PA Speakers vs Hi-Fi Speakers: What’s the Difference? Full Details

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PA speakers and HiFi speakers are two completely different types of speakers that serve different purposes. However, many people don’t know the difference between the two. So, in this article, we’ll talk about PA systems and HiFi speakers in detail and discuss their differences. If this is something you’re interested in learning, then let’s dive right in.

What is the main difference between PA speakers and HiFi speakers? PA speakers are designed to play audio at a loud volume so they can be heard by a large group of people. On the other hand, Hifi speakers are designed to reproduce sounds as close as possible to the original audio.

What are PA Speakers?

The full form of PA is “public address.” So from its name, PA speakers are designed to “publicly address” people.

The main idea for making PA speakers is to make an audio loud enough to be heard by many people. The audio can be someone speaking through a microphone, an alarm or siren, or perhaps, music.

According to Anchor Radio, the first PA system was invented in 1910. And the first time the general public saw a PA system being used is when a California governor at that time had to deliver a speech to the people, but he was too sick to deliver this speech in person.

Fast forward, many years later, the PA system is not just used for speech delivery. Now, PA speakers are used in music concerts, conferences, churches, and any place where loud audio is required.

PA speakers don’t work alone. You’ll need extra gear to use them, and they all form part of what we call a PA system. The main components that make up a PA system are PA speakers, a power amplifier, and a mixer. On the mixer is where you’ll connect any audio input device such as a microphone, musical instruments, MP3 player, or a USB stick containing audio files.

Also, there are two main types of PA speakers — passive speakers and active speakers. The main difference between the two is, you need a power amplifier to drive passive speakers. On the other hand, there is an amplifier built into active speakers. So there will be no need for an external power amplifier if you are using active speakers.

And then, there are portable PA speakers. These are modern active speakers that are easy to carry along. Usually, portable speakers will have a built-in mixer. This means on some of these speakers, you can directly plug in a microphone or a USB stick for audio playback. You may also have a basic mixer function such as EQ or, simply, a bass boost knob.

One of the most sought-after portable PA speakers available today is the Behringer EuroPort MPA40BT-PRO portable speakers (on Amazon). It’s popular because it provides everything you’ll need for a PA system in a single unit. You can directly plug two microphones in this speaker, connect an RCA cable to play audio through the speakers, or connect your device to it via Bluetooth, and it’s quite easy to set up. 

There is more I can say about the Behringer EuroPort portable speakers, but that’s not the point of this article. I think by now you should understand what PA speakers and what they are for. Now let’s talk about HiFi speakers.

What are HiFi speakers?

HiFi is an abbreviation for High Fidelity, and I’m sure if you are an active member in audio forums and discussion boards, you’ve probably heard this term being thrown around every now and then. But what exactly is High Fidelity? High Fidelity refers to the reproduction of audio with little to no noise and distortion and is as close as possible to the original audio.

So essentially, HiFi speakers are speakers designed to reproduce audio with little to no noise or distortion and also made to reproduce the sound as close to the original as possible.

Similar to PA speakers, the idea of HiFi speakers dates back to the early ’90s. In 1930, a violinist called Avery Fisher envisioned a radio that can playback an orchestra recording as if you were in the orchestra room. To achieve this, he began experimenting with different speaker casings to give him that realistic original sound.

There have been major improvements since the first HiFi speaker was made, and now we have incredible sounding HiFi speakers available.

HiFi speakers can be quite expensive to make. Manufacturers need to use high-quality materials for the speaker casings and electronics, all in an effort to reduce noise, interference, and distortion. Expert speaker enclosure makers are also paid to design speaker enclosures that will help reduce speaker resonance.

This is all in an effort to make HiFi speakers play audios exactly as it was recorded, mixed, and mastered in a recording studio to give you an excellent and realistic listening experience.

For this reason, HiFi speakers can be quite expensive. They can be as low as $100 to as high as $6 million for the most expensive high-end HiFi system in the world. However, any HiFi speaker between $200 and $500 is considered very decent and great sounding.

One of the most sought-after and budget-friendly HiFi speakers available today is the Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 HiFi Speakers (on Amazon). They simply sound excellent and very accurate. These speakers have also received many mentions on several audiophile blogs as one of the most high-resolution speakers under $300. Also, its black wooden look makes it a nice complement for many living spaces. 

Another important component of an excellent HiFi system is a HiFi stereo amplifier. You need a well-built power amplifier that is able to reproduce sounds accurately with less distortion or noise. Also, you want an amp that will color the sound in any way. That’s because a HiFi speaker will play whatever audio an amplifier sends to it.

PA Speakers vs HiFi Speakers?

As we’ve already talked about, PA speakers’ main purpose is to play audio loud enough for everyone to hear. They come in different sizes and power ratings. And the one you end up buying should be loud enough to fill the room you intend using them with sound.

For this reason, the primary focus of PA speaker manufacturers is to make these speakers play as loud as possible. Although there are other factors considered, which we’ll talk about later in this article, this is the main purpose for PA speakers.

On the other hand, HiFi speakers are uniquely made to reproduce exactly what was recorded. So when you are listening to music through a HiFi speaker, you’ll hear all the subtle details and nuances you wouldn’t otherwise hear through PA speakers.

With a HiFi speaker, you’ll be able to hear the exact tone of an instrument, the subtle musical articulations that were captured on record, the reverb of the room, and all these small nuances which make you feel like a band is right in front of you and performing. That is the primary focus of HiFi speakers.

Also, HiFi speakers are not loud enough to fill a large hall or space with sound. They are made to be used in small spaces such as your living room, office, or as part of your home theater system. 

Are PA speakers good for home use?

Although PA speakers are not designed to be used as home stereo speakers, you can use them as home speakers without any issues. 

In fact, you can get decent sounding PA speakers at a fraction of the cost of a HiFi home audio system. Also, if you often do house parties, PA speakers for your home won’t be a bad idea at all. 

However, you need to keep in mind that PA speakers are very powerful and can get really loud. So if you decide to use them at home, you need to turn down the volume. I’m sure you probably don’t want to disturb your neighborhood with loudspeakers.

Also, keep in mind that PA speakers’ sound quality will not be as great as HiFi home stereo speakers. This ties into my next section 

Can PA speakers be high fidelity?

PA speakers that were made back in the day were not that great. Because they were made purposely for speech delivery, these speakers were not full range. This means they were not designed to play every audio frequency.

For this reason, PA speakers made earlier lacked a lot of bass and midrange sound. It was designed to project voices with clarity.

Over the years, the sound quality of PA speakers has improved tremendously. That’s mainly because they are not made for only speeches and conferences anymore. PA speakers are now used in concert halls, festivals, churches, clubs, and many other places where music is played.

So most of the PA speakers made today are full-range speakers. This means they can play all audio frequencies, and you’ll get a much fuller sound from these speakers. 

There is no denying the fact that PA speakers made these days sound really good. In fact, many audio consumers may not even be able to tell the difference between a PA speaker’s sound and a HiFi speaker’s sound.

Although PA speakers are full-range speakers and they sound quite good, they are not High Fidelity. That’s because the frequency response of PA speakers alters the sound of audio; hence it does not reproduce accurate sound.

For those who don’t know what frequency response, it’s simply a fancy term for how accurate speakers can produce audio frequencies. What happens anytime you play audio is, the amplifier will send the audio signal in the form of electric currents to the speakers. The speakers will then convert that signal into sound waves.

Based on the design of the speakers, the materials used, and most importantly, its enclosure, it may be able to reproduce the sound accurately or not. As I mentioned earlier, the main goal of PA speaker manufacturers is to make loudspeakers (speakers that play loud). For this reason, they spend little time on a speaker design that will produce a high-fidelity sound.

Frequency response is the primary reason why there are many HiFi speakers out there with unique designs — it’s all in an effort to make these speakers reproduce sound as accurately as possible.

So, in essence, PA speakers made these days sound excellent. However, its sound is not high Fidelity.

Where to Choose PA Speakers over HiFi Speakers

Here are the instances where it’s a good idea to go for PA speakers instead of HiFi speakers. 

1. Outdoor Events

If you have to play music, perform, or talk to a large group of people outdoors, then the PA system and speakers are definitely the way to go. PA system is best suited for outdoor events such as weddings, festivals, concerts, parties at the park, or anything outdoors. If you also need speakers for your band, the ideal choice is PA speakers.  

But before you go out to buy a PA system, you have to do the necessary to find the right ones for your needs. Musician’s Friend has a guide on how to choose a PA system. Feel free to check it out here.

2. Large Halls

The right choice of speakers for large halls and auditoriums are PA speakers. Also, PA speakers are the standard choice for locations such as churches and clubs. You want to get a PA speaker that can fill the entire room with sound. That’s because you want everyone in any location of the hall or auditorium to hear you loud and clear. 

There are many PA speakers available that are powerful enough to fill the entire room with sound. Once again, do the necessary research to find the right PA system for your needs.

Where to Choose HiFi Speakers over PA Speakers

Here are situations where it’s an excellent idea to go for HiFi Speakers over PA speakers

1. Home Audio System

If you want to improve and enjoy your home’s listening experience, you should definitely go with HiFi speakers. These speakers are designed to give you the best audio quality you can possibly have. 

They are not designed to fill a large hall or auditorium with sound, but they are loud enough to be enjoyed in your living room or any room you prefer using them.

Choose HiFi speakers for your home’s audio system if you want to hear all the subtle details and nuances in audio and also have a pleasant listening experience. 

Listening to music or watching a movie using a good pair of HiFi speakers is an experience like no other. The sound is immersive, making you feel like you’re part of the action.

2. Small Pubs

If you own a small pub and you care a lot about music and sound quality, you should go for HiFi speakers. Small spaces such as coffee shops, wine shops, small pubs, and cafeterias can definitely make use of HiFi speakers.

These are usually locations where people sit, talk, relax, and enjoy good music. If you want to treat your customers with the best audio experience, invest in a good HiFi audio system. Trust me; you’ll stand out from the many pubs that choose to go with PA speakers.

Depending on the size of your pub, a pair of HiFi speakers may not be enough to fill the space with music. You may need to get two pairs, or perhaps three, depending on the size. That may be a little expensive, but it’s definitely worth it.