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How To: Choose the Right Portable PA System

Posted by Meghan McRae on

Portable Public Address (PA) Systems are perfect for indoor and outdoor use alike, whether they are needed for simple voice reinforcement or as a fully contained sound system with all the “bells and whistles” of wireless connectivity, music media playback, wireless links to slave extension units, etc. The extensive functionality of Portable PA systems ensures they can be used in all applications including schools, places of worship, presentations, seminars and meetings, shopping centre & trade show presentations and promotions, aerobic & fitness centres, parades & fetes, street performers, park and recreational facilities, emergency interventions, weddings & funeral services, public auctions & venue tours. These days there are so many options its hard to decide what will work best. But we're here to help you decide what Portable PA System will work best for you. 

The first question - What will you be using the Portable PA for?

Chiayo Portable PA SystemsIf you have a good idea about what you will be using the Portable PA for, it can really help in deciding what size and type system will be most effective. Knowing where you will use the system also helps in deciding if you want a traditional speaker set up on a stand or if you’d be better off with a smaller, more portable system. It is best to get a system suitable for the largest event you are likely to use it for. For example, if a school was buying a Portable PA which was only to be used in classroom activities you might find the MiproMA101ACT or Chiayo Coach the best option. But if it is to be used for other events such as whole school assemblies or sports carnivals, a bigger system such as the Chiayo Challenger or the Mipro MA707 would be the better option. Therefore we advise you to decide the largest area or crowd size you might use the system for and work from there.

The second question - How many people will be using the Portable PA and in what capacity?
Knowing how many people are likely to use the system will help you decide what sort of microphones you will require and how many. Microphones are an important decision to make with Portable PA Systems and there are a few options available each system. 

Shure PGA58 Wired MicrophoneDo you want wired microphones?

Portable PA users are often after the mobility & ease of movement that a Portable PA provides so wired microphones can be a bit of a headache. While wired microphones can limit the users mobility and cord length is a definite consideration keep in mind that wired microphones are cheaper and can be useful as a backup microphone in case there are any issues with your wireless microphones. Vocal wired microphones such as the Shure PGA58 and Shure SM58 are high quality and can be a very useful addition to your Portable PA system. 


Mipro MRM70 Receiver ModuleDo you want wireless microphones?
Wireless microphones allow for ease of movement and the microphone user can be approximately 20m (or more*) away from the wireless 
receiver in the Portable PA. All Portable PA systems can have a number of "in-built" wireless receivers for wireless microphones. Most Mipro systems have a limit of two wireless channels with smaller Mipro Systems including theMA101 & MA202 only having one wireless channel and the MA708 and MA808 having options on up to four channels. This means two wireless microphones can be used simultaneously on a Mipro MA303MA505, MA705 & MA707  and four on the MA708 & MA808 Portable PA. 
Chiayo Handheld Wireless MicrophoneDepending on which Chiayo system is used there is options on up to 4 wireless microphones. The Coach only allows for one wireless microphone while the Focus & Stage Man offer up to two channels and the Stage Pro, Challenger & Victory offer up to four wireless microphones. 

Mipro ACT30T Beltpack Transmitter

If you choose to get wireless microphones you need to decide whether you want a handheld, beltpack or a mixture of both. A handheld microphone can be useful in most applications while a beltpack can be clipped onto your person and used with a lapel/lavalier, earworn or headworn microphone for an easy hands free option useful for demonstrations and other applications. 

* Range of operation is reliant on two main factors - line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver and the amount of radio interference in the area from other wireless systems. Handhelds do normally get better range than beltpack systems.

Note: You can purchase both a handheld and beltpack to be used with a radio mic receiver in the portable PA. However, you can't use both at the same time unless you have as many transmitters as receivers. For example, if you have a two receiver portable PA and decide you need two handheld microphones for when you make presentations, and a handheld and beltpack for demonstrations you can still only use two microphones (in any combination) at the same time even though you have three available.. 

The third question - Do you need anything else?
Portable PA systems have a lot of different optional accessories which can expand the usability of the Portable PA. Just keep in mind that every accessory isn't available for every model. 

Music CapabilitiesAll Portable PA's have an option which allows for music to be played through them. Smaller systems, such as the Mipro MA100
MA101 & MA202 and the Chiayo Coach offer USB ports into which a USB Stick containing music can be plugged or a 3.5mm input which a laptop or music player such as a iPod  can be connected to. Larger systems offer options on CD Players along with USB ports. Some systems offer Bluetooth capabilities for wireless music playing. Systems with Bluetooth options include the Chiayo Focus, Stage Man, Stage Pro, ChallengerVictory and the Mipro MA303, MA505, MA705, MA707 &MA708

Covers & Carry Cases - All Portable PA models offer options on protective items. Smaller models offer carry cases will larger options have options on slip on covers. A cover keeps your Portable PA safe while not in use and helps protect the system during travel. 

Stands - All Portable PA's have options on stands for fixed mounting of the system. They also offer portability with carrying handles on smaller, lighter models or wheels and pull up handles on larger models. For example, the smaller Mipro MA100, MA101 & MA202 offer portability with an in-built carrying handles or the use of a shoulder strap and mounting on a microphone stand for a fixed setup. 

Extension SpeakersLarge models including the Mipro MA705, MA707, MA708 & MA808and the Chiayo Focus, Stage Man, Stage Pro, Challenger & Victory offer extension speaker options. Mipro extension speakers are connected via a cable, but the Mipro MA708 offers a wireless option for linking to other MA708 Portable PA's. The Chiayo Focus & Stage Man offer both a powered extension speaker option and passive extension speaker option. A passive extension speaker simply acts as a second speaker while a powered extension speaker offers more wireless microphone channels as well as sound output.The Chiayo Stage Pro, Challenger& Victory offer only powered extension speakers.

Sports Packs - Ideal for athletics & swimming carnivals, sports packs include 2 x horn speakers, stands and all required cabling to connect with your system that can be connected to a Portable PA unit for extra coverage. Both Mipro & Chiayo offer Sports Pack options on their larger systems including the Chiayo Challenger &Victory and the Mipro MA705, MA707, MA708 & MA808

Microphone Accessories
- You can also choose some extras for use with the microphones for a Portable PA. Options include microphone stands with compatible microphones clips for wired microphones or wireless handheld microphones and rechargeable batteries for wireless microphones. 


The fourth question - where are you going to use the Portable PA?
If you are looking to use wireless microphones with the Portable PA we need to know what area/s you are likely to be using it in. This is due to changes in radio microphone frequency allocations. As of the 1st January 2015 the Australian Communications and Media Authority moved the allocated wireless microphone range from the 694-820MHz into the same frequency range as television broadcasting. The local frequency range used by television broadcasting differs between each town or area, so a Portable PA may work fine in one area but it may have issues functioning properly in another. If you can let us know what area you will be most likely using it in we can ensure that the system operates in a frequency band that will work best in your area*.

*Please note: we have no way of knowing who else has and uses radio microphones in your area. Other wireless microphones being used in the same area may reduce the range of operation of a Portable PA.

Still not sure what you want? You can contact us at 02 6778 4090 to discuss your needs and we'll recommend the best Portable PA system/s to suit your needs.

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