PA vs Hi-fi. The eternal dilemma. What do they do, and which type is better for audio?
Don’t fret. We have put together a complete full works run down of PA and Hi-fi speakers and all things sound system.
We’re going to explore each system in more detail, and we will even throw in a few great products for you to explore as well.
PA Speakers, or Public Address speakers, are designed to play loud audio to a big group of people.
The audio source may be a microphone, music, or an alarm, for example. They are useful for addressing a crowd or projecting audio at a wider range.
PA speakers work with what is known as a ‘PA system’. This is a whole set of devices used to create and channel the audio outputs.
A PA system includes:
Mixers are the hub of the system. This is where you can plug things in such as microphones and instruments and create an audio signal for each input device.
You can then adjust the settings of the various audio inputs with dials.
The reason you adjust audio is to create a balanced type of sound. You can adjust things like bass and treble to gain a perfectly designed audio.
The PA speakers are the part of the system where the audio is transmitted. This is how you hear the sound.
The power amplifier boosts the power of the PA system. It creates a strong audio signal that translates into a louder sound.
Power amps have to be able to handle strong electrical currents and normally have high watts.
Best PA Speakers: Our Best Pick
Why We Love it
The Behringer MPA40BT-PRO provides you with a whole PA system in one singular device.
It is fully portable thanks to the wheels and retractable handle, meaning you can take it anywhere.
It comes fully loaded with an 8-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter, therefore providing top quality and fine-tuned frequencies on the active speakers.
You get 40 watts of power, which is more than enough for a big, big sound.
There’s space for two microphones and alternative audio inputs as well. You even get an RCA cable thrown into the mix.
Now we have dived deep into the world of PA speakers, let’s take a look at our defending champion, the Hi-fi speaker.
Hi-fi is otherwise known as high fidelity. A High fidelity speaker is usually more expensive than other types of the speaker because it costs more to make.
It uses high quality and takes more time and technical savvy in order to reproduce noise with little to no distortion and mimic the original quality.
These types of speakers are designed to play music as close as possible to the original source.
They reproduce sound in a way that other speakers don’t. They pick up on the minuscule details, the minor things that may be otherwise overlooked.
All the best parts of the original recording should be heard clearly through any good quality Hi-fi.
You get to hear details that you might otherwise have on mainstream devices, such as studio monitors and stereo speakers.
Hi-fi speakers are typically a part of a bigger setup. This includes the speakers, an audio source, and an amplifier.
These are a small variety of hi-fi speaker. They can fit into small spaces or crowded spaces.
Stand Mount Speakers
These are like bookshelf speakers, but slightly larger and placed on speaker stands.
Self-explanatory one – hi-fi speakers that stand on the floor. These are quite tall, with great sound quality.
Best Hi-fi Speaker: Our Top Pick
Why We Love It
This pair of Hi-fi speakers have a classic, vintage vibe to them. They are bookshelf speakers design.
They are equipped with special technology to absorb unwanted noise and sound. The overall effect? A crisp and clear frequency that is dripping with detail. This technology is called MAT, or MetaMaterial Absorption Technology.
MAT isn’t the only technology used to create these perfect sound speakers. There is also, CFD to offset airflow interference to the audio.
Constrained Layer Dampening also sorts out the inside vibration interference.
All in all, a top quality Hi-fi option that we highly recommend.
You have the added option of also purchasing the subwoofer to go with the pair, should you wish.
- LS50 Meta features KEF's breakthrough Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) reducing unwanted sound from the rear of the driver by 99%.
- Features KEF'S 12th Generation Uni-Q Driver proving a 40% increase in smoothness over the previous version.
- THD 0.07%
- Frequency range (-6dB) - 47 Hz - 45 kHz
- Available in four stunning finishes: Cabon Black, Mineral White, Titanium Grey, and Royal Blue Special Edition
PA Vs. Hi-Fi: A Comparison
|Loud Speaker for Large Audience||High Fidelity for Audio Clarity|
|Outdoor Events||Small Gatherings|
|Loud Volumes||Specific Sounds|
|Lots of Power||Depicts Nuance|
What To Look For In A Speaker: Best Features
Active Speakers are speakers that have an in built amplifier in the speaker cabinet. So you don’t need an external amplifier in order to produce a powerful sound.
Everything you require is provided in the speaker. All you need to do is plug in and enjoy the sound.
—Cable free and Tidier
—No need for an amplifier
—Good for small spaces
PA speakers can be active or passive.
Active PA speakers are more suited to acoustic gigs, smaller venues, schools, exercise classes.
Hi-fi speakers are, in the majority, passive speakers. That means you require an additional amplifier and an audio source.
Passive speakers require some form of RCA cable (speaker cable) and an amplifier in order to produce a sound.
They are good as:
—An addition to pre-existing audio equipment setup
The real perk of having a passive PA speaker is that you can upgrade it whenever you want. Active speakers are all in one, passive speakers are a part of a setup.
It would also make the PA speakers lighter as there is physically less inside them.
That being said, you do have to match the impedance and power rating perfectly, otherwise, you risk ruining the whole thing.
Hi-fi speakers normally come as passive speakers. This is because they are also normally a part of a bigger setup such as a vinyl player, an amp, and even a subwoofer sometimes.
Though, there is less need for a subwoofer with hi-fi style speakers, as high fidelity sound doesn’t require that much altering.
Frequency response is measured in Hz or Hertz.
Hz is an indication of accuracy. More specifically, how accurately a speaker is able to convert a frequency range from an input audio source’s signal.
The normal and expected frequency range Hz range is from 20 Hz up to around 20 K Hz. This is also what our human eardrums are capable of.
This number, the Hz measurement, is followed by a decibel figure displayed as +/- *3 dB. *Number changes as appropriate.
The decibel figure portrays any discrepancies in the original Hz figure and shows what the degree of variation could be either way.
There are a few different things to think about when it comes to frequency response.
Sound Pressure Level is the number that shows the absolute most the speaker can produce noise wise.
Anything above this level, and the sound will become disturbed, distorted, and disadvantaged. This is measured in decibels and is normally a double figured digit.
2. Amp Class
This covers active speakers, as they have in-built amps, as opposed to passive speaker sound systems.
Amps are organized into different classes or letter categories. What letter they fall under demonstrates how clear a sound you can yield from them.
There are around ten commonly used classes. We’re not going to cover all of them. Instead, we will look at a selection that is relevant to PA and HI-FI speakers.
Class A means low levels of distortion and noise interference. They are commonly used in hi-fi speakers as they are considered well suited.
Class B are efficient amps. They have more distortion and noise interference than class A amps. However, they do
Class D amps are regarded as having the highest efficiency of all the classes.
Watts is a unit of power. It describes how powerful the speaker is and how much electrical current it can handle before becoming overwhelmed.
Crossover describes the point of a signal where it splits off between audio sources.
This could be between two speakers, a subwoofer, and an amplifier.
The impedance of the speaker is measured in what is known as, ohms.
You can get a better audio quality from a low impedance speaker. But, you can get more audio channels running from a high impedance speaker.
6. Speaker Coverage Capacity
When we say coverage capacity, we are of course referring to the area in which the speakers project audio.
Speakers can be set at different angles in different settings to provide different projection trajectories.
SPL is relevant for PA speakers. Given that they are so loud, and intended to be so loud, the SPL should be taken into consideration in order to get as clean an audio output and input as possible.
If the sound is distorted on a PA, it will be really noticeable.
A standard SPL for a PA speaker should be no lower than 80 dB. The top range can be anything just above 130 dB.
If the PA speaker is an active one, the amp class will be displayed in the product details. You can decide whether it is suitable for your setup.
4,6, and 8 are the common ohms rating for PA speakers.
Hi-fi speakers tend to have around a 6 ohms rating in regard to their impedance. Some can also have an 8 ohms rating. This varies from speaker to speaker.
Speaker coverage capacity is more relevant to Hi-fi speakers as it is a more intimate setup. You want the noise coming out from the best possible angle.
This may be easier to achieve with larger speakers such as floor standing Hi-fi speakers.
PA Vs. HI-FI: When And Where To Use Each One
PA Vs. HI-FI: Home Use
For an at home speaker, we lean towards Hi-fi. That is what it’s made for.
Hi-fi speakers are suited to smaller groups and gatherings, or a personal sound system.
Whereas, PA speakers are more comfortable with larger groups and concert type events.
There’s no reason why you can’t use them at home, but you won’t get the same sound quality that you could get from a hi-fi speaker.
If you are into throwing parties, you might prefer a PA system.
The Winner for Home Use: Hi-fi Speaker
PA Vs. HI-FI: Large Halls
There are lots of reasons why you may need a speaker set up in a large hall. Large halls are great venues for concerts, parties, dancing, weddings, you get the picture.
Chances are if you are setting up a sound system in a large hall, you are going to be using a PA speaker system. The quality of sound with anything else just wouldn’t be good enough.
Large halls are therefore crying out for a PA speaker system.
PA systems reach more people, they are best suited for large audiences in fact.
A hi-fi speaker just isn’t. You can get a decent pair of speakers that would do the job of either in a large hall setting.
However, for the best result and loudest possible audio output signal, you need a PA. That’s the best path to a decent sound level.
The winner for Large Halls: PA Speaker
PA Vs. HI-FI: Outdoor Events
Outdoor events seem a bit of an open-ended speculation. Let’s break it down into subcategories.
Firstly, we will consider large scale outdoor events such as outdoor festivals, concerts, school events, and parties.
Secondly, we will consider small scale outdoor events such as garden parties, barbecues, outside dining at an establishment.
In regard to large scale outdoor events, there’s no question about it. A PA speaker will always take precedent over a hi-fi speaker system.
The winner of Outdoor Events: PA for large scale, HIFI for small scale.
PA v.s. HI-FI: Small Venues
Small venues can be paces like pubs, restaurants, informal concert venues, a marquee, your living room, a garden, and so on.
Generally speaking, if the venue is small, there won’t be an overbearing need for a loud sound system. So, the need for a PA becomes less relevant.
A Hi-fi speaker could be useful, and even really suit this kind of venue or event.
Their sound quality, which is the whole point of the thing, won’t be lost in the thralls of the crowd or drowned out by the shouting and chattering of a big group.
A smaller venue is the perfect place to showcase what a Hi-fi speaker has to offer.
Though you may still wish to use a PA speaker in some circumstances, for example, a small disco might be more fun with a big PA system.
The winner of Small Venues: Hi-fi speaker has to take this one.
Can PA And HIFI Speakers Be Interchangeable?
In short, no. A PA and a Hi-fi are two very different types of speaker designs.
A PA could be used in a hi-fi setting more easily than a hi-fi could be used in place of PA.
But, you would miss out on sound quality and all the draws that pull you into the intimacy and accuracy of hi-fi life.
Likewise, you could try out a hi-fi in a larger venue, but the sound just wouldn’t yield in the same way as a PA in that situation.
PA Vs. HI-FI Final Analysis
By now, we have pretty much covered every tiny detail with relation to hi-fi speakers and PA speakers.
We have discussed their every difference, and even their every similarity.
We know what they are suited to and when one is more appropriate to use than the other.
PAs are designed for a large outreach. They are speakers for the masses. They are perfect for large scale gatherings, concerts, and parties.
Hi-fi speakers are a much more personal affair. These are perfect for home sound systems, for example listening to your vinyl collection.
They also suit smaller gatherings and more close-knit parties, for example, a kid’s birthday party.