Connecting a PA System


The diagram below shows the parts of a PA system and how it all connects together.

Inputs to a PA system - voice or music source or instrument such as guitar, bass, keyboards, drums
The mixing desk is the hub of the PA system allowing you to mix the sound and control the volume
The monitors allow the singers and musicians to hear what they are playing. They can be floor monitors, in-ear monitos or can be personal monitors attached to the microphone stand
If the speakers are active you do not need a power amplifier or a powered mixer. If the speakers are passive you need either a power amplifier or a powered mixer

Source

These are the main sound sources (instruments and vocals) that you want to amplify through the PA. Typically, these would be microphones and keyboards but could also include electric/acoustic guitars, bass guitars, drums,  CD player or laptop.

Mixer

The mixer is the device for balancing the volume between the vocals and the various instruments. Each input goes into one channel of the mixing desk. Some mixers have FX (special effects processor) built into the mixer, so you can apply special effects (such as reverb) to any of the channels, but you can also add external FX units. The mixed sound is sent to your speakers.

If you are using Active Speakers you will always have a Passive Mixer. If you are using Passive Speakers you can use either an Active (Powered) Mixer, or a Passive Mixer plus a Power Amplifier.

Monitors

The monitors enable the singers and musicians to hear themselves on stage. They can be floor monitors, in-ear monitos or can be personal monitors attached to the microphone stand. The mixer will need to have a monitor/foldback send button and monitor outputs. This allows you to send and control the signals to the monitor speakers.

Monitors can be powered or non-powered. We would always suggest powered monitors as you can control the level of the monitors from the stage. If you have un-powered monitors then you will need a separate monitor amplifier. An alternative to stage monitors are in-ear monitors - less gear to carry around!

Amplifier  

If you are not using powered (active) speakers or a powered mixer you will need a Power Amplifier, matched to the output of the two speakers. See the Matching Ohms page for more information about this.

Speakers  

The are the main front of house (FOH) speakers. If they are Passive (unpowered) they will be powered by a Power Amplifier or a Powered Mixer. If they are Active they can be connected to a Passive Mixer if you need more inputs than the speaker has on the back.