PA Speaker Buying Guide

How to Choose PA Speakers

Achieving consistently high-quality live sound can be a challenge. Your choice of

PA speakers can determine whether you’re mixing to make

something good sound great or struggling to solve sound-reinforcement problems. There are three basic

categories of PA systems: 

Personal PAs 

Medium-sized PAs

Full-scale PAs

Personal PAs consist of single speakers or mini speaker arrays, which serve as both main

speakers and monitors. Medium-sized PAs consist of a pair of stand-mounted speakers on either

side of the stage plus simple monitor wedges. Full-scale PA systems involve multi-speaker line

arrays and complex monitoring systems.

We’ve created this Sweetwater Buying Guide to provide you with the information you’ll need

when you’re ready to invest in new PA speakers. Since there’s so much more to consider than what we can

possibly cover here, give your Sales Engineer a call at (800) 222-4700 after checking out this

guide. They can help you choose the best PA speakers for your situation.

How Much Power Do I Need?

At Sweetwater, we’re often asked how much power is required for a PA system. But the real question is

“How loud do you need it to be?” as your power requirements will vary according to your situation. Are

you performing low-volume acoustic folk or high-volume progressive metal? A classical presentation or an

EDM performance? The size of the venue is also important, as is the number of people attending (human

bodies make terrific sound absorbers). A medium-sized venue (250–500 people) may require 2,000 watts or as

much as 20,000 watts, based on these factors.

So, is it all about wattage? Not necessarily. After all, more power doesn’t necessarily mean more

output. While a speaker’s wattage definitely affects its volume, its maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level) is

a better indicator of how loud the speaker can go. Understanding a speaker’s coverage angle is also

important. A powerful speaker with a narrow coverage angle will reach fewer people than a less powerful one

with a broader coverage angle. It’s also vital that you consider the speaker’s sensitivity, which is a

measurement of its ability to effectively convert power into sound. In a nutshell, sensitivity refers to

the SPL that a speaker can produce from a 1-watt signal at a distance of 1 meter. This sensitivity spec

measures “efficiency” and is a strong indicator of a speaker’s loudness, which is why a less efficient

1,000-watt speaker isn’t necessarily louder than an efficient 500-watt speaker. In fact, a 500-watt

speaker with a sensitivity of 98dB will actually be the same volume as a 1,000-watt speaker with a

sensitivity of 95dB.

A TV or home theater speaker system in a single cabinet.&

nbsp;Soundbar speakers are designed for apartments or venues where&

nbsp;discrete speakers are not desired throughout the room. Self&nb

sp;powered, soundbars often support a wireless subwoofer for maximu

m bass response, which can be conveniently located anywhere in

 the room. In the more sophisticated systems, "virtual su

rround sound" is produced by psychoacoustic effects that adjus

t the timing and volume of the various speakers. Some uni

ts bounce the sound off side and back walls, which can&nb

sp;be effective in small rooms, while others do not rely 

on precise placement.

The Soundbase

A soundbase is a soundbar

 that is deeper and flat so the TV stand can be&nbsp

;placed on it. See home theater, home theater speakers and home theater

in a box.

Why Ceiling Speakers Are Good (Worth It) For Surround Sound

While I was remodeling my home theater, I decided to take a look at ceiling speakers to increase my surround sound, but I found they were

going to take a lot of work. This got me wondering whether ceiling speakers were worth the hassle.

So, are ceiling speakers any good?

Ceiling speakers make a great addition to a home theater, particularly if you’re looking for a more

immersive sound experience. They need to be specifically designed for ceilings, but they make an excellent

addition to a surround sound setup.

When Are Ceiling Speakers A Good Addition?

It’s fair to say that not everyone’s home theater will benefit from ceiling speakers. After all, if

you’ve only got a small room dedicated to your home theater, you might already have enough speakers.

Also, if you live in a rented property, you might not be able to carry out the work necessary to

install them. These are some of the situations when you’ll probably see the most benefit from ceiling


1. They’re less messy

Sure, speakers aren’t usually considered ugly, but many people prefer to minimize clutter as much as


If you’re building a home theater, you’ll inevitably have cables running everywhere, and so

at least mounting your speakers in the ceiling means you have a few less cables to worry about.

2. They’re a good way of completing a surround sound system

You’ve already got a set of “normal” speakers (think bookshelf speakers or monitors) then you might

not want to go out and buy a new surround sound system.

Ceiling speakers are a potentially easier way of completing this, as you can mount them behind your

seating area and use them as the rear channels.

3. They allow you to be more flexible with your layout

If you choose to mount your speakers in the ceiling, then you won’t have to worry as much about

positioning your furniture around floor speakers.

Not only will this mean fewer cables, but if you get swiveling ceiling speakers, then you’ll have

plenty of freedom over where to put your furniture.

4. They give you a more immersive experience

Surround sound is all about immersion, so why not get the most out of your home theater? Cinemas

use ceiling speakers for the same reason, so it makes sense to splash out on some if you can.


A woofer is a speaker that is sized and constructed so that it can reproduce low and mid-range

frequencies. Woofers do most of the work in reproducing the

frequencies you hear, such as voices, most musical instruments, and sound effects.

Depending on the size of the enclosure, a woofer can be as small as 4 inches in diameter or as large as

15 inches. Woofers with 6.5-inch to 8-inch diameters are common in floor standing speakers. Woofers with

diameters in the 4-inch and 5-inch range are common in bookshelf speakers.


A tweeter is a specially designed speaker that is smaller than a woofer. It only reproduces audio

frequencies above a certain threshold, including, in some cases, sounds that human ears cannot hear but

only sense.

Because high-frequencies are highly directional, tweeters disperse high-frequency sounds into the room

so that the sounds are heard accurately. If the dispersion is too narrow, the listener has a limited amount

of listening position options. If the dispersion is too wide, the sense of direction of where the sound is

coming from is lost.

These are the different types of tweeters:

Cone: A smaller version of a standard speaker.

Dome: The voice coil is attached to a dome that is made of fabric or a compatible metal.

Piezo: Instead of a voice coil and cone or dome, an electrical connection is applied to

a piezoelectric crystal, which in turn vibrates a diaphragm.

Ribbon: Instead of a traditional diaphragm, a magnetic force is applied to a thin ribbon to

create sound.

Electrostatic: A thin diaphragm is suspended between two metal screens. The screens react to an

electrical signal in such a way that the screens become out-of-phase. This alternately attracts and repels

the suspended diaphragm, creating the needed vibration to create sound.

Mid-Range Speakers

A speaker enclosure may incorporate a woofer and tweeter to cover the entire frequency range. However,

some speaker makers add a third speaker that further separates the low-range and mid-range frequencies.

This is referred to as a mid-range speaker.

There are many ways to add new life to your music in the car, but new speakers offers one of the

fastest and most cost-effective ways to upgrade your sound. We have what you need, whether you just want to

replace your factory speakers or if you plan to install an amplifier and need speakers that can handle a

lot of power.

Shopping for car speakers can be confusing, so we try to make the process as straightforward as

possible. Watch the video below for an overview on how to shop for new car speakers.

Crutchfield makes it easy to shop for car speakers

The first thing you'll need to do is use our vehicle selector to tell us what you drive.

We'll ask a few questions and then show you the best options for your vehicle.

The Crutchfield car speaker recommender

Once you've told us what you drive, you'll find the car speaker recommender at the top of

the car speakers category page.

The recommender is a great tool that could land you the perfect set of speakers in minutes.

How many car speakers do I need?

There's no standard for the number of car speakers

that are factory-installed in a vehicle. In fact, they seem to get more numerous every year as car

makers introduce premium factory sound systems with perks like noise cancellation and simulated engine

noise. But for this article, we'll stick to the basics.

When replacing front and rear speakers, a good goal is to have a voice-matched system. That means

having the same brand and series of speakers in the front and rear. If you're on a budget, that

doesn't have to happen all at once. Focus on your front speakers first. When you're ready, update

the rear with speakers from the same speaker series (or at least, the same brand) for consistent sound


Speakers for the front of your vehicle

Some vehicles only have two speakers in the front, one per door.

They use a full-range design. Other vehicles feature four speakers in the front, two per side. This is

typically woofers in the door and a tweeter either higher up in the door or in the corner pillar or dash.

Many vehicles also have a center dash speaker, which typically handles vehicle essentials like door

chimes and navigation prompts, in addition to playing music. Many people opt to leave the original speaker

in this spot.

Speakers for the rear of your vehicle

Rear door speakers, rear deck speakers, and tailgate speakers are often full-range, although components

have become increasingly popular. Rear speakers provide sound to backseat passengers and "rear

fill" for the front row. Rear speakers generally don't make a significant contribution to the

sound experience in the front seats. As a result they can be less important to drivers who don't have

passengers very often or to sound enthusiasts who don't want any interference with their front


What size speakers should I buy?

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by a long list of car speakers, all with different sizes. The good

news is you don't have to sweat speaker size too much once you've told us what vehicle you're

shopping for and whether you're shopping for front or rear speakers (or both).

Sometimes you'll have a choice of a couple speaker sizes for a given location. In that case our

rule of thumb is, "the bigger the better." So, given the choice between a 5-1/4" using a

bracket or a 6"x9", we'll usually say go with the 6"x9" for more oomph.

The finer points of fitting car speakers

When looking at speaker fit, we're not just talking about the diameter of the speaker opening.

We're also considering the allowable depth of that opening, sufficient room for the tweeter in front of

the speaker, and several other factors. You can learn more about the details in our article

about understanding speaker sizes. If speaker brackets are required to install your speakers,

we'll include them.

Full-range vs. components — what type of speakers should I get?

Aftermarket car speakers can be divided into two main categories: full-range speakers and component

speaker systems. Let's take a look at each.

Full-range speakers

Full-range speakers contain all the speaker elements in one basket. In their simplest form, they

consist of a woofer for the lows, and a tweeter mounted onto the woofer to produce the

highs. Some models will have additional drivers, like a midrange and/or supertweeter –

these are referred to as "3-way" or "4-way" speakers.

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