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Portable Audio Systems - Do Systems Live Up to Portability and Sound Quality Claims?

Nov 9th 2012 at 12:01 AM

What is a portable sound system? The definition would depend on who a person is talking to. The general public may think of an iPod and a docking station or a Boom Box. Those in the Audio System industry would have a vastly different definition, dealing with speaker arrays, wireless receivers and transmitters, microphone systems, etc. This article will be dealing with the second definition, Portable voice and music sound systems. Even under this definition, the difference between systems can be dramatic. Systems can vary from ultra-portable handheld speaker PA systems, like the Anchor MegaVox PRO or Anchor MiniVox Lite to Midsized systems like the Anchor Liberty or Xtreme and large capacity audio systems like the Anchor Beacon Sound System.

These are all self contained, portable units, which offer amplification, quality speakers, and microphones. The size differential allows for a system which can effectively transmit sound to a small group in a limited space to systems which can transmit sound clearly in large open areas to crowds up to 5000 people. The larger systems also offer greater options, such as wired microphones, single wireless microphone receivers and multiple wireless receivers. Varied systems also offer options such as built in MP3 players. Of course the ability to Daisy Chain, or tie together multiple units allows many of the smaller systems to be used to reach larger crowds as well.

While the smallest systems tend to be solely battery operated, the larger systems often allow for AC and DC operation, from internal batteries and external power sources. Depending on the degree of portability required this can be an important consideration. If the presenter will be moving, as one would when giving a tour, or possibly at a rally or parade, then the small handheld, battery powered option would be best.

On the other hand, when the presentation is to be given from a fixed location, larger options may be better suited. Larger portable sound systems are easily moved from one location to another, with set up and Yamaha YHT-897 break down times which are minimal, but they are not designed to be portable during use. Here the considerations will tend to be venue and crowd size. A decibel level output high enough to carry sound effectively should determined and equipment obtained to meet or exceed that standard. Availability of power is another major consideration. While the Beacon offers AC/DC power, the extreme requires AC, and therefore cannot be used if electrical outlets are not available. The Liberty offers both power source options as well. Anchor covers the range of portable sound systems well, and produces a solid, professional and high quality line of products, but I will not say that they are the only brand which does so. Shop around to find the system which best suits your needs.

How does one determine what their needs are? A few simple questions can help with that process. First how big is the venue? Is it indoors or outdoors? Is it a wide open area, or are there many barriers present to block sound waves? What is the size of the crowd I am addressing? Will I be projecting in a straight line or do I need to have audio project in a radius to cover the crowd effectively? What acoustic considerations are there?

For example, is the venue full of plush items which dampen noise or is it largely hard surfaces, or are there major sources of background noise which need to be accounted for? How portable does the system have to be? Will power be available at the venue? How often will the system be used, is it a one time event, and occasional use or regular use over the long-term? Lastly, what is the available budget? Systems can range from under $200.00 for the smallest ones to several thousand dollars for more powerful systems, so budget is a major consideration. Don't' look at this as strictly a cost issue; however, look at it as a return on investment issue.

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