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PA Speaker Q

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by charlie chitlin, Mar 8, 2021.

  1. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Somebody explain to me the advantages/disadvantages of passive and powered speakers.
    I've always used passive speakers just because it's what I'm accustomed to, but I'm willing to learn.
     
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  2. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've used both kinds, and for me the differences were a wash. There's not really any weight savings when comparing the two. Passive speakers are lighter and you need to drag a power amp or powered mixer. Powered speakers are heavier, but no power amp necessary and your mixer can be small and light in weight.

    A powered speaker system may be cheaper depending on the size/power of your rig because copper is expensive. Speaker cables designed to carry high current from a power amp to the speakers can be quite expensive. Powered speakers, on the other hand, use standard XLR microphone cables (small/thin conductors) to carry a line-level/low current signal to the speakers. These are cheaper.

    Passive speakers require one outlet to drive the entire system: the plug on the power amp that sends signal to the speakers. Conversely, each powered speaker requires an outlet to operate the internal amplifier, and your mixer needs one too. This is not as flexible as a passive system, especially for outdoor gigs.

    The one huge plus for powered speakers is this: if you use a passive system with a single power amp (no backup), and the power amp takes a dump on the gig, you're done. With powered speakers, each speaker has its own built-in amp. If one goes poof, you can continue the gig with the other working speaker--albeit at a reduced total volume from the PA.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2021
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  3. Jakedog

    Jakedog Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Passive speakers are no longer lighter in most cases. The problem for a while was that powered speakers were stupid heavy because they incorporated the power amp in the cab.

    Nowadays pretty much everyone uses class D amps and Neodymium speakers, so they’re pretty freakin lightweight. My JBL models have 10” drivers. They’re 600 watts RMS and weigh well under 30 lbs each. A pair of tens will cover most small club gigs as mains. My last pair of passive JBL mains weighed around 60 lbs each and didn’t sound any better. They also wouldn’t handle 600 watts rms and 1000 peak.

    The downside for me comes in carrying an extra cable for ever speaker used, and power strips to plug everything in. Rather than just plugging in a power amp rack or powered mixer and running speaker cables, every speaker needs its own dedicated power cord. It’s kind of a pain, but I’m used to it now. Although I’ll warn- if you go that route, go to parts express dot com and order some nice long power cables. The ones that come with powered speakers are like six feet long. Totally useless unless you have a gazillion outlets on stage and they’re all right next to your speakers.

    There is also the issue of breakdowns. Some people don’t want to use powered speakers because they’re afraid if it breaks down, it’s their speaker and their amp.

    But really, in a traditional setup, it’s no different than a powered mixer taking a dump. I’ve been using powered speakers for about three years now and haven’t had a hiccup. Even a lot of really high end club and larger venue installations are going with powered speakers these days.

    I made the switch because I was tired of big, clunky stuff. I could get a lot more power, and drop a lot of weight, and take up a lot less space by going with powered speakers.

    Most even have some sort of built in mixer, even if it’s primitive. If I need to, I can plug an acoustic and a mic straight into the back of one of my JBLs.

    A lot of them also have an internal mixer accessible from a smartphone via Bluetooth. Through which you can adjust all kinds of parameters.
     
  4. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    I think @Peegoo summed it all up very well. I would repeat one thing he said for emphasis....having to run a dedicated A/C cable out to each powered speaker is a pain.On a slightly related question.....can anyone explain why, in the old days, we all had PA's with four to six channel mixer amps, one or two hundred watts, and TWO speaker columns with (usually) four 12" speakers in each column? Nowadays, we have a powered mixer, and two much smaller cabinets, with usually one 12" or 15" speaker.....plus a horn. Why did we have to strain our backs back then with those unwieldy columns?
     
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  5. Jakedog

    Jakedog Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Because of lower efficiency speakers that handled less power. We needed more of them to get the job done.
     
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  6. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    I'm a fan of passive for club work etc. I have had both types several times. With powered speakers if you have say 4 monitors, 3 in front and one for the drummer. You have 4 power cords to string, power strips etc. It can be a mess. With our passive setup we can be setup in 20 minutes.... including our instruments and amps. The speakers are lighter too.

    Outdoors we use bigger stuff, but still need monitors. Lately we've been using our 800 watt powered mixer head for the passive monitors and just tap a line out off that to send a signal to big JBL powered mains . This has worked well and still simpler than going to the entire powered rig and big passive mixer. (which we have also) We dont have a sound man much of the time and the huge board is too complicated for me playing guitar as well!

    The most trouble we have is someone else doing sound with powered mixers and worse yet with iPad based mixing. it's rarely a good experience.
    KISS

    CL D technology is nice for saving weight, but man my experience is it fails often. A friend has a CL D powered mixer. It failed. I had a bigger version of the same Yamaha mixer (light as a feather!) it failed also. I just tore into a small powered monitor of his yesterday, it failed and is too much trouble to fix. My bassist has 2 failed lightweight CL D Bass heads. I don't think it is coincidence. My drummer had a new CL D 4 channel power amp (no mixer) we tried for monitors outside. It has an intermittent channel that works only sometimes. It was fixed twice under warranty but not really fixed.

    I will say though, that the CL D stuff built by JBL I have not seen a failure. However, Ebay is loaded with spare arts for those for some reason.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2021
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  7. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    We’ve used both my passive Yorkville Elite 401s or a pair of powered Yorkville NX55p speakers. In the end, we much prefer the former. We can bring a second amp for a backup, and don’t have to run power to them, meaning less wiring to run.
     
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  8. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    BTW, @charlie chitlin might be interested in anyone's experience with one of those Bose "tower"-style PA's. My only exposure was at a guy's house and he had one for a practice PA. I've never even seen anyone use one to gig with.....other than videos. They sure "look" easy to set up and use. I used to use a pair of Bose 802 PA speakers......they were impressive.
     
  9. nedorama

    nedorama Tele-Meister

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    Big difference for small bands is space - powered speakers take up less room than passive speakers + the amp rack to drive them.
     
  10. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    Once up on stands, I don’t find that to be the case. A rack isn’t necessary for an amp, ours usually just sits on a plastic milk crate, or we tuck it somewhere.
     
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  11. Jakedog

    Jakedog Telefied Ad Free Member

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    One has to wonder what is causing all these failures. I’ve been using class D in bass rigs and PA gear for going on fifteen years now and have never had a breakdown with it. At least not one related to the Class D aspect. I had a class D powered mixer that need some solder joints on the speaker output jacks fixed, and I had a class D bass head (Carvin) that had a ribbon cable inside unplug itself. But never an actual amp failure. In thousands of gigs both at home and on the road.

    In earlier iterations, when the tech first came
    into widespread usage, a lot of manufacturers had issues with switching style internal power supplies failing. But I haven’t seen that be an issue with any decent piece of gear in years .

    You are not alone. I will say that I know people who have sworn off the stuff because of multiple and frequent failures.

    I do not know anybody in what could be considered a grey area. Either the stuff is horrible and fails like crazy, or like my experience, it never fails at all. Logically, any reasonable person would say that would point toward it being user error, but I don’t know how that would happen or what would be the issue. These same people don’t seem to have issues with more traditional gear, so I don’t know.
     
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  12. dannyh

    dannyh Tele-Afflicted

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    I’ve used the Bose towers quite a bit. When they fit the gig they’re wonderful. If you need multiple monitors or need to mic a bunch of drums the Bose probably isn’t for you, but for small rooms at fairly controlled volumes the Bose is great. I have experienced some break down issues with the Bose systems, but bear in mind this was at a club that has live music 7 days a week, and the system had been used nightly by all the different bands/performers for years, so maybe that’s an unfair assessment.

    As far as the original question of passive verse active, I’ve used both, its kinda six of one half dozen of the other to me. The powered spkrs can be lighter, but the tear down can be a bigger PITA with all the cables and extension chords or power strips involved. I don’t really prefer one over the other.
     
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  13. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah, it can be disappointing or fine. The Yamaha's I mentioned weren't very old at all. and Yam stuff usually is pretty good. The Yamaha mixer weighed 15# and the old Mackie weighs 45#! The thing is... these things are so complicated inside that most techs will tell you "not worth the money to fix". So I guess it's pretty much disposable tech. Yet, as you say, some lasts fine. BTW, the new 4 channel PA power amp and 2 bass amps I mentioned were Carvin stuff. To me it's the worst of the worst. I will say, the JBL Eon's and other higher end JBL stuff just seems to keep on chuggin along.
     
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  14. jsnwhite619

    jsnwhite619 Friend of Leo's

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    I've always had the same two passive systems going on 15 years now. A 150W Fender Passport for smaller acoustic gigs, and a Yamaha 512 head & wood cab speakers for big stuff. The last band I gigged with a few years, the guy ended up buying all active speakers & monitors.

    What I didn't like about his was the power strips/cables run everywhere for every single speaker. His plastic powered speakers were much lighter than my passive plywood 12's. And they never sounded anywhere as good as mine do, to me.

    My old Fender Passport has gotten a lot of use again over the past few years on solo gigs. But, i played a big party/event last year that needed the big Yamaha system...a lot more work and stuff to haul for solo, but man I forgot how good that big system sounds! No replacement for displacement!

    I used to stay in pretty good shape gigging, especially solo. Hauling speakers & equipment trunks, then playing & singing for 3 hours -- who needs exercise? ;)
     
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  15. haggardfan1

    haggardfan1 Friend of Leo's

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    I would have to agree.

    I was a reluctant convert, but a bandmate has been using passive boards and powered speakers for longer than I've know him--probably going on twenty years of the same TYPE rig. He has owned multiple types of Mackie, Behringer, and Yamaha powered speakers and subs. The only equipment failures he has had, in all this time, have been a ribbon cable in an older Mackie 1604--a known weak spot--and some class D bass amp head he bought that he hooked up incorrectly to too many cabs. Not one powered PA speaker failure in many hours of use, at his home and onstage.

    I've gradually converted my rig to active speakers, and after a couple times of setup trial and error, I invested in a power cable with outlets about every 12 feet, which I run across stage front. I haven't yet obtained all the (much) longer IEC cords that I need, but power strips are doing the job...at least the last time I set it all up year before last :(.

    I will readily admit that a passive system does allow for much faster setup and tear down.

    If a speaker does go down, I like the idea that I can just throw a powered monitor up on the stand and keep going. All the years that I used outboard power amps, I never had one fail, but I can envision that scenario being much worse.
     
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  16. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I deal with this stuff every day. After literally decades of huge cabinets, technology has shrunk big performance into small packages. In a nutshell, I like passive cabinets for large scale stuff such as line arrays, or even side fills. It keeps the amps, signals, & power on the floor and not trimmed out 25' over a stage.
    For small scale stuff like stage monitors, smaller rooms & such, I really have been liking powered cabs. They often have good preset eq curves, are very controllable, good sensitivity & headroom, and you can easily expand the system with a simple daisy chain. Impedance calculations are a non-issue, resulting in fewer blown amps.
     
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  17. Jakedog

    Jakedog Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I don’t really notice that it’s a longer setup or tear down. It’s a couple extra minutes for the power cables. Nothing more. I can have the PA totally set up with two mains, two wedges, and a sub, in under twenty minutes. And it tears down faster. After that there are minute adjustments made to the mics, but that’s it. Of course we only mic vocals and kick.

    If I’m doing a solo gig, I just use my little acoustic amp as a mixer and monitor, and take the XLR line out to one of my little JBL EON610 cabs. If it’s a larger outdoor patio I’ll daisy chain a second EON.

    I can do a pretty good sized patio on the water with two of them. The size/power/weight ratio on a lot of these modern powered cabs is kinda ridiculous. I have buddy down in TX who is a pro mando/fiddle guy. He runs a little preamp/mixer setup into a single 8” QSC and for most average bar gigs doesn’t even have to go in the main PA. I did a gig with him when I was passing through a few years ago, and me with one of my 10” JBLs and him with the 8” QSC covered a pretty decent sized pub. And the setup and tear down was nothing. I think we showed up about twenty minutes before downbeat and had time to set up, tune up, balance levels, hit the head, grab a fresh beer, and step out for a quick pre-game smoke. We got out of there even faster.
     
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  18. nedorama

    nedorama Tele-Meister

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    Sorry, forgot to finish where was going with this - I mean for transport to and from the shows. getting rid of an amp rack (mains monitors) and switching to active meant more room in the car - or that I didn't have to have a minivan for a show.

    I started out with passive - JBL JRX115s powered by a QSC RMX1850HD with various passive monitors on an RMX850; then upgraded to Mackie SRM450s, and then QSC HPR112s. Each step was easier setup and sounded better.

    Other benefit is with powered subs (at least QSC) there's a built-in crossover so you're not messing with that in the rack, either with a dedicated crossover or a dbx Driverack, etc.
     
  19. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I'm probably buying a powered speaker soon, advantages I see are ultralight class D power, built in mic pre & (minimal) mixer, plus the core idea of something like 100w for the tweeter and 300w for the woofer.

    Seems like a better idea to integrate the crossover before the amp sections and then amplify for the frequency range.
     
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  20. PastorJay

    PastorJay Friend of Leo's

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    I've got this powered 1000 watt Turbosound unit with a subwoofer and array speakers that all fasten together as one unit. Really easy to set up. And has plenty of juice.

    I've used it in church and for acoustic trio gigs. Even used it outside and it had plenty of oomph. A little Mackie monitor mixes the vox and instruments. I'm really happy with it.

    You'd probably need two of them for a full band situation. And then maybe you'd need monitors.

    https://www.turbosound.com/product.html?modelCode=P0DCX
     
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