Between the challenges presented by poor acoustics and the noise generated by boisterous students, it can sometimes be difficult for teachers to make themselves heard.
One easy and affordable solution to this problem is a mini classroom PA system. The right PA system can turn any unfocused class into one that shines.
But how do you know which mini PA is the right one for your needs?
Because they are relatively easy to manufacture, this segment of the market is not only highly competitive, but also quite diverse.
For example, equipment ranging from a 5-watt Oklahoma Sound PAW-90X PA with a lapel microphone to a 30-watt sound system featuring speaker stands and a handheld mic are both considered mini PA systems.
Like all PA systems, the mini PA includes an amplifier, a speaker and a microphone. Mini PA systems are highly portable, and (although less powerful than full size PA systems) also come in models rich with features.
By simply asking yourself these 7 easy questions, you can decide which mini PA system is the right choice for your school or classroom.
1. How portable do you need your classroom PA system to be?
Do you plan on using your PA system in more than one classroom? Do you need to use it in on-the-move situations such as class field trips? If so, you will want your classroom PA system to be portable — and mini PA systems are highly portable by definition.
But even so, some PA systems are more portable than others!
A mini PA can weigh very little. The Amplivox Beltblaster, for instance, weighs only 1.5 pounds. And what’s even better, PA systems such as the BeltBlaster can (as the name implies) be worn around the waist for maximum convenience.
Other mini PA systems can be carried in your hand or on a shoulder strap. The Audio2000 AWP6040B-M 25-watt Wireless Mini PA System is a great example of a classroom friendly PA complete with a built-in handle and carrying case with strap.
2. Will you be using your PA System in small classrooms, large classrooms, or outside?
The trick is to buy a PA system that has the best trade-off of weight to power. And how much power you need depends on the size of the classroom.
A mini PA system with 5 watts of power, for example, may be ideal for small classrooms in your school, but for a larger classroom of 50 to 75 students you will need a PA system with at least 20 watts of power.
Where you’re using your system also makes a difference. If you’re using your PA outside, where sound waves won’t be bouncing off walls and there’s more ambient noise, you’ll need a lot more power to be heard.
When in doubt, it’s better to opt for too much power rather than too little. Cranking your PA volume up to the maximum in order to be heard drains battery power more quickly and increases the likelihood of distortion.
For a larger classroom or the school auditorium (more than 75 students) you will want to consider a PA system in the small, midsize or large categories.
3. Will you be using the classroom PA system only for lectures or for lessons with music?
The underlying question here is the sound quality you want, because music requires greater fidelity than speech. Sound quality increases with the power of the PA system (among other factors), so we’re back to the requirement for power.
If you do not need to reproduce music, then a mini PA is all you need. But below 20 watts you simply do not get enough power for decent reproduction of music — even in a relatively small classroom of 10 to 20 students.
A mini PA system of 20 to 30 watts is sufficient for reproducing music as background to a classroom presentation, or for small, low-volume performances.
Note, however, that sound reinforcement for live music usually starts with much higher wattage — hundreds of watts rather than tens of watts.
4. Will you be using your PA in locations with limited access to electric outlets?
If you’re using your mini PA exclusively in the classroom, a system that relies exclusively on an AC adapter should be sufficient.
But, if you’re going to use the PA outdoors or for class field trips, you need to consider getting a PA system with on-board power sources including rechargeable batteries.
If you’re going the batteries route, you’ll also need to consider how long a charge will last when the PA is in continuous use and/or how long it takes to recharge the battery.
5. What kind of microphone should you use with your classroom PA system?
This question again refers to portability. Wireless microphone systems and hands-free microphone systems allow greater freedom of motion for a speaker.
Given that mini PA systems are best suited to teachers who need portability, it makes sense to look for a mini classroom PA system that can accommodate a wireless microphone.
What’s more, with wireless microphones a teacher can keep both hands free for writing on a chalkboard or for a classroom science experiment. In this case, your PA system should include a hands-free microphone like a lavaliere or headband mic.
Smaller mini PA systems are frequently mounted on a belt and come with hands-free (if not wireless) mics, and eliminate the issue of choosing a wireless microphone.
Larger PA systems often include or allow optional upgrades to wireless mics of different types.
One other consideration in choosing a microphone system is interference.
If choosing an FM wireless system, be sure to get a tunable transmitter. Tunable transmitters enable teachers to switch to less crowded frequencies when encountering interference. This is an especially critical feature in schools with wireless PA systems in several classrooms.
6. What other features do you need with your classroom PA system?
Many mid-range and large PA systems come with numerous built-in features for facilitating added functionality like CD players and expandable optional speakers.
Surprisingly, however, you can get some of these same built-in features with mini PA systems.
For example, some mini PAs have built-in cassette or CD players, while others have extra inputs to accommodate audio from external sources. These can be crucial features for you PA system, particularly for the music classroom.
If music is an integral part of your classes, you should consider a classroom PA system with features such as bass and treble control or a built-in subwoofer. These may add some weight to the speaker, but it’s worth it if sound quality is important.
The Amplivox SW222 Portable Buddy 50-watt Mini PA is a good example of a system that features both a wireless mic and a line-out jack for a tape recorder.
Another good mini PA system to meet the music needs of the average classroom is the Amplivox SW212 MityVox, designed with an audio input jack for multimedia applications.
Remember: Mini PA systems are best at providing solid performance for small classrooms where lower wattage is possible. For larger crowds or live music reproduction, opt for a more sophisticated sound reinforcement system that will pump out more power!
7. How much is in the school budget for your classroom PA system?
One of the main attractions of a mini PA system is its price.
Decide which features your PA system needs in order to find the best one for your classroom budget:
Do you require a wireless microphone or will a cheaper wired microphone suffice?
Do you need rechargeable batteries or will you settle for disposable alkaline batteries?
Do you need a built-in cassette or CD player?
Whichever features you eventually choose, mini PA systems are an affordable way to provide sound reinforcement for smaller classrooms or teachers on-the-go!
AudioLink offers a wide selection of classroom friendly PA systems!
Now that you know what to look for in a classroom PA system, have a look at our selection of Classroom PA systems.
Still have questions? Advice from the experienced AudioLinks staff is just a phone call or email away!