredibly flexible nature. The Array portion of the speaker is adjustable, meaning you can make sure you cover the exact area you need to. With settings for floor level, on stage, seating and more, the Bose F1 will make light work of any live situation. 

Best PA systems for bands: QSC Audio KW122

(Image credit: QSC Audio)

7. QSC Audio KW122

QSC delivers a robust, simple, venue-filling speaker

Specifications

Power output: 2,000W
Speakers: 12-inch 2-way multipurpose
Connectivity: Balanced female XLR/1/4" line/mic level input, Balanced female XLR/¼⁻ᶦⁿᶜʰ line level input, Dual Balanced male XLR full range line level out, Balanced male XLR "mix" out, Stereo RCA line level input, Remote gain control, Locking IEC power connector
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of connectivity option on the back
+
Brilliant clear mid-range response for vocals 

Reasons to avoid

-
Some bands may need the 15" version

With a legacy that dates as far back as the late '60s, you'd expect QSC Audio to know a thing or two about PA systems for bands - and the KW122 takes a no-nonsense approach to loudspeakers that most working musicians will appreciate. 

Delivering a blistering 1,000W continuous, or 2,000W peak, this robust PA speaker will ensure you are heard in the majority of venues, while the Directivity Matched Transition assures uniform coverage across the entire sound field. 

So, if you're looking for a simple-to-use speaker that's plenty loud without compromising on the quality of sound, the QSC Audio KW122 is definitely worth considering. 

Best PA systems for bands: JBL EON715

(Image credit: JBL)

8. JBL EON715

A sleek, Bluetooth-equipped offering from JBL

Specifications

Power output: 1,300W
Speakers: Custom-designed 15-inch woofer
Connectivity: 2 XLR Combo, 1 XLR passthrough
Effects: No

Reasons to buy

+
Integrated Bluetooth
+
Full frequency response

Reasons to avoid

-
The JBL Pro Connect app isn't great

In the past, we've covered the JBL EON ONE MK2, and it's fair to say we are fans of the renowned EON series - and so it would seem are many bands, as this particular range has been around for well over 20 years. 

Now, we've decided to showcase the 15-inch version here as we think the bass response is mega, meaning you don't actually need to purchase a sub if you are trying to keep the budget low. From high-octane metal to blues, jazz and even hardcore house, this speaker should fit the bill. 

The cherry on the cake is the integrated Bluetooth streaming, which not only allows you to pair your speakers to a portable device to run the pre-show music but also controls some of the speaker's parameters via the JBL Pro Connect App. 

Best PA systems for bands: Buying advice

Best PA systems for bands: Local band playing on stage

(Image credit: Getty/recep-bg)

Does my band need its own PA system?

So if you are an up-and-coming band that tends to play established music venues, then you don't necessarily need a PA system. That said if you plan to put on your own shows, play in a wedding and function band or have your own practice space, then you'll need to purchase your own PA system. 

Owning your PA system will not only give you the freedom to hire a multitude of venues, but it will also give you more control over your group's sound. 

Wondering if it is better to hire or buy a PA system? We weigh up the pros and cons of purchasing vs renting. 

What size PA do I need for a band?

This is a very tricky question to answer as there are so many variables when it comes to PA systems for bands. Everything from the number of members in the ensemble to the size of the venue you are playing will all affect how large a speaker system you'll need. 

We've chosen to focus on systems around the 1,000W mark, as this is usually enough for most small to medium venues, but for larger spaces, you'll need considerably more.  

How we choose products

Here at MusicRadar, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything music gear-related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides. 

When choosing what we believe to be the best PA systems for bands available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are musicians, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best PA systems for bands on the market right now.

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

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Daryl Robertson
Senior Deals Writer

I'm a Senior Deals Writer at MusicRadar, and I'm responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site - but that's not all I do. As part of my role, I also scour the internet for the best deals I can find on gear and get hands-on with the products for reviews. My gear reviews have also been published in prominent publications, including Total Guitar and Future Music magazines, as well as Guitar World.

I have a massive passion for anything that makes a sound, particularly guitars, pianos, and recording equipment. In a previous life, I worked in music retail, giving advice on all aspects of music creation and selling everything from digital pianos to electric guitars, entire PA systems, and ukuleles. I'm also a fully qualified sound engineer who holds a first-class Bachelor's degree in Creative Sound Production from the University of Abertay and I have plenty of experience working in various venues around Scotland.