The Best Passive PA Speakers – Under $1000

passive pa speakers

Bolster your sound reinforcement with our expert-approved lineup of the best passive PA speakers. Our audio engineer details their plus factors, including sound quality, durability, and price.

Passive and Active speakers have their own quirks and advantages.

But unpowered speakers are, without a doubt, the most cost-effective, portable, and resilient option available.

However, they require an external amplifier to function correctly, so if you are unwilling to invest in a separate amp, this type of speaker is not for you.

Nonetheless, suppose you are someone who prefers the freedom of mixing and matching different amplifiers and speaker types. In that case, you will undoubtedly find Passive PA speakers a fantastic choice. The other alternative is to look for the best powered PA speakers.

Whether on the go or setting up a semi-permanent sound system, passive PA speakers offer reliability, flexibility, and audio performance.

When setting them up, you won’t have to worry about power outlets, which opens up your mounting option. This also means less electrical work, perfect for older venues where you wish to preserve the original walls, pillars, and floors.

Non-powered speakers are also lighter because of the absence of amplification circuitry. This makes them easier to incorporate in multi-speaker sound reinforcement setups. Additionally, many passive speakers can achieve higher SPL output thanks to their customizability, allowing bi-amplification.

The best passive speakers for live sound in the sub-$1000 price range are highlighted below. We’ve provided their specs, pros and cons, and other relevant information. If you already have an amplifier or a powered mixer and want to upgrade or purchase new speakers, this guide is for you.

If you’re searching for the best passive speakers for live sound under $1000, you’re in the right place. They are featured below, along with key specifications, pros and cons, and other relevant information.

The Best Passive PA Speakers

The Best Passive PA Speakers Under $500

Many people purchase passive speakers in this price range, so it is no surprise that competition gets intense in this price range. Manufacturers are constantly improving the quality of their products in this range. With a $1,000 budget, you can purchase two or more of these speakers and have enough money left over for accessories.

Yamaha BR12

94 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.
At publication time, this was the equal Highest Rated Passive PA Speaker Under $500, along with the JBL JRX215.


  • Carpet finish frays over time
  • Finish catches a lot of dust


  • Neutral sounding speakers
  • Great long-term durability
  • Heavy duty speaker handles
  • High quality materials and components

Yamaha is a reputable brand for speakers and pro audio gear, their Yamaha Club series was among their most popular.

Their proficiency in passive studio monitors extends to PA sound reinforcement with the Yamaha BR12.

The BR12 has a 1" Titanium compression driver for clear high frequencies even at higher volumes. It is perfect for reproducing the zing of an acoustic guitar, and the higher harmonics of an electric guitar, synthezier, and similar instruments.

As expected from Yamaha, it is solidly built. Yamaha's track record and the longevity of its famed NS10 speakers give a lot of confidence in its durability. The sound quality is best suited for small to medium venues that require a more upfront sound, particularly for voices. 

However, one downside is that the carpeted finish tends to fray over time with repeated handling, and it may collect dust in permanent installations. 

The Yamaha BR12 is currently the best passive speaker available for under $500, making it an excellent entry-level pick if you're looking for a neutral to midrange-focused passive speaker that sounds excellent for voices.


  • 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.


94 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.
JBL Professional
At publication time, this was the equal Highest Rated Passive PA Speaker Under $500, along with the Yamaha BR12.


  • Given its 15" speaker, it's quite bulky
  • Design might not fit some interiors aesthetically


  • Clean sound even when played loud
  • Peak capacity of 1000W gives great headroom
  • Handles low frequencies well
  • Dual-angle pole-mount socket

JBL is a renowned musical equipment brand founded in the late 1920s. Since its inception, the company has won several awards and is a popular choice, especially for JBL professional speakers. Among these, JBL concert speakers have gained a global reputation for exceptional performance.

The JRX215 is one of the latest additions to JBL's accessible and superior-performance speakers. It is an affordable passive speaker with a 15" woofer and 1" tweeter. Despite its low price, it has a good power handling capacity and can easily handle peaks of up to 1000W.

The JRX215's sound quality is exceptional, offering clean and detailed audio even when played at high volumes. Its low-end handling is particularly noteworthy, and it can handle most sounds without requiring additional sub-reinforcement. However, its design is not particularly attractive, and it may not complement some interior designs.

Overall, the JRX215 is an excellent budget speaker from a reputable manufacturer that should be considered when looking for a good 15" passive PA speaker.


  • 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.

Mackie C300z

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


  • Not meant for prolonged high-volume use


  • Rugged molded cabinets
  • Good audio fidelity
  • Clear and crisp sound

The Mackie C300z is a reliable passive PA speaker with a balanced combination of power and clarity. Its 12-inch woofer and 1.75-inch titanium diaphragm compression driver ensure a clean sound output, handling high and low frequencies well.

While Mackie is known for thumpy bass, the C300z has a more balanced sound with exceptional fidelity across the entire frequency spectrum. This allows vocals to shine while retaining a punchy bass response. This makes this speaker viable for various sound reinforcement scenarios.

For a speaker of its class, it has a broad dispersion pattern that ensures consistent sound coverage.

And even at higher volume levels, it still retains good sonic clarity. Don't set it on high volume levels for too long; it should be fine.

All its components are protected by a rugged molded cabinet that can endure the challenges of live applications. Its robust construction makes it a dependable choice for different venue types.

The Mackie C300z is a trustworthy option for those seeking a versatile and dependable passive PA speaker.


  • 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 ( dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 123 dB
  • Weight: 46 lbs.

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.


94 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.
JBL Professional
At publication time, this was the Highest Rated Passive PA Speaker Under $1000.


  • Bass can be too deep for some
  • Bulky and heavy


  • Deep Bass
  • Clean sound at mid to high volume levels
  • Can handle long high volume applications
  • Durable and tough build

The JBL name carries high expectations, but the PRX425 speaker lives up to its reputation. It is a robust and reliable passive speaker that provides excellent coverage. With two 15-inch woofers and a 1-inch polymer diaphragm compression driver, it is a 2-way speaker for professional use.

Despite being loud and powerful, the PRX425 produces a surprisingly articulate sound, even at high volumes. It is ideal for live performances, DJs, and sound reinforcement applications. Its two big 15" woofers produce a deep and robust low-end response, making it capable of punchy and thumping bass without subwoofers. However, be warned that the bass can get deep and may require EQ adjustments for those who prefer a flat response.

One of its strengths is its wide dispersion pattern and sound projection, which is impressive for a dual-woofer speaker in this size category. The PRX425 has a rugged enclosure that can withstand professional use and is built to last. However, its durability comes at the cost of bulk and weight, making it less than ideal for transport.

Overall, the JBL PRX425 is an outstanding workhorse PA speaker that is loud, robust, and reliable. Its stellar performance, impressive low-end response, and durability make it the ideal passive speaker for medium to large-sized venues.


  • 2 x 12" LF Driver
  • 1" HF Driver
  • Continuous Power: 1200W
  • Program Power: 2400W
  • Peak Power: Not specified
  • Sensitivity: 1W/1m: 100 dB
  • Impedance 4 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 48Hz - 19 kHz (-10 dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 134dB
  • Weight: 74 lbs.

Things To Consider When Buying Passive PA Speakers

Power Rating - Continuous (RMS), Program, and Peak

Getting a good passive pa speaker involves understanding the volume requirements of your venue. This entails understanding how much power is needed, and finding speakers that can meet the requirements.

The power rating specification applies to both active and passive speakers.

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 is overheating, which doesn't allow the speaker to take a break and cool down. Unless you are in an avant-garde pink noise outfit with pieces lasting hours, your music won't stress the speakers this hard. This is the specification to watch out for when looking for speakers for amps.

Manufacturers also list Program or Music Power, which almost always double the Continuous Power rating. This rating is for some versions of 'typical' music power loads with dynamic range and relative quiet periods, allowing the speakers to cool down.

Peak power refers to how much your speakers can produce for an 'instant,' which can cause a lot of heat and is the limit to which the speaker's diaphragm can safely move. The Peak power listed is nearly always double the music power and four times the Continuous Power. Keep this information in mind when comparing speakers from different brands. Many tend to use other total power measurements.

Matching with Amplifier Power Ratings

Passive speakers don't have built-in amplifiers, so they must be paired with a separate power amplifier. And the two devices have to match if you want your audio system to sound good.

It's safest to match the Continuous RMS Power with the output power of your amp. But you'll get better results with a more powerful amp. 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 with a continuous power rating of 500W, the optimal amplifier 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 your amp up too high, which can lead to a clipped/distorted signal rather like a square wave.

A clipped signal from your power amp is the worst signal for your speaker and can damage them even at lower power levels. Some even recommend an amp that goes all the way up to the Peak Power. On the other hand, some suggest that matching to Continuous RMS Power is the safest bet.

The main point is to ensure your connected power amplifier doesn't go into the red, whatever the power rating is. Connect your speaker with an amp with double the Continuous RMS rating for normal music loads. Using the correct speaker cableis also important for the reliable and safe operation of your amplifier and passive speaker.

To avoid this complexity, you are better off with a powered speaker. Although, you'll still have to consider this information if you plan to utilize the power speakers' output. You also need to be using compatible Speaker Connector Types to properly connect your speakers.

Also keep in mind that the typical PA system setup requires two speakers, while retailers are selling them as just one unit. Make sure your budget can afford the number of speakers that you need.

Impedance Matching

The typical load for speakers is 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 outcomes to work harder. This results in audio clipping or 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 sometimes only refers directly to how much sound they can produce. This is because speakers vary in their efficiency at making 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 helpful 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. To prevent unwanted noise and Crackling from Speakers, speakers have to be used at the proper sound levels.

Speaker Cone Size

Most top-rated passive speakers have either 12" or 15" woofers, with these two speaker sizes having a smooth frequency response that is considered the ideal for music PA systems. The general difference is that bigger 15" speakers offer more punch and low-end frequency response (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. Still, they may need to be more for bass-heavy music. If you have the budget, you can go for the best PA system setup, which combines small and big PA speakers, along with a sub woofer for higher headroom and good sound distribution across the different frequencies.

Also worth considering is the size of the tweeter, the presence of a midrange woofer, and the material used for the cone and tweeter. Given the loud volume of these speakers, they aren't meant to be used as passive bookshelf speakers for low-volume listening.

Weight, Portability, and Mounting

Since passive speakers have no amplifier components, they are generally lighter than the average powered speaker. This makes them ideal for use in a mobile speaker system. For easier setups, look for passive speakers compatible with stand, hang, and wall mounts. Other portability features to watch include handle location, size, and weight.

Remember that you'll probably be using a set of speakers, so you have to consider the space and power supply of more than one speaker. Having no active circuitry, passive speakers can't have modern features like Bluetooth. So, if you are looking for a wireless speaker, you'll have to go for an active speaker instead.

Best Passive PA Speaker Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on October 17, 2023.

For this edition, we developed a short list of 41 Passive PA speakers primarily used as main speakers for Front of House applications. The sources we took into account reached around 5,300. This 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 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 a speaker 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

I've worked with various sound installations and sound system providers. Passive setups are easier to maintain for large venues and houses of worship thanks to their ease of maintenance compared to active setups. Mounted speakers are easily serviced if any problems arise with a passive setup. On the other hand, active speakers have a lot of complicated circuitry that is more easily fixed if you take them to service centers. Passive speakers will not die out anytime soon, so do not fear investing in a passive setup if you feel it's a better fit for your purposes.


Jerry Borrilo: Product research
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating
Alexander Briones: Editing


Main/Top Image: By 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.

23 thoughts on “The Best Passive PA Speakers – Under $1000”

  1. 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..

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

      Can you provide a link to a Peavey product page?

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

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

    1. 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.

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

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