Powered mixer or powered speakers?

Roberto

Senior Member
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654
After playing only with bands since I was a teenager, I'm going to start doing some solo gigs, and sometimes a duo with another guy. I have a couple of PA systems, one huge ancient one, and a newer more portable system, but I want something more portable yet for the smaller spaces like in cafes, and for one or two guys.

You think it would be better to go with a powered mixer or powered speakers? I would note that though my Yamaha S115 speakers are certainly more manageable than my old SP1s (you old farts will remember those) they are still a little heavy and more than I will need. For that reason I've been thinking about smaller powered speakers, but kind of prefer a powered mixer even if I have to use these S115 speakers for a while. Cash flow kind of precludes buying a powered mixer and new speakers too.

What would you do?
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
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34,039
Occasionally you find places that have conveniently installed speakers but not a functional or suitable mixer/amp.
Having your own power makes the rig more versatile.
Powered speakers can be added.
 

JoeB63

Silver Supporting Member
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13,973
One big advantage of using all powered speakers is that you can then use one of the new digital mixers with it's built in processors (effects, dynamics, EQ, etc.). I don't believe all of those digital features can be found in any powered mixer on the market. With that solution, all you need is the mixer itself and the speakers, no outboard processors or EQs. Much more simple.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
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34,039
After playing only with bands since I was a teenager, I'm going to start doing some solo gigs, and sometimes a duo with another guy.
I do not see how special features would be of any use for this application. If you want simple, keep it simple.
 

Roberto

Senior Member
Messages
654
One big advantage of using all powered speakers is that you can then use one of the new digital mixers with it's built in processors (effects, dynamics, EQ, etc.). I don't believe all of those digital features can be found in any powered mixer on the market. With that solution, all you need is the mixer itself and the speakers, no outboard processors or EQs. Much more simple.
I do not see how special features would be of any use for this application. If you want simple, keep it simple.

I do have a light and manageable, rack mountable, digital Yamaha mixer that I would use with powered speakers or I could use my S115 speakers with a powered mixer. Some do have EQ, effects, etc. In fact, I did have one (Yamaha) a couple of years ago, but don't have it now.

Not sure what you mean, Tone Terrific, about "special features". Around my location, where I'll be playing, there generally is no house PA provided, and though most of these places are relatively smaller than the bars we play, they are still large enough and, moreover, loud enough that a small pa is needed.

Thanks for the feedback. I probably should have posted this on the recorded and live sound forum.
 

9fingers

Silver Supporting Member
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7,863
Powered speakers have the amp/impedance perfectly matched to the speaker. If one goes out you can finish a gig with one. With the current Class D amps, they are not much heavier than passive.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
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34,039
Typical PA rig for such gigs (solo/duo) is just a powered mixer and spkrs on poles.
You might run a monitor cab.
No need for compressor/ fx beyond simple rvb, nor a host of send/returns multiple eq's, bluetooth remote control or scads of digitally driven menu items.
You put the vocals and guitars and maybe some percussion or a guest player into the PA. 6 inputs is plenty.
Powered speakers are heavier, harder to place on poles, you need an AC power line PLUS a signal line for each one and add to the cost.
Really this is a cafe/foksinger sort of gig (as I understand it) and it should be doable with a variety of small rigs in any format.
 

xjojox

Tardis-dwelling wanker
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I've gone back and forth on this...I eventually came to the realization that powered speakers require two wires (power as well as signal) plus an available plug or long extensions eherever you want to set them up. Passive speakers...one cable and go where you want them. Also, if the amp or the speaker in a powered speaker goes...you can't use the speaker alone, you are dead in the water.

Plenty of powered mixers have sufficient processing and FX for the kind of gigs you are talking about. In the alternative, a digital mixer racked with one of the new lightweight power amps is light and easy. But for a duo or trio acoustic situation I think the fastest setup and tear down is powered mixer plus passive speakers.
 

Yer Blues

Member
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8,846
I've gone back and forth on this...I eventually came to the realization that powered speakers require two wires (power as well as signal) plus an available plug or long extensions eherever you want to set them up. Passive speakers...one cable and go where you want them. Also, if the amp or the speaker in a powered speaker goes...you can't use the speaker alone, you are dead in the water.

Plenty of powered mixers have sufficient processing and FX for the kind of gigs you are talking about. In the alternative, a digital mixer racked with one of the new lightweight power amps is light and easy. But for a duo or trio acoustic situation I think the fastest setup and tear down is powered mixer plus passive speakers.
"If the amp or the sepaker in a powered sepaker goes...." is a common argument, but I think it goes both ways.

What if the power amp goes when you're using unpowered speakers? Then you've got no speakers at all. If one powered speaker goes you could limp through the gig with one or move one of the monitors to FOH duty.

What happens if you're using a powered mixer and it dies... then you've got no speakers at all? If a mixer dies with a powered speaker you could go direct to one speaker.

I think both have there positive/negatives, but I don't see one powered speaker going dead as any bigger an issue than one unpowered speaker going dead.
 

standard24

Senior Member
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9,079
For a coffee house/solo gig, 1 decent powered speaker should be enough. If you're covering a wide area, then two.

I never understood why people insist on using two speakers in a small, narrow room. (Not stereo).
 

hubberjub

Member
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4,598
I would go with the powered speakers because most powered mixers I see have fairly limited EQ sections.
 

swiveltung

Senior Member
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14,485
For solo /duo acoustic guitars etc, I've never heard anything better than the Bose system. It's amazing.
For bands
: I have been around the loop twice on this.
For smaller clubs etc I prefer powered amp... not powered speakers. Just an easier less complicated setup.
Powered mixer:
1 power cable near the amp head
speaker cables to monitors and mains. Monitors daisychained most often.
Powered speakers:
Power cables to the mixer and both main speakers. mains often need extension cord or long cord. Wires all over. Mic cables from mixer to mains.
Power amp for the monitors and patch cable from mixer to monitor amp.
OR
powered monitors each with a power cable having to run to it along the font of the stage.
This gets real complicated with a lot of cords etc.

So basically unless your mon's are powered, you need a whole power amp setup anyway plus the powered mains and mixer.

We do still have a powered mains (JBL) and expensive setup, but only use it for larger performances. Yeah the more complicated EQ on the expensive non powered mixer is cool, but really, once we set it... it doesn't change much. The Graphic EQ is no better than the powered mixer really either.... unless you buy one with a long scale of EQ bands...
If you have a sound man that is great, otherwise.. you need to concentrate on performance, not being a sound man.
 
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derekd

Silver Supporting Member
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44,325
The Bose L1 system immediately came to mind.

Portable, sounds good, made for that kind of application.
 

xjojox

Tardis-dwelling wanker
Messages
5,741
"If the amp or the sepaker in a powered sepaker goes...." is a common argument, but I think it goes both ways.

What if the power amp goes when you're using unpowered speakers? Then you've got no speakers at all. If one powered speaker goes you could limp through the gig with one or move one of the monitors to FOH duty.

What happens if you're using a powered mixer and it dies... then you've got no speakers at all? If a mixer dies with a powered speaker you could go direct to one speaker.

I think both have there positive/negatives, but I don't see one powered speaker going dead as any bigger an issue than one unpowered speaker going dead.
Very good points, and this was all part of my calculus. The trump card for me personally was needing access to power in three places (board, each speaker site) instead of one (board/amps with speaker cables to speaker sites).

Regarding the other points, all well taken. But power amps tend to fail more often than speakers in my experience, so I'd rather have a dead power amp and functional speakers than both gone. Also, it's not uncommon for one side of a power amp to go out, with another channel OK, even in a powered mixer. So you can limp thru a show with one side of a board or power amp out but by daisy chaining speakers you still get room coverage (I've done this more than once). But six of one, half a dozen of the other. Pros and cons either way.

If the whole board goes out, whether it's powered or not, you can be dead in the water either way, but you might be saved in a duo or trio situation by plugging directly into powered speakers if the models you use have a mini-mixer setup as many do nowadays, so there is another plus for powered speakers.
 

modulusman

Member
Messages
2,049
Typical PA rig for such gigs (solo/duo) is just a powered mixer and spkrs on poles.
You might run a monitor cab.
No need for compressor/ fx beyond simple rvb, nor a host of send/returns multiple eq's, bluetooth remote control or scads of digitally driven menu items.
You put the vocals and guitars and maybe some percussion or a guest player into the PA. 6 inputs is plenty.
Powered speakers are heavier, harder to place on poles, you need an AC power line PLUS a signal line for each one and add to the cost.
Really this is a cafe/foksinger sort of gig (as I understand it) and it should be doable with a variety of small rigs in any format.
You have obviously been living in a cave for the last decade or so. Todays powered speakers usually only weigh a few more pounds than their equivalent passive models. No way you will get a passive speaker to sound as good using a typical powered mixer.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
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34,039
^
I do think some of you are losing sight of the fact that this is to be a light duty, portable, lower cost, simple, system for a solo/duo act in small venues.
 

modulusman

Member
Messages
2,049
^
I do think some of you are losing sight of the fact that this is to be a light duty, portable, lower cost, simple, system for a solo/duo act in small venues.
Doesn't change the fact that a powered speaker will sound better than a passive similar model.
 






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