A Beginner's Guide
If you're just out looking for a little information about choosing your first speakers, you have come to the right place. We have a couple common sense recommendations for you. So, read on and let us know what is most important to you!
Convenience or Modularity?
Do you need your package in a tight, convenient package or do you need all the parts modular and hot-swappable? For those looking for convenience, powered speakers are generally recommended. There is a lot more info on powered speakers elsewhere, but the basics are that the amplifier is built into the speaker which negates the need for another piece of equipment. The only bad part is if your amplifier is built into your speakers, a blown amp is much more difficult to replace.
With a passive speaker, the amplifier is a separate box which eases the chore of replacing it during a crisis. Simply plug in a different amplifier! So when it comes to choosing between powered or passive speakers, the question is one of convenience and modularity.
Well, how big is your band and venue? A 4-5 piece band in a moderate, bar sized venue could get by with a few hundred watts for vocal or maybe a few horns (say, 300-400 watts). However, this gives you very little headroom and you'll probably be pushing the equipment to the max. You don't want that. A safer bet would be upping the wattage by about 30% or 40%. A safer number might be 450-700 watts. Most bands could get by with a set of 300 watts active speakers without a problem.
When you get bigger or play outside, thing really big! An outside venue might need a couple thousand watts for concerts that have hundreds of attendees! Want your sound to travel twice as far in a situation like that? Better quadruple your output!
What price are we talking?
Expect to pay around $0.75-$1.25 a watt for active speakers, and another $200 for a decent 8 channel mixer. Don't go cheap, and save yourself the hassle of replacing junk equipment later! Good brands are Mackie, Yamaha, and JBL.