Hey Josh, it’s one of your favourite subjects – P.A. systems. I am saving up for my first one, not even sure where to start but think my budget might stretch to $2k. Is that too little? Can you provide some options and good suppliers? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Jo, you are so correct, this is one of my favourite subjects. Well before I was a celebrant with opinions on PA systems I was a guest at weddings and even regular events where I struggled to hear the person speaking. Nothing frustrates my brain more than being able to see the lips moving but the sound isn’t in my ears. In fact, good stage designers and performance creators base their decisions on the audience’s five senses being in line with what they are trying to deliver. Can the audience member at the front, middle, and rear, see, hear, feel, smell, and taste exactly what we want them to.
In a wedding we might not be appointed as the stage designer but I think that if we can take a small amount of responsibility on how the guests are hearing, seeing, smelling. touching, and feeling the ceremony. There is then a high possibility that the guests might interact with the ceremony more and the couple might have an awesome wedding.
My PA system journey up until now
My first PA system was a MiPro. I never purchased one, but my employer owned one and I would borrow it in my early days, until I grew tired of these two issues:
- The audio going in simply didn’t sound like the audio coming out. The microphones of the MiPro systems did not complement the actual sound of the ceremony, I deemed them distracting to the crowd because of the poor amplification of my speech and the couples’ vows, making the ceremony harder to hear and enjoy. Simply put: low-quality microphones.
- The MiPro’s battery system is quite low-tech and on two occasions I had a freshly charged PA system die because it turned out the battery quality had degraded to a point where it no longer held charge. It turns out the MiPro battery needs replacing every 9-15 months. The more you know …
My second PA system was a Chiayo, and it was a similar deal to the MiPro.
My third PA system was the first PA system I liked. It was a Roland BA-55, now discontinued, its successor does not come with a built-in microphone. The only downside to the BA-55 was that its battery power came from AA batteries, an costly replacement option although I appreciated knowing how old the batteries were, and the other downside was that its microphone operated on 2.4GHz, a frequency shared with wifi networks, bluetooth, and water. So imagine marriage ceremonies in the inner-city, hundreds of wifi networks nearby, mobile phones everywhere, then add in human bodies around the PA system (like bridal parties) and from time to time the microphone would cut out for a split-second. I wondered if there was a better way.
My fourth PA system was a Behringer on-loan from Behringer themselves and I wouldn’t give one to my worst enemy. The speaker was bad and lacked loudness, but the microphone sounded worse, and it was a Bluetooth microphone. If you were more than two meters from the PA system it would die.
My fifth PA system was my proudest purchase, and has been for about three years. It’s a Sennheiser LSP-500. The Sennheiser is a beast of a unit. It is loud, crystal clear, manufactured by one of the best audio companies on the planet, amazing technology inside with digital 100%-0% battery readings, dual hot-swappable batteries, built-in compressors, EQs on each channel, USB recording, and you could have three Sennheiser wireless microphones installed, so I could turn up to a wedding with a better PA system than the best DJ and the ceremony would be clearly heard and understood and videographers loved it.
The only downside of the Sennheiser is that when I travelled it weighed 32kg in its travel case, about 20kg to lift up onto a speaker stand, and my complete kit out with two microphones and a wireless bodypack transmitter, along with all the accessories was close to $8,000 AUD.
For the past three years I have only recommended the LSP-500, and would still recommend this PA system today, it’s the top of the food chain, there’s not a system on the market that meets its sound quality, loudness, and versatility. In-fact, if you’d like to buy mine, it’s listed on Gumtree now.
My current PA system recommendation
If you talk to wedding DJs many are bringing Bose L1/B1 PA systems to weddings. They are small, versatile, and loud for the price. But I’ve always been of the opinion that Bose’s marketing was better than it’s products. Today I still believe that – with the exception of their PA speaker systems, particularly their new portable PA system.
The PA system I am currently using and the PA system I recommend purchasing is a Bose S1 Pro with the optional battery.
Things I love about the Bose S1 Pro:
- It weighs 7kg
- It fits in the overhead compartment of airplanes so easily, it’s about the size of a medium can of paint
- It sounds good!
- It’s loud and crystal clear
- Did I mention how small and light it is?
- I’ve never trusted Bluetooth on the Sennheiser LSP-500, and I generally wouldn’t trust Bluetooth anywhere, but on the S1 it works perfectly every time, across a room over 100 people, it’s a miracle
- About 145 degrees wide audio projection, which basically means it has a horizontally wide spread of spitting out audio to the crowd which simply means more people can hear the one speaker
- About eight hours battery life, and you can check current battery life by double tapping the Bluetooth button
Things the Bose S1 Pro is missing:
- Built-in microphones
- Recording to a USB stick
- If there’s a size of a crowd, maybe over 100/120 guests, I think I’d like to have two
So the USB recording can’t be fixed (videographers loved that) and purchasing two is achievable at the price, and the microphone “problem” is easily solved.
I already owned a Sennheiser wireless microphone and matching Sennheiser wireless camera receiver. You can purchase them together in a kit or individually, and you could even get other brands but I love the warm, clear and professional sound of a Sennheiser wireless microphone. In the Sennheiser range you’ll notice models like “G3” and “G4”, the G stands for generation and for the past few years the current model was G3, but a month ago the G4 range was released and like any new release it’s the same but better. If I was buying one today I’d buy a G4 but I have a G3 and it’s fine.
When buying the Sennheiser wireless receiver just make sure you ask for the XLR lead, so the receiver can plug into the Bose S1.
Cost and how to purchase
The RRP for the Bose S1 Pro is $999 AUD pus $165 for the battery.
That’s $1164 in total. Here’s a link to buy it on eBay or you can find your own deal through a Google search.
The Sennheiser mic and receiver kit RRP for $999. Amazon Global have it listed for $599, Sound Devices in Sydney have the G3 listed for $749, Videoguys have the G3 for $787 and the G4 for $799. Factory Sound have the G3 listed for $775 and if you talk to them directly they have the G4’s coming.
Regarding the microphone situation, I would recommend talking to a professional to make sure you purchase the right microphone combination of transmitter and frequency/ies that suits your geographic region and also your presenting style. I like a handheld microphone, but you might like a lav mic. If you’re a lav mic kind of person, maybe purchase the handheld microphone for the couple to use when exchanging vows.
Simply put, if you purchase from the right place at the right time, you are $1500 or so away from the best portable PA system on the planet, and if you need to double the spread of audio, that is, if you regularly have crowds over 120 or so, then double the price and every single guest gets a crystal clear presentation of the ceremony.
Setting it all up
As you can see in the image, there are two main input channels for XLR or 1/4″ Jack connectors (it’s a combo plug, you can plug either or) and the third plug is a 3.5mm plug for a phone or MP3 player, but it doubles as a Bluetooth connection. The output plug is a 1/4″ Jack connector.
Here’s a photo of my whole setup ready to party, the only thing missing is a speaker stand (the Bose sits on standard 35mm speaker stands)
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My PA speakers are both Bose! My L1 was my first speaker, and I always get compliments on it from videographers and guests. I’ve just bought a S1 after getting sick of being caught out in a few venues without power access and needing to sub hire a generator. So glad you’re with Team Bose, I love my units and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them to anyone else in the market. I too use Sennheiser mics, was looking at Rode for a battery operated wireless option but loved the Sennheiser too much to stray.
The Rode wireless mics are great, but the reason I’ve gone Sennheiser is because they can be received by multiple receivers, where the Rode are a one-to-one transmitter-receiver relationship. That simply means that a videographer can also have a Sennheiser receiver and receive the audio straight from the microphone.
Good to know! Thanks for that
Hi josh, thanks so much for all of this advice. Just wondering if videographers can only tune into same frequency if they have a sennheiser receiver. If yes do you find that they commonly do? Or is there another way they can get the audio? Thankyou!
Fantastic question Lisa, and yes, as long as they have receivers that can receive the frequency you’re transmitting on then they can pick it up without even asking, it’s that simple 🙂
This is SO amazingly helpful Josh. I am little ‘aways’ from being able to purchase (next 6 months I think) but you have cut through the crap, saved me hours and buckets of cash. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.
Very helpful…. I am (read, was) weeks away from dropping $2k on a MiPro … this is definitely food for thought (and I’d actually already looked at the Bose online – but hearing first hand experience is valuable.)
$2k spent on the Bose/Sennheiser is definitely the better spend. Hopefully there’s a PA place in Newcastle that could even demo it for you?
I’ll definitely be looking into it. Cheers mate.
I recently purchased the S1 Pro and LOVE it so far 🙂 Just wondering if you could offer some advice for the mic set up?
Currently I have an Audio Technica System 10 Pro (https://www.storedj.com.au/audio-technica-system-10-pro-atw1322-dual-handheld-system) and was wondering if you know if it’s possible to connect this to the S1 Pro via the body pack transmitter (https://www.storedj.com.au/audio-technica-system-10-pro-atwt1001-bodypack-transmitter) in a similar way you have done with the sennheiser in the image above?
Would this be possible with the body pack along and without the main unit or am I way off the mark?
Thanks in advance 🙂
Hey Josh, I believe that would be totally possible 🙂
After reading this article and listening to podcast “A tribute to the greatest episode in the world”, you mentioned speaker placement. Being a newbie to the industry, where would you suggest is the best place for the speaker so I majority can hear?
Hi Veronica! I thought your question deserved it’s own post, so here it is!
Hey Josh. A great (and timely) article for me. Thanks!
You say there’s not a system on the market that meets the “sound quality, loudness, and versatility” of the LSP-500, yet the PA you recommend is the Bose S1.
– is this largely due to price? ie the Bose S1 is a quarter (!!!) of the price of the LSP-500 but not a quarter of the quality?
I know “sound quality” is a tricky thing to rate and put into words – but having heard them both how do they compare? How much better is the LSP-500? $2500 better?
Sound quality and loudness is pretty important to me.
Weight isn’t – nor is videographer convenience.
Price is always important, of course.
Thanks again 🙂
Short answer because I’m travelling at the moment, but the Bose is the size of a tin of paint, weighs 7kg, and for 90% of celebrants it’s good enough.
For me, I’ll purchase a second Bose soon for more coverage, and that will be good enough for me. What the Bose lacks compared to the LSP-500 is the mics (as explained) and the metric volume of audio. It has all the quality, just not as much of it.
Honestly, the LSP-500 is 150% of the PA system the average wedding needs. I guess this is why Sennheiser never pushed it to celebrants.
Just wondering what the range of Bluetooth you have found on the Bose system. Eg: can you stand 4-5 meters away with your iPad and still have clear music that isn’t cutting in and out?
Hi Caitlyn! The Bose website advertises 4-5 metres range, but I’ve actually found the Bluetooth on the Bose S1 to be beyond expectations, working across a large chapel full of 100 people. something I’d never expect to work because bluetooth historically sucks!
So I’d say the advertised 4-5 meters is more than deliverable.
I’ve never trusted Bluetooth before the Bose S1.
With the Sennheiser being a UHF unit, have there been any problems with guaranteed UHF frequencies?
Ive just spoken to “Store Dj” and they have suggested a digital Mic due to the possibilities of lack of frequencies in some locations, ie beachs, parks etc?
He was mentioning a lot of words that for a novice in the sound system world was a bit overwhelming. They do have an amazing deal on at the moment for the Bose S1 Pro Pack, double speakers W Batteries and stands for $1704.00, just dont want to get a Mic that may or may not work in remote locations?
I also cant imagine you would advocate for the Sennheiser for our industry if there were going to be issues.
Thanks in advance
I’m hesitant to recommend digital (and Bluetooth) microphones because most operate on 2.4ghz (or similar) which is a frequency affected by water, like that found in rain or human bodies.
I think it’s as simple as Store DJ not selling a Sennheiser wireless gear. Talk to Jackson at Factory Sound 🙂
was getting the same feeling, Thanks Josh! 🙂
Just an update on the above. I have managed to find 2 great prices for the Bose S1 pro with battery and the SENNHEISER EW135P G4-B PORTABLE HANDHELD WIRELESS MIC
Josh originally posted about the G3 Mic back in July, since then the G4 model is out.
I have just invested in both and WOW! The sound quality is super impressive. So if your still on the hunt for your system, check out these sites.
https://www.digidirect.com.au/accessories/microphones/sennheiser_ew135p_g4-b_portable_handheld_wireless_mic = $745
https://www.storedj.com.au/bose-s1-pro-pack-w-pair-of-speakers-and-speaker-stands-s1-pro-batteries-included = $1609
Happy Shopping! 🙂
Hey Josh! Just wondering if you are using the same gear as the post was almost 2 years ago. (gee time flies)! Thanks in advance! 😀
Yes- I was wondering the same re latest info on what’s best to purchase now? I’m needing to invest ASAP and being such a costly investment, want to make best educated choice possible. Thanks Ruth
Great informative article Josh. Has there been an update to your post or still the same recommendations? Thanks Heaps!
Hi Gail, I still recommend the same setup. Nothing better has come on the market yet 🙂
Great article – thank you for sharing. I particularly appreciated reading through your purchase journey. I have been on a similar journey myself as a wedding musician. I recently purchased a Bose S1 Pro after working my way through a Roland Street Cube EX and then a Roland BA330. The difference in sound quality and clarity is incomparable, it’s great to hear about the bluetooth stability and ease of wireless mic set up too. Finally there is no distortion and I am happy with and proud of my battery powered sound.
I’m just currently trying to figure out which frequency of the Sennheiser mic I need:
Sennheiser EW 135P G4-AS (520 – 558 MHz)
Sennheiser EW 135P G4-B (626 – 668 MHz)
Sennheiser EW 135P G4-G (566 – 608 MHz)
I was told by staff at Videoguys that the AS is the most commonly used frequency, but they recommended that I should use the frequency finder to determine what is best for my area. After checking on the ACMA website it says that wireless microphones can use frequencies 520 to 526 MHz in all areas. My understanding is that frequencies are geographically determined, e.g. what frequencies are acceptable in Europe may not be suitable here in Australia as different continents have different conventions. Does it vary much between states in Australia?
I noticed that the mic you linked to above was the G4-B (with a frequency from 626-668). Just wondering if is there any reason for this (i.e are some frequencies better quality if you want to also use it for performing music, in addition to speaking)?
Thanks so much for such a wonderfully detailed and current blog posting on this topic!
Great and detailed question – 10 points for doing your research – but the frequency doesn’t affect sound quality these days, only radio reception quality. I use an AS for my purposes, and it sounds like AS will suit you too.
Thanks so much for the confirmation Josh, and thanks again for this great post and recommendations!
Thanks for another great post!
I’m getting around to sorting out all the gear required, and most of what I can find online suggest always having the speaker on a stand for sound quality.
Does this advice stand true for the S1 Pro?
Hey Lachlan, it 100% still stands true. I just replaced mine recently after getting mould damage.
Just a little shout out to the mighty MiPro!!!
I have a 303 and I always get compliments and comments from guests and videographers about how clear the sound is and how well the audio picks up on video recording!
I love it because I can sling it over my shoulder and carry it anywhere easily, without needing power..
I have it serviced every year, and so far the battery is still showing full working capacity after nearly 7 years!!!
I just wanted to encourage those reading this to do their own research (as would you). Now I know that you dissed the Behringer system you used and I’ve never seen one, though the Behringer Europort MPA 40BT-Pro for example with a price point of $369 gets terrific reviews with some saying that the brand has really improved over the years. So I guess I’m just saying that celebrants don’t need to feel inadequate if they start their celebrant life with a system that isn’t of Bose calibre. My little Chiayo has served me well over the years though I’m now at a stage where I want better for myself and my clients (my fee is creeping up to reflect this too).
Now, I sorta wish I didn’t read your article as I’ve just splashed out on the Sennheiser camera receiver and microphone. I had to be quick as a store had it for $599 (with $5 off first purchase) which is $200+ less than every other store.
The speaker will have to wait though I see the JBL Eon One is giving Bose a run for its money. I suspect that since we are primarily concerned with vocals during a ceremony that the Bose will win out for me too – one day. ????
So here’s the thing Michael, I could never in good conscience recommend that a practising celebrant use a Behringer PA system because of the microphone they pair with it. They reccomend a ULM mic, which is named “High-Performance 2.4 GHz Digital Wireless System with Handheld Microphone and Dual-Mode USB Receiver” and there is nothing high performance about a 2.4 GHz microphone. Thhey shouldn’t be used where there are crowds of people, the 2.4GHz range can’t be trusted.
It’s not about feeling inadequate, and I hope and pray no-one has felt that in reading this piece, but it’s about setting a bar – and I say, in my personal opinion, that the bar is at a Sennheiser EV microphone in a Bose S1.
Regarding the JBL Eon One, I didn’t know that JBL had released a Bose S1 competitor, it looks great.
It’d be nice if one of these bigger and more professional companies did an all-in-one unit with a mic someday, because the microphone’s the Chiayos and MiPros come with sound dreadful to my ears 🙂
Thank you for the reply Josh. I realise that you’re setting the bar. Sadly I, and most celebrants along with the general public are not even aware of how high that “bar” can (and should) be!
I’m happy to have found the Celebrant Institute. You and Sarah are very generous in sharing so much of your knowledge and wisdom and time. Thanks again.
I’m just about to go hunting for my set up and this is super helpful. (also love the cheeky gumtree plug) Thanks for making a large process a little easier.
This is SO super helpful! I know that when the time is right (fingers crossed it’s getting closer) that I will be completely out of my depth in the PA system world, but this has just made it that much easier. Cheers!
I have frequently revisited this post knowing that my system is sub standard. So it’s now time to buy.
I’ve decided on the Bose S1. I’d like a Sennheiser mic but there are sooooo many. Would you be willing to narrow down my options to 1 or 2? Thanks Josh
This is all new to me! I found this blog post (and discussion in the comments) really helpful! Thanks all 🙂