Pump up the volume
George Cole puts a PA system to the test and is impressed by its portability, power and performance
Can you hear me at the back? There's nothing like a good PA system to make sure you get heard at a public meeting or performance. Many schools have halls with built-in PA systems, but there are times when a portable PA system comes in handy, such as at an outdoor event. Yamaha's Stagepas 300 (yes, I know the company won't win any prizes for spelling) aims to meet the need for portability and a big sound.
The first thing any portable PA system should be is, well, portable, and here Stagepas 300 easily meets the grade. The whole system weighs 18 kilograms and I managed to lift it all by myself, even though I'm no Charles Atlas (that said, it is advisable to have a couple of people carry it).
Another important factor is ease of use - the last thing you want is a portable system that takes ages to set-up and configure. Once again, Stagepas 300 came up trumps. There is very little to the system - just two rugged bass-reflex speakers that appear to be composed of toughened plastic, a compact amplifiermixer, three connecting cables and that's it.
Stagepas 300 has been cleverly designed so the amplifiermixer sits snugly inside the back recess of one of the speakers. All you do is loosen a couple of screws and it comes loose (you can even operate the unit while it sits inside the speaker).
The second speaker also has a rear storage compartment for cables, microphone and so on.
Set-up was quick and easy - I managed it in less then five minutes. Just connect the speakers to the amplifiermixer, plug in the power cable and you're ready to go. The amplifiermixer offers a beefy 150 watts per channel and there are eight channel inputs - four mono and two stereo channels (56 and 78). The mono channels are designed for microphones and musical instruments such as guitar and keyboards, while the stereo channels can be used for instruments with a stereo output (such as a synthesiser or sampler) or a stereo music source, such as a CD player.
The four mono channels offer a choice of three-pin XLR and 3.5-inch jack connections, while the stereo channels offer 3.5-inch jack andor phono connections. Each channel has independent equalisationlevel controls and there is master volume control pot. Effects are limited to a reverb switch.
The amplifiermixer is well designed, with all audio controllers, switches and input sockets clearly labelled - it's very hard to plug the wrong lead into the wrong channel. I plugged in a guitar to see how well the system sounded and was impressed by the volume (this system can go loud) and the sound quality (each speaker has a one-inch compression driver and eight-inch woofer or bass unit), which was crisp and clear, even when the volume was cranked up. This system would certainly cope with an audience in a medium-sized hall.
To sum up, this is a very impressive PA system that combines portability, power, performance and ease-of-use into one compact package.