Somehow, for the past 16 years, I have managed to avoid putting one penny toward a band PA system. Equipment cost is the bane of most bands, even bands that mostly play in small bars like the band I’m in, because it costs huge piles of money to outfit a band and it’s difficult to make that cash back. For example, my very frugally equipped band brings about $5,000 worth of gear to most gigs. A rock ‘n’ roll band playing a big club can easily bring equipment worth three or even four times that much.
But my band has been playing through a beat-to-hell PA system for some time now. It features an ancient Peavey mixer amp that was threatening to crumble and two very small Carvin speakers that were reaching their departure dates from this mortal coil.
And so, the system needed a replacement. I volunteered to throw down some money and do the research and shopping for the gear. The goal was to get a system that was smallish, lightweight and relatively inexpensive but had better coverage than the old PA (the tone of the Carvins would compress when pushed and the speakers sounded ‘boxy,’ even though their overall tone was quite good). Here’s what I came up with:
1. A pair of Mackie TH12a ‘Thump’ speakers. These are powered speakers, unlike the passive speakers that I have used throughout my music career. They are extraordinarily lightweight for bi-amped speakers that push 150 watts RMS and 350 watts peak each, and they are extremely well-reviewed for budget speakers. No one would mistake them for JBLs or QSCs, but they’re one-half to one-third the price and our PA is almost always used for vocals only. With a 12-inch woofer and a radial horn, the speaker also is capable of spreading sound around the room.
2. A Peavey PV-10 desktop mixer. This one has 10 channels, including six XLR input channels, as well as built-in audio effects (reverb, delay, etc.). It was well-reviewed and came in a metal case (crappier mixers are in plastic cases with metal or wood bumpers). We probably could have gone with a four-XLR-input mixer for $30 or $40 less, but this mixer gives us a few spare channels in case some channels blow out or we break an XLR jack.
I did some careful shopping, picking up the Mackies through an L.A. DJ supply house and the Peavey through an Amazon affiliate, and I put together the entire system for $690. Even with extra extension cords and a couple of new XLR cables, the cost was less than $750. Had I purchased it locally, the cost would have been closer to $900.
This rig is powerful enough to easily fill a medium-size bar, has a mixer small enough to sit atop the bass player’s amp and has strong, clean tone. It’ll get the job done. If it remains reliable, this hopefully will be the last PA we’ll ever buy.