Choosing the Right Handheld PA & Megaphones
Hand-Held PA’s & Megaphones: There Is No Such Thing As A Small Audience
A megaphone is a cone-shaped device designed to amplify spoken words or manufactured sounds (such as a warning siren). Megaphones have a long history stretching back to the ancient world. They are a naturally occurring acoustical enhancement. In other words, rock formations or even organic forms like tree limbs or sea shells can act like a megaphone: focusing sound waves in a single direction.
As with many inventions, their first use was in the military, helping battle units communicate in the field. However, their usefulness in the realm of dramatic entertainment and public speaking was quickly recognized and indeed became more important over time. For example, some believe that the masks used in Greek theatrical performances as early as the 6th century incorporated funnel shaped mouths which, like megaphones, amplified the speech of the actors. Even today, the megaphone is often synonymous with the image of a movie director (first used on a movie set by Cecil B. DeMille).
Historically designs for megaphones were as small as a bread box or as large as a railroad car, however, most megaphones used today are electronic, portable and hand held. Power is now a function of circuitry more than size.
Whether athletic instructors use them for training, or law enforcement officials for crowd control, megaphones remain important tools for a wide variety of situations.
Hand Held Public Address Systems:
Hand-held PA systems differ from megaphones in that they usually include a shoulder strap and either a wired or wireless microphone. They may also have connections for external devices, such as a CD player, and may even be pole mounted. Some are capable of either battery operation (DC) or plugging into a wall outlet (AC) or both. The power rating of PA systems is generally higher than that of megaphones, although some modern megaphones can produce 30 watts of amplification.
Hand held PA systems vs. megaphones:
There are four main considerations: price, power, range, and options.
As far as price is concerned, megaphones are usually cheaper, but are more limited in what they do. Power and range requirements should be carefully considered in choosing between PA’s and megaphones.
Power output (or rated power) can be stated in many different ways, but usually in terms of Watts. A PA system with a rating of 200 Watts normally is sufficient to cover an audience of 200 people. A megaphone, however, has a fairly narrow focus of amplification and therefore it is neccesary to specify its effective range (the maximum area which receives the amplified signal) as well as the power.
The effective range of a megaphone is dependent on a number of factors including the background noise level of the environment where it is used. In noisy environments, a more powerful megaphone is usually required. The main difference is the shape of the area where amplified sound is heard. By definition a megaphone with the same power as a PA system will cover a triangular area which is longer and more narrow. This is why a speaker with a megaphone has to swivel to cover a crowd in front of him or her.
Finally, consider the options that fit your needs before buying.
The main difference among megaphones or comparably powered PA systems are the options, literally bells and whsistles, available. For example:
We supply both pistol-grip megaphones and hand held PA systems.
Distinctive siren signaling will get the crowds attention and make sure your announcement is heard.
Pole mounting adds a convenient hands-free feature.
Auxiliary output lends a multimedia capability.
For your convenience I have analyzed some products that fit into this category along the lines suggested above. In particular I have arranged some megaphones and handheld PAs by power output with their special features denoted for convenient comparison. I have also included a price comparison based on current AudioLink discounted prices.