The Best Passive PA Speakers Under $1000

The Highest Rated Passive PA Speakers

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Passive PA speakers still have a place in today's sound system setups. Despite the popularity of Powered PA speakers, passive speakers are still a viable option for permanent and semi-permanent installations because of their long term reliability, ease of maintenance and consistency.

Passive PA speakers are also lighter because of the absence of amplification circuitry on each speaker, making it a good choice for a sound reinforcement setup that needs multiple speakers. Many passive speakers are also capable of higher SPL output than active speakers, thanks to features like being bi-amplification ready.

Here we take a look at the best passive PA Speakers in the sub-$1000 price range, based on the most recent reviews and ratings up to late November 2022.

The Best Passive PA Speakers - 2022.11

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

The Best Passive PA Speakers Under $500

This is the price range where most people get their passive speakers from, so it's not surprising to know that this is where competition gets really tough - with manufacturers continually improving the quality of their products. A $1000 budget affords you two or more of these speakers, and some will even give you enough change for getting accessories.

Yamaha BR12

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$308
Yamaha BR12
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Passive PA Speaker Under $500.

Cons

  • Carpet finish frays over time with repeated handling - also catches a lot of dust

Pros

  • Neutral sounding speakers
  • Great long-term durability
  • Premium materials and components

Yamaha is a trusted brand for their speakers and pro audio gear. Given the legacy of their passive studio monitors, Yamaha carries over their expertise with passive speakers onto sound reinforcement with the Yamaha BR12.

The BR12 features a 1" Titanium compression driver for clarity even at higher volumes.

It's a solidly built speaker, as expected from Yamaha. given the track record and longevity of their famed NS10 speakers, their durability is something that puts a lot at ease. The sound quality works well for small to medium venues that require a more upfront sound especially for voices.

One downside that I want to point out is that the carpeted finish tends to fray over time especially with repeated handling. They also catch a lot of dust on more permanent installations.

If you're looking for a neutral to midrange focused passive speaker that sounds excellent for voices, the Yamaha BR12 is a great pick.

Specifications

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 1" Titanium compression driver
  • Program Power: 300W
  • Peak Power: 600W
  • Sensitivity: 97dB sensitivity
  • Impedance: 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 65Hz-20kHz
  • Weight: 35.2 lbs.

JBL JRX215

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$359
JRX215JBL JRX215 Passive PA Speaker

Cons

  • Design might not fit some interiors aesthetically

Pros

  • Clean sound even when played loud
  • Peak capacity of 1000W gives great headroom
  • Handles low frequencies well

JBL was already winning big awards a few years after it was founded in the late 1920s. And up to this day, they continue to be a household name when it comes to quality musical equipment, more specifically speakers.

The JRX215 follows after the company's legacy of accessibility and quality, it is an affordable passive speaker with a 15" woofer and 1" tweeter.

It has good power handling for the price and also sports an impressive peak capacity of 1000W, more than capable of being driven hard.

Sound quality is clean and detailed. It keeps clarity and composure even when driven hard. Its low-end handling is worth noting with all but the heaviest sounds needing additional sub reinforcement.

On a less performance-oriented note, the speakers aren't the best looking. If aesthetic doesn't bother you though, this won't be an issue but for those that factor in aesthetics, the JRX215 might not complement some interior designs.

This is a great budget speaker from a reputable manufacturer, which should be considered when you're looking for a good 15" passive PA speaker.

Specifications

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 1" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 250W
  • Program Power: 500W
  • Peak Power: 1000W
  • Sensitivity: 1W/1m: 99 dB
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 41 Hz - 18 kHz (-10 dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 129 dB
  • Weight: 60.5 lbs.

Peavey PV 215

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Peavey PV 215 1400W Dual Quasi 3-Way Passive PA Speaker

Cons

  • Low emphasis might not work well for some rooms.

Pros

  • High headroom
  • Punchy low end
  • Great build quality

The PV 215 is a passive speaker with two 15" woofers and a 1.4 inch titanium diaphragm tweeter. It is part of Peavey's "Performance & Value" (PV) series, which gives you more features per dollar.

It has two 15" woofers with 2-3/8" voice coils that work in conjunction with the RX14 compression driver via its built-in crossover.

This speaker is designed to handle 700 Watts program up to 1400 Watts peak, and is housed in a trapezoidal enclosure with carpet covered exterior and metal front grilles.

The Peavey PV 215 is a fairly uncommon mix of good performance and value, all packaged in a solid enclosure with great sound quality. A good indicator of quality is how the speaker handles being driven hard. The Peavey retains clarity with minimal distortion at higher volumes. The PV 215 is also tweaked to have a little more bass which is useful for installations that don't have the option of using subwoofers.

Given the bass emphasis, some spaces might actually negatively emphasize the lows, especially in rectangular rooms with a lot of standing waves.

The Peavey PV215 is a good value passive speaker that packs a lot of punch for the price. If you're looking for a bass-oriented speaker, the PV 215 is a good choice.

Specifications

  • 2 x 15" LF Driver
  • 1.4" HF Driver
  • Program Power: 700W
  • Peak Power: 1400W
  • Crossover: 2.6kHz
  • Impedance: 5 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 58Hz-17kHz (±3 dB, half space)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 123.5dB
  • Weight: 79 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Audiofanzine stompboxjon 80/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Best Passive PA Speakers from $500 to $1000

Based on our analysis, these are worthwhile investments that provide years of reliable use, mounting versatility, loudness and great sound.

Yamaha Club V Series S115V

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$580
Yamaha Club V Series S115V Passive Loudspeaker 15" 500W RMS

Cons

  • Lows might not be enough for bass-heavy genres

Pros

  • Amazing long term durability and reliability
  • Sound signature perfect for speech.
  • Retains a lot of detail

From bars, to clubs, to houses of worship, the Yamaha Club series has been used in all types of venues and settings through the years.

And on its 5th generation, Yamaha updated the design with larger enclosures, stronger grilles, improved drivers and more - to make them viable for the needs of modern stages while still retaining accessible price tags.

The S115V is included in this line up, and is easily one of the most popular and highly rated 15" passive speakers in the market today, thanks to its impressive specs on paper, which translates well in real world use.

Yamaha is known for the quality of their entry to mid-tier level equipment, and this applies to the S115V as well. The sound quality is in the middle of neutral and hi-fi with a little bit more treble sparkle for modern music and speech. Another plus is that the speakers are rugged and reliable; perfect for permanent installations.

The bass is a bit lean for some genres. While it means the low end stays tight, it does mean that you might need a sub to push more air on the lower frequencies.

This speaker is highly recommended for small to medium sized venues, specifically if you need speech clarity and the ability to handle full band performances in one unit.

Specifications

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 2" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 250W
  • Program Power: 500W
  • Peak Power: 1000W
  • Sensitivity: (1W@1m) 99 dB (On-Axis)
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 55Hz - 16kHz (-10 dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 129dB
  • Weight: 64.8 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Audiofanzine ericthegreat 80/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

JBL PRX425

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$959
JBL PRX425 Passive PA Speaker 1200W Dual 15" Woofers
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Passive PA Speaker Under $1000.

Cons

  • May be too heavy to be wall mounted

Pros

  • Great for larger venues
  • Retains midrange clarity even for the size
  • Very durable

JBL is easily one of the most familiar brands when it comes to speaker cabinets, so it's not surprising to find them taking a couple of slots in this list.

The JBL PRX425 speaker cabinet houses two 12" woofers (also called LF "Low Frequency" drivers) that provide increased volume and low-end while still retaining the balance and clarity expected of 12" speakers.

While they maybe pricey, the cost is justified by dual LF driver design and high power handling, allowing it to easily fill up mid-size venues without the need for subwoofers.

It also comes with SonicGuard technology which protects the HF driver from excessive power.

The challenge for larger speakers is retaining clarity. Bigger woofers mean bigger bass but also the excursion eats a bit at the clarity of the midrange. The PRX425 retains more of that midrange clarity that sometimes gets lost with low-tuned speakers

An important thing to remember is that it's a large speaker. Heavy duty mounting brackets have to be used when wall mounting but it would still be a lot safer when used on a stand.

All in all, this is a great value speaker for those looking for a cabinet that can handle mid to big size venues.

Specifications

  • 2 x 15" LF Drivers
  • 1" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 600W
  • Program Power: 1200W
  • Peak Power: 2400W
  • Sensitivity: (1W@1m) 100 dB
  • Impedance 4 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 48Hz - 19kHz (-10 dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 134dB
  • Weight: 74 lbs.

Things To Consider When Buying Passive PA Speakers

Power Rating - Continuous (RMS), Program and Peak

PA Speaker power ratings are most often listed values for Continuous (also often called RMS), Program (sometimes called Music) and Peak power. But what do these mean?

Continuous power refers to a worst case scenario where you are blasting the speaker with sound at all frequencies (pink noise to be specific) for hours and hours on end. The biggest problem with speakers tends to be overheating and this doesn't allow the speaker to take a break and cool down. Unless you are an avant garde pink noise outfit with pieces lasting hours your actual music won't stress the speakers this hard.

Manufacturers also list Program or Music Power which is just about always double the Continuous Power rating. This is the rating for some version of 'typical' music power loads where there is dynamic range and periods of relative quiet which allows the speakers to cool down.

Peak power refers to how much your speakers can produce for an 'instant' which can both cause a lot of heat and is the limit to which the diaphragm of the speaker can safely move. The Peak power listed is nearly always double the music power and four times the Continuous Power.

Matching with Amplifier Power Ratings

You'd think that matching up the Continuous RMS Power with the output power of your amp would be safest and best bet but it turns out that many recommend a more powerful amp than this rating. A typical recommendation is about double this level which as we've learned above is generally Program or Music Power. So if you have a passive speaker that has a continuous power rating of 500W, the optimal amplifier to use is one rated 1000W or close to that. The reasoning is that apart from getting the most out of your speakers for typical loads, you are less likely to turn you amp up too high which can lead to a clipped/distorted signal rather like a square wave. A clipped signal from you power amp is the worst kind of signal for your speaker and can damage them even at lower power levels. There are even those who recommend an amp that goes all the way up to the Peak Power. On the other hand some recommend that matching to Continuous RMS Power is the safest bet. From our research the main point is to make sure your power amplifier doesn't go into the red whatever the power rating and that using around double the Continuous RMS rating is appropriate for normal music loads.

Impedance Matching

The typical load for speakers are 4, 6 or 8 ohms (Ω). The safest route is to have an amplifier that matches the load (4 ohm amp output to 4 ohm speaker). Low impedance speakers cause amplifiers with high impedance outputs to work harder, which result in audio clipping or worse - faster heat build up that may damage your equipment. So pairing your speaker impedance properly is important to preserve your amplifier and speaker, and to have a clear sound.

Speaker Loudness and Sound Pressure Level (SPL)

The wattage ratings of PA speakers relate to how much power they use up and this doesn't always relate directly to how much sound they can produce. This is because speakers vary in their efficiency at producing sound vs heat. The speaker efficiency rating is called Sensitivity which is how loud in decibels (db) it will be 1 meter from the speakers with 1 watt of power. The overall maximum loudness of the speakers is the Maximum SPL which is also measured at 1 meter in front of the speaker. While this can be a useful comparison point, it's important to point out that this doesn't give you a consistent measure of what levels of clarity and precision there are at these high levels so apart from cranking the speakers and listening from a safe distance, the best method is to check what others have experienced using the speakers in real life situations. Fortunately for you this is what we've done and incorporated into our written analysis.

Speaker Cone Size

Most of the top rated passive speakers have either 12" or 15" woofers with these two speaker sizes considered the most ideal for music PA systems. The general difference is that bigger 15" speakers offer more punch and low end (although not as much as a subwoofer), at the cost of overwhelming some of the highs. They also tend to be more expensive and heavier. 12" speakers offer a more balanced sound for many applications, but may not be enough for bass-heavy music. Also worth considering is the size of the tweeter, the presence of a midrange woofer, and the type of material used for the cone and tweeter.

Weight, Portability and Mounting

Since there are no built-in amplifiers inside the cabinet, passive speakers are expected to be lighter. This makes them ideal for mobile productions that move from place to place. Other portability friendly features to watch out for include stand/hang compatibility, handle location, size, and of course the actual weight.

Best Passive PA Speaker Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on November 25, 2022.

For this edition, we came up with a short list of 39 Passive PA speakers that are primarily used as main speakers for Front of House applications. The sources we took into account reached over 5,000, which included the most recent and relevant data up to November of 2022, from various reviews, ratings and forum discussions. Finally, all these data were processed by the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the rating scores out of 100 that helped us further narrow down the list to just the very best. Like the previous editions, the recommended list is divided into two price brackets for convenience. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Passive PA Speaker Summary

If you feel there is a speaker which should be included above, first check to see if it's in our Music Gear Database, then let us know in the comments below if you would like us to consider including it.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

I've worked with various sound installations and sound system providers and from my experience, passive setups are easier to maintain for large venues and houses of worship thanks to their ease of maintenance compared to active setups. If any problems arise with a passive setup, mounted speakers are easily serviced. Active speakers on the other hand have a lot of complicated circuitry that isn't as easily fixed unless you take them to service centers. I don't think passive speakers will die out anytime soon so have no fear investing in a passive setup if you feel that it's a better fit for your purposes.

Contributors

Alexander Briones: Product research.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: By Gearank.com using photographs of the JBL PRX425, QSC E110 and Yamaha BR12.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

I believe the ZX3 comes with

I believe the ZX3 comes with 2" HF & a 12" LF, not a 1" HF, 2" Mid & 12" LF as stated.

Our November 2020 update

Our November 2020 update resulted in the following speaker coming off the recommended list above, but you can still see our analysis of it: Yamaha CBR15.

You have reviewed many Samson

You have reviewed many Samson Pro Equipment, but I have yet to see you review their PA Speakers, not those toys with questionable headroom designated as active speakers mind you, The passive ones, and at least the 15" 2 way ones..

Yes we have rated many Samson

Yes we have rated many Samson products (see them here).

We focus our analysis on gear that's available from retailers based in the USA.

Most of the US based music gear retailers don't sell Samson PA speakers, and those that do, like B&H, mainly sell Samson's powered speakers.

If Samson's passive PA speakers become more widely available in the US we will certainly provide ratings on them and consider including them in this guide.

I didn't realize they made

I didn't realize they were still making them - there are no SP 5 series speakers that I could find listed on the Peavey website here or here.

Can you provide a link to a Peavey product page?

Hey! I have an active15"

Hey! I have an active15" Electro-voice speaker (zlx 15p) that's very powerful and weighs 38 lbs. I don't understand why most of the speakers here weigh more, and some of them are only 12" woofers. Is there an explanation for that? I thought passive speakers were supposed to be lighter in comparison. Thanks!

The zlx is plastic, most of

The zlx is plastic, most of the speakers shown here are made of plywood.

What do you think of the

What do you think of the Rockville SPG15s? Have you tried them out? I've heard from so many reviewers that you can't get any better sound and punch than them for the price. They do also say it's too high highs, but it's fixed with some EQ though.

Rockville's passive speakers

Rockville's passive speakers haven't had high enough ratings for us to do any detailed analysis on them in the past. We will be re-examining this category within the next few months so maybe we'll have something to say about them then, but a quick look at the data suggests to me that they'll have a hard time getting better ratings than other brands.

I bought a 1000W Mackie Thump

I bought a 1000W Mackie Thump 12. Is that a decent loudspeaker for
singing in an outdoor environment?

Thanks for the very helpful

Thanks for the very helpful information. How do you rate the Behringer B215XL vs. B212XL?

You reviewed the Behringer

You reviewed the Behringer VS1520, but I am interested in the more robust B1520 Pro. Any info or comparison to these available?

The Behringer B1520 PRO was

The Behringer B1520 PRO was originally left out of this list because it wasn't immediately available or didn't have any customer reviews at several major online retailers.

I have just processed it to find its Gearank score and it came out equal to the VS1520 - you can see the Gearank score here.

Really informative! I haven't

Really informative! I haven't bought new speakers in ages, and you just saved me loads of research time. Thanks!