The Best Passive PA Speakers Under $1000

The Highest Rated Passive PA Speakers

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PA System Guides

We have a range of guides related to PA systems which you will find helpful:

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 October of 2019.

Compared to powered speakers which have amplifiers built-into their cabinets, passive speakers rely on an external amplifier for power which is supplied by either a stand alone power amp, or a powered mixing console.

The obvious downside to passive speakers is the need for extra equipment, but the upside is that they have fewer components making them lighter as well as generally more reliable and easier to maintain.

The Best Passive PA Speakers

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.

JBL JRX215

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$300
JRX215JBL JRX215 Passive PA Speaker

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.

Since its from JBL, you can be assured of quality and reliability that will give you years of good use.

Features:

  • 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.

Pros
As expected of JBL, sound quality gets the most commendations, with many describing it as clean and detailed. Some comment that it sounds good even when driven hard, with its low-end handling exceeding their expectations given its price. The JBL JRX215 continues to gather commendations from users who are happy with how good it performs at various events including concerts, church programs and band performances.

Cons
To get the price this low, JBL somewhat compromised on the cosmetics department, so don't expect much in terms of aesthetic appeal. Still, if you are after great sound as you should be, these are but minor gripes.

Overall
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.

Yamaha CBR15 1000W 15" Passive Speaker

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$375
Yamaha CBR15 1000W 15" Passive Speaker

Yamaha's reputation for quality permeates the entire music gear industry, and the loud speaker market is no exception. The CBR15 in particular is well received for the high value that it provides given its price.

It sports a 15" woofer and a 1.4" tweeter with a 500W RMS power handling and 96dB SPL sensitivity.

It is wrapped with a sturdy yet lightweight plastic cabinet that both protects the components and make the speaker relatively easier to setup and carry around.

Finally, Yamaha equipped the CBR15 with a tweeter protection circuit, for worry free use and longevity.

Features:

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 1.4" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 250W
  • Program Power: 500W
  • Peak Power: 1000W
  • Sensitivity: 1W/1m: 96 dB
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 46 Hz - 20 kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 126 dB
  • Weight: 38 lbs.

Pros
The CBR15 exemplifies why Yamaha is doing well, with its great balance of affordability, good specifications and reliable build quality. Good reports of this speaker working well as FOH speakers in various venues continue to pour in. There are also many musicians who utilize this speaker as their monitor. It also gets a lot of praise for its weight, with some describing it as a breeze to mount on to poles.

Cons
Those who prefer speakers with wood cabinets may want to look elsewhere and stretch their budgets. Other than that, not many complaints to write about.

Overall
If you're looking for a reliable and great value 15" passive speaker, then this is for you.

Mackie C300z

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$380
Mackie C300z Passive Loudspeaker 300-Watt 12" Woofer

At time of publication the Mackie C300z was the highest rated passive PA speaker Under $500.

Mackie continues to grow in prominence in the competitive entry level market, and they do so with their products' impressive quality and value. Case in point is the Mackie C300z, a popular passive pa speaker for small venues, which continues to best others in terms of actual customer ratings.

With its 12" woofer, 1.75" titanium tweeter and lower 300W RMS power handling, the C300z is meant to provide great sonic clarity at appropriate volumes fit for coffee shops, book stores, art galleries and the like.

It's also light which is great for mobile use, and can be suspended in case you want a more permanent position.

Features:

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 1.75" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 300W
  • Program Power: 500W
  • Peak Power: 750W
  • Sensitivity: (1W@1m) 98 dB
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 45Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 123dB
  • Weight: 46 lbs.

Pros
Reviews are replete of appreciation for its clear and detailed sound. Users who employ the C300z for both speaking engagements and band performances find it to be more than what they expected - and they gladly recommend it to others. It is also surprisingly loud for a 300W RMS rated speaker, some have even successfully used it as the main speakers for DJ gigs.

Cons
There are comments about lack of bottom end for some musical application. Some are concerned about the speaker's exterior, but majority agree that it should be sturdy enough for regular use as long as it is properly handled.

Overall
If you are looking for a pair of FOH speakers that can fill small venues with great sound, then the Mackie C300z is worth checking out.

Yamaha Club V Series S115V

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$390
Yamaha Club V Series S115V Passive Loudspeaker 15" 500W RMS

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.

Features:

  • 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.

Pros
Yamaha is known for the quality of their entry to mid-tier level equipment, and this applies to the S115V as attested to by its many positive ratings. Many find its volume and sound to be really good for the money. Longevity is also a common theme among its many positive reviews, some even report using the S115V for years without much issue, and praising it for its consistent and reliable performance.

Cons
There are a few who wish for more low end for use with more bass-heavy music. Another point of contention is how "old school" the speakers look, but it shouldn't be an issue unless you already have modern looking speakers to match it with.

Overall
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.

Best Passive PA Speakers from $500 to $1000

Interestingly, there aren't as many popular passive speakers in this price range, so we ended up with just two that we can confidently recommend. Based on our analysis, these are worthwhile investments that provide years of reliable use, mounting versatility, loudness and great sound.

JBL PRX425

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$749
JBL PRX425

At time of publication the JBL PRX425 was the highest rated passive PA speaker between $500 and $1000.

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 double the 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.

Features:

  • 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.

Pros
The common sentiment among reviewers is that this passive speaker can move plenty of air. And in addition to being loud, many are equally impressed with its clarity, even at high volume levels. Some users have successfully employed this speaker on multiple medium to big size venues, covering various events that include ceremonies, speaking engagements, bands and even bass-heavy DJ/Electronic dance music. The majority of reviewers are also very happy with the speaker's overall build quality and reliability.

Cons
There aren't really any complaints about the sound, but it's understandable that some users express concerns about the bulk and weight.

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

Electro-Voice ZX3-90

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$949
Electro-Voice ZX3-90 Passive PA Speaker 600W 12" Woofer

Incorporated on June 1, 1930, Electro-Voice has a long history of building professional quality music equipment. From professional artists like Stevie Wonder to hobbyists, many continue to support and recommend their products.

The ZX3 Series gets EV into this list with its combination of sonic versatility and positioning flexibility. While others only have LF and HF drivers, the ZX3-90 comes with a 2" voice coil driver that adds even more clarity, balance and realism to the resulting sound.

It can also be employed in various positions, thanks to its speaker stand ready design, along with anchor plates for single stud fittings.

Features:

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 2" MF Driver
  • 1" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 600W
  • Program Power: 1200W
  • Peak Power: 2400W
  • Sensitivity: (1W@1m) 97 dB (Axial)
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 48Hz - 20kHz (-10 dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 131dB
  • Weight: 43.7 lbs.

Pros
Most reviews are in agreement that the ZX3 has a very balanced and clear sound. But what really surprised most users is its light weight, especially when considering its 1200W Program power rating and 131 dB Max SPL. It also helps that the ZX3 has multi-mount compatibility, so you can have it on a stand, attach it to a wall or even the ceiling, or use its wedge shape to make it serve as a floor monitor when needed.

Cons
Not many complaints on this one, aside from a few that commented on the ZX3-90's relatively small size, still, they are surprised by how much volume it can produce.

Overall
If you're looking for a do-it-all type of passive speaker, and you have the budget for pro quality, then the Electro-Voice ZX3-90 may appeal to you.

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 you're 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 the Gearank scores.

  • Speaker Cone Size

    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

This guide was first published on April 28, 2016 and the latest major update was published on October 14, 2019.

For this 2019 update, we ended up increasing the total number of speakers we examined to 21. The sources we scrutinized also increased to over 2200, which included the most recent and relevant data from various reviews, ratings and forum discussions. Finally, all these data were processed by the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the scores that helped us further narrow down the list to just the very best. Like the previous iterations, the recommended list is divided into two price brackets for convenience. For more information about our processes see How Gearank Works.

Note that this guide is focused on the main PA speakers you use for the audience to hear your music, click here if you're specifically looking for stage monitors.

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 Gearank Database, then let us know in the comments below if you would like us to consider including it.

Comments

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!

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.

Thanks for the very helpful

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

I bought a 1000W Mackie Thump

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

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.

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.

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?

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