Best Portable PA Systems – 2019 Buyer’s Guide

When you are heading out to do a speaking engagement, DJing a live event, or giving a presentation, having the best quality PA system is a must.  But there are so many different types and models, it could be a very daunting task to plow through them and feel confident you are getting the right one for your needs. So how do you choose? 

For years, I was using a clumsy multi-part PA system; two speakers, a power amp, mixer, and about 100 feet of cabling connecting everything. This was a pain to bring around to gigs and even harder to set up when time was of the essence. This inspired me to research all-in-one PA systems, which are portable speakers that you could plug a mic into directly. They had to be loud enough to compete with a full-blown PA, yet also small and lightweight enough to easily bring on the road.


In this guide, we are going to look at just why you need this type of device, how you choose and some options for the best portable PA systems available right now.

Comparison of the Best Portable PA Systems

Product

Rating

Price

Fender Passport Conference PA Speaker System

Fender Passport Conference PA Speaker System

Best Overall

Mackie THUMP15 Thump Series 15-Inch Powered Loudspeaker

Mackie THUMP15 Thump Series 15-Inch Powered Loudspeaker

Runner-up

Pyle Bluetooth PA Loudspeaker

Pyle Bluetooth PA Loudspeaker [Powered Speaker DJ System] Built-in Rechargeable Battery | MP3/USB/SD/FM Radio | 15'' Subwoofer | 1000 Watt (PPHP152BMU)

Best for the Money

ION Audio Tailgater Plus

ION Audio Tailgater Plus | Portable Speaker, Battery Powered, with 50 W Power, Bluetooth Connectivity, Microphone & Cable, AM/FM Radio and USB Charging For Smartphones & Tablets

Best For Live Music

LyxPro SPA-8 Compact 8" Portable PA System

LyxPro SPA-8 Compact 8' Portable PA System 100-Watt RMS Power Active Speaker Equalizer Bluetooth SD Slot USB MP3 XLR 1/4' 1/8' 3.5mm Inputs

Best Under $200

Monoprice APS 15

Monoprice Stage Right APS 15 400W 15-inch 2-way Active PA System with 3-Channel Mixer

Best Under $500

What is a Portable PA System and What Are They Used For?

Portable PA systems are not a new thing and neither is the system they came from. So, before you head out to choose your perfect option, let’s talk about what a portable PA system is and what they are used for. The public address system is like the one we are familiar with from our school days. They can be used to output sound, much like a speaker. This system’s overall purpose is to amplify sound once it has been created, in order to reach larger crowds. 

These systems have become vital to many careers, including public speaking and music events. Music performances have been enhanced with amplified sound so that bands and performers can speak and play to large crowds. Though the original systems were quite bulky and tended to be installed and left in place. Over the last few decades there has been a move to create more portable stems for use on the go. 

What Makes These the Best of the Year?

There are several factors to consider when beginning your hunt for the right portable PA system for you and your needs. Each of the factors below will play a crucial role in your overall decision and are guidelines to help you find the right system amidst the sea of options.

Size

Even with portable PA systems, they are available in multiple sizes and weights and this could, perhaps, be the most important first factor to consider. Knowing what space you have available for transport and just how much you or your roadies can handle, will help you narrow down the selection so that you can pick the following components for just the right PA system for you.

Components

Will you need extra peripherals? Do you want to go with an easy to use product and get an all-in-one model? There are models that come with a speaker, mic, mixer, and the ability to playback or record. If you are looking for an option that takes up less space, this may be a great choice for you, whereas if you already have some of the equipment, looking for the PA system that has the component(s) you lack is the right idea.

Wireless/Wired

This is a new question that has just sprung up over the last decade. Wired systems are the more traditional route and offer more reliability, but are slightly less easy to transport and you must deal with wire management. Now, on the other hand, wireless options take away all that and offers great portability, but with a slightly less reliable connection.

Connectivity

There is also the option of finding a portable PA system with Bluetooth capabilities. There are also other connectivity options with some PA systems, things like audio source ports or even a jack for instruments. 

Power

This is something to consider along with what your internet use is. If you need more power, you will want one with a higher wattage. This option is great for features and such, but will tend to be bigger and heavier, but better than the alternative, right? Nobody wants a system that doesn’t have enough power to accomplish what you intended.

First, How Much Power Do I Need?

I have decided to compare single 15” speakers since this is typically loud enough for medium-sized venues. If you’re looking for a smaller PA, you can find equivalent models in 12” or 10” sizes at a lower price. One of the biggest factors when choosing a PA system is how much power you’ll need. While it varies a lot depending on the size of the space, the number of guests, the loudness of the music, etc. you can use these figures below as a rough estimate:

  • Living Room Stereo: 50 watts
  • Coffee Shop Acoustic Show: 150 watts
  • Backyard Party: 300 watts
  • Dive Bar Gig: 500 watts

Review of the Best Portable PA Systems

Okay, now it’s time to get to the fun stuff. Let’s talk about some of the best portable PA systems out there today. We took into consideration the features above and many others and came up with our list. Hopefully, one of these options below will be the right one for you.

Fender Passport Conference PA Speaker System

PROS

  • Perfect for Small Venues
  • Bluetooth Support Built-In
  • Elevated Mixing Capabilities
  • User-Friendly Design and Functions
  • Lightweight, Compact Design for Better Portability

CONS

  • Issues With the Wiring Length
  • Issues With Bluetooth Support
  • Low Power Levels Make This a Poor Choice for Large Venues

What Recent Buyers Report ​​​​

This model is not for large venues or crowds, but has great mixing capability and offers ease of transport, unlike many others. If you read the reviews, you will see the great comments recent buyers have about this portable PA system from Fender.

Why it Stands Out To Us 

There are two things that stand out for us. The first is the portability. With its compact design that fits within the neat little carrying case, you will have no problem lugging this system from gig to gig. The other big positive is the versatility in mixing capabilities. With that much customization, you will be able to ensure you have just the right sound for just the right occasion.

Who Will Use This Most 

This is great for public speakers, or even DJs that are just starting out. The lower power makes this ideal for small venues, like the ones you hit when you are just starting out. It is also great for community centers or even small congregations.

Bottom Line

Fender is a name that many know and trust and with this portable PA system, they live up to the reputation of a great quality build and even better quality sound. No musician or speaker looking for a great portable PA system to start with will regret their inclusion of this system in their equipment arsenal.

Mackie THUMP15 Thump Series 15-Inch Powered Loudspeaker

PROS

  • Sound Quality is Rich and Crisp
  • Compact and Easy to Transport
  • Price Versus Value is Outstanding
  • Perfect for a Small to Mid-Size Venue
  • Designed to Be Durable and Long-Lasting

CONS

  • Poor Customer Service
  • Not the Best Option for Outdoor Venues
  • Issues With the Subwoofer Coil Burning Out With Extended Use

What Recent Buyers Report

There is a level of quality when dealing with vocals that far surpasses other models in this price range. With an easy to transport build and a good price for the value, many recent buyers love this runner-up model on our list. There have been some issues with coils burning out after extended use and many say this is not a great outdoor venue system but even with those few drawbacks the pros still outweigh the cons.

Why it Stands Out To Us 

The power level you get for such a small, compact build is outstanding. Knowing that you will be able to deliver amazing sound to a wide variety of venues is what really sticks out for us. When looking at what you get for the price-tag, any person looking for a great quality portable PA system would be on their way to making the masses happy by making this their go-to system.

A reputable name in pro audio, Mackie makes a great portable PA that offers a few key advantages over the Monoprice APS. Mackie manages to cut the weight by over 10 lbs (33.2 lbs compared to 44.1 lbs for the APS), yet still deliver an extra 100 watts of power. This makes it great for those who require lightweight gear and/or need a little extra power.

On the flipside, the Mackie Thump15 only has one input. You can plug in a single microphone but will otherwise need a mixer for multiple audio sources. Furthermore, the only input is an XLR, so you’ll need an adapter to plug in an instrument or iPhone/MP3 player (or otherwise set up a mixer).

Who Will Use This Most 

Event coordinators and DJs that specialize in mid-size events would love this portable system. It allows for great sound enhancement, which is why parties and special events are where this system shines the most. 

Bottom Line

For the high-quality performance and transportability you get with the Mackie THUMP15, any field that requires a portable PA system would be crazy not to consider this as one of their top options. The richness of the sound this machine puts out will elevate your performance and get you on the radar of a lot more potential customers.

Best for the Money: 
Pyle Bluetooth PA Loudspeaker

Pyle Bluetooth PA Loudspeaker [Powered Speaker DJ System] Built-in Rechargeable Battery | MP3/USB/SD/FM Radio | 15'' Subwoofer | 1000 Watt (PPHP152BMU)

PROS

  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Outstanding Sound Quality
  • Inclusion of an External Battery Connection
  • Durable and Compact Design for Easier Travel
  • Good for Both Small Indoor and Outdoor Venues

CONS

  • Bluetooth Range is Not Very Far
  • Issues With Charging Cable Durability
  • The User Manual is Not Easy to Follow or Use

What Recent Buyers Report

The addition of Bluetooth capability is a nice touch, but many recent buyers would like a little more leeway with range. Other than that, this model is great for a tight budget. Recent buyers have made that very clear.

Why it Stands Out To Us 

This model stands out for quality versus value for us. Great for indoor or outdoor events, this option gives you great quality sound for a fraction of the price. The addition of long battery life and the ability to recharge when necessary means you will be able to produce rich sound long into the night.

The Pyle Bluetooth PA was designed specifically for DJs, whether at a backyard wedding, basement party, or a small indoor club. For one, Pyle provides several easy ways to hook up a smartphone/laptop, including RCA, USB, and Bluetooth, as well as an SD Card port. Secondly, there’s a built-in rechargeable battery that provides up to three hours of playback, so you can provide tunes even on the beach or other outdoor areas. Last but not least, there’s a ¼” mic input and wired microphone included, which you can use simultaneously with your tunes.

So what’s the catch? Pyle is a budget audio brand and with so many novel features packed into their Bluetooth PA, it’s unsurprising that roughly one in five reviewers reported issues. This ranges from smaller issues like charger cable failure or Bluetooth connectivity problems, to more serious issues like broken parts.

The Pyle Bluetooth PA is not the most reliable option for somebody who performs a lot on the road, but could be a good economical option if you’re willing to be extra careful.

Who Will Use This Most 

This is great for the DJ or musical event coordinator that just doesn’t know how long the party will be going. With its lengthy battery life, the ability to recharge, and the heightened performance, anyone looking for a high-quality portable PA system will be in good standing with this system.

Bottom Line

Overall you can’t go wrong with the Pyle Bluetooth PA if you are trying to work with a tight budget. For a low-price option, you get excellent sound and enough features to make this a great option for almost anyone. 

Best for Live Music:
ION Audio Tailgater Plus

ION Audio Tailgater Plus | Portable Speaker, Battery Powered, with 50 W Power, Bluetooth Connectivity, Microphone & Cable, AM/FM Radio and USB Charging For Smartphones & Tablets

PROS

  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Good Sound Quality Vs. Price
  • Auxiliary Input Built Into the Device
  • Easy to use and set up Bluetooth capability.
  • Overall This System is a User-Friendly Version That is Easy to Set Up

CONS

  • Awkward to Transport Due to Design
  • Comes With a Mic That is Not the Best Quality
  • Issues With Durability and Design of Volume Knobs

What Recent Buyers Report

Quality sound and excellent Bluetooth capabilities top the positives that many recent buyers are talking about. With a long life and easy to setup system, the Ion Audio Tailgater is a great choice for your live music needs. It is tough if you are going to rock out some karaoke, so you may want to invest in another mic, because the one that it comes with it is less than adequate, according to most owners.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The first thing that jumps out to us is the range of Bluetooth connectivity. This is great for any outdoor event, as the range goes up to 100 feet. The sound quality and ability to tune into the radio as well, makes this a great choice for live music.

Who Will Use This Most 

This model would be great for anyone looking to do a little karaoke or wanting a great sound system for that tailgate party. Also, if you are looking to DJ like an old school DJ, which means playing a playlist, then this PA system would be an excellent choice, as well.

Bottom Line

For live music or karaoke, this model is a powerful choice that emits and amplifies sound in a way that does not deteriorate the quality. This is not a pretty unit to look at but will do the job for your outdoor or indoor music needs.

LyxPro SPA-8 Compact 8' Portable PA System 100-Watt RMS Power Active Speaker Equalizer Bluetooth SD Slot USB MP3 XLR 1/4' 1/8' 3.5mm Inputs

PROS

  • Excellent Price Versus Value
  • Multiple Sizes Available for Purchase
  • Enhanced Ability to Connect Via Bluetooth
  • Easy to Transport Due to its Compact and Lightweight Build
  • Compact, Yet Powerful Design is Good for Small Venues

CONS

  • Decidedly Lacking in the Bass Area
  • Some Issues With Connecting to Bluetooth
  • Some Issues With Fuses Blowing After Extended Use

What Recent Buyers Report

Most recent customers are stuck on the fact that this is small (it comes in multiple sizes), and yet offers amazing, quality sound. It’s a budget-friendly, easy to use PA system that can easily go anywhere. There are a few issues brought to light, as well. There are issues with the longevity of use due to some issues with fuses blowing and the fact that it does not perform well in the bass spectrum.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The biggest thing that jumps out at us, is that it's easy to use set up and even easier to transport. That, coupled with the great sound quality and ability to control the sound, we are for sure right in making this one of the best portable PA systems to date, especially for anyone looking to work with a tight budget.

Who Will Use This Most 

This system is a great starter one for any DJ just breaking into the field. It is cheap and easy to use but still gives you enough power to do those small shows you will be booking as you begin your journey. It is also great for modest gatherings in small venues like a church, meeting hall or even a classroom.

Bottom Line

In the end, if what you seek is a low-cost, easy to transport, yet powerful system, then this is your best option. This will get you started on the DJ path and with the compact design, you won’t have to trick your friends into being your roadies.

Best Under $500:
Monoprice APS 15

Monoprice Stage Right APS 15 400W 15-inch 2-way Active PA System with 3-Channel Mixer

PROS

  • Durable and Lightweight Design
  • Great Sound Due to Multiple Amplifiers
  • Ability to Have Multiple Mics Plugged in at Once

CONS

  • Not so Great Price Versus Value
  • The Plastic Exterior is a Little Thin

What Recent Buyers Report

There are not many reviews on this unit, but when you find one thing that comes to the forefront, it is the versatility of use and its compact high-quality sound. Though this may not be a system that lasts you for life, it is definitely a good choice for someone working with a small start-up fund.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The biggest benefit that grabs our attention is the capability to have multiple sources jacked into the system. Great for multiple vocalists or that solo performer that wants limited equipment to carry, this unit gives you exactly what you want for a nice, low price.

Who Will Use This Most 

This is great for bands with multiple singers just starting out. The dub channel mixer built into the back of the unit will make this band’s life that much easier. It is also good for small speaking functions or even classes.

Bottom Line

Though this may not be the last PA system you purchase, if you’re looking for an easy to transport, decent performing option, then the Monoprice Stage Right is a great way to go.

Benefits of Investing in a Quality Portable PA System

Whenever you are investing in tech of any type, you always want to get a high-quality, enhanced performance piece so that you get the most for your investment. With a portable PA system, it is no different. When you purchase a high-quality portable PA system, you will reap many benefits. Here are just a few:

Coverage

The better quality piece you get, the more coverage you will have when out on the road, doing what you do. With more coverage, you will be able to perform or speak in larger venues and this will inevitably lead to more followers and eventually, more money.

Portability

The better the quality, the better the sound. But by investing in a great portable system, you are liable to end up with more portability coupled with more features.

Better Sound

Naturally higher quality means better sound. With better core components, your high-quality PA system will ensure that the richness and overall sound is simply the best it can be.

Extra Features

Better quality PA systems tend to offer you extra features that will enrich your product and allow you to develop your skills and the value of your content.

RMS vs. Peak Watts

You may notice some speakers are advertised at a higher power than in the table above. For example, the Mackie Thump and Pyle Bluetooth are both advertised at 1000 watts. This is because they are measuring peak watt power, which is a bit misleading.

Peak wattage is the loudest an amp can output in short bursts. RMS wattage, on the other hand, is how much power a system can put out consistently. It’s a much better measurement of a speakers’ loudness and performance. In fact, you can pretty much disregard peak watts entirely.

Now let's take a closer look at each speaker:

It is powerful, compact, sturdy, and features a three-channel mixer on the back. You can plug in up to two microphones at once, as well as an instrument or MP3 player. For bands with multiple vocalists or audio sources, the extra inputs are a deal-breaker. However, it saves you the effort of bringing a separate mixer + cables.

Overall, I was impressed by the quality of this speaker. The tone was very full, crisp and deep, and the build quality was strong. The APS 15 features a metal grate to protect the speakers and hard plastic around the exterior. However, the plastic is a little thin compared to other models. If you need something to last for years on the road, I would opt for a sturdier model, like the Mackie Thump or the Behringer Eurolive.op

Conclusion

Taking the time to find just the right PA system can be a tiring task, but if you are looking to deliver quality music or stand out on that presentation stage, then having one is crucial. The guide above will help you narrow down the choices and, hopefully, will help you find the right fit as soon as possible, so you can get to using the best portable PA system for your career needs.

Since most people need a portable PA system that can travel with them to shows, they need something durable. Likewise, since many performances require multiple microphones or instruments going through the PA, it helps to have a model with a built-in mixer. This is why I ultimately chose the Monoprice APS 15. It's not quite as rugged as the Mackie Thump15, but it's powerful, well-built, and features a three-channel mixer on the back.