Selecting an Outdoor Sound System for Public Speaking

Outdoor sound systems for public speakers typically consist of three components: a microphone, an amplifier to boost a signal to a level that can power the speakers, and a loudspeaker that converts the signals from the amplifier into sound waves.

Manufacturers create public address systems by putting together components of comparable quality and price in one convenient configuration that ensures components are matched to one another. This usually approximates the needs of a user rather than fit exact specifications. However, several principles can be followed so that the right public address system is selected for any given situation.

Power Requirements

The primary consideration in choosing an outdoor sound system is power. Power requirements increase in proportion to the size of the audience and the event and are based on wattage and power of the amplifier. For example, if sound reinforcement is an issue at outdoor events, the reflections from sound decrease, and, therefore, the wattage needed increases. It is always best to overestimate wattage needs as a public address system that is somewhat larger than needed sounds better than a small system working at close to capacity.

Type of Event

A different approach is needed for more prestige events. For example, an outdoor sound system at a formal ceremony can look dignified with a freestanding podium. Freestanding podiums are available in a wide range of styles and materials to suit the event.

A traditional hardwood podium may be best for a speech by a government official while an acrylic podium can be more high-tech for business events. Those who use notes or a laptop may need a podium with reading lamps and large reading tables.

Portability

Portability can be an important feature that can save money if the public address systems are used in multiple venues. For heavier and more complex systems, having wheels, handles and compact cases facilitates portability.

If the speaker needs to be mobile, then a wireless microphone solution is another consideration. Adding a hands-free microphone such as a headband or lavaliere microphone enables presenters to use their hands as well when speaking.

Finally, if the portable public address system will be used outside where there may not be AC power, then a battery-powered system is required. The battery life of sound reinforcement systems can vary – so battery needs should be based on the length of any given event.

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