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Consider a Portable PA System For Smaller Gigs

6:00 am Live Sound

Acoustic Steel, the band I play keyboard in, owns a full PA system (mixer, power amplifier, main speakers, monitor speakers), and we normally set the whole system up when we arrive at a gig, unless it’s one of those places that already has a PA system in place. Being a six-piece band with several multi-instrumentalists, it can take us quite awhile to get the whole thing up and running. In fact, it seems to me that setting up a fully functional sound system for a band of that size in under two hours is actually more of an accomplishment than mastering and playing our music!

We recently began hosting weekly “Open Mic” events at a local restaurant, which means that we play a couple of mini-sets interspersed with sets from bold volunteer players (and a few comedians). We quickly realized the need to downsize both the band’s “musical footprint” and its PA system to match the venue, which is quite small compared to the clubs and parties where we usually play. For example, our drummer uses a cajon at the Open Mic shows, and all of the guitars are acoustics. We run the bass and keyboard straight through the PA, to save space on the “stage”. And, we got a smaller, portable PA system.

The unit we chose is the Fender Passport 500 PRO. This unit includes a powered mixer with eight inputs (six XLR, two stereo 1/4-inch) and a pair of main speakers with cables. There are several smaller units in the same product line (Passport 300, Passport 150) with lower power output and fewer inputs. These would be fine for a smaller band, but we do still have six members (five of whom sing), so we needed the eight inputs! (Our “big” mixer has 12.)

Fender Passport 500 PRO Portable PA System

The unit is very simple to operate, with everything working about the way you think it will. Although it’s best to eventually learn some of the adjustment tips and trouble-shooting ideas in the manual, you can pretty much just put this one on the road and drive away. When it’s time for the load-out, the speakers snap onto the side of the mixer/amplifier unit and you carry the whole thing out the door like a suitcase! The only lighter load is that cajon.

Check out the reviews on Amazon for an overview of how the Passport 500 has worked out for real world bands. For us, the system sounds fine and is a good fit for the band at the smaller venues. Perhaps your band should look into it!

Acoustic Steel (author at right; using the “big” PA and cajon at this gig)

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