PA Basics

A Basic Guide to PA Systems and Equipment in Live Sound Applications

Ultimately, the performers, sound and lighting crew, promoter and venue manager all want the same thing: to produce the best performance possible. Often there are limitations: the production budget, the marketing budget, the time available, the venue, even the local transport network.

This section is written primarily for people who are new to using public address systems for live music performances. Its aim is to cover the main elements in sound reinforcement that can help or hinder the performance. It contains some general guidelines which - we hope! - will make it easier for hirers, promoters, venue staff and performers to work with the sound system and its operators.

You can find more detailed discussion under the following headings:


A few aspects of this enormous topic are touched upon here, including an introduction to Decibels and Phase.

PA Equipment Guide

What the various parts of a PA system do, how they are used, and what the specifications mean.

Live Event Production

Some of the basic matters that come up for PA system installers and operators in everyday event management.

Tips and Techniques

A few extra pointers for anyone wishing to build, tour with or operate a PA System.

PA System Calculations

If you need quick access to numbers - like how many loudspeakers you need to provide 100 dB at the mix position - this page allows you to enter data and read answers on-the-fly.


If you have never looked you will probably be surprised how well a good dictionary defines even very technical terms. However, if you haven't a dictionary to hand, some of the terms used in audio discussion are covered in the glossary.

If we have missed the thing you were looking for, we apologise. Please ask us about it.

Depending on your interest in live sound, you might also want to read a book, in which case you could try Live Sound for the Performing Musician (by Paul White) for starters, or the Sound Reinforcement Handbook (by Gary Davis & Ralph Jones) if you want a little more meat. Live Sound Reinforcement (by Scott Hunter Stark) includes gravy & two veg.

You could also look at forums and discussion groups (for example, try the Sound on Sound Live Sound & Performance forum).

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