I don’t understand why retailers don’t do a better job at explaining what these are. Yes, they are self-powered cabinets with a built-in mixer, and they are easy to transport. But there are a couple of features that make them much more useful than most other devices competing in this space.
FIRST, there is an ‘in’ and an ‘out’ (master bus) XLR connection that lets you DAISY-CHAIN a bunch of these. So, starting small, let’s say you buy one and you can plug in a laptop and two microphones. You buy a second in a few months and daisy-chain them together… now you can plug four mics in and have two 1/8″ stereo jacks for sources like laptops, MP3 players, CD players, etc. Note here that any source you plug into one of these devices is equally available on all of them… no outboard mixer needed!
So, imagining that you can get that much flexibility out of two of these devices, think what happens when, in a couple of years, you decide you want to expand — but you don’t want to start over and leave equipment unused in a closet. Just buy two more… daisy-chain all four for a mono production (or daisy-chain two on the right, two on the left) — now you’re up to 8 mic inputs, etc. (got a digital piano or a direct box for your guitar?… all in a setup that still fits in the trunk of a hatchback (no more ugly vans for musicians!). You could daisy chain 6 of these to a side, if you wanted, and cover a lot of territory in a lot of different shapes of venues.
Here’s the thing… every musician, every player, every vocalist, needs their own ‘little rig’ — this is it, because each person can buy one for themselves and when you all gather, your equipment ‘just works’ together to embiggen your sound for that dive bar, that ballet performance, that karaoke party, that high school talent show.
My daughter has one that she uses with her semi-acoustic guitar; my son uses one to watch Netflix — when everybody gets together for a party, we string XLR around the perimeter of the room(s) and flood the place with clear, even sound.
SECOND, there is a bass output with a built-in crossover. So imagine again that you start with a smaller setup (two of these is enough for an indoor show with 100 in the audience), and want to add more bottom end for louder productions… plugging in a 1/4″ instrument cable at this port engages a built-in crossover, effectively cutting the bottom third off the sound the PA-50s emit… and sending that low-frequency sound to whatever you plug in at the other end… bass amp, subwoofer, guitar amp, etc. In many cases, just separating the bottom third from the ‘work load’ that the PA-50 carries make them operate so much more efficiently that you’ll find you’ve about doubled the level of CLEAN audio you get to fill the room.
We used a PA-50 on each side of the stage at my kids’ high school talent shows (over several years), sending the bass out to a couple of guitar amps that were laying around, and covered a room with seating for 300 people with headroom to spare. That means I was able to fit an entire stage worth of PA equipment (plus my digital piano) in the trunk of a Buick.
These two features mean SCALABILITY… start small, spend small… grow big, still spend small… interested yet?