The Best Powered PA Speakers - Up to $1,500

Powered PA Speakers

Originally published on Jan. 13, 2016 and most recently updated on .

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Powered Speakers, also known as active speakers, are speaker systems with amplifiers built into their enclosures. This configuration allows manufacturers to better match the amplifier with the speaker, resulting in improved fidelity and versatility. This improved quality makes powered speakers more appealing to many musicians and sound engineers, even when considering the extra weight.

With so many viable speakers on the market, and many more being released, we have taken another look to see which ones are the current best powered PA speakers. In this update, we reorganized our recommendations into groups by LF (Low Frequency) driver sizes, because different sizes can be better suited to different use cases, you can read more about the effect of different LF driver sizes in the Things to Consider section.

Contents

The Best Powered PA Speakers

NB: We are presenting the Continuous Power ratings as the headline rating instead of Peak Power as used by some manufacturers because Continuous is more indicative of how they perform in most real-world situations.

The Highest Rated 8" LF Driver Speakers:

Because of their compact diameter, 8" LF Drivers (also called woofers) have limited low-end response. But in exchange they offer great middle and treble clarity. They can also be housed in smaller cabinets making many of them popular as stage monitors. These speakers are ideal for use with vocals, acoustic guitars, and other instruments that do not require a lot of bass.

Yamaha DXR8 8" 700W

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$550
Yamaha DXR8 Powered PA Speaker

With its 700W RMS (1100W Peak) amplifier, the Yamaha DXR8 can get really loud for its size. But it's not just about being loud, because the extra headroom allows for better reproduction of audio nuances and dynamics. What makes it even more appealing is how relatively light it is for what it can do, thanks to its lightweight Class D amplifier and ABS thermoplastic enclosure. This active speaker is equipped with an 8" woofer and a 1.4" tweeter, and features Yamaha's FIR-X tuning technology, which optimizes the combination of the two drivers. Finally, since it has a built-in mixer with dedicated level knobs for each of its three inputs, the Yamaha DXR8 can double as a portable PA system if the need arises.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 8" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.4"
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1100W (950W LF, 150W HF)
  • Output Power RMS: : 700W (600W LF, 100W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 57Hz - 20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 129dB
  • Crossover Frequency: FIR-X Tuning (Linear Phase FIR filter)
  • Enclosure: ABS Thermoplastic
  • Mounting: Pole, Fly
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Controls: Power Button, 3 x Level Knobs, Mic/Line Switch, D-Contour (FOH, Off, Monitor), HPF Switch (120Hz, 100Hz, Off), Mono/Stereo Switch, Front LED Switch
  • Dimensions: 11" x 18" x 11"
  • Weight: 29.8 lbs.

The Yamaha DXR8 is loved by many because of its good balance of sound quality and portability. Many are surprised at how loud it can be, while retaining the characteristic crisp sound provided for by smaller 8" speakers. It also helps that its build quality is top notch. Good reports continue to pour in from mobile DJs, musicians, sound technicians, event organizers, and even from those who simply want to listen to music at home.

As a testament to how good it is, there aren't any noteworthy complaints other than a few shipping issues, which are unrelated to the speaker's quality.

If you're looking for a compact powered PA speaker that can double as a portable PA system, then the Yamaha DXR8 is highly recommended.

QSC K8.2 1000W 8"

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$650
QSC K8.2 2000 Watt Powered PA Speaker

The K8.2 is part of QSC's updated line of K.2 series speakers, carrying over the same quality and standards as the popular original K series, with notable improvements. Changes include increased power to the LF driver (by taking some away from the HF driver where it's less needed), max SPL (Sound Pressure Level) and improved low-frequency extension, all of which add even more value to the original K8's design. To be specific, the K8.2's extended bass allows its smaller 8" LF driver to pump more bass, without compromising its midrange clarity. Another important feature of this speaker is its built-in DSP, which lets you customize or use built-in presets, for quick fine tuning to match venues and sound sources. Finally, the K8.2 is light and comes with a 3-input mixer that allows for portable PA system functionality.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 8" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.75" Titanium Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 2000W (1800W LF, 225W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 1000W (900W LF, 100W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 59 Hz - 20 kHz (-6dB) | 55 Hz - 20 kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 128dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 2kHz
  • Enclosure: ABS Thermoplastic with 18 AWG Steel Grille
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge, Flown
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line), 1 x 1/8" (aux stereo in)
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR (thru), 1 x XLR (mix out)
  • Controls: 3 x Gain Knobs, DSP Controls, Power Switch
  • Dimensions: 17.7" × 11" × 10.6"
  • Weight: 27 lbs.

The general sentiment is positive, with many users describing the speaker as great sounding and remarkable. Many are impressed with its clear midrange, including guitarists who use it in conjunction with modern guitar processors in place of a traditional guitar amp. It is also reported to work well for singers, speaking engagements and other events. DJs who pair the QSC K8.2 with a subwoofer have also found its performance to be exemplary.

There were a few who found the volume to be lacking, but it appears to have been used in big / open air venues in those cases.

With its quality and portability, the QSC K8.2 is very easy to recommend.

The Highest Rated 10" LF Driver Speakers:

Speakers with 10" woofers have more low-end than their 8" counterparts. They generally have enough volume to handle small venues, but may still be lacking bottom end for certain bass heavy musical styles. You'll find these speakers used in many small indoor venues.

Yamaha DXR10 700W 10"

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$600
Yamaha DXR10 Powered PA Speaker

The DXR10 sits in the sweetspot where portability, sound quality and power meets, carrying over the same features as the bigger DXR Series speakers from Yamaha, albeit with a smaller 10" woofer, compact cabinet frame, and lighter weight. Weighing in at just 32.2 lbs, the DXR10 is capable of pumping more low end than you'd expect for its size - showcasing Yamaha's impressive ability to provide market leading quality and features without jacking up the price tag. It comes equipped with a 700W (Continuous) amplifier and DSP FIR-X tuning technology for phase optimization. In addition, it also sports a built-in 3-channel mixer that makes it a viable samll PA system, complementing its portable profile.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 10" Cone, 2" Voice-Coil
  • HF Driver: 1.4" Throat Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1100W (950W LF, 150W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 700W (600W LF, 100W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 56Hz - 20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 131dB
  • Enclosure: ABS Thermoplastic
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge, Fly
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (Link)
  • Controls: Power Button, 3 x Level Knobs, Mic/Line Switch, D-Contour (FOH, Off, Monitor), HPF Switch (120Hz, 100Hz, Off), Mono/Stereo Switch
  • Dimensions: 19.75" × 12" × 12.25"
  • Weight: 32.2 lbs.

Warm and portable are two descriptive words that summarizes what the market feels about the Yamaha DXR10. Users from various musical backgrounds were impressed by its warm sound, including musicians who use this speaker in conjunction with their keyboards or electric guitar rig. In addition to sounding nice, many consider the weight to power ratio to be just right for mobile use.

There were a few users found the DXR10's bass to be lacking, but other than that, most users have nothing but good words for it.

If you are looking for a portable, reliable and great sounding 10" powered speaker, then check out the Yamaha DXR10.

Yamaha DBR10 325W 10"

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$400
Yamaha DBR10

The DBR series from Yamaha is designed to give us more options in the portable powered speaker market. And it looks like they hit the jackpot with the DBR10, because it continues to rake in positive reviews from DJs, musicians, sound engineers and many more. For a speaker with 10" woofer, the DBR10 is loud, but more importantly it is incredibly light for what it can do at just 23.2 lbs! This makes it ideal for performers who have to carry their own PA equipment. Interestingly, many of the features found in the more expensive DXR series are available in the DBR series, albeit with less output power. In particular, the DBR10 features Yamaha's DSP based FIR-X crossover tuning, D-Contour controls, and onboard mixer (2-channel).

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 10" Cone, 2" Voice Coil Ferrite Magnet
  • HF Driver: 1" Throat Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 700W (500W LF, 200W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 325W (260W LF, 65W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 55Hz-20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 129dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 2.1kHz
  • Enclosure: Plastic
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor, Wedge
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS Combo, 1 x Stereo
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Controls: Power Switch, 3 x Level Knobs, Mic/Line Switch, D-Contour (FOH, Off, Monitor), HPF Switch (120Hz, 100Hz, Off)
  • Dimensions: 19.4" x 12.1" x 11.4"
  • Weight: 23.2 lbs.

Many were impressed by how loud the DBR10 is, especially when considering its weight and size. Reviews report that it works great as Front of House loudspeaker for small to medium size venues. But it's not limited to just FOH duties, because musicians found it to be ideal for personal monitor use be it for amp modelers, electric drums, keyboards and more.

There were some who complained that the ABS plastic exterior is a not as scratch/ding resistant as they expected, but no consistent complaints other than that.

If you want nothing less than the best powered PA speaker in the sub $500 price range, then get the Yamaha DBR10.

The Highest Rated 12" LF Driver Speakers:

If you're looking for more low-end punch, then this is the section that you should look into. 12" woofers are preferred by many for their balanced overall sound, they are widely used in cafes, bars, gardens, and even places of worship. They are a bit bulky, but are still reasonably portable.

Yamaha DXR12 700W 12"

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$700
Yamaha DXR12 Powered PA Speaker

The Yamaha DXR12 is the bigger sibling of the DXR8, featuring the same amplifier section, controls and input/output selection, with the main difference being its bigger 12" woofer. Consequently, the enclosure is bigger and the overall weight is a bit heavier, which results in a slightly more emphasized bottom end when compared with its smaller sibling. The same Class D amplifier is used, along with Yamaha's DSP FIR-X tuning technology which dynamically optimizes the time alignment between the tweeter and the woofer. Other features include a built-in 3-channel mixer, D-Contour and HPF switching.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 12" Cone, 2.5" Voice-Coil
  • HF Driver: 1.4" Throat Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1100W (950W LF, 150W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 700W (600W LF, 100W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 52Hz - 20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 132dB
  • Enclosure: ABS Thermoplastic
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge, Fly
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (Link)
  • Controls: Power Button, 3 x Level Knobs, Mic/Line Switch, D-Contour (FOH, Off, Monitor), HPF Switch (120Hz, 100Hz, Off), Mono/Stereo Switch
  • Dimensions: 23.5" × 14.25" × 13.75"
  • Weight: 42.5 lbs.

Market sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, with users and experts alike giving the DXR12 top marks for its great balance of quality and value for money. A good number of musicians pointed to its clarity, even at high volumes, as its best trait. Durability and the flexibility of having 3 channels also made this an easy pick for musicians who are looking for an all-in-one powered speaker solution.

There were a few that wished for better handle positioning, while others cautioned that the DXR12 is quite heavy. On the plus side, there are no notable complaints about Yamaha DXR12's sound and build quality.

Check out the Yamaha DXR12 if you are in the market for a reliable and good value 12" powered speaker.

Electro-Voice ZLX-12P 500W 12"

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
Electro-Voice ZLX-12P 12" Powered PA Speaker - 1000W

The most noteworthy feature of the Electro-Voice ZLX-12P is its versatile built-in DSP, which lets you tune your speaker for different applications via manual EQ or by using Mode and Location presets. It also has a built in DSP limiter and crossover presets for better pairing with subwoofers. This digital brain controls the ZLX-12P's hardware components which include a 500W (Continuous RMS) amplifier, a 12" woofer and a 1.5" titanium compression driver, all of which work together to provide a versatile solution for various venues and events. Max SPL is 126dB, so these speakers are not meant to handle bigger venues by themselves.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 12" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.5" Titanium Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1000W
  • Output Power Continuous: : 500W RMS
  • Frequency Response: 65Hz - 18kHz (-6dB)
  • Frequency Range: 50Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 126dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 1.7kHz
  • Enclosure: Polypropylene
  • Mounting: Pole
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo, 1 x 1/8" (aux in)
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Controls: 3-band EQ, limiter, Mode and Location presets, Crossover presets
  • Dimensions: 24" × 14" × 14"
  • Weight: 34.3 lbs.

From FOH tops for small venues, to floor monitors for bigger ones, many consider the ZLX-12P to be flexible and reliable. Even those who were skeptical found themselves liking the performance of this speaker after giving it a try. Its clear sound and solid build were well received, a true workhorse loudspeaker that's budget friendly.

There were a few who recommend careful handling because that the exterior is easy to scratch. While this speaker is a bit heavy at 34.3 lbs, it still is not the heaviest among other 12" active speakers.

If you're looking for a great bang per buck powered speaker that can handle different venues then do check out the Elevtro-Voice ZLX-12P.

QSC K12.2 1000W 12"

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$800
QSC K12.2 2000-Watt 12" Powered PA Speaker

The loudest member of the QSC K.2 Series is a tad bit louder than its predecessor, with a max SPL of 132 dB. Other K.2 Series changes apply, including improved power distribution efficiency, better DSP controls via LCD, user adjustable crossover, and improved floor wedge angle. This means that the well received K12 just got better, while carrying over the same top notch build and sound quality that people have come to expect from its predecessor. With its 12" woofer, you can expect a fuller sound with more low end, but it is still compatible with sub-woofers, thanks to its user adjustable crossover frequency.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 12" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.4" Titanium Diaphragm Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 2000W (1800W LF, 225W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 1000W (900W LF, 100W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 50 Hz - 20 kHz(-6dB) | 45 Hz - 20 kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 132dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 2kHz
  • Enclosure: ABS Thermoplastic
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge, Fly
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic/line), 1 x 1/8" (aux stereo in)
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR (thru), 1 x XLR (mix out)
  • Controls: 3 x Gain Knobs, DSP Controls, Power Switch
  • Dimensions: 23.7" × 14" × 14"
  • Weight: 41 lbs.

One user aptly put it, "QSC has outdone themselves" with the K12.2. Reviews are full of commendations from users who are impressed with its overall performance. With many reporting that it works well with mobile DJ setups, full band setups, conferences, weddings and other events. Its solid build also got a lot of thumbs up from experienced users who are very happy with how solid and durable the K12.2 feels.

Of the few complaints it currently has, nothing stands out, other than a few comments from those who find the price to be a bit steep.

If you're looking for QSC's clarity and punch, and you want one with more bass, then get the QSC K12.2.

A Good Budget Option for 12" LF Driver Speakers:

Behringer Eurolive B112D 12"

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$250
Behringer Eurolive B112D 1000 watt Powered PA Speaker

The Eurolive B112D is a testament to Behringer's improving quality and continued popularity, convincing even critics that affordable doesn't always mean compromised quality. This speaker features a 12" woofer and a 1.35" tweeter, bi-amped by the 1000W (Peak) built-in amplifier, and everything is crammed into a light but sturdy plastic enclosure. Other features include 2-band EQ control, integrated DSP for speaker protection, and integrated mixer. Compatibility with Behringer's Ultralink ULM wireless systems add to the already good value for money that this speaker brings to the table.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 12" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.35" Aluminum Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1000W (700W LF, 300W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: Not Specified*
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 127dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 2.8kHz
  • Enclosure: Plastic
  • Mounting: Pole
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS Combo
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Controls: Power Switch, Input 1 & 2 Knobs, High and Low EQ Knobs, Wireless Compatibility.
  • Dimensions: 22.4" × 13.4" × 10.6"
  • Weight: 27.1 lbs.

* Behringer are yet to respond to our request for information.

Reviews are consistent in saying that this speaker sounds really excellent, especially for the price. Some even report that they've been using it for many regular gigs without fail. While there are still a few who say that quality still needs improvement, they are now vastly outnumbered by positive reviews from musicians, DJs and other users.

Weighing in at just 27.1 lbs, this powered speaker is easy to carry around, but there are some concerns over its durability. Still this is something that proper handling should be able to address, and its not like these speakers will easily break, because some reviewers have used them for years without fail.

If you're looking for a budget friendly 12" powered speaker for your instrument or for your PA, the B112D is the way to go.

The Highest Rated 15" LF Driver Speakers Under $1,000:

15" speakers have the most low-end, with the obvious drawback of being bulky and heavy. These are mostly used in bigger venues, preferred by DJs and event organizers who are looking for speakers that can handle low-end thump. Rock bands who are looking for a fuller sound when performing live will also appreciate the punchy bass that these speakers provide.

Yamaha DXR15 700W 15"

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$800
Yamaha DXR15 Powered PA Speaker 15" - 700W

Yamaha's reputation for quality and value for money is applied to most, if not all, their products, including their active PA speakers which continue to dominate the market. The top rated Yamaha DXR15 powered showcases why Yamaha continues to be at the forefront - combining good features with impeccable quality, while retaining an appealing price tag. As the name implies, this one houses a bigger 15" woofer, which allows for more bottom end emphasis. The woofer is paired with a 1.4" high frequency driver, and both are powered by 700W (Continuous) Bi-Amp configured amplifier. The DXR15 can go up to 133dB SPL, which is louder than others in the same price range. And since it can be positioned on the floor or on stands, this loud PA speaker is easy to add into existing setups. It also comes with a 3-channel mixer, which makes it a viable portable PA system by itself, handling up to three instruments/mics. Note that the DXR15 is quite heavy at 49.6 lbs, so you'll want to look for something smaller if you want something that's easier to move around.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 15" Cone, 2.5" Voice-Coil
  • HF Driver: 1.4" Throat Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1100W (950W LF, 150W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 700W (600W LF, 100W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 49Hz - 20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 133dB
  • Enclosure: ABS Thermoplastic
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge, Fly
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (Link)
  • Controls: Power Button, 3 x Level Knobs, Mic/Line Switch, D-Contour (FOH, Off, Monitor), HPF Switch (120Hz, 100Hz, Off), Mono/Stereo Switch
  • Dimensions: 27.5" × 17.5" × 15"
  • Weight: 49.56 lbs.

DJs, Electronic musicians and even bands find the DXR15's expanded low frequency to be more than satisfactory. The clarity of its low end, even when driven hard, exceeded the expectations of many. Almost all reviewers agree that this speaker is really loud, allowing some bands and DJs to perform without the need for a dedicated subwoofer.

There's not much to complain about other than it's expected bulk and weight, and this is reflected in a few reviews.

If you're looking for a versatile powered speaker with more volume and bottom end, the Yamaha DXR15 is your best pick.

Yamaha DSR115 1300W 15"

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1000
Yamaha DSR115

The Yamaha DSR115 is a powered active speaker that's meant to handle bigger venues with its 1500W (Dynamic) power rating, 15" woofer and 2" tweeter. And since it has big woofers, it can reproduce deep low-end frequencies without any problems, and you don't have to worry about overloading the speaker because it comes with built-in DSP limiter. Speaking of DSP, it comes with Yamaha's D-Contour technology, which constantly monitors and adjusts frequencies for optimal sound quality. This allows the DSR115 to sound good regardless of volume level. Finally, it is housed in coated wood enclosure, which provides solid protection, at the cost of being quite heavy.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 15" Cone, 3" Voice-Coil
  • HF Driver: 2" Titanium Diaphragm Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Dynamic: 1500W (1080W LF, 480W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 1300W (850W LF, 450W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 45Hz - 20kHz (-10dB) | 55Hz - 18kHz (-3dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 136dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 1.7kHz
  • Enclosure: Line-X Coated Wood
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Controls: LEVEL control, MIC/LINE switch, HPF switch, D-CONTOUR switch, FRONT LED DISABLE switch, POWER switch
  • Dimensions: 29.75" × 16.6" × 17.4"
  • Weight: 61 lbs.

Excellent and awesome are just two of the many positive adjectives that have been used to describe the Yamaha DSR115. Most of its high ratings are attributed to its low-end punch and overall volume, while others also appreciate its clarity. Reliability is also one of its strong points, as attested to by users who reported using the speakers for extended periods without any problems.

Aside from its expected bulk and weight, we didn't find any stand-out concerns that should be mentioned here.

All in all, the Yamaha DSR115 is a true workhorse powered PA system, ideal for use in medium to big venues.

A Good Budget Option for 15" LF Driver Speakers

Electro-Voice ZLX-15P 500W 15"

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$499
Electro-Voice ZLX-15P Powered PA Speaker - 1000W

The Electro-Voice ZLX-15P gives you quality sound reinforcement with more oomph at a reasonable price point. Priced at $100 more than the 12" model, the extra cost is justified by its extended low end, thanks to its 15" woofer. This bigger woofer is paired with the same 1.5" high frequency titanium compression driver and 500 Watt (Continuous RMS) Bi-amplifier. Combining all the features together makes for a bulky and heavy speaker at 42 lbs, but it is an expected inconvenience that many DJs and electronic musicians are willing to accept. The same DSP features are available, including mode and location presets, limiter and built-in EQ.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 15" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.5" Titanium Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1000W
  • Output Power Continuous: : 500W RMS
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz - 18kHz (-6dB)
  • Frequency Range: 42Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 127dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 1.7kHz
  • Enclosure: Polypropylene
  • Mounting: Pole
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo, 1 x 1/8" (aux in)
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Controls: 3-band EQ, Limiter, Mode and Location Presets, Crossover Presets
  • Dimensions: 27" × 17" × 15"
  • Weight: 38 lbs.

More and more users add to the ZLX-15P's ever growing list of satisfied customers, most of them stating that it is a great value loud speaker, especially for those who need more bottom end, without having to resort to a subwoofer. And it's not just DJs and EDM musicians, because it also got a lot of thumbs up from bands and singing groups.

One of the few concerns about this speaker is its lack of output volume (max SPL of just 127dB), especially when considering its size. Ironically, a some commented that the limiter is protecting the speaker too much, resulting in actual output reduction at times.

If you're looking for an affordable speaker that reproduces good low end for small venues, then you'll want to consider this one.

The Highest Rated 15" LF Driver Speakers From $1,000 to $1,500:

These are premium 15" speakers meant for medium to big venue use. Check these out if you want to get the best of what this price range has to offer.

QSC KW153 1000W 15"

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1440
QSC KW153 3-way 1000W 15" Powered PA Speaker

More QSC Speakers flood into this list, one of which, the QSC KW153 even gets the highest rating among all the speakers in the sub $1500 at the time of publishing. And it's not surprising because this three way powered loudspeaker can get really low and loud, while still retaining the sound quality expected from QSC. It features a 1000W (Continuous RMS) amplifier that drives a 15" LF driver, a 6.6" MF (Middle Frequency) Driver and a 1.75" tweeter, all of which converge nicely thanks to combination of great DSP and projection. Being big and loud has its obvious drawbacks, which is its bulk and weight, but this is to be expected when you're looking for more volume or a more permanent installation.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 15" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.75" Titanium Diaphragm Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 2000W (1000W LF, 1000W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 1000W (500W LF, 500W MF/HF)
  • Frequency Response: 35 Hz – 18 kHz (-6dB) | 33 Hz – 20 kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 134dB
  • Crossover Frequency: DSP Controlled
  • Enclosure: 15mm Painted Birch Plywood
  • Mounting: Pole, Fly
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR/TRS Combo (Line), 1 x XLR/TRS Combo (Mic/Line), 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (Line), 2 x XLR (Direct)
  • Controls: Power, Gain A & B, Input Gain (0 dB / 12 dB / 24 dB / 36 dB), LF Mode (Ext Sub /Norm/DEEP), HF Mode (Flat/ Vocal Boost), Front LED (On /Off/Limit)
  • Dimensions: 43.1" × 18.5" × 16.8"
  • Weight: 87 lbs.

Market response to the QSC KW153 is overwhelmingly positive, pointing to its sound quality and reliability as its stand out features. Users from various backgrounds chimed in with their commendations, including professional musicians, DJs, event organizers, sound technicians and more. There was one who even commended this speaker for being good at reproducing classical style music, a testament to its clarity and incredible sonic detail.

There really aren't any repeating complaints about this speaker, aside from a few who experienced shipping issues.

If you're looking for the highest rated powered PA speaker that you can buy for less than $1500, then get the QSC KW153.

QSC KW152 1000W 15"

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1200
QSC KW152

The QSC KW152 carries over most of the same features of its bigger sibling, the KW153, but with a two-way configuration and a smaller profile with no MF (Middle Frequency) driver. With its 15" woofer, you get extended low end that can handle most musical applications, while the 1000W (Continuous RMS) amplifier is more than enough to handle medium to big size venues.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 15" Cone
  • MF Driver: 6.5" Cone
  • HF Driver: 1.75" Titanium Diaphragm Compression
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 2000W (1000W LF, 1000W HF)
  • Output Power Continuous: : 1000W (500W LF, 500W HF)
  • Frequency Response: 47 Hz – 18 kHz (-6dB) | 44 Hz – 20 kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 133dB
  • Crossover Frequency: DSP Controlled
  • Enclosure: 15mm Painted Birch Plywood
  • Mounting: Pole, Fly
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR/TRS Combo (Line), 1 x XLR/TRS Combo (Mic/Line), 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (Line), 2 x XLR (Direct)
  • Controls: Power, Gain A & B, Input Gain (0 dB / 12 dB / 24 dB / 36 dB), LF Mode (Ext Sub /Norm/DEEP), HF Mode (Flat/ Vocal Boost), Front LED (On /Off/Limit)
  • Dimensions: 32.1" × 17.5" × 15.2"
  • Weight: 64 lbs.

Coverage and sound quality are two of the most prominently commended traits of the QSC KW152. Many are simply amazed at how its low end does not muddy the sound, while others are happy with how a pair of KW152s can fill venues of different sizes. Ease of use is also mentioned by users who were surprised at how easy it is to make the speaker sound good. There are a number of keyboardists who use this speaker as their keyboard amp, and they are very happy with its performance.

There was one user who commented that the dispersion angle is a bit narrow, but this will not be much of an issue with proper positioning and venue planning.

If you're looking for a powerful 2-way powered speaker that's a bit more portable than the KW153, then get this one.

The Highest Rated Line Array System:

Bose F1 Model 812 1000W Line Array Speaker System

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$1199
Bose F1 Model 812 Flexible Array Loudspeaker

Line array speakers are becoming more and more in demand, case in point is the popularity of the Bose F1 Model 812. Instead of the usual 2-way or 3-way configurations, this speaker features 8 x 2.25" speaker cones that are vertically aligned, tasked to reproduce the middle and higher frequencies. At the back of this array is a 12" woofer that complements the sound of the array. Another standout feature of the F1 Model 812 is its multi-pattern array structure, its lets you adjust the structure of the array to better match the position of your audience. The speaker's built-in DSP also helps make the necessary EQ adjustments to complement the changes. All of this add up to a improved flexibility when it comes to where you will put the speaker.

Specifications:

  • LF Driver: 1 x 12" Cone
  • MF/HF Drivers: 8 x 2.25” Cones
  • Amplifier: Bi-amplified Class D
  • Output Power Peak: 1000W
  • Output Power Continuous: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 52 Hz - 16 kHz (-3dB) | 43 Hz - 20 kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 132dB
  • Crossover Frequency: 600Hz
  • Enclosure: Composite Material with Adjustable Array
  • Mounting: Pole, Fly
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR/TRS Combo, 1 x stereo RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Controls: Power, Volume (Channel 1 & 2), EQ, Front LED
  • Dimensions: 26.1" × 13.1" × 14.6"
  • Weight: 44.5 lbs.

Market outlook for the Bose F1 Model 812 is convincingly positive, with many reporting being blown away by its clarity, flexibility and easy implementation. It continues to receive five star ratings from vocalists, event hosts, DJs, acoustic guitarists, keyboardists, other musicians, and many more. Some have even reported getting great results in outdoor venues, praising the speaker for its clear and full sound.

There are no standout concerns about the speaker, just note that the downside to its array structure and multiple speaker design is that it has a number of moving parts - which means more chances of having problems in the long term. So like all electronic devices, proper handling and storage is imperative to avoid any issues.

Get the Bose F1 Model 812 if you're looking for a versatile premium quality powered PA speaker.

Things To Consider When Buying Powered PA Speakers

  • LF Driver / Speaker Cone Size

    The speaker cone size refers to the size of the LF (Low Frequency) Driver. Ideally, smaller woofers tend to emphasize the mids, while bigger ones offer more bass. Compact 8" loudspeakers work particularly well with sound sources that are not bass heavy, like vocals and guitars. As you add more bass heavy instruments into the signal chain, like keyboards, bass guitars and drums, you'll need bigger speaker sizes. 10" to 12" should be enough for most small group/band settings. On the other hand DJs and Electronic Music enthusiasts prefer bigger 15" speakers for the extra low end they provide. If you are looking for more low end, you can consider getting a PA subwoofer or two.

  • Output Power Rating and Max SPL

    Since powered speakers have built-in amplifiers, you don't have to worry about properly matching the speaker to the amp like you would if you opted for passive speakers. So what we have to focus on is output power, which is a numerical representation of the speaker's headroom and projection. There are two types of power output ratings that are commonly listed by manufacturers and retailers: Continuous (RMS) and Peak (Dynamic). Continuous (sometimes interchanged with RMS) is the better representation of how powerful a speaker really is, because it specifies the wattage in which it can operate safely for long periods. Peak (sometimes interchanged with Dynamic) refers to volume/power bursts that speakers can handle, it points to the upper limit of what speakers can do and as such is not a good standard to use. 200 to 500 Watts of Continuous power should be enough for most small venues, while upwards of 500W are meant for medium to large size venues.

    Max SPL (Sound Pressure Level) is also an important factor to consider when it comes matching speakers with venue size. The general rule is that higher the max SPL rating, the more space is covered by the speaker. Note that you can implement multiple speakers in strategic positions for covering larger venues.

  • Portability

    The built-in amplifier found inside powered speakers add weight and some bulk, as such they are generally heavier than passive speakers. So it's important to consider weight and portability features, especially when you change venues regularly. Important features like handle location and size should be taken into consideration, you don't want to end up buying a great sounding speaker that you can't carry around, or you can't fit inside your vehicle.

  • DSP, Limiter and EQ

    Many powered speakers come with built-in DSP (Digital Signal Processors), and that provides various advantages that include smart limiters to protect the speaker from overload/clipping. Some even use DSP to tweak the sound to match the acoustics of rooms, allowing for more versatile placements. While it's better to do EQ adjustments on the mixing console, making adjustments at the speakers can be handy in certain situations and venues.

  • Built-in Mixer

    Some powered speakers can handle two or more inputs and have dedicated gain/volume controls, much like a mixer. These speakers can double as a standalone mobile PA system for solo performers and singer songwriters who play in smaller venues.

  • Reliability

    The more components a device has, the risks of having problems increases, and in that sense, Passive speakers are more durable. Still, modern build quality continues to improve, so much so that reliability is not much of a concern when it comes to powered speakers. Still, regardless of how solid the exterior is, there's no substitute for careful handling and transport.

Best Powered PA Speaker Selection Methodology

We looked at top rated powered PA Speakers that are available from major US retailers. At first we limited our scope within the $1000 price range, but we decided to include those up to $1,500 as a result of feedback from our readers. This resulted in expanding our database from 40 to over 60 powered PA speakers, which meant gathering over 7,300 reviews, ratings and recommendations, and processing all of them via the Gearank Algorithm. We then used the resulting scores to rank them based on their LF driver speaker cone size, and only the highest rated of them are featured in our recommended list. As always, we've included detailed descriptions and specifications for each powered speaker, along with their strengths and weaknesses as reported by actual users. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

Powered PA Speaker Summary

If you feel there is a speaker that we should be recommending above, first check to see if it's in our Music Gear Database, then if you can't find it there, let us know in the comments below that you would like us to consider including it.

Comments

Found your article/review

Found your article/review while searching for a compact PA system. The Turbosounds intrigued me greatly. I am now really considering the iP2000 Array system. Have any thoughts on that particular series? Thanks.

Hi Xela - we haven't rated

Hi Xela - we haven't rated the Turbosound iNSPIRE iP2000 yet but the category of compact PA systems is on the list of topics we're considering covering so thanks for letting us know about your interest.

Sorry did a typo, it's the

Sorry did a typo, it's the TurboSound IQ8/IQ10/IQ12/IQ15 powered speakers that I'm interested in.

No problem - I wanted to

No problem - I wanted to process the Gearank scores for both the iQ and iX series so you got them both anyway!

Hi EP - thanks for asking

Hi EP - thanks for asking about them because we did examine the DXR range and included the 15" version in the guide above, but it appears we forgot to add the rest of them to our public database.

I've just added them and updated their Gearank scores. The 8" version still isn't as popular or as highly rated as the others, but both the 10" and 12" versions have increased their Gearank scores to 95.

You can now see the full Yamaha DXR range here in our Music Gear Database.

Seriously, Bose?

Seriously, Bose?

While the guide was looking good, and having used many of the speakers here especially the QSC's with awesome results. The inclusion of Bose here destroyed your credibility. Most of us in pro audio know that Bose is a marketing company that makes lousy speakers, and decent headphones and clock radios.

This is another prime example of their bogus "Better sound through research" marketing. The point of line arrays is that they cut the inverse square law of signal decay as you move away from the speaker in half truly "Throwing farther". However the requirement for that to work is the length of the array. In an array that in this case is 26" long is going to have the 1/2 inverse square law decay rate from about 512Hz to 20KHz, but a full inverse square law decay rate from 512Hz down to the low cutoff of the woofer.

So what does that mean? If you EQ the speaker in one spot to sound good, but as you move closer everything from 512Hz and lower will increase at a rate of 1/2 inverse square. And inversely as you move farther away everything below 512Hz will decrease at 1/2 of the inverse square law. Now you have an arc where at one distance away from the speaker it sounds right. If you have two speakers, now there is only one place where it sounds good, and the only person that gets to enjoy it is the soundboard operator.

Why do you think "real" line arrays are so long? Even with that length, we still have that problem with our largest touring arrays.

Don't believe the hype.

Educate yourself about line arrays:
http://www.prosoundtraining.com/site/synaudcon-library/line-array-limitations/

http://meyersound.com/pdf/support/papers/meyer_line_array.pdf

http://www.danleysoundlabs.com/danley/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/line-array-paper.pdf

Thank you for your detailed

Thank you for your detailed comments on line arrays Ryan.

We don't see our role here at Gearank.com as being a participant in the debates over which technological approaches are superior to others, but we are happy for people like yourself to carry on that debate.

We do however try to make our guides as useful as possible by covering all the prominent technologies and brands that are currently in use.

The ratings we provide are a measure of user satisfaction, or to put it another way, they are a statistical analysis of market sentiment. The Bose F1 system continues to get very positive reviews from customers - in fact I just reprocessed their Gearank score and it went up from 92 to 94 as a result of the latest customer feedback.

For a better understanding of this process please read How Gearank Works.

Disclosure: Although Bose is not currently a sponsor Gearank.com they have been an advertiser and sponsor over the last decade of GuitarSite.com which is owned by Gearank.com's parent company Hitsquad Pty Ltd.

I'm sure you've heard about

I'm sure you've heard about Carvin, in the San Diego area. What do you guys think of their loudspeakers, in terms of quality, performance, and value?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Thanks for bringing up Carvin

Thanks for bringing up Carvin. I have personal experience with some of their gear, including PA Speakers, and in my opinion, both the sound and build quality are really good.

However, Carvin speakers aren't widely available online (they're mostly only available through their own store) and don't have a lot of independent review sources, so even though I personally like their products there isn't sufficient data for us to provide a rating at this time.

Great review here but, I

Great review here but, I question the thoughts on SPL levels for the EV ZLX series. While claiming the speakers are not loud, the experience with using these as mains, have totally left us speechless on how well the ZLX have performed. Plenty of sound, plenty of volume. Realizing they are not ELX or ETX, they still hold their own in this price range as the best affordable speaker.

Have you guys reviewed the

Have you guys reviewed the FBT range of active speakers? They seem to be getting some attention.

FBT weren't included when we

FBT weren't included when we produced this guide because they weren't widely available from major online music gear retailers in the USA. We'll check to see if that has changed when we next update this guide.

If you cant hear the

If you cant hear the difference between a QSC K10 and ANY new JBL go back to guitar center and buy whatever the guitar player working in the "pa" department tells you to buy.

Hi Alexander,

Hi Alexander,
Can you recommend to me the best powered speakers below $1000 for my MX61 Yamaha Keyboard. In terms of clarity of sounds specially the "bass" part of the keyboard. I came across this demo on youtube and I like the sound of the grand piano, I want to know what kind of speakers they are using. Thanks for your help.

Hi Jess,

Hi Jess,

All the powered speakers listed here should be able to give you the clarity that you're looking for, as long as you keep the volume to a reasonable level. Go for 12" or even 15" speakers if you want deeper bass sounds.

If you can post a link to the youtube video demo that you liked, maybe we can help in figuring out the gear used.

The Alto Professional

The Alto Professional Speakers are the best. This list is wrong!

What about the Yamaha DBR12

What about the Yamaha DBR12 under $500? Alto TX15? The alto is $200 to $250

Here at Gearank.com we don't

Here at Gearank.com we don't do head-to-head comparisons, we primarily do guides to an overall category.

However, if anyone wants to provide their thoughts on Bose F1 vs EVOX 12 here in the comments, they are certainly welcome to.

Is there a gearrank

Is there a Gearank comparison of 3 way powered pa speakers? If there is not you guys should do one, thanks.

We don't have one yet, but we

We don't have one yet, but we are currently revising our publishing schedule and I'll add that to the list of topics to consider.

You should be advised to

You should be advised to include some of the concentric speaker enclosures out there, as powered speakers. Don't know if they'll fit in that range. RCF may be out of bounce, but there are others more affordable. I wished that Tannoy would release a full live PA powered speaker system. Germans DB may be price worthy though, you don't need super expensive T&W and the like.

wow no love for the Alto

Wow no love for the Alto Blacks OR TrueSounds? both of those series rank up there with QSCs ang EVs and mop the floor with JBL. I did a H2H in store with 5 jazz musicians with total over 175 years playing experience and they were hands down the winner playing anything with real instruments in it... ESPECIALLY in price/performance comparison!

If you would like the results

If you would like the results of your Head to Head comparison to be included in the data set we use when we next update this guide, then write a report/review detailing your results on one of the popular music gear review sites or forums.

To get an understanding of our methods please read How Gearank Works.

JBL SRX & FBT speakers will

JBL SRX & FBT speakers will blow most of this tip 10 list out of water for Power & bottom end . Try before you buy.

has to be sponsored by qsc or

Has to be sponsored by qsc or something, because the jbl prx are a great speaker, I have been abusing the heck out of some eon g2s for over 10 years! 2 gigs a week, never flinched, never had to repair, all original drivers, that says something, just get protective bags, whichever speaker you decide on.

As has been pointed out

As has been pointed out previously in this discussion, no manufacturers, including QSC, have paid any money or provided any benefit of any kind to us for anything we have done on Gearank.com.

In fact last year we removed all banner and display advertising (we were using AdSense) from this website. That means there is no possibility of us receiving money even indirectly from those companies via Google/AdSense.

At the current time our only source of revenue is from the retailers we link to - at the moment that includes Sweetwater and Amazon.

All of our product recommendations are guided by a scientific process involving statistical analysis of market sentiment using our proprietary Gearank Algorithm.

An overview of this is explained in How Gearank Works.

Alto TS215 Active 15" Speaker

Alto TS215 Active 15" Speaker VS.
Studiomaster Drive 15A/6A 15" Active

Hi - I'm looking for an upgrade from my Alto TX15 range to either of the above without breaking the bank tooo much. Can you possibly give me a rating and a recommendation if at all possible?

Thanks.

I have Yamaha dbr10 and it is

I have Yamaha dbr10 and it is brilliant. But looking at behringer b112d, and not too concerned about quality of sound, don't really know how much potential loudness would suffer (quoted EPL only 113db, much lower than the others on the list).

You missed all the Cerwin

You missed all the Cerwin Vega models. In particular, the CVA-28, the CV P1000X and CV P1500X. I also agree with the other posts, you did not even consider JBL and they have the best Mids and Highs, plus value.

With so many factors to

With so many factors to consider, there's really no set standard for determining specific size category.

These factors include actual venue size, audience headcount, open air or enclosed, environmental noise, venue acoustics and many more.

But to answer your question, most will agree that small venues include coffee shops, bars, small restaurants and conference rooms. On the other hand, medium sized venues include enclosed auditoriums, churches, small gardens, and other venues that have a head count of less than 500.

So in conclusion which ones

So in conclusion which ones are better for a 400 ppl venue. The Bose F1 or the QSC 12K2 or the RCF evox 12?

A pair of any of those aught

A pair of any of those aught to be fine however I think you'd get the best value out of the QSC K12.2 based on all the research we've done.

I have some real nice powered

I have some real nice powered speakers but am not seeing the samson brand is that not good in ratings?

Samson are a good brand for

Samson are a good brand for many things however they haven't yet had high enough ratings to make it onto our short-lists for powered speakers although their Auro X15D is a candidate that might make it onto our recommended list at the next update of this guide.

BTW you can look up all Samson products we've rated by going to the Music Gear Database.

I was hoping to see something

I was hoping to see something about the Peavey RBN-112's with the ribbon tweeters. I did not find them in the database either, just the Dark Matter 112. Does anyone have experience with these?

The Peavey RBN 112 has never

The Peavey RBN 112 has never made it onto our short-list for this guide over several major updates, mainly due to a lack of popularity rather than its ratings, however I've published our rating of it today for all to see: Peavey RBN 112.

The negative comments about

The negative comments about JBL are hilarious. The 5" and 8" series are widely regarded among the best if not the best in their class.

Speaking of which, why aren't 5" speakers included here?

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