Band PA Systems

If you're just starting out and not sure what equipment you need to buy we give you some really simple tips below.

Should you be buying active speakers, a powered mixing desk or a powered amplifier?

A PA system only needs one source of power. If you prefer to have active speakers (they contain their own amplifiers and plug into the mains) you just need to choose a passive mixer.

If you prefer passive speakers (which are lighter, contain no amplifier and do not plug into the mains) you will also need either a powered mixing desk with an amp built in, or a passive mixing desk and a separate power amplifier.

At What PA? we usually recommend a passive desk and active speakers. An active speaker package is flexible, meaning you can add to it over the years as your band begins to play larger venues. 10" or 12" speakers you buy now can be used as monitors if you want to upgrade to 15" in the future, or you can add bass bins later for a fuller sound. You can also double your number of speakers in time, and still run them off the same mixing desk.

If your mind is still boggled, give us a call on 01375 892317 and we'll help you to choose! View speakers in the online shop

Mixing Desks

If you are considering micing-up lots of instruments you need to make sure that your mixer has the right number and type of input channels. An average band will need at least a 12 channel mixer to give you the flexibility to plug in everything, especially if you're using wireless mics or wireless in-ear monitors. If you play loud then micing-up allows you to have a lower stage volume level so that you don't damage your ears! We would normally recommend 15 inch speakers for a typical set up with a full stage monitor system. View mixers in the online shop

Speakers and Monitors

For medium bands (typically one or two guitars, bass and drums, vocalist and maybe a keyboard) we'd normally recommend 12" band speakers, but if your style of music is on the heavy side and you are planning to mike up the bass or drums through the PA, then you should consider 15" speakers. Large bands need a rugged, professional-quality set up at an affordable price. Playing larger venues, there will probably be a need to mike up instruments and have the mixer at the back of the hall, connected to the stage via a multicore cable (stage box). If you are playing at a reasonable level then we would recommend using stage or in-ear monitors - this really does help you to sing in tune! Did you know that you can use one wireless receiver with multiple belt-packs and ear pieces, so everyone in the band can have their own in-ear monitor at a very reasonable cost. View monitors in the online shop

How many watts do you need? ...

Take a look at our How Many Watts page in the Advice Centre for some tips on this. Finally, have a read through the Advice Centre, have a browse around the online shop and if you need advice give us a call on 01375 892317 or drop us an email to


If you want a truly professional sound then using a snake/multicore with your mixer placed at the back of the hall can be the way to go - as long as you have someone who knows your music and has a good pair of ears!

The only downsides are that it takes additional time to set up and it may not be possible in some venues without running the snake on top of doors, due to the placement of emergency exits.

Snakes are basically a number of individual cables wrapped together within a protective metal mesh which is then covered in a rubberised outer sheath. They tend to come in standard configurations:
15m, 30m and 45m lengths with 12, 16, 20, 24 cables

Typically the stage end is terminated in a block with 4 XLR female connectors (bringing back signals from the mixer) and the rest are XLR female connectors (inputs for mike and instruments).

The mixer end reverses the connectors but they terminate with loose cable and XLRs.Then each cable is wired for balanced use. However you can put un-balanced line signals down them and you can use one cable for the stereo output of a keyboard via a stereo jack.