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Speaker & Amplifier & Microphones & Audio Mixers

Speakers
The first component that comes to mind when thinking about PA systems is the most important one, the speakers. PA speakers come in countless different shapes and sizes. There are three main types of PA speakers: mains sometimes referred to as “tops,” subwoofers, sometimes referred to as “bottoms,” and stage monitors. Each type of speaker serves a different function within the system, but each depends on the other.
Speakers can be both active or passive. Active speakers have an amplifier in them, which means you don’t need to buy that extra piece of equipment. Passive speakers mean there is no amplifier in them, and you’ll need to add an amplifier to make it work.
Amplifiers/Power Amplifiers
PA speakers can either be passive or active. Active speakers have an internal amplifier of their own while passive speakers have no internal amplifier and require an external amplifier to convert the line level signal of the mixer to a level where it can drive the speaker to the necessary volume. Amplifiers can be an expensive item, but deservedly so. In a passive PA system, you are trusting the entirety of the system’s sound to one component.
Power amplifiers (PAs) are usually the last active component in the RF chain in modern radar and telecommunication equipment. Their nonlinear behavior has a significant impact on the overall system performance and quite often is the most limiting factor in modern radio systems. The purpose of a power amplifier is mainly to boost the radio signal to sufficient power levels suitable for a wired or wireless transmission from the transmitter to the receiver. Typically, they work at relatively high-power levels and hence are a major power consumer in the overall transmitter system. However, their conversion efficiency from DC supply power to RF output power is traditionally very poor. Further, it is strongly dependent on the RF signal drive level and highest when the amplifier is operated in its most nonlinear region and the output RF power compressed or even saturated. Efficiency and linearity are severely contradicting power amplifier requirements and the most important parameters to be traded off.
Audio Mixers – Analog or Digital
When it comes to mixers, they act as the brain of your system. Sound signals go into it (inputs), signals are manipulated, then come out of it (outputs).
Mixers can look a little intimidating when you first see them, but just know that each knob or button does its part in getting the sound to come out at your preferred level. It creates a highway system. You take the signal from one place and send it off into another (ex: your speakers).
We’re not going to delve into this deeply, because I dedicated a full article about the types of audio mixers. You may have heard that there are two types of mixers, one is digital, while the other is analog.
A digital mixer may have preset effects, and with a push of a button, put things together for you, save settings, and so on. If you want more serious control of each sound, analog means it has a “do it yourself” vibe. One of the benefits of an analog mixer is the lower cost and ease of use.
Both analog and digital mixers are capable of transmitting very high quality sound. The quality and design of their electronic circuits—especially the mic preamps—and in the case of the digital mixer, its analog to digital converter (ADC), have the biggest influence on sound quality. Most sound engineers agree that mics and speakers with their inherently greater degree of coloration and distortion are the biggest barriers to absolute sound fidelity. That said, well-designed mic preamps that boost the microphone’s output without adding coloration or distortion are critical to good sound. High-quality circuitry and components in the mixer’s gain stage and signal routing will minimize the hiss that inevitably occurs with analog mixers.
Microphones
Almost every PA system will need mics.
There are two major microphone types: dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics are durable, reliable, and made for onstage use.
Condenser mics are made to capture more subtleties, handle high sound pressure levels (SPLs) and capture fast transients. They are usually used for recording, but can also be perfect for live sound. They’re often positioned above drum kits to capture the sound of cymbals. Condenser mics require phantom power, so you will need to ensure that your mixer includes sufficient phantom-powered inputs.
To minimize feedback, you also will want a mic that is unidirectional (as opposed to omnidirectional) for vocals and instruments. Unidirectional mics are available with cardioid, super cardioid, and hyper cardioid pickup patterns. Cardioid mics are ideal for live sound situations because of their wide, forgiving pattern.
If you decide to use condenser mics in your system, they usually require phantom power, which means the power needed to run the mic must be delivered from another source, usually the mixer or a mic preamp, through the mic cable, or from a separate standalone phantom power device. If you buy a phantom-powered mic, make sure you have a power source available.
how much you’ll be moving around onstage? Will there be audience participation? Will you be moving off the stage? If so, you probably need a wireless mic setup.
If not, wired mics are more affordable and are more likely to come with PA system packages. Also, you can plug in as many as your mixer can handle without the risk of interference sometimes present with wireless systems. Using wireless mics and in-ear monitoring systems also adds complexity to your gig setup process.

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