The Best Passive PA Speakers Under $1000

Passive PA Speakers

PA System Guides

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Passive PA Speakers are designed to work in conjunction with an external power amplifier - that might be a stand alone power amp or a powered mixing console. Since the amplifier is not included in the speaker cabinet, passive speakers are generally lighter, and are easy to maintain and troubleshoot. This setup also allows for easier expansion as long as you go within the limits of your amplifier.

The sub-$1000 price range features passive PA speakers that are ideal for small to medium sized venues of up to a few hundred people. The typical setup is to have these speakers in pairs, for proper left and right channel audio separation. If you have enough amplifier power, there's technically no limit on the number of speakers you can have in your PA system.

Methodology

This a follow up to our powered PA speakers guide, and this time we looked at all readily available unpowered PA speakers in the market. We then narrowed down the selection to the most popular and top rated, and fed the feedback from customers and expert reviewers into the Gearank algorithm, which produced the scores that you see below. The list is broken down into two price categories for convenience. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works. Note that this guide is focused on the main PA speakers you use for the audience to hear your music as opposed to stage monitors which you use to hear yourself on stage - we will cover those in a later guide.

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 so 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.

  • Speaker Loudness and Sound Pressure Level (SPL)

    The wattage ratings of PA speakers relates to how much power they use up and this does't always relate directly to how much sound they can produce. This is because speakers vary in their efficient at producing sound vs heat. The speaker efficiency rating is called Sensitivity which is 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 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.

  • 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 Cone Size

    The top rated passive speakers have either 12" or 15" woofers, which suggests that these two speaker sizes are the most ideal for most 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 most 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 Speakers from $500 to $1000

Interestingly, there aren't that many reviews for passive speakers in this price range, so we ended up with just three. Still these are worth while investments that provide reliable years of use, mounting versatility, loudness and great sound.

Click here to skip to the Under $500 section.

JBL PRX425

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$749
JBL PRX425 Passive Loudspeaker 1200W Dual 15" Woofer

JBL is easily one of the most familiar brands when it comes to speaker cabinets, and it's not surprising to find them topping this list with the JBL PRX425. This 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 it maybe pricey, the cost is justified by its 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
  • Impedance 4 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 55Hz - 19kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 134dB
  • Weight: 74 lbs.

Pros

The common sentiment among reviewers is that this passive speaker can move lots of air. And its not just about being loud, because the PRX425 many also mention its incredible clarity! Some users have successfully employed this speaker on multiple medium to big size venues, covering various events that include speaking engagements, bands and even bass-heavy DJ/Electronic dance music. 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 would be understandable that some users complain about its 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

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

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

Incorporated in 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 them 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
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 48Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 131dB
  • Weight: 43.65 lbs.

Pros

Most reviews are in agreement that the ZX3 has a very balanced and clear sound. Some also reported that for its size and power rating, this unit is surprisingly light, making it easier to transport. 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. Another plus in my opinion, is it's versatile wedge shape, which allows it to double as a floor monitor when needed.

Cons

Not many complaints on this one, aside from one that commented on the ZX3-90's relatively small size. Still, the reviewer was pleasantly 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.

Electro-Voice TX1152

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$849
Electro-Voice TX1152

The TX1152 gets the brand Electro-Voice a second spot in this list with its impressive clarity and low frequency handling. With its 15" LF Driver, this speaker is more than capable of handling heavy bass, while the 1.25" titanium compression driver ensures that you're not compromising top end. To be able to handle jolts of heavy bass, it has a high peak capacity of 2000W, and a max SPL (sound pressure level) of 133dB. Other nifty features include dent resistant grilles, four way handles and rotating logo.

Features:

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 1.25" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 500W
  • Program Power: 1000W
  • Peak Power: 2000W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 40Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 133dB
  • Weight: 68 lbs.

Pros

Mentioning that this speaker sounds really good and that it can get loud, is a common theme among the written reviews. There was one who even compared it to expensive QSC speakers and was more than satisfied with the result.

Cons

There were some who expressed concern over the bulk and weight of the speaker, along with the exposed side grilles which can be hit from time to time. They are however willing to look over these minor qualms for the overall performance of the TX1152.

Overall

If you're looking for more bass from your PA system and you are willing to invest, then this is your best bet.

The Best Passive PA Speakers Under $500

This is the price range where most people get their passive speakers from, and it's not surprising because this is where the competition gets really tough, which results in the ever improving quality of affordable workhorse passive loudspeakers. A $1000 budget could afford you two or more of these passive speakers, and some will even give you enough change for getting accessories.

Peavey PVX 15

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$270
Peavey PVx 15 - 15" Passive PA Speaker

Peavey is known for their expansive line of quality and affordable musical instruments and equipment. As a testament to this, you'll find their products often dominate the popular and top rated categories at many online retailers. The PVX 15 is a great example of their design strategy, an affordable yet full featured speaker. Sporting a 15" woofer and a 1.4" tweeter, it has surprising versatility and low-frequency capacity, comparable to other more expensive cabinets.

Features:

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 1.4" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 200W
  • Program Power: 400W
  • Peak Power: 800W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 57Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 126dB
  • Weight: 47 lbs.

Pros

Experts and majority of users alike agree that the PVX 15 is "pretty good for the money", and many are impressed with its sound and build quality which to them does not sound or look cheap. Users have reported using this speaker in various scenarios, from light music playback in a backyard party to full on DJ sets, and the speaker was able to handle them without much ado. Another positive trait that this speaker has that users are happy about is its versatile mounting design, which allows it to stand on a pole, suspend or get down on the floor as a stage monitor.

Cons

Some commented that this speaker is quite heavy, but they are thankful that the handles are well placed it can be carried more efficiently. There is also one who mentioned that the sound is more muffled compared to expensive powered speaker, but was in the end still happy with it for the price.

Overall

With its impressive value for money, the Peavey PVX 15 is highly recommended if you're not sure what to get and your budget is limited.

Yamaha Club V Series S115V

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ 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
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 55Hz - 16kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 129dB
  • Weight: 60 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 the many positive ratings that it received. Many are happy with its volume and sound, and the consensus is that you will get more than what you're paying for. In addition to build and sound quality, many of the reviewers have been using the S115V for years, and still they report of its consistent and reliable performance.

Cons

There are some who commented that low end can be lacking at times, especially when the speakers are pushed to output bass-heavy tunes. 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.

Mackie C300z

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$350
Mackie C300z Passive Loudspeaker 300-Watt 12" Woofer

Mackie is a relative new comer into the sound reinforcement scene, but they have continually been growing in prominence, especially in the cut-throat entry level market. Their C300z is a popular 12" speaker for small venues, with its 1.75" titanium tweeter and lower 300W RMS rating, which works together 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
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 45Hz - 22kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 123dB
  • Weight: 46 lbs.

Pros

Many positive reviews show how users love the speaker's clear and detailed sounds, with many of them using the speaker for both speaking engagements and band performances. And a scan of the many positive reviews it has will show that users love its crisp and clear sound, which works great for both talks and band performances. It is also surprisingly loud for a 300W RMS rated cabinet, as commented by one reviewer who successfully used them on his stadium DJ gig.

Cons

There are comments about lack of bottom end for some some musical applications, but they are satisfied with its performance for most musical applications. 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.

Behringer VS1520

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Behringer VS1520 Passive Loudspeaker 15" 150W

When it comes to entry level music related gear, Behringer is one the first brand names to come to mind. And it's not just about being cheap because the quality of their releases are getting better and better, while keeping their price ridiculously low. The Behringer VS1520 shows just how well they can balance cost with quality, being the cheapest in this list but with good features for small size venues having a 15" woofer, a 1.75" tweeter.

Features:

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 1.75" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 150W
  • Program Power: 300W
  • Peak Power: 600W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 50Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 123dB
  • Weight: 48.3 lbs.

Pros

Reviewers have mostly good words to say about this super affordable speaker. At just under $150, it's obvious what endeared it to many, its super low price tag, which gave them the best return for their money. For the price, it comes with a 15" woofer which can handle lows better, and a good sized tweeter that evens out the frequency spectrum. The exterior doesn't look cheap either, having a modern sleek appearance that many users liked.

Cons

With its low power rating, this speaker is not meant to be driven hard, but there are some reviewers who claim to have used it satisfactorily for bigger venues. Anyway, you can easily just setup multiple VS1520 speakers to cover more space, and still end up with spare change, compared to buying more expensive alternatives. Another reported cause of concern is the cabinet, which as expected of the price point may feel a tad bit weak.

Overall

There's just no other passive speaker in the market that gives you as much value for your money as the Behringer VS1520. If budget is limited then don't feel ashamed to opt for this practical yet reliable solution - because many others have bought it and felt happy with their purchase.

JBL PRX412M Passive

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
JBL PRX412M Passive PA Speaker - 600 Watt RMS

The JBL PRX412M is the company's third entry into this list, following the same design as the PRX425, but with less power and having only a single 12" LF Driver. This speaker can get really loud, compared to other passive speakers with similar cone size. It has a very high peak capacity of 1200W, and like other JBL PRX speakers, each one has to pass a rigorous test which subjects the speaker to 100 straight hours of high level input.

Features:

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 1" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 300W
  • Program Power: 600W
  • Peak Power: 1200W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 55Hz-19kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 126dB
  • Weight: 38 lbs.

Pros

Some reviewers use the word "Wonderful" to describe the PRX412M's clean sound and experts agree, while others are happy with the excellently built exterior. There are also some who are happy with its 38 lbs. weight, which is relatively lighter than others with similar specs.

Cons

There's really not many complaints about this speaker, but in my opinion, it would be nice if the price tag was more affordable so that more people could afford it.

Overall

If you're not expecting too much low frequency use, and you are looking for clarity and sonic details, then heed the experts and reviewers advice to invest on this speaker.

Behringer Eurolive B212XL

85
GEARANK

85 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$160
Behringer Eurolive B212XL Passive PA Speakers

Behringer's second entry into this list is another one of their affordable passive speakers, the Eurolive B212XL, this time having a 12" titanium LF Driver paired with a 1.75" HF Driver. This one has slightly more power than the VS1520, and features a more modern exterior design that's lightweight and can be positioned as a floor monitor. In this price point, there's really not much to expect in terms of volume and power, but you do expect sound clarity, of which Behringer surprisingly delivers beyond expectation.

Features:

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 1.75" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 200W
  • Program Power: 400W
  • Peak Power: 800W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 65Hz-18kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 95dB
  • Weight: 24 lbs.

Pros

It's incredibly low price is obviously an advantage, but add to that its sound quality and light weight, then you have a viable mobile speaker solution for small venues. Reviewers agree in saying that this speaker has incredible clarity and sonic details, to the point that some even use it for their home studios as main monitors. And many appreciate that it weighs just around half compared to other speakers, making it easy to mount, setup and take down.

Cons

Given the price point, there's really not much to complain about, aside from the usual - plasticky exterior and lack of power which some reviewers have mentioned. There are those who complained about lack of bass, specifically for DJ music, but this is really not the speaker for those types of uses.

Overall

This is a great entry level speaker for small venues and even bands to invest in when budget is limited. It can also be a good "filler" and backup speaker to carry around in case your main goes out during performance.

JBL JRX215

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
JRX215JBL JRX215 Passive PA Speaker

JBL secures another spot in this list with the JRX215, an affordable passive PA speaker System with 15" woofer and 1" tweeter. This passive speaker has good power handling for the price. It also has an impressive peak capacity of 1000W, more than capable of being driven hard. And 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
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 38Hz - 16kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 128dB
  • Weight: 61 lbs.

Pros

As expected of JBL, many reviewers and professionals say that this speaker sounds clean and detailed, and it does so even when driven hard. Some are simply much sound quality this speaker has, relative to its very reasonable price tag. The majority of customer reviews rated this speaker highly mentioning how good it performed at various events including concerts, church programs and band performances.

Cons

To get the price this low, JBL somewhat compromised on the cosmetics department, which had some reviewers complaining. Still, if you are after great sound as you should be, these are but minor gripes.

Overall

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

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.

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