Powered Speakers: A Love Story

Hello, boys and girls. Please excuse the lateness of this post. At the present, it is band rental season at the shop and as a result, the inside of my brain looks like this:








Regardless, I’m here to talk a little bit more in depth about one of the pro audio configurations I had mentioned in our last pro audio themed post. If you happen to recall, one of the more popular, affordable, and generally more advantageous configurations is the “mixer-to-powered speakers” (i.e. wizard to berserker-paladin) set-up, and it is that particular configuration which is becoming more and more of the industry standard and “the norm” for the modern pro audio engineer, touring band, venue system, travelling circus, what have you. So, without further ado, allow me to get into more of the gritty, nasty, juicy (and other such adjectives detail) of why MIXERà POWERED SPEAKERS rocks…

 Reason #1: You Won’t Go Broke

Here’s the unsexy truth about being a musician (besides the bad haircuts and never making any money): it doesn’t matter how good of a player you are or how fanc-pantsy your instrument is…you are only as good as you sound. So it stands to reason, then, that a quality P.A. system is imperative to sounding good. And many people are of the opinion that the bigger the price tag on a system, the higher quality it is. Which is rational thinking, of course: higher quality products are often worth more money, BUT: it isn’t a hard and fast rule. The fact is, most of us are regular joe’s with a few bucks to our name and we can’t all afford a 5K Les Paul’s and giant vintage speakers. The music industry (though imperfect and quirky) has a lot of people who get that and therefore make high-quality products that require significantly less Benjamin’s. The beauty of the Mixer to Powered Speakers set-up is such that because it requires fewer components and relatively less maintenance, it is generally less expensive than the other two configurations (powered mixers or the three separate components set-up).

As I mentioned in the last blog, for many years the industry standard for a P.A. set-up was to have your mixer, power source, and speakers all kept as individual components. The advantages there were 1) separate components kept things simpler in the event that if any one component was faulty or needed to be upgraded, that was easy enough to do and repairs weren’t as complicated and 2) each component could be operated and maintained to its maximum potential. The disadvantage, however, was cost and portability. The Trifecta Set-up is pricey and having three separate components plus accessories is not ideal for the band on the move.

The second option was to configure it so that the power source and mixer were one whole component while speakers were on their own. While much more convenient in terms of portability and a little less expensive at first, the powered mixer route gets complicated for a couple of reasons: repairs are significantly more complex and expensive if a powered mixer croaks, accessories such as the beefy cables required to send that powered-up signal from the mixer to the speakers get expensive and cumbersome, and then there’s everyone’s favorite complication involving Ohm ratings and making sure everything matches up (which we’ll talk about at some point…Ian…).

All that to say, powered speakers have the advantage of not only being inexpensive to begin with, but they stay that way because they don’t require any extra expensive accessories (like powered mixers) or extra components (like the Trifecta). So that’s more money for you, and less hassle all around.

Reason #2: Much More Convenient (NO DAG-BLASTED OHM’S!)

          Everyone’s favorite nightmare when it comes to setting up a P.A. system is the little matter of Ohm ratings and having to navigate the murky waters of Ohm’s law. And as annoying as that stuff is, it’s certainly important since most of us aren’t really looking to set our equipment (or our fabulous hair) on fire. But guess what? Another upshot of going the powered speakers route is…dut-duh-duh-DUH! No Ohm math!!

          This is because, simply put, your power source and your speakers are the same dang device, so the manufacturers have already synced up that crap for you. Because there is no external power source that needs to match up its resistance levels with the sound source, you don’t have to bother with the extra math problems and trying to figure out which kind of speakers won’t explode when you hook’em up to that amp, or whether the powered mixer has enough kick to drive the speakers or how many speakers in relation to how many amps or blah de blah blah.

Reason #3: Come ooooonnnnn, everybody’s doin’ it

           I hate to play the peer pressure card here, but sometimes things are popular or growing in popularity for a reason. Powered speakers are no exception. As previously mentioned, the industry standard used to be “mixer-power-speakers”, all separate and all rather expensive and tricky to move around. Granted, there are still people who abide by that strategy (often times people with deeper pockets and either means by which to lug around extra stuff or a permanent venue), and there are still some purists out there who claim that three separate components are the way to go. Which I respect their thinking wholeheartedly…except they’re wrong and dumb.

          Okay, that was harsh. But in all seriousness, powered speakers are the shiz and perhaps an overall better alternative. Now, if you’re having a hard time buying into the fact that cheaper gear means just as good of quality and you don’t typically trust a small price tag when you’re hunting for the best stuff, then don’t worry because powered speakers have a spectrum from the affordable-bargainy-good deals to the fancy-higher-end versions of the same configuration. In the world of powered speakers, there’s something for everyone. Here at Bigfoot, we’re only into what we like and what we’ve found tried and true, so we’ve weeded through the crap and are here to offer only what we think are the best deals out there. Here are a few examples of what we have in terms of powered speakage…

Studio Monitors

Samson Resolv SE5 ($149.99 each):

These guys are great for home or studio recording with very accurate sound. Specs include: 

-70 Watts 

-Active 2-way crossover

-5" carbon fiber woofer, 1.25" soft dome tweeter

-Frequencies: 50hz-20kHz (with 4-position high-frequency lift control for added accuracy)

-Balanced 1/4 inputs, unbalanced RCA inputs



Samson Media One 5A ($199.99 each): 

For all you hardcore gamers, electronica artists, or just general conissuers of all things YouTube, here are some high-fidelity home studio monitors to blow your brains out while shouting at twelve-year-olds over online Call of Duty games. Specs include: 

- 5" copolymer woofer, 25mm silk-dome tweeters

-40 Watts (or 2X20)

-Headphones and stereo input jack with additional RCA inputs

-Passive crossover for natural dynamics



Presonus Eris E8 ($249.99 each): 

A little more on the higher-end, these guys are ideal for studio-quality recording and mixing. Presonus is a great company known for making ground-up studio-level recording software and really making the best affordable while not compromising the awesome. Specs include: 

-8" Kevlar(R) woofers, 1" silk-dome tweeters

-130 Watts, Class AB amplification

-Frequencies: mids-> continuously vairable ±6dB, highs-> continuously variable ±6dB, high-pass (off, 80Hz, 100 Hz)

-Balanced XLR 1/4 inch/unbalanced RCA inputs

Loud Speakers


Peavey PV115D ($299.99): 

A great all-around powered speaker for the travelling band! Specs include: 

-400 watts program, 800 watts "peak"

-Active 2-way crossover

-15" woofer, RX14 titanium compression driver

-Bass/treble lifts

-Balanced XLR/1/4 inch inputs



Mackie Thump TH-12A ($299.99): 

Always got to appreciate Mackie for making things awesome, afforable, and by all means, comprehensible. A very cool powered speaker, featuring: 

-Class D amplification and 400 watts

-12" woofer, 1" tweeter

-Active 2-way crossover

-Built in 3-band EQ for tone control

-Mic and line level inputs 



Samson Expedition XP40iW ($299.99):

For something nice, simple, low-maintenance (whether for a stiff, white-collar business presentation or MC-ing at your nephew's bar mitsvah), this is a great set-up! Specs include: 

-40 Watts with Class D amplification

- 6" woofer, 1" tweeter

-Built-in VHF wireless mic system

-Internal iPod dock and 1/8 stereo auxillary sends for MP3's, keybaords, what have you

-1/4 inputs for line-level signals (instruments, vocals)

-Rechargeable battery for on the go

- 3-channel built-in mixer


Come on by to Bigfoot music so we can give you an in-depth tour on the wonders and joys of powered speakers! Stay excellent, and have a good week!


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