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Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

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Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby maiki » Thu Nov 17, 2011 5:47 am

Let me preface by saying that I am not a pro sound guy, I am a school music teacher, asked to recommend a small (relatively inexpensive) PA system for the school. Although it will not be a pro system, I would like it to have decent sound for music, and be stereo as well, with two separate speakers.

Of course there are the prefab portable PA systems, like the Yamaha Stagepas.

However, if I were to put a system togehter with separate components, first of all i would like to know the advantages and disadvantages of:

1. a powered mixer with passive speakers

or

2. a passive mixer with powered speaskers?

I guess that decision has to be made first, before deciding on specific components.

Thanks in advance for your help.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:40 am

Have you read THIS thread?

Given the choice offered, I'd tend towards powered speakers as the on board amps are matched very well with the speaker and tend to have very good protection. Gives you more flexibility in terms of mixer features too.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby Setter » Thu Nov 17, 2011 9:37 am

I prefer passive speakers - otherwise you have to send mains power as well as the audio signal to the speakers. Frequently in schools there is a shortage of (unused!) mains plugs close to where you want the speakers to be. It's usually easier to have the amp close to the mixing desk.

Bob is of course right in principle.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby James Perrett » Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:00 am

I don't like powered mixers as they limit flexibility so, if you don't want active speakers, there is always a third way: passive mixer -> power amp -> passive speakers. The power amp can always be tucked out of the way somewhere so the system need look no more complex than your other alternatives to the average user.

Personally, I prefer active speakers as you can also use most of them stand alone with a mic or CD/mp3 player if you want a very simple PA setup.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby maiki » Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:44 pm

Thanks for the replies so far. So far opinions seem to be mixed. In general are the opinions on the subject about equally mixed, or more towards one than the other? Now there are two preferring active speakers, and one preferring passive.

For those preferring the former, why do you say there is more flexibility in mixers that way? Are there many more and varied passive misers available?

Still eager to hear more opinions. Thank you.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby James Perrett » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:09 pm

There are very few high quality powered mixers - most are aimed at the budget end of the market. If you want decent power you may also have to accept a complex mixer whereas you could run a huge sound system from a tiny passive mixer if that was what you wanted to do.

And, as I said before, for a simple setup, you may not need to use a mixer at all with an active speaker.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby smash4686 » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:52 pm

I have to use a powered mixer with passive speakers at a venue I do gigs at and I have to say that it is the worst system ever. The main issue I have is that the PA Amp is highly underpowered but if the amp were to blow in the mixer then the whole thing would have to be replaced or sent away for repair.
As mentioned in a previous post, amps in active speakers are set up for that specific speaker so have no trouble powering them. The only downside is a few extra mains cables but with the amount of cables already on stage, that is hardly a problem.
You could always get a mixer with passive speakers but use a seperate amplifier.

Small venue or not if you use a powered mixer you will eventually learn to hate it.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby Dave Rowles » Thu Nov 17, 2011 5:22 pm

I'd go for active speakers and passive mixer. Simply put both will be useful in isolation of each other, I.e. you don't need the mixer if all you want is a single vocal mic, or cd playback. Similarly you could take the mixer somewhere you need extra channels, or use it to submit something if there's a bigger system available. While this is unlikely in a school, you never know!

Also, I've generally found active mixers very limited in features, and so you'd be restricting yourself in what you can do to make things sound good.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby Scramble » Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:23 pm

I would also avoid the powered mixer, and take the active speaker route. I wouldn't go with the powered amp and passive speaker but only because this will make things a bit complex for a simple school setup, and probably a bit more expensive.

Being able to plug straight into a powered speaker will probably come in handy sometime in a school environment.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby klank » Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:49 am

Having done a few installations of school PA systems I would ask if you are looking to have it as a fixed installation in an assembly / sports hall of if you were looking to be able to move it around within the school?

Powered speakers are great in terms of flexibility if you want to move them around and as Scramble says plug a mic directly into for a quick and easy PA.

If it's for an assembly hall or similar it can be a pain to have the power and controls on the back of the speakers if you want to keep them out of reach of inquisitive hands.

In that scenario the desk - amp - passive speakers may be more suitable.

And depending on what and how many channels / inputs you were looking for the choice of powered desks is a bit limited.

You can achieve good results with either set up. But more info on what the system needs to do would be helpful.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby maiki » Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:04 am

Thanks for all your replies.

Kfank--not fixed, but movable. Why would the controls on the back of the speakers be a problem? If one uses them with a mixer, one controls everything with the mixer correct, and doesn't have to fiddle with the controls on the back of the speakers, other than to set both speaker controls loud, then control them from the mixer?

It seems like a strong consensus now is for passive mixer and powered speakers. Thank you for that input.

Now, I will expand my question to the following. If you were asked to build a system with passive mixer, two powered speakers, speaker stands, necessary cables, etc., for under $1,000, what speakers and mixer would you choose, and why?

I know some pros might balk at the question--that they would never set up a system for that low a price. But humor me--if you were to do so, what would you choose?

Thank you.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby seablade » Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:05 am

maiki wrote:
I know some pros might balk at the question--that they would never set up a system for that low a price. But humor me--if you were to do so, what would you choose?


Leaving aside this for the moment, I strongly recommend you look through the recent thread on recommending a system for a school auditorium. Not for the recommendations of equipment persay but for the reasons why this is a bad idea.

And leaving that aside, noone can put together a system with so little information. Basic information like channel requirements, etc. is still missing, not to mention coverage requirements, portable or installed, etc. It wouldn't do me any good to recommend a Soundcraft notepad for instance if you are looking to reinforce a Jazz band.

Finally, you already mentioned this but I figure I will repeat, your number is exceedingly low for a 'decent' system. I am not talking good quality, just usable. For one things mics alone tend to run about $100 for the low end of what most people consider usable, and only go up from there. A 'decent' pair of powered speakers alone(Again not talking about great quality, just usable, in this case EV ELX112p for example) would take up much of your budget. You are either going to have to lower your expectations or raise your budget. Even going to the VERY low end of powered cabinets, like behringer you are still using up half to over half of your budget on just the speakers, not even touching mics, cables, stands, mixer, or power.

Seablade

EDIT: Just to come back, for $1000 you are pretty limited to something along these lines...
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/StagePas500/

Which is a powered mixer with passive speakers, really you would be replacing the entire setup when you needed to replace anything, but its about the best quality you will get for that budget, and still be able to get cables and mics(Maybe not even stands for that budget). You just won't be able to do anything that most people would qualify as a 'decent' system for that price, sorry.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby ef37a » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:41 am

I am with seablade here.
There is a cost point in all things below which you simply cannot go. Well, two cost points really, works but crap. Nothing at all!

Sorry but this is "life", whether a PA system, the most basic project "studio" or something as mundane as running a car (legally!) there is an amount of money needed which cannot be avoided.

So...School eh? Parents? Get the begging bowl out! Run a fund raising event, Car Boot. Have you seen "Cash in The Attic"? Get a few parents/friends involved with that.

And talk to local shops, even if they don't sell mics and cables they could donate stuff for the Boot! Get the Art department involved with some eye catching flyers!

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby James Perrett » Fri Nov 18, 2011 10:48 am

Unlike others here, I think you can probably do it as you're not asking for microphones or anything before the mixer. Lets say you have a budget of £600 You can buy Soundking speakers or similar (Alto had a recommendation in another thread today) for around £450 or less. Stands will cost around £40 and cables under £20 if you can solder the connectors yourself. That leaves you £90 for the mixer. You won't get A&H standard for that kind of price but the bottom of the Yamaha MG range comes in about that price and there are Soundcrafts even cheaper.

Of course, if you really want value for money you need to look at used gear but I suspect that a school will insist on new.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby seablade » Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:38 pm

James Perrett wrote:Unlike others here, I think you can probably do it as you're not asking for microphones or anything before the mixer. Lets say you have a budget of £600 You can buy Soundking speakers or similar (Alto had a recommendation in another thread today) for around £450 or less. Stands will cost around £40 and cables under £20 if you can solder the connectors yourself. That leaves you £90 for the mixer. You won't get A&H standard for that kind of price but the bottom of the Yamaha MG range comes in about that price and there are Soundcrafts even cheaper.


Sorry James, this is an area where being on different sides of the pond make a difference(Again assuming the poster is from the US since the money was listed in $, although other countries like Australia or Canada are possible, but they would be in even worse shape in those countries).

You can't even get a Yamaha MG82 for the money you suggested(And Soundcraft tends to be more expensive that A&H over here in general), stands and cables will be more than you are thinking as well, and you likely won't find Soundking at all on this side of the pond, you might find them rebadged as something else, but even those you will have to look for, besides which they would likely cost more than you are thinking over here, as even Behringers tend to cost most than that. Sadly I wasn't joking, I looked up Behringer which I would never recommend and Samson pricing before i made the post above. There is a single set of Behringers that wouldn't take up half(8" drivers, and the 10" drivers take up just about half the budget). The Altos that were recommended I can't find on this side of the pond at all, all I can find are some passives from Alto that still take up half the budget by themselves, and an amp would still be needed.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby James Perrett » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:21 pm

A few minutes searching gives

http://www.zzounds.com/item--YAMMG102C $99
http://www.zzounds.com/item--JSTTS40 $69
http://www.zzounds.com/item--HOSCSS403 $15
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/harbinger-aps15-15-powered-pa-speaker $460

which comes to a total of just under $655.

The speakers look like Soundkings although the power isn't as high as the ones we see over here. You may also need to spend a little more on cables - I just went for the first ones I found that would work.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby maiki » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:00 pm

Thank you for all the replies.

I don't have time to address them in depth now, but will try to summarize a little.

I already wrote not fixed, but portable.


Yes, I did read the other thread about schools, and did not find it very helpful, with arguments about hiring a separate audio consultant, etc. In this case, the consultant is me. I am not a pro, but know more about this stuff than others in the school, who would have no idea what the question in the title of this thread refers to. The school will get something better with me involved in choosing it, than withat most elementary schools here get, I assure you.

Also, something in that thread says only to amplify the headmaster's voice. In this case, I being the music teacher, am certainly concerned about decent music reproduction through it, and that it be stereo. I do not mean havinga rock band play through it. But to play accompaniment for a school chorus from an ipod whiel they sing, perhaps sometimes a kid singing a solo into a microphone at the same time, etc.

I am in the USA, and have not heard of Soundking speakers. If one looks at the web sites of US online music retailers, such as Musician's Friend, one can get an idea of what is available here.

Channel requirements--not a lot. A few channels would be OK. Besides, that is a function of the mixer. Far more expensive, and affecting the sound much more, would be the choice of powered speakers.

Place to be used--mostly, in the school auditorium, seating I would guess a couple hundred people. Of coures, being portable, it could be used other places as well, but the main usage would be in the auditorium.

Can anyone make concrete suggestions, rather than arguing that it is impossible, or arguing that it is better not to get anything? Well, we are getting something, and I would appreciate real suggestions.

Thank you in advance.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby maiki » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:14 pm

Perhaps to give a point of reference as well--

I own myself the Peavey Escort portable sound system, and have used it for school performances, and find it quite acceptable for that. (Price, around $650.) So, one option I have is to recommend that, or another all in one solution. (The new JBL EON 210p looks interesting, for example.) Buying one integrated system like that would be the easiest way to go. I may still do that, and if anyone has recommendations on those systems, I would appreciate hearing that as well.

However, I was thinking that perhaps one could get a better system for the money by purchasing separate components, and that was the main point of this thread, why I asked the original question, etc.
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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby ef37a » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:57 pm

maiki wrote:Perhaps to give a point of reference as well--

I own myself the Peavey Escort portable sound system, and have used it for school performances, and find it quite acceptable for that. (Price, around $650.) So, one option I have is to recommend that, or another all in one solution. (The new JBL EON 210p looks interesting, for example.) Buying one integrated system like that would be the easiest way to go. I may still do that, and if anyone has recommendations on those systems, I would appreciate hearing that as well.

However, I was thinking that perhaps one could get a better system for the money by purchasing separate components, and that was the main point of this thread, why I asked the original question, etc.

Checkout P114 current SoS Alto 115A £498 a pair.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby James Perrett » Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:16 pm

I'm not a big fan of the Peavey Escort - the Yamaha StagePAS sounds much better to me. We use a StagePAS 300 for vocals at rehearsals sometimes and it can certainly keep up with drums and bass in a fairly large village hall. However, personally I'd still go for the mixer/powered speakers option.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby seablade » Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:35 pm

James Perrett wrote:A few minutes searching gives

http://www.zzounds.com/item--YAMMG102C $99
http://www.zzounds.com/item--JSTTS40 $69
http://www.zzounds.com/item--HOSCSS403 James Perrett5
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/harbinger-aps15-15-powered-pa-speaker 60

which comes to a total of just under $655.

The speakers look like Soundkings although the power isn't as high as the ones we see over here. You may also need to spend a little more on cables - I just went for the first ones I found that would work.

James.


Nice, you did find better prices than I did on a few things on my quick checks at my normal suppliers(The Yammie specifically). Gonna pick on you a moment though and point out a few things. First and foremost is you are using 15' cables, not 15 meter which would be closer to what would be wanted for something like this. Second is that your speakers are actually more comparable to what I first posted than your typical speaker, are a bit on the weak side and very cheaply manufactured, to the point in their spec...

http://www.harbingerproaudio.com/products/aps-series.cfm

...that you get a listing for MaxSPL Long Term, which probably stems from the amp design and overheating, with a number of 98dBSPL @ 1m, which if you are about 15m away form the speaker, which is typical for a public school auditorium in the US, you are sitting at about 75dBSPL, which is pitifully weak in all honesty.

You could probably get more out of it but the peak SPL out of it, which you will likely never get, means you are sitting at about 95dBSPL in the average listening area. You average is probably going to be somewhere around 85dBSPL, which is still pretty much on the weak side, and won't leave you much headroom at all for clean sound.

Not to mention I certainly wouldn't consider the speaker decent;)

With the StagePAS system you are at least sitting at about 95dBSPL peak, probably going to average around 90, which at least can get the job done, albiet still restricted in terms of headroom for decent clean sound. (Every tried to get a voice over a bunch of screaming elementary school kids to get their attention? It can be very interesting at times, trust me. Did some tours on a kids show for a while, wouldn't really want to touch any of these systems for that personally;).

Of course you didn't have anything in as far as mic cables or or mics or mic stands either obviously, but one would hope you could fill that in with the approx $300 left. But I would also consider this an exceedingly low quality system personally, and would go for the Peavey escort system mentioned before this one personally, and that isn't saying much(I don't have a high opinion of that system either).

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby seablade » Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:36 pm

James Perrett wrote:I'm not a big fan of the Peavey Escort - the Yamaha StagePAS sounds much better to me. We use a StagePAS 300 for vocals at rehearsals sometimes and it can certainly keep up with drums and bass in a fairly large village hall. However, personally I'd still go for the mixer/powered speakers option.

James.

Now this I will agree with, just I would take the StagePAS over the system posted above;)

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby seablade » Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:03 pm

Ok so I decided to take a look around and see what I could get. Not including shipping, at $1000 you can get a pair of EV ELX112p speakers, and a small unpowered mixer. At this point this doesn't include cabling, mics, stands, etc. but would get you an actual decent capable system. Will you play a rock concert with just this, heck no. But you can use it to get the speech over the sound of lots of kids, and to amplify choral things pretty well. A couple of choir mics will probably set you back another few hundred though, especially if you go for decent ones, so keep that in mind.

Speaker stands and cabling you could probably do for about $200-$250. A couple of cheap, but decent, handheld mics and stands for another $200 or so. So overall you are probably looking at around $1500 not including shipping for a system that might qualify as 'decent'(The speakers definitely are decent for this use, the rest not so much but you can build on it if need be). Probably about $2000 to be on the safe side to include shipping and the general small stuff that comes up(ie. Oh you want the mixer to be 100' from stage, well you will need at least a snake and a few more cables, etc.). PM me by the way and I will send you a link to where I got these prices from, it is a place I typically don't recommend to people that might need support down the road but they do have typically some of the cheapest prices for system pieces.

Now that being said, your exact requirements for reinforcement would be necessary to determine what size console you need. If you are teaching elementary school then I assume we don't need to worry about amplifying a band much, more just choir and speech. In which case a small mixer like James linked to would be good enough, but if you for whatever reason need to amplify, say, a jazz band for the high school, that is a completely different ball of wax in terms of both mics required and mixer.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby seablade » Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:05 pm

maiki wrote:
However, I was thinking that perhaps one could get a better system for the money by purchasing separate components, and that was the main point of this thread, why I asked the original question, etc.

Nope, as I mentioned for that price I would be looking at the StagePAS system honestly. Much easier in general, and better quality that trying to piecemeal crap on top of crap IMO, but still not what I would call 'decent' persay, just not horrible.

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Re: Passive mixer with powered speakers, or powered mixer with passive speakers?

Postby maiki » Sat Nov 19, 2011 6:46 am

Once again, thanks for all your replies.

James Perrett--Yes,I have seen those Harbinger speakers online, and they certainly are cheap. But are they decent? Has anyone here actually tried them, or heard them somewhere?

Another low price speaker brand is Kustom. I was surprised to see a very good review of them here on SOS. Anyone here tried them?

What about Behringer?

I wouldn't worry too much about microphones. I am sure the school must already have a couple (they do have a poor built-on PA in the aud), and I hve a few of my own. I don't think speaker stands an cables need to cost much. (Of course there are some pricy ones,. but I don't think that is necessary.)

James, --the mixer you recommended is the Yamaha one for about $100. There are also Soundcraft Notepad mixers for a similar price. Do you think the Yamaha one is better.

No, the system will absolutely not be doing anything like mikng a jazz band. Not even a choir either. However, yest to background accompaniment for an elementary choir, pleyd from an Ipod through the system. Sometimes perhaps in addition a child singing a solo in a microphone.
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