Shopping for DJ loudspeakers but confused on what to look for?
Because between factors such as power, form-factor or size it’s easy to loose track of what you actually need.
Add to that the growing need of portability and you have yourself a nice headache.
Because if you’re anything like other DJs, you’ll quickly notice gigging on the crappy local PA system is pretty depressing…
Which is why so many of these DJs now decide to simply bring their speakers along with them, wherever they go gigging.
And so this is why I decided to put this post together in order to help you understand and choose the best DJ speaker for your needs.
Sounds good? Then let’s start.
What to Look For in a DJ Loudspeaker
First off all I’d like to mention I’ll ONLY be talking about portable speakers, as opposed to line array speakers which are meant to be permanently installed.
You may or may not know this already so I’ll say it anyway:
There are essentially 7 key points to consider when choosing DJ speakers. These are:
- Passive/Active – DJ speakers can either be self-powered or may require external power
- Power – no rocket science here – the more watts, the louder the speaker
- Woofer Cone Size – 10″, 12″, 15″ or even 18″. Different sizes for different sound signatures.
- Subwoofer – the subwoofer is the bass speaker, you might need one, or not.
- Integrated Mixer – having some sort of mixer on the back of the speaker will save you the need to get an external one.
- Form-factor – there are 2 main for factors, point source and column array.
1. Passive or Active DJ Loudspeakers
Probably the biggest difference with DJ speakers is whether they are passive or active.
In a nutshell:
- Active speakers – have a built-in preamp and basically power themselves.
- Passive speakers – don’t have a preamp built into them and therefore require an external source of power in order to function.
So at first glance you might think:
Why would I choose passive speakers since I need extra equipment to make them work?
And you would be 99% right, because in 99% of the cases a powered/active speaker is EXACTLY what you need.
I say 99% because passive speakers do have some advantages:
- They’re easier to service – if the amp breaks down you can just get a new one
- They’re easier to place where you want to – since they’re not directly plugged into AC power you won’t be forced to place them near a power outlet.
But that’s pretty much it… And as nomad DJ you want to be able to quickly and easily carry your speakers around…
With as little elements as possible, right? Which is why I decided to include active speakers ONLY in this list.
How powerful should your speakers be? That’s probably one of the main question any DJ or event organizer asks themselves.
If you browse sound forums long enough you’ll probably end up thinking
well, that wasn’t helpful
Because the truth of the matter is: there is no set in stone rule.
There seems to be quite a consensus in the DJ community, which is that you should allow for 5 watts per person.
That gives us 2.5 watts per speaker. SO, assuming you’ll be playing in front of 300 persons, that’ll give you a grand total of 1500 watts divided by 2:
750 watts by speaker.
Some people also recommend you take the area to be covered by the speaker into consideration:
For each 1000 feet square you should have 100 watts, meaning that for a 1000 ft square venue with 200 people you’ll want 1000 watts for the people + 300 watts for the size of the venue:
1300 watts total.
The idea is to always have at least a couple hundreds watts of headroom: better having too much power than not enough.
3. Woofer Cone Size
The bigger the louder. This is basically the rule as for the cone size.
Most DJ speakers have a 15″ cone woofer but you might see some bigger ones, as well as smaller ones especially 12″.
The main difference for the listener is the low end frequencies reproduction: the larger the cone diameter, the lower the frequencies it can reproduce.
Take these 2 very similar models from Mackie which are the same in virtually ALL features, except for how low they can go:
- Thump 12A – can reproduce frequencies down to 50Hz
- Thump 15A – can reproduce frequencies all the way down to 32Hz
So how you can see the bigger speaker the lower the frequencies it can reproduce.
However some say that compared to 15″, 12″ speakers have a “punchier” sound.
Whichever size you choose just know they’re both very commonly used by DJs.
The subwoofer is a speaker that solely reproduces low-end frequencies.
Since it usually doesn’t come with the speakers, some people claim it is not mandatory to have one.
However, the fact is that 99% of DJs use one.
Again, it’s the old “better safe than sorry” rule; you ideally want to be READY for any situation…
Meaning that if your current set doesn’t require a subwoofer — at least in theory — you’ll want to make sure the day you play drum’n’bass or electronic music, you’ll be able to deliver loud bass.
Now, if you really want to make sure you need a subwoofer — and trust me you do — the best is to compare the lowest frequencies of a given song of your set…
To the lowest frequencies advertised by the manufacturer of the speakers you’re looking at.
Typically, the frequency range is set to the hearing range of the human: 20Hz to 20kHz.
And the fact is that some manufacturers advertise their speakers as able to reach frequencies as low as 32Hz — WITHOUT a subwoofer…
Which would actually be good enough to not use a subwoofer, IF it was true.
Problem is: this is simply impossible. What they generally fail to mention too is that the loss in volume (dB) is so important, that you end up not hearing these frequencies at all.
So do yourself a favor and just get a subwoofer. Here are the models I recommend:
- JBL Professional Subwoofer – (Amazon/B&H/ )
- Yamaha DXS MKII – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
- ELECTRO-VOICE ELX118P – (Amazon/B&H/Thomann)
5. Built-in EQ
One way or another you will need to mix your speakers’ sound, simply because no venues sound the same.
Some speakers come with a built-in EQ, some only with a volume knob and some with nothing at all.
If your speakers have a full EQ built-in you’re good to go and will be able to plug your DJ mixer straight into them.
However, if they don’t have anything more than volume knob for controls, you’ll want to get a small mixer , so you can balance and tweak your sound like you want to.
Here’s a good, cheap one:
6. Form Factor
Last but not least, you also need to consider the form factor of your speakers, here’s why.
Over the last 15 years the market has seen “column/line array” speakers become more and more popular.
And this is essentially due to 2 reasons:
- They’re the ultimate “portable” DJ speakers – they take less ground space and generally come with a rechargeable battery as well as bluetooth compatibility.
- They have a built-in subwoofer
On the other hand, point source speakers are smaller — especially 12″ models and globally cheaper.
And that about covers what you need to pay attention to when selecting DJ speakers.
So let’s now move on to the list, starting with…
1. PRORECK Club 3000
Probably the cheapest reliable 4000W speakers you’ll curently find on the market, the PRORECK Club 3000 are column speakers with everything you need to start your DJing journey with a great sound.
From subwoofers to bluetooth to SD card reader — you name it, everything’s included.
On top of that — and this is far from being trivial at this price point — you get a full graphic EQ + volume, treble and basse control, as well as an LCD display for your MP3 player.
All in all and under $600 it’s pretty much impossible to top the PRORECK Club 3000 in terms of features and power.
Check it out:
- Click here to compare prices – (Amazon)
2. Mackie Thump 12
A reference in entry-level DJ loudspeakers, the Thump Series from Mackie is simply the most sold active loudpseakers.
- Sound – they pack a ton of power with 1300W and keep being praised for their sound quality, year after year
- Reliability – they have a proven track record of reliability, wherever you take them for gigging.
- Versatility – thanks to their new “application specific modes” which are basically EQ presets, you ca choose between 6 different modes to suit your needs.
Now, you might be wondering why I specifically chose the 12″ over the 15″, since as we now, bigger is usually better.
Well, in the case of the Mackie Thump, the 12″ versions actually sounds punchier and tighter than the 15″, which is exactly what you want as a DJ.
It’s easily the most reliable entry-level speaker you can get. Check it out:
3. Bose L1 Compact
Bose is quite the controversial brand in the audiophile sphere, especially in home hi-fi and even more for headphones…
But when it comes to professional live sound, the community generally agrees Bose are a reference.
The L1 Compact is Bose’s smallest column array speaker, meaning you get a speaker and a subwoofer all in 1, in a small form-factor.
So small and compact means EASY TO CARRY…
Which the L1 Compact absolutely is. In fact, if you browse YouTube a bit you’ll find dozens of people showing how easy it is to carry around, as well as to set up such as this one:
On top of that you can link it to a second one for a total power of 400W.
Check it out:
4. Electro-Voice ZLX-15
Few speakers manufacturers are as respected by DJs as Electro-Voice, mostly because they generally have the most balanced sound.
The ZLX15P is the an affordable and powerful speaker, but keep in mind the advertised 1000W power is certainlu not what you’ll get out of them, expect around 250W of power with a single unit.
The sound quality however is praised by 99% of its users who describe it as crystal clear.
All in all the best introduction to professional sound.
Check them out:
Also check out the Bluetooth version of this speaker:
5. Yamaha DXR MKII
The last update to Yamaha’s mid-range powered speakers, the DXRMKII are often viewed as the underdog of DJ speakers, mostly because Yamaha is not a very reputable brand in the DJ world.
If you’re not familiar with this series, just now it’s been around for about 20 years now.
With their latest update in 2019, Yamaha struck a big blow, especially in terms of build quality: these speakers are TOUGH.
Most users report a much tougher construction than Electrovoice’s speakers AND they’re lighter.
But the most important update is the increased size of the twitter, going from 1.4″ to 1.7″.
Doesn’t seem like a such a big deal? Well, let me explain to you why it surely is:
A bigger driver essentially means a smoother sound. What do I mean by that? Well, picture a very small speaker, like a portable, cheap bluetooth one.
What happens as soon as you turn the volume up? The high frequencies start distorting and the sound overall is unpleasant.
With a bigger driver, this phenomenon is evened out and the sound is just nicer overall.
Ok so to conclude I want to talk about the back-part of the speaker, in other words the mixer/controls.
The most noticeable control you get is the DSP (Digital Signal Processor) features which allow you to cut the lows or the highs, depending on where your speakers are placed (on a table, on stands or on the ground).
Definitely among the best mid-range active speakers out there. Check them out:
Here’s for something a little bit different. In fact, the Soundboks is what you could consider the most powerful portable bluetooth speaker in the world.
So why is it different than other speakers? Mainly because:
- It is battery power – That’s right, you can take it to top of a mountain and have gig there if you want to. On top of that, the battery is swappable.
- It’s powerful – so are some previous speakers on this list but having into account it is battery powered, a 96dB sound level is pretty crazy.
- You can daisy chain them – you can connect up to 5 soundboks together, wirelessly.
- It’s IP65 certified – meaning they can withstand rough weather.
- It comes with a powerful app – the app offers EQ settings, the ability to switch and balance from right, left or mono as well as set the XLR/TRS input levels.
They currently have 2 models available, the soundboks 2 and the soundboks 3, the 3 being the latest update.
Besides some technical updates such as Bluetooth 5.0 for the soundboks 3 vs 3.0 for the soundboks 2, the major difference is the sound with an overall clearer, more detailed sound on the soundboks 3.
Note that the soundboks 2 can work plugged into AC power whereas the soundboks 3 solely works on battery.
Check out this video for a quick presentation of both the speakers and the app:
And check out this one to see how to connect your mixer to one or several soundboks:
Finally, the manufacturer also offers a bunch of useful accessories, especially the backpack which allows you to, well, carry the speaker on your back.
Pretty cool, huh? check it out: (Amazon)
So if you’re looking for a LOUD and portable bluetooth speaker, the soundboks is simply the very best one. Check it out:
7. Electro-Voice Evolve 50
Portable, light and loud would probably the best way to describe the Electro-Voice Evolve 50.
So line array might not be the ideal form-factor for DJs, but this particular model is definitely an exception.
Because with a 12″ subwoofer delivering 500W of power, it’s pretty much what any DJ looks for.b
Of course the speaker itself also delivers 500W, for a total of 1000W thanks to 8 drivers stacked together, which is rare enough to be mentioned.
Because combined to the line array design they easily replace, say, 2 15″ speakers, while covering a bigger surface.
On top of their performance, they’re also light enough so that you could pack 2 of them in your car, especially if you get the cases. Check out how this DJ loads them into her car:
Check it out:
For an even more powerful option, check out Bose’s F1 Model 812, which deliver no less than 4000W when using 2, which is double the 2000W of 2 Evolve 50. Check them out:
8. Pioneer XPRS15/Electro-Voice ETX 15
The reason I chose 2 models for the last pick of this list is because they’re both parts of the high-end range of both Pioneer and Electro-Voice , 2 of the most reputable manufacturers of DJ equipment.
But the other I reason I chose these 2 models is because they actually have different applications.
DSP on the ETX15 allows to set a delay in the sound for when you have several units hooked together which is useful for killing the nasty delay you get otherwise.
The XPRS however has a wider dispersion, which can be useful in some cases — such as for very wide dancefloors.
But if you want to focus your sound closer to the speaker/where you are, the ETX are the better choice.
Check them out: