The largest community for DJ and producer techniques, tutorials, and tips. Traktor secrets, controller reviews, a massive MIDI mapping library, and more.

Sound Systems for DJs

Mobile DJing is an avenue that takes the meaning of gear to a whole new level. Gear doesn’t just mean a DJs controller and mixer. The term encompasses controllers, laptops, microphones, stage lights, dollies, and much more. One of the most important set of components for any mobile DJ is to have a good pair of loudspeakers. A mobile DJ will typically be an all-inclusive package so a sound system is definitely needed and it is important to understand what to look for in a sound system. DJs will have either passive or active speakers and knowing the difference between the two is a skill every mobile DJ should have. Today we will break down each type and provide the knowledge to determine where each type excels.

Passive vs. Active Speakers

The first concept to understand is that not all speakers are the same. Car speakers aren’t studio monitors and studio monitors aren’t loud speakers. Mobile DJs in particular could be doing events with less than 100 people to over 1000 people and it is important to understand how sound is processed by loud speakers in order to accommodate the audience size. While there are major differences between passive and active speakers there are a few things to understand first.

Passiv eSpeakers

Watts and Speakers

DJs have probably heard the term watts from their electric company before because watts are a simple way to measure power. The power of a speaker is what pushes the volume of an audio signal. The higher the watts doesn’t necessarily mean the louder the sound though. That can be determined through frequency responses and other audio statistics. This is an important concept to understand because as a mobile DJ it is easy to say that a 500 watt speakers is better than a 350 watt speaker when in reality it is not that simple. However, understand the watts of the speakers because this will help determine how to buy the rest other pieces of the mobile DJ setup (learn more about being a mobile DJ).

RMS Power vs. Peak Power

Anyone who has shopped for PA speakers before probably have noticed that, in a pair, each one pushes a certain amount of watts. Most advertise pusing a lot of watts and for the price that sounds amazing, right? Well don’t judge a speaker by its box. Most manufacturers will advertise the peak power which is not the actual power a speaker can handle. The peak power is what the system can handle when it comes to spikes in audio but is not the recommended power for a continuous stream of audio. The number to find on the box is RMS which is a rating for a measure of continuous power. This concerns passive speakers mostly but it is important to understand regardless because dealing with power can be risky business if a fuse is blown or, worse, a speaker is fried.

Passive Speakers

Passive speakers are sometimes seen as old school systems and not as of high quality as active speakers. The fact of the matter is that passive speakers can be just as powerful as active speakers and it all depends on which ones a DJ chooses to invest into. Now, the main difference in passive speakers is that they require an amplifier in order to hear sound. So essentially sound would travel like so:

 

Speaker Diagram

Controller to Mixer to Amplifier to Speakers to Audience

Therefore, a DJ will need to buy one amplifier for every pair of passive speakers. While an extra piece of equipment is needed to get up and running, usually passive speakers run cheaper than active speakers so there isn’t much of a cost difference. IMPORTANT NOTE: Power is running through each audio connection so never connect a chain of speakers to one amp. More than two speakers to an amp may (most likely will) blow a fuse in the amplifier or fry it completely. Don’t learn the hard way, during a gig, like I have.

As I said earlier, a DJ needs to pay attention to the watts because those ratings will determine which amplifier matches the speakers that are being used. If a DJ rocks a speaker that runs at 300 watts RMS and the DJ purchases 2000 watt amplifier, that will be overkill. The DJ will barely turn the sound up before noticing some clipping and distortion coming out of the speakers. Also, an amplifier that advertises 1000 watts isn’t sending out 1000 watts to each speaker. The construction of the amplifier and the type of signal being sent out (stereo/mono) will determine how many watts are sent to each speaker. Check the specs of an amplifier and match that to the RMS ratings of the speakers. Look at the specs for the Crown XLS 1000 Power amplifier:

Crown Amp

Stereo, 2 ohms: 550W

Stereo, 4 ohms: 350W

Stereo, 8 ohms: 215W

Bridged Mono, 4 ohms: 1100W

Bridged Mono, 8 ohms: 700W

Note that bridged mono watts are the total amount of watts being sent to the whole system, not each speaker. Given the information above a DJ should use this amplifier with speakers running 350W RMS at 8 ohms. Now, ohms stand for a unit of electrical resistance. In terms of a decent PA, shoot for running 4 ohms with each speaker.

Bottom Line: Passive speakers are great for affordable sound. There will be an added component of buying an amplifier but the price of two speakers and amplifier is comparable to two powered speakers. The quality of sound not only depends on the speaker construction but also the amplifier. Watch out for bad knock off speakers and amplifiers.

Active Speakers

Active speakers are powered which means DJs need not worry about having an amplifier. The volume is controlled on each speaker and each speaker connects directly into the mixer. Powered speakers are really an all in one solution.

Powered Speakers

The wattage rating on a powered speaker is the power of the internal amplifier. Usually a couple of 500 watt powered JBLs could get me through 400 dancing teens at a homecoming dance. Powered speakers are great because each speaker’s volume is controlled separately from each other and the DJ doesn’t have to watch their amp all night. When DJing with powered speakers I usually set their individual volumes during sound check and then watch the volume on the mixer (you still need to trust the levels on the mixer).

A cool feature of powered speakers is that they are usually linkable. Unlike passive speakers where each audio input has power pulsing through the connection, powered speaker inputs are just feeding the audio. Each speaker will usually have an “IN” for the source of the audio and an “OUT” to connect to another speaker. This is great because most mixers have only two master out connections (learn more about connecting your speakers).

In and Out Powered

Bottom Line: Powered speakers are the all in one solution. A mixer, XLR cables, and the speaker is all you need. Keep in mind you will need more outlets to connect the speakers and powered speakers are generally more expensive since each speaker contains its own amplifier.

Things to Consider

Buying speakers, especially as a mobile DJ, can be a tricky task. There are so many different choices to choose from even if a DJ narrows their choices down to active or passive speakers. The thing to remember when buying speakers is how big the gigs usually are.

For example, I did small birthday parties (>70 people) to school dances (500+ people). Therefore, I pieced together a passive system that amounted to 1200 watts of sound. Since I played in gymnasiums for dances, I didn’t need a lot of sound because the reverb in the room helped me out. Also, for smaller parties I could get away with one amp and two speakers. Now, if asked for bigger gigs, I would kindly refuse because I would have to rent more equipment and figure out how to haul the extra gear. I understood my limits as a mobile DJ and it is important to understand those limits when buying gear.

Whether a DJ chooses passive or active speakers doesn’t really matter. What matters is understanding the audience that will hear the music and finding the system that suits the DJs needs. Be wary of cheap “no-name” brands that offer more sound for less money. Those speakers are usually faulty in one way or another and a DJ is better off saving money to go with a trusted brand. (JBL, Berhinger, Seismic Audio, etc.) A good pair of speakers can go a long way and this guide hopefully can help DJs of different calibers move throughout the sound system market.

What speakers do you recommend? Are you a passive or active DJ?
Let us know in the comments below!

  • Kirankumar Hiremath

    looking for a new setup for outdoor events. can anyone suggest me the best setup

  • Bluefire Entertainment

    Passive…Mackie PPM 808S with a set of TurboSound TXD 118 subs & 151 tops…sounds amazing!!! But it takes skill to operate a passive setup. It’s not for everybody!

  • DJ MrMe

    Hello there!
    What do you guys think of 2 pairs of speakers Yamaha Club V Series S215V (http://usa.yamaha.com/products/live_sound/speakers/passive_speakers/concert_club_v_series/s215v/?mode=model)

    powered by 2 amplifiers Yamaha P7000S
    (https://www.crutchfield.com/p_845P7000S/Yamaha-P7000S.html)

    and a pair of subs Yamaha SW118V
    (http://usa.yamaha.com/products/live_sound/speakers/passive_speakers/concert_club_v_series/sw118v/?mode=model)

    powered by YamahaP5000S amplifier
    (https://www.crutchfield.com/S-pJCB6iOa9GM/p_845P5000S/Yamaha-P5000S.html)

    Very interesting I don’t see any comments on Yamaha speakers, amps, etc.

  • Oisin Mc Laughlin

    What was included in the 1200W system for the bday parties and school dance? (amp,speaker)

  • Pingback: Deejaying (WIP) | Music Production LV3()

  • G Wethington

    I have used Passive and Active speaker systems I recommend QSC K-12’s and K- Subwoofers for most mobile DJ applications
    In smaller venues leave the subs at home or only take one . They sound Great, Pack a good punchy Bass and are Priced pretty reasonable

  • CDM TURTLES

    Not very happy with most of the current offerings. I find the sound to be harsh and distracting from tech mtrue musicality and harmonic overtones that give music it’s richness and depth. Louder is not better if there is less clarity and a lack of emotion. For instance a low Rez MP3 played louder than the same CD at full resolution will not sound better.

    I prefer the older AlNiCo magnets compare to ferrite. I also feel the mixe which in essence is a preamp has a lot to do with the sound. In the 1970s-1980s radio stations used high quality broadcast mixers with real vinyl. Radio was popular and the music sometimes sounded better through the radio as a result. Now the radio stations use MP3 and low quality D/A converters and the music is not as involving, so radio is dying.

    You want people to be emotionally involved as a DJ which means trying to preserve the emotional involvement provided by a Good signal from the computer or vinyl through the mixer and preamp, to the amplifiers, and finally to the speakers.

    QSC IMHO just doesn’t do it for me. Neither does Mackie. Some of the older JBL drivers are great. When shopping for a passive speaker take a look at its sensitivity . A speaker that is 3db more sensitive than another will produce the same loudness with 1/2 the wattage! A speaker that is 10db louder (we perceive this as double the loudness) will use 1/10th the wattage of a speaker that is 10 db less efficient.

    Problem is that speakers are sold according to watts, and not according to db… Or according to a formula expressing wattage and db.

    Also an inefficient speaker driver coupled with a high wattage amplifier…has its own issues. Where does that additional wattage go if it isn’t made into sound? It becomes HEAT INSIDE THE VOICE COIL. And if you can not dump that heat constantly and efficiently you end up with dynamic compression and possibly voice coil failure. So just buying a speaker rated at 1000 watts is no. Guarantee of good sound, especially if dynamic compression makes it sound like Louis and just blaring loud.

  • Moonified

    Some basic facts in this article are just incorrect. Many passive speakers can be chained (don’t need an amp per pair) and no mention of passive vs active crossovers. Also, is not as simple as looking at just RMS. How easily you can drive SPL with the watt’s you have available makes a huge difference in perceived volume levels.

  • Brian Cowgill

    I use passive all the way better speakers and dont need to worrie about sockets at a gig. I run peavey hisys 2xt 350w black widow equipped with a studiomaster powerhouse vision 8 and probably the best sound quality you’ll ever here.

  • BeJoJoBa

    Hello, wich type EV speakers are in the first foto?

  • Kent Opdahl

    I have been running Behringer amps and mixer with Carvin TRX speakers and subs. I have been extremely happy with this combination other than the weight of it all. I was wondering how much power people are running though. the 1200 watts he spoke of for a school dance seems pretty small. Just did a prom last night and used our small system which is 8000 watts.

  • Alex Mathew

    we purchased an ahuja amplifier SSA 5000 DP of 500 watts and 2 VS 300 speakers of 300 watts each, but when we connected it, the sound is distorted and not clear… Can anyone please suggest me a method to clarify the problem?

  • JonFB

    The most important distinction between active vs. passive is this: good active speakers (QSC, JBL, EV, Yamaha etc) have amplifiers that have been perfectly matched to the speakers, including DSP processing for limiting and EQ. You are getting a level of engineering and expertise that is almost impossible to do yourself with passive speakers and an amp.

    That being said, I have a passive system with a DBX Driverack, and I love to spend hours measuring and tweaking the system (and deciding to run it tri-amped for larger events, or using the internal crossover for smaller events…) Or trying out a different amplifier, or renting larger speakers for a big gig but using my amps. That’s part of the fun for me. And good passive speakers with a good amp will sound great out of the box.

    But if you are just starting out, or don’t want to worry about tweaking the system to get it to be optimal, then you just can’t beat active speakers.

  • CUSP

    While this article covers most if the basics of a good, middling, basic DJ sound system chain, I find some information misleading, and some missing. You can chain as many speakers as your amplifier can handle per channel (that’s a series circuit which evenly spreads the power across all speakers, evenly).

    If you’re a mobile DJ, you need to consider at least four more things; how you manage your power at your booth (this is a question of generator and power stabilization, for all things including amp rack, lights and mixer), how you position your speakers at height (speaker stands), what surface do you DJ upon when you’re there (table/cart), how you move your gear; vehicle and even to from the vehicle (as in crates and hand truck).

    This is a primer article for sure, and most of the information is correct, but it should be said that people should not believe this is all they need to complete their DJ set up. I’m a strong believer in using more speakers and a loudspeaker management system as well, even if just for managing the crossover from subwoofer to main speakers, but certainly the delay is useful too.

    I’ve written a few articles regarding good, basic gear for DJs… on another DJ enthusiast website.

  • paddy Mgmt

    a great written article thanks.

  • noyolo

    After reading all of this- buy a 2+2 active set and please rent the rest when needed anything above 200 people. Can’t stand the idea of someone trying to put up with 500 people half space with some k12’s.

  • Sam Simon

    i love it but i like to a dj in the world

  • Pingback: Sound System For Djing | Computer DJ Equipment()

  • Stephin Moore

    My little brother is actually getting into Djing, and he is looking to get a pretty nice system. So I really appreciate you posting about this. I will definitely have to talk to my brother about some of the things you posted about, and see what he thinks about it. http://www.jamesgrant.ca/dj_service.html

  • Pingback: Dj Sound System In Kapasan | Computer DJ Midi()

  • Pingback: Dj System Nashik | Computer DJ Midi()

  • Pingback: Dj Sound System Nashik | Computer DJ Midi()

  • Ali Bakhtiar

    Question: If I’m DJing using a controller (say the S4 pictured above) why would I need a mixer? Does it have an impact on sound quality/volume to route it through the mixer instead of directly plugging in a pair of powered speakers?

    • noyolo

      You don’t necessarily need it, but I’d suggest getting one oneway. That way the mains are separate from your dj desk.

    • CUSP

      It looks like no one answered your question here. Hopefully you got it answered IRL, but if you didn’t, I’ll take a stab at it.

      For all intents and purposes, No.

      You wouldn’t need a mixer at all if the only device you’ll be using at your event is that S4… and you don’t want another device that’s easy-to-patch in when you want to take your controller home. Some people will argue that even without adding any effects that there’s a slight change in sound output, and that’s true, but most people (even professionals who are actively listening for it) will not notice it. There is a potential up-side to having the mixer though… if your controller has low mains output (like my Twitch), your mixer can boost that signal with the gains (on each channel strip that the mixer is plugged into). This results in a cleaner way to amplify your sound so that it doesn’t get distorted.

      So again, No. There is nothing wrong with directly plugging a controller such as yours into a pair of speakers.

  • Pingback: Dj Sound System In Nagpur | Computer DJ Midi()

  • Sergei Shapoval

    There’s plenty of misinformation in this post. But what really made me cringe is the end, when Seismic Audio is labeled as a “trusted audio brand.”

  • Lux

    Powered speakers seem to be the best bang for your buck as a mobile DJ. The weight of the speakers don’t seem like an issue to me. So far we’ve had good feedback with our powered speakers. Though some have said we need to up the loudness level of our speakers, I worry about hitting the limiter too much. If you’re gonna be DJ large events, I definitely recommend more than two speakers. Overall, powered speakers seem like the best bet for mobile DJs.

    Tucson DJ
    http://www.luxentertainment.com

    • noyolo

      I’ve done events for 600 people with 10×18″ xubs and events for 3000 people with 4×30″ subs. Please don’t give advice that measures loudness with the amount of speakers.

  • Allan Blythe

    i highly recommend the ROKIT 5 powered speakers by KRK systems.The build quality is second to none.For example the weight of the units tells you they are packed with tech and quality materials.their not just knocked up either,the cones themselves have glass incorporated in their construction to improve sound quality.I got the small five inch set and can tell ya they pack one hell of a punch for the size.If like me your mostly playing electronic music,then these are a must for you. You wont be disappointed

    • noyolo

      For living room, maybe. For anything larger, no.

  • DJ Mixing In Style

    I am a mobile DJ and with all the equipment I have it is essential for it to be packed nice and neat in a car or tailer, so your investment in your gear doesn’t roll around or get damaged. I have 2 x behringer 115d and 2 x behringer 1800d. A good set of cables is also essential. Using xlr over TRS is better. Try to avoid using RCA. I use xlr cables from my 115d then into my sub, it then cuts the low send frequencies out of the 115d and it all sounds fantastic, no distortion and loud.

  • screenwaster

    I mix it up a bit, I use 1 crossover 2 passive full range and 1 active sub. Before I got the crossover I used the crossover on the sub but this meant the stereo became a mono signal and lost depth/ space. But nobody complained but me.

  • Pingback: Friday Roundup: How Much Do DJs Really Earn?()

  • Jazzy G

    I have a question: can you use active mains with passive subs? I have JBL EON 515XT active mains, but I really don’t like JBL’s matching active sub (it actually sounds underpowered compared to the 515’s). Instead, I’d like to buy passive 18″ subs and drive them with a proper amp (I do have a dvx DriveRack PA+) instead of an active sub – unless someone can suggest a really powerful active sub to match my EON’s. I read another comment stating that I should have bought the 12″ if planning to use subs, but I wanted speakers that were more than capable of handling themselves without subs for smaller gigs (house parties). Any suggestions (please & thank you)?

  • Tonetony

    Hey u guys, I just bought a pair Electro-Voice ELX115P Active 15″ Loudspeaker , and I have ddj sx, rmx 1000. I do not know how I connect ddj sx , rmx to my speakers, , help me thanks brothers…

  • Maarten Provo

    I love my QSC K12’s! Never let me down.

  • Tastytracks

    I actually owe two active sets:
    – a portable system for small gigs: HK Audio LUCAS SMART system (1.2k$);
    – a bigger system for larger venue: Yorkville EX2 – 2*12 inch + 1 18 inch subwoofer (3k$ purchased for 1.5k$)

    The HK audio Lucas smart is fine for small gigs, up to 50 people (depending on the exact setting).
    Positive point: portability, audio quality is fine, inputs (XLR, Cinch & Mic input).
    Negative point: relatively expensive, fragile (MDF subwoofer got hit during transportation), total power ouput somewhat limited.

    The Yorkville system is really powerful (even for bigger venues 1/3rd of the power usually does it) and has a great sound quality.
    Positive point: great audio quality, compact set for big sound, competitive pricing, unbreakable
    Negative point: heavy subwoofer (difficult to lift alone)

    I had a chance to compare the yorkville system against high end HK audio (4k$) set-up which included 2 18″ subs => the yorkville system delivered much beter sound quality

    If you want more info on one of those system let me know

  • frankle

    Really disappointed to read this article, and feel sorry for anyone new into this as there are so many things that are just wrong. If you’re going to write an article going over the basics then at least get the basics right.

    “Power is running through each audio connection so never connect a chain of speakers to one amp. More than two speakers to an amp may (most likely will) blow a fuse in the amplifier or fry it completely.”
    – I can happily run 4 of my Nexo PS8 speakers off one side of my Camco Vortex 6 amplifier. This is because the amplifier I choose to use is able to go to low impedances comfortably, and in this case it’s 2 ohms.
    – Some basic understanding of how speaker loading works will keep you from frying amps, essentially most “single driver and horn” speakers are 8 ohms, when you add another one you get 4 ohms, add a third and we’re at 2.67 ohms, and with 4 x 8 ohm speakers the amplifier sees 2 ohms.
    – Most amplifiers are very comfortable at 8 or 4 ohms on each channel, and you normally need to spend up big to get an amp that will be happy at 2 ohms all day long,

    “As I said earlier, a DJ needs to pay attention to the watts because those ratings will determine which amplifier matches the speakers that are being used. If a DJ rocks a speaker that runs at 300 watts RMS and the DJ purchases 2000 watt amplifier, that will be overkill. The DJ will barely turn the sound up before noticing some clipping and distortion coming out of the speakers.”
    – Someone above pointed out about “headroom”, and I am a massive advocate of getting as much clean amplified power to speakers as possible. Take for example if I only wanted to use 1 of my PS8 speakers per side of my Vortex 6 amplifier. Nexo recommend an amplifier of 200-500w for the PS8, but my amplifier puts out 1350w RMS per channel at 8 ohms … this means that the PS8 will always have clean, unclipped waveforms coming from the amplifier at all times. Many moons ago EV used to recommend “unto 4 times the RMS power of the speaker” should be used to obtain the optimal output of a speaker.
    – The statement about “barely turn the sound up before noticing some clipping and distortion” couldn’t be further from the truth. You will actually hit clip on an amplifier sooner when using a lower powered amplifier. You will actually do more damage to a speaker from under-powering it than using a bigger powered amp.

    “Look at the specs for the Crown XLS 1000 Power amplifier:
    Stereo, 2 ohms: 550W
    Stereo, 4 ohms: 350W
    Stereo, 8 ohms: 215W
    Bridged Mono, 4 ohms: 1100W
    Bridged Mono, 8 ohms: 700W
    Note that bridged mono watts are the total amount of watts being sent to the whole system, not each speaker. Given the information above a DJ should use this amplifier with speakers running 350W RMS at 8 ohms. Now, ohms stand for a unit of electrical resistance. In terms of a decent PA, shoot for running 4 ohms with each speaker.”

    – First of all, unless you’re rolling with the classic “double 15 and horn” speakers you’re not going to be able to “choose” to run at 4 ohms. The ohm-age that your amplifier runs at is determined by the number of speakers and their respective ohm-age, and as mentioned above when using the most common 8-ohm speakers, you will need 2 speakers on one side for your amp to run at 4 ohms.
    – for me personally, I would spec this amp with 150w speakers and that’s about it. With the quoted 350w speakers you will never get the best out of them as the amplifier can only deliver 215w of clean power before it hits clip. Not good enough in my books.
    – Running in bridged mono, unless you actually know what you’re doing then please steer clear of this. The information given that “bridged mono watts are the total amount of watts being sent to the whole system, not to each speaker” is not entirely correct. Normally when using bridged mono you want to give a single speaker more power (normally subs), and therefor you get the power from both sides of the amplifier (one side acts as positive, the other as negative) delivered to the speaker. Once again ohm-age comes into play because the way power is developed, each side of the amplifier see’s half of the speaker’s impedance. Using the above amplifier as an example, if you have an 8 ohm sub, each side of the amplifier will see 4 ohms therefor develop 350w of power each adding upto 700w total. This is also the reason you cannot get to 2-ohms bridged mono, as the amp will see 1 ohm each side and very few are rated to do that.

    Sorry for the long-winded post, I get a bit passionate about this topic and gain structure … I’m sure that some of you understand!

    At the moment that’s all I have time to write, if you’d like to know more hit me up in the forums via PM … or if you disagree with me then bag me out below 🙂

    • Ricardo Boumrad

      U ARE RIGHT I USE A BEHRINGER 6000 PAIRD WITH 4 CERWING VEGAS 18’S AND IT DOES NOT HAVE ANY PROBLEM

  • W.i.P. WarpinProgress

    i think is better passive you’ll need 1 power point only so you will be free to place speakers wherever you want and can control every speaker from your console but,if you have no confidence with cables solder watts volt etc. maybe better buy an active system easier to install. regards

  • TheQuakerOatsGuy

    I have QSC K12’s along with a sub, but if I could do it again I’d probably buy Yamaha DXR 15″ instead. When I tested them in store I remember the sales person asking if I wanted the sub off and I said yeah and he looked, then confirmed that the sub was already off. I thought the sound was really clean and I think the price is right. The QSC’s sound incredible, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy with my purchase, but I think the Yamaha series shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • Luke Austin Smith

    I believe that EV has the best offering in terms of sound quality vs. value. The even have entry level speakers now that sound far better than their competitors. They also offer a huge features set. Built in American and a company that your DJ Business can grow with.

    • JonFB

      EV speakers are way underrated. They don’t get as much attention as QSC or JBL, but they will really deliver year in and year out.

  • PLo

    I highly recommend the QSC K series for active speaker category. They run a little more than your JBL’s but the sound spread and oomph are notably superior. I recommend listening to speakers first in person prior to buying.

    You’ll see that the QSC k series are great for their tier.

  • CircusMusic

    Just going to leave this here: pksound.ca
    Some of the best sound I’ve heard at large shows and their Klarity speakers are great for smaller events. I’ve rented and used a few different brands but the sound clarity and power of the speakers by PK are just amazing in my opinion.

  • Scott

    Two 500w tops for a 400+ person school dance? Yikes. I hope you were doing it for charity and not money.

  • Toontown

    Seems like this is geared toward the mid to small time mobile DJ, which there’s nothing wrong with. If you’re playing for 50-300 people, a simple 2-up-1-down active system is perfect (that’s two 12-15″ active speakers and one 18″ sub). Make sure your tops are two-way or three-way and at least 130 dB. Your sub should be about 1,000 watts. If you’re consistently playing to 500+ people, get a third or fourth top and a second sub. Active is the way to go, though.

    If you’re playing for large crowds between 800-1,000 people I’d highly recommend a passive system. But even then you’re probably working with a professional sound engineer who will handle sound on your behalf.

    • noyolo

      300 people and 2+1 set? I use 2x Nexo Alpha E-M:s and 4x B1-18 with proper amping and processing, and it still lacks low end. I’ve never seen a 2+1-set that can deliver decent sound quality for more than 100 people.

      • frankle

        I have Alpha-E as well and for the most part it does a great job for mid to large gigs. If you’re lacking bottom end then maybe look at 1 or 2 of the S2’s, I’ve done 1500 outdoors with a triple Alpha-E/single S2 per side running of 3 Camco Vortex 6 amps and it sounded amazing.
        The other thing is what amps are you running? I’ve tried a number of brands over the years (QSC, Lab Gruppen, Camco) and for accurate bottom end reproduction the Camco was the clear winner.
        Also, are you running any EQ or compression before your NX242/NX241 processing?

        • noyolo

          yep, I’m trying to find a couple of s2’s for a decent price. B1-18’s just don’t go under 40hz. No eq or anything before nx242 and crown marco tech’s as amps. I’m probably spoiled after using quite good packs, but I’ll rather do a bit overkill than let people down.

          For larger gigs we have Lacoustics Kiva/Kara, That Alpha is just for nightclub environment.

      • Toontown

        Depending on the room and type of gig, obviously. Your rig is sick and I’m jealous of it. Your lack of low end blows my mind though. How could that be? Is it possible that you’re used to more low end than a typical listener? Ground stack or fly? Is it because they don’t handle anything under 40hz?

        I have the PRX line. I have 2x 615m, 2x 612m, and 3x 618s. As soon as I get some cash and feel like listing the gear on Craigslist I plan on swapping for the new line. I rarely use my gear for any crowd larger than 500.

        • noyolo

          I want to hear sub going to 30hz without too much hesitation, it brings a whole new world to the listener. And not many do it so its a sellpoint for me as well. Another bigrig is use is capable of 26hz@131db spl in free space and from there flat up to 16khz so the reference is not the easiest one. Consists of 28 speakers, though 🙂

  • stefanhapper

    Here is my recommendation for buying speakers:

    If you don’t need them more than 4 times a year: rent your speakers. Renting is not expensive and you can each time get exactly what you need.

    If you plan to do more than 4 gigs with sound system per year, still consider renting a few times before buying. It will give you a better idea on what you need and nothing beats real experience with certain speakers and brands.

    If you buy, absolutely consider buying second-hand: speakers are usually either working or clearly damaged (you either hear or see it). Expect to pay around 60% of new price for speakers which are in very good shape.

    If you buy second-hand or new, focus on the big brands: QSC (especially in the US), JBL, Yamaha, and possibly Mackie (although they are not always in the same league).

    If you consider adding a sub woofer, always go for 12 inch speakers. Otherwise 15 inch might be ok as well (but I’d say in 80-90% you are always fine with 12 inch).

    Only consider active speakers (unless you own a good amp already)

    Never use studio monitors or home speakers to party.

    Speakers are likely to last half your life. Do invest more than you initially planned!

    Regarding watts: not so much an issue these days but I would not recommend active speakers with less than 500 watts. A simple rule is 10 Watt / pax. In other words: a pair of 500 Watt speakers will do fine for up to 100 dancing people.

    • Clarification: I think Stefan meant that if you plan on adding a sub, buy your active speakers with 12″ drivers not 15″. I agree 100% w this and prefer 12″ speakers in my active tops, as I always use a sub and can hear better mid range clarity from most active boxes with 12s. 15s tend to have more bass but lose clarity compared to 12s. Stefan knows what he’s talking about, +1 for his comments

    • noyolo

      That watt/pax doesn’t apply anymore since speaker sensitivity has gone way up in last years. Another thing you’re missing is that there is no substitute for displacement, which means that you will need multiples when going up from 250 people. 4×18″ subs i.e. don’t cut it after 500 people, no matter now big amps they have.

      • stefanhapper

        Fully agree that the 10 watts/pax is over-simplified but it still gives people some idea. I mentioned it because the article suggested that a pair of 500 Watt JBL EON speakers is enough for 400 dancing people – which I think is quite misleading.

        • noyolo

          I tell people to look to spl levels rather than watts. EONs rate at 125ish db spl max, which is of course marketing levels, but still tells that it isn’t too loud. Good speakers for the price though.

  • john

    I’ve had good experiences with EV, JBL, QSC, Mackie. Seems like QSC is becoming more and more standard. It seems like I’ve seen like 5 or 6 events in a row running QSC K12’s. They are nice though so I understand why.

    • stefanhapper

      One reason to take one from the brands you mentioned is that you can sell them still for a good price later.

  • teufelzkerl

    I’m an active guy from day one. It’s just easier to set up and as DJ you don’t have to worry about amplifier, crossover or limiter anymore. Everything is taken care of with built in set ups inside for a good sound. Recently I bought 2×12+1” Tops with 2×15” subs from Lambda Labs. Quite expensive, but very professional and these will be the last speakers I ever need. Light, sturdy, high power and a dream sound quality. 🙂

  • Pingback: Sound Systems for DJs | BPM Latino()

  • Pingback: Sound Systems for DJs | BPM Supreme()

  • Cody Ches

    DJTT, You guys really think that Seismic Audio is a strong brand with high quality? Some of my friends look down on those speakers because they are so cheap. I have a sub from them and its great, but some people think they lack quality. Thoughts?

    • Dean Zulueta

      I used Seismic Audio for 3 years with no problems. I usually polarize people when I tell them that they are good for the price. The thing is these speakers are great and they last. The only downside is they don’t have the dynamic range of higher end speakers but they are fine for regular birthday parties, small weddings, school dances, ect.

  • Franz Bretch

    I sold my good old trusty yorkville elite 401 and subs and just switched to powered Electrovoice ETX 12p and 15sp sub…. Powered, lighter…. And awsome built in DSP…. never taught I would switch too…. So happy I did…..

  • calgarc

    I have both a powered and an upowered setup in one of my studios… we use an unpowered yamaha which is quite nice, comes with a mixer.

  • Joey

    I work with a company of DJ’s and we do production and put on our own shows at nearly every college in Utah on a regular basis. We have a complete JBL passive system. Personally, I like a passive system better because when you’re running 8 dual 18″ cabinets in front of the stage, it would be a big pain to have to find power for all of those! Especially because each box can handle 4000w rms. We usually have to get an electrician to set us up with three faze power at our events. At bigger events, anything above 1000 people, chances are you’ll see a passive system. And if that’s your goal then you maybe you should start with passive speakers so you can start learning about them.

    One other thing I’d like to mention is dB. I own a couple alto ts115a active speakers and I thought they were pretty nice for quite some time. Their dB output is around 124 and they handle 400w rms. I recently purchased a couple ev elx 12″ passive speakers and their dB output is 132 and they can handle 250w rms. With decibels, every 8-10 dB, most people would consider it to be twice as loud. So conclusion is, the ev’s are a smaller speaker, they use almost half the power, and they are twice as loud. Always check dB and try to reference off of something you already know the dB output for.

  • eggy

    I was wondering if someone could help me with a question I have re: powered PA Speakers. I just purchased a set of Samson Auro X12D 12″ PA speakers, and they seem to have almost no low-end whatsoever. I have used Alto TS112Ws before, and they provided a much more balanced sound with nice low-end, so I figured that most other speakers in that category would do the same.

    Are the Samsons really that bad, or do i just have a defective set???

    • CUSP

      All speakers will sound different, if you want to add low end, consider getting a subwoofer, and set the crossover (either on your mixing board or on your loudspeaker management system) at the high end of what your subs will handle. It’s typically a lot better to send discrete sound to the speakers that handle the range of audio they’re designed for.

      • Eggy

        Thanks for the response, CUSP. It looks like I’m gonna be dropping more cash…

        • CUSP

          More often than not, matching your new subwoofer to your P.A. Speakers works best… they’re designed that way.

  • KoenraadVDS

    there is no such thing as an overkill amp for PA speakers. I always feed my stuff at least 500 watts more than it can handle. Always make sure u have enough headroom on the amp. You need power for those hungry subwoofers. Low end amps will not provide you the punch you need. You will hear it when you are overloading the woofers. lab.gruppen amps if you want something with a very steady voltage and a lot of oomph

    • Toontown

      Great call-out. You’re talking about headroom, which is something that newbies rarely take into consideration. Anyone new to pro sound, do your research on headroom.

  • CUSP

    I think it’s fair to ask for a full list of good-to-great speaker companies…
    So here’s mine:
    Yamaha
    Behringer
    Mackie
    JBL
    QSC
    EV
    Meyer
    Clair (if you can find access)

    • Bart

      turbosound – Nexo – …

      • CUSP

        I forgot:
        “Funktion One”, and “Community” as well. I’m sure “Presonus” makes good speakers, but I haven’t used them.

        • noyolo

          L’acoustics, D&B, KV2, Nova, KS Audio, Ohm, Seeburg, Dynacord, Proel.

          Behringer I’d drop quite fast as well as JBL’s cheaper lines (if you’re not willing to swap some parts and basically build em again). A cheap speaker is a cheap speaker, no matter the name on it. T-Box pro line are actually quite decent, even with that name. Well, they’re mostly rebranded Proel speakers.

    • Igor Foster

      Sysmic audio i use some subs from them.

  • So I currently have 2 active speakers and a sub amp thats… ok but kinda miss that big sound what should I do?

    • Dean Zulueta

      When you say big sound what do you mean? Big sound as in loud or more dynamics (better lows, mids, highs)?

      For me, my biggest caveat was having that nice low end. I ended up going with dual BEHRINGER EUROLIVE VP1800S. One amp with them plus my active speakers made everything sound loud and whole.

      • noyolo

        Define big first. My biggest rig built had 2x500A fuses on breaking point, and thats about 1/3rd of the biggest built in Finland. Which is about 1/4th of the rig in tomorrowland.

  • CUSP

    I wrote an article a few months back regarding Loud Speaker Management Systems. I’d recommend anyone doing mobile gigs to use one, because it helps manage output, delay and EQ.

  • Meta at em

    I have JBL PRXs; 2 of the 3-way 15s, and a single 18″ sub. When I bought them 2 yrs ago, they had the flattest response curve of any powered loudspeaker. They’re big, and bad, and will fill any space inside 30 feet, but they’re heavy as hell. Having a subwoofer does make a HUGE difference. I wish I had two =) If you have a sub, get a crossover. DBX has various models on ebay, or I used to have an Electrix one I liked a lot. Without the crossover, the low end on the JBLs is muddy, and creates a sort of unpleasant overpressure. With the crossover; magic. I recently got an oldish DBX DriveRackPX for compression/limiting/crossover/EQ. Using their factory preset for the JBLs, the sound does seem generally clearer and more pleasant, but I can’t tell if that’s my brain lying to my ears because I spent money, or if it actually sounds better.

  • If you’re in Canada (and maybe elsewhere, I dunno?) check out the Yorkville Parasource PS15P powered speakers http://yorkville.com/loudspeakers/paraline_parasource/product/ps15p/. I bought a pair at Long & McQuade last summer. I do weddings, corporate events, etc., and these babies sound AMAZING and so FULL when turned up. They’re a little dark at lower volumes but just dial back the bass on your mixer a tiny bit in those instances.

    I used to rent a couple powered tops (various brands) and sometimes one or two powered subs but these speakers eliminate the need for lower-end support unless you’re doing a pretty damn big event. For medium to large ballrooms with a couple hundred people they are SO good. I’ve actually had people ask me where I am hiding the sub and I gleefully tell them I don’t have one.

    If you wanted to deafen a 500 kids at a school dance you could add a couple 18″ subs underneath. BOOM!!!

    Oh yeah… there are also 10″ and 12″ versions of these speakers.

    • Oddie O’Phyle

      I prefer the Elite Series. Instead of an ABS polymer cabinet, they have a spruce plywood construction. I find that it adds a bit more warmth to the sound and they don’t start to rattle after a while.

    • noyolo

      Probably decent for that use, but don’t lead people into thinking that they can get away with a couple of plastic speakers trying to do a serious sound system for 500 people.

  • lesterhein

    Sppeeling: Berhinger

  • Oddie O’Phyle

    If I go for anything big I usually rent a Yorkville Elite Series set-up. I’m starting to save my pennies for a pair of E10Ps and an LS701P. I enjoy how warm they sound and feel good about buying them as I live just outside of Toronto and Yorkville is a local company.
    You should probably mention booth set up too, as it is part of a PA, but slightly differs. It’s nice to see a bit of a write up, a lot of DJ’s that I run into have no clue about speakers, amps. or even how to properly run cables.

  • Mem Rx

    Terrible. Doesn’t touch on crossovers, parallel vs series, limiters, anything. This is just a few hundred words wasted on incorrectly identifying passive boxes as entry level. As someone who built sound systems for ten years you should be ashamed of yourself for publishing something this uselessly uninformative

    • Dean Zulueta

      Personally, I felt I gave information on choosing sound systems as a beginner or someone with little knowledge as to what passive and active means. I understand that the article could go deeper but I wasn’t trying to write a book on the subject. Sound is a HUGE field that contains a lot of different sub-sections. Encompassing everything into a condensed article would not do the whole field justice.

      If you want to see more articles on the topic or if you feel that you want to contribute to the subject, drop us a line.

      http://djtechtools.uservoice.com/forums/149015-article-ideas

      • noyolo

        For people with no knowledge of sound engineering I always tell them to go for active systems with internal dsp. JBL PRX, Line6 Stagesource, HK Projector or so, you can’t get a bad sound if you just have enough speakers. After some time, they’ll begin to want to tinker more with it, then its time to move on.

        • Dean Zulueta

          Solid advice!

    • DJ Rampant

      This information is not useless, chill out we all start from the beginning and need to know the basics before learning the details.

    • Meta at em

      Well yeah, if I was DJing as “Dread Lion Sound Systems” and wanted people to respect my sound system, I’d have an output stack with a parametric EQ, compressor, spring reverb tank, tube amp, limiter, and crossover. Then I’d think long and hard about cabinet design, and make my own cabs. But this article isn’t aimed at those guys.

    • CUSP

      I wouldn’t say the words were wasted, but you’re right about the article not addressing loud speaker management systems. I covered that topic on Digital DJ Tips a couples months back.

    • stefanhapper

      I agree to some extend that the article is mainly about active/passive which I think is a choice of the past. Any new sound system for mobile DJs should be active in my view.

      An article with such a title should at least cover sub woofers, show some examples of industry standard speakers like the QSC K12, say that essentially what you pay is what you get.

      I find it irritating also that it say that you can do a 400 pax event with a pair of 500 Watt powered speakers. The usual recommendation goes more like 10 Watt / pax. In other words: a pair of 500 Watt is usually fine for up to 100 people on the dancefloor.

      • noyolo

        2×15″ low end woofers give out nowhere near the pressure needed for 100 people.

    • CLITCOMMANDER
  • Kyle Douglas

    I engineer most of the live sound for my university and we get away fine with running 4 large loudspeakers with 1 4000watt amp. If you do an advanced writeup I highly suggest mentions speakon cable and connectors. We run a 4 pole system which allows for 2 channels of control through one wire. That way we run power to 2 different types of speakers with 1 run of cable.

    As for my personal portable sound I currently have 2 EV 15 inch powered speakers(ZLX15P). Planning to add a sub to the system after a few gigs.

    • The CrowdBoy

      I’m thinking of buying that exact speaker, I currently have 2 Behringer 115d (the new ones) and 2 12s, I expect the EV to be better quality but how about volume? are they much louder? I’m tired of carrying 6 speakers… (im selling my 2 wooden pasive speakers…) do you recomend the EV or should I get the new eons or the Yamaha DBR15??

      • Kyle Douglas

        Right now I run only 2 of the EVs and they do fairly well in medium sized rooms. I love the built in DSP which gives you lots of flexibility. I used them as mains for a gig this past weekend in a medium sized bar and they were plenty loud. I also use them on club nights as monitors for my friend. I saw the eons and they look nice. The eons would have been my second option. Another nice thing about the ZLX15P’s is that they weigh about 40lbs so they are pretty light for a 15

  • Andreas Bührer

    I use the HK Audio LUCAS Performer. It is a integrated system with the amp build in to the sub. Like this I need to set up 5 cables. 2 Speakon from the Sub to the Satellites, a power cable to the sub, and 2 XLR Cables to my DJM900. The system is easy to install and transport, but have still a nice sound, and it pumps really loud. Outdoorparty’s with 50-75 peoples are no problem for the system. I recommend it to everyone, who needs a easy to install set with high quality.

  • There are both high end and low end unpowered speakers as well. Just because you are going unpowered doesn’t mean you have to take a hit on sound quality.

    Powered speakers are also going to be heavier because they have the amp built in. This can be an issue for some mobile djs. Also, with powered speakers you need to have an outlet by the speaker. I find that I have to run way more cords out to my speakers than my friends do with their unpowered setups.

    I personally have used powered speakers from day 1. i like having everything in one box. That way if I lose 1 speaker, I didn’t lose an amp that powered everything, and I can limp along till the end of the gig.

    • Dean Zulueta

      Very good point about the weight of the speakers. For some, this may be an important factor to consider if they are going to be transporting gear solo.

      • Oddie O’Phyle

        Part of my gear is a folding dolly just for that reason.

        • Dean Zulueta

          Another very good point! Dollies are the reasons why I never gave myself a hernia.

      • noyolo

        Passive is always louder for the buck. IF you are looking towards getting a passive system with a limited budget, you’ll want to get something that is heavy. Sound quality does not go out of fashion and they have done very nice sounding systems for a long time, the advancements are pretty negligible apart from weight for common use and any pro speaker system from 90’s will still do the trick when eq’d and processed properly. And those old pro series are made of grown-up materials so they are heavy.

        Renkus-Heinz is one to consider, you can get em very cheap and get out high spl’s and decent sound quality. Turbosound live-series, TXD, THL as well. Only thing that has changed from the days those were produced is that people want “moar bass”. So just add another set of subs.

    • Bart

      “Powered speakers are also going to be heavier because they have the amp built in.”

      Maybe 5 years ago … today the amp in a powered speaker is no more than a kilo. A decent 19″ amp + flightcase to protect it will be heavier.