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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Related buyer's guides
MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.