5 Best DJ Speakers: Powered PA Speakers for Pro DJ Setups
Whether you’re a weekend warrior with the occasional DJ gig, a wedding DJ in charge of creating memorable dance parties, a beginner with dreams of one day DJing in front of tens of thousands of fans, or anything in between, there’s one piece of gear which will give you the freedom and flexibility to get out there and be heard - your speakers. Buying the best speakers for DJing for your budget and needs can be a little tricky; you’ll need to navigate some confusing specs, and wade through many brands offering speakers at a wide variety of price ranges, some of which can leave a big hole in your wallet.
Lucky for you, we want to put an end to the confusion, and have made this A-to-Z guide on understanding DJ speakers, knowing what to look for, and finally making 5 solid recommendations to get your research started.
|QSC K10||When it comes to outright sound quality, it's hard to do better than this 1000-Watt DJ speaker. It's extremely balanced and natural, and the DEEP setting makes the bass response even more impressive. While it's not the cheapest speaker out there, it's nearly impossible to beat the quality and design. Best of the Best||Amazon|
|Yamaha DBR10||The Yamaha DBR10 sports similar detail and sound quality as the QSC K10, and is just as dependable and professional. While it's much more affordable, at 700 Watts (peak) it's better suited to small-medium venues. With the money you save you could invest in the matching Yamaha DXS12 subwoofer.||Amazon|
|Electro-Voice ZLX-12P||Despite a budget price tag, this speaker neither feels nor sounds anything close to budget. Considering how good and loud it sounds, getting a portable 12" 1000 Watt speaker for this price almost seems too good to be true. Best Bang for Your Buck||Amazon|
|Mackie Thump12||A very capable DJ speaker below $300, well-suited to electronic and hip-hop because of its excellent bass response. The 3-band EQ is a nice touch, and helps you fine tune this 12" 1000W speaker. For the gigging DJ on a budget who needs above-average bass response, this is a great option.||Amazon|
|Behringer EUROLIVE B210D||Those who say you can't have a good DJ speaker for under $250 have not heard the Behringer EUROLIVE B210D. You'll have to keep in mind its limitations - with a 10" woofer and 200 Watt rating it simply won't fill large venues. For as inexpensive as it is, you could buy a pair and the matching sub for a great setup.||Amazon|
- What Are DJ Speakers?
- What to Look for in a DJ Speaker
- Why You Should Trust Us
- Top 5 DJ Speakers
- The Case for a Subwoofer
What Are DJ Speakers?
Let’s start off with the basics - are DJ speakers simply speakers specifically meant for DJ gigs? Well, sort of, and not exactly. People use the term “DJ speaker” to refer to any speaker that is suitable to pump out music at a loud volume to a number of people in a given venue. A wedding reception venue, an auditorium for a school dance, and a small dance club are examples of venues that need one or more DJ speakers so that everyone can hear and feel the music the DJ is playing. There is nothing particularly special about them that makes them DJ speakers. Some people call this category of speaker “PA” (a fairly outdated term which stands for “Public Address”).
Therefore, DJ speakers can also be called powered speakers, powered PA speakers, or even just DJ sound system (don’t worry, we’ll go over what powered means in this context shortly).
There is one thing that a DJ speaker is not, and this is an important point:
A studio monitor is not a DJ speaker, and should not be used as one!
In researching for this guide, we’ve seen some people mistake studio monitors and DJ speakers. Take something like the popular KRK Rokit RP6 studio monitors. You might be tempted into thinking that you can set these up alongside your DJ setup, turn the volume up, and DJ your friend’s house party with them. After all, these are 50 Watt speakers, so they can surely do the job, right? Wrong! Or rather, it’s not the best idea. Studio monitors like those are also called nearfield or reference monitors. They are meant to be set up on your studio desk a couple feet away from you so that you - and you alone - can listen to the music you’re producing or recording, and hear as much detail as possible. Not only are they not designed to fill an entire room with music, you can actually damage them by blasting your tunes through them for several hours. PA/DJ speakers, on the other hand, are purposefully built to throw out sound at much louder volumes, at a much wider angle, and can take far more abuse than a delicate speaker meant to stay in the studio.
It’s better to use the right tools for the job and avoid the temptation to use studio monitor speakers for something they are not designed for. If you gig (or plan on gigging) regularly, getting proper DJ speakers is a good investment. It’ll allow you to take gigs at a moment’s notice, and the fact that you’re prepared with the right gear will make you appear more professional, which will lead to more gigs.
What to Look for in a DJ Speaker
There are several factors to consider when looking for the best DJ speakers for your needs. Let’s discuss the most important ones:
- Passive vs. Active: One of the biggest things to think about is if you want a passive DJ speaker (a.k.a. unpowered), or active (a.k.a. powered). A passive speaker doesn’t output any sound by itself. It requires power from an amplifier, which you’ll need to buy separately. It’s a bit more complicated of a setup, since you need to make sure to match up the amp’s Watts with how much power the speaker cabinet can handle. Passive DJ speakers are significantly less expensive, since they don’t have a power amp built in. An active DJ speaker, on the other hand, has a power amp built into it. That also means the volume and EQ controls are found on the speaker itself. A powered/active speaker is simpler and more convenient, since everything you need to make sound is contained within the speaker (you’ll just need the right audio cable to hook up to it). As a result, it’s pricier. Because of the convenience, all 5 speakers that we recommend in this guide are powered DJ speakers.
- Power Rating (Watts): The wattage rating on an active DJ speaker is the power of the internal amplifier. The general rule of thumb is the higher the Watts, the more power (i.e. louder) the speaker can put out. To figure out how many Watts you require, think about two things: 1) how many people you will be DJing for, and 2) what kind of space you will be in. If the space is on the smaller side and indoors, you can get away with less power. However, for an outdoor venue and hundreds of people, you’ll need a speaker capable of reaching everyone. For a small house party with less than 50 people you might only need a 200 Watt speaker. For a dance in a large auditorium filled with hundreds of people, you might need 1000 Watts. All else being equal, we recommend trying to get the most Watts you can for your money.
- Woofer Cone Size: The size of the woofer cone is measured in inches, and determines how much low end (i.e. bass) the speaker can handle. For a DJ speaker, the minimum you’ll generally see is an 8” speaker. If you’re playing smaller venues and don’t play bass-heavy music, an 8” speaker will suffice. 10” and 12” will offer a much improved bass response. If you can stretch the budget you can even look into a 15” speaker which will reproduce bass the best. However, around the 10”-12” size, you might think of pairing your DJ speakers with a subwoofer, which will handle bass better than anything else, which will stress your DJ speakers less and leave them to handle the mids and highs.
- Subwoofer: Like we just mentioned, you should think about how important bass is in your DJ sets. You could get away with smaller speakers (8” or 12” for example), and pair them up with a subwoofer. That might be just as good - if not better - than a 15” speaker by itself. Then again, buying a subwoofer will increase the cost of your setup, and it’s yet another thing you need to lug around.
- Portability: This is an obvious one, but that doesn’t make it any less important! As a mobile DJ, you’ll need to haul your gear to and from gigs. You’ll want to make sure the size and weight of your DJ speaker is something you can handle, and will fit in your vehicle. If the speaker is too heavy or doesn’t have a handle, you might need a dolly to move it around.
- Brand & Quality: How reputable a brand is is determined by the quality and value of the products they put out. Luckily we did the homework for you, and the 5 DJ speakers we recommend at the end of this guide are all from quality brands.
- Budget: Often a musician’s most limiting factor, budget determines how many DJ speakers are realistic options for you. There’s bad news and good news - the bad news is that DJ speakers are not an inexpensive purchase. There’s no such thing as a good $50 speaker (not that we’ve been able to uncover, at least). The good news is that as more people are becoming mobile DJs, brands have made entry level speakers that are pretty decent quality and power. Around $200-250 gets you a foot in the door for something that will get you started - sure, you might want to quickly upgrade from it, but you can do so as you save up from the DJ gigs you’re able to do with your entry level DJ sound system.
Why You Should Trust Us
Before we make some DJ speaker recommendations, let’s talk about where we got our info from. The most reliable source of info came from speaking to as many mobile DJs as we could find. We talked to our DJ friends, and also combed through dozens of forum threads where people were recommending powered PA speakers, both in a budget and a high-end context. Several recommendations emerged more often than others, and from there we headed to our local pro-audio store to test them out for ourselves. We’re confident in our top 5 choices, and hope they at least give you a great starting point for your own research.
Top 5 DJ Speakers
So, without further ado, let’s talk about 5 of the best portable speakers for DJing. They are arranged in order from most expensive to least, ranging from about $700 down to $200. Remember, the prices quoted for DJ speakers are for a SINGLE speaker only. Sometimes one is all you’ll need, particularly if you’re just starting out playing in small venues. If you’re doing larger gigs, however, you might want to look into buying a pair.
QSC K10 10" 1000W Powered Speaker
Power: 1000 Watts
Woofer Size: 10”
Weight: 32 lbs (14.5 kg)
Simply put, if you can afford the QSC K10 10” Powered Speaker (or better yet a pair of them), you’ll have gotten one of the best DJ speakers around and most likely never need to upgrade - aside from maybe adding the matching KSub subwoofer (depending on your bass needs). The K10 sits between QSC’s K8 and K12 speakers, and offers the best of both worlds between portability and power. The best part about the K range of PA speakers, however, is that it’s hard to find speakers that sound more crisp and clear than these.
The QSC K10 is a 1000-watt Class D powered speaker with a 10” woofer, and a 1.75” driver. 1000 watts is on the upper end of what you’ll find with DJ speakers, and it means it’s capable of a lot of volume. Luckily it also has an impressive limiting circuitry which will protect it from being blown in case you push it too hard (just one of its many well-thought-out features). The K10 looks sleek and professional, and has a very sturdy build quality to match. This speaker can definitely take some abuse, although be aware that as with any gear you take on the road, if you don’t put it in a bag or put a cover over it the sides will inevitably get scuffed up during transit. Speaking of transit, the K10 is a very portable speaker, weighing in at 32 lbs (14.5 kg), with a very comfortable handle on top and on the side. If you have a pair of these it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to carry them both in one trip (one argument against its larger sibling, the K12, is that it weighs about 10 lbs more making portability more of an issue). On the back of the K10 you’ll find a very accommodating assortment of inputs. You’ve got two combo XLR and ¼” inputs and stereo RCA inputs, as well as some outputs. There’s even switches for Low and High Frequency EQ adjustments, including a DEEP setting for bass which we’ll cover shortly. The K10 even has a built-in wedge in case you ever want to use it as a floor monitor pointing towards you (a lot of touring musicians actually love to use these as floor wedges since they sound so good).
Which brings us to the important question of how the QSC K10 speakers sound. Popular opinion amongst mobile DJs is that these are some of the best sounding speakers around, and offer a great value for the money in that respect. They are described as very musical sounding, meaning they are natural and balanced across the frequency spectrum. The K10 is highly praised for its shimmering highs and detailed mid-range, while the low end is described as solid and tight. Against a 12” or 15” woofer, a 10” woofer is naturally not going to be as bass-heavy, however these compensate with the very functional DEEP setting, which extends the bass frequency response in a surprisingly smooth and effective way (it sounds more musical than if someone just turns up a Bass knob).
In terms of volume and power, the K10 should have you covered for most applications where you have to bring your own PA system. To quote a user review:
“The volume and clarity that these 10” speakers produce is truly impressive. To give you an idea, I generally play rooms that are one to two thousand square feet in size and rarely turn my mains up much past 50%. At 60-75% levels (with mixer meters peaking around the zero mark) the music will cut through even the rowdiest bar noise.”
If the DJ sets you play are a merciless assault of bass and you plan on shaking the dance floor, the bass on the K10 may not cut it for you. Even with the DEEP setting, for shaking your audience with some hip hop or electronic music you’ll want to invest in the QSC KSub subwoofer. It’s a bit pricey, but might be worthwhile to save up for. The “90° conical DMT coverage” is also impressive. Again, from a user review:
“One thing that's great about this 10” model is the throw. With a super-wide 90 degree dispersion angle, sound fills out the space up close within a few feet, depending on placement (I prefer getting them up as high as possible on stands and using the clever 7.5 degree tilt function). The dispersion angle is also matched between the woofer and tweeter so you’re never hearing just one or the other. 90 degrees is ideal for tight performance areas where you want people right in front of you to hear everything.”
Bottom Line: The QSC K10 Powered PA speaker is much more than your average DJ speaker. From its design, portability, I/O, to its powerful and detailed sound, this is one of the best DJ speakers for your hard-earned money. Its big brother the K12 will give you more reach and a slightly better bass response, but their extra weight and cost dissuades us from recommending them over these. The K10 is not cheap - especially if you’re looking into a stereo pair - but rest assured you’re getting quality and design that can’t really be matched by any other speaker in this price range. Best of the Best.
Yamaha DBR10 10" 700W Powered Speaker
Power: 700 Watts
Woofer Size: 10”
Weight: 23.2 lbs (10.5 kg)
If the price for a QSC K10 is a bit too high to swallow, we recommend the next-best option, the Yamaha DBR10 10” Powered PA Speaker. As one of the most trusted names in pro audio gear, you would expect Yamaha to deliver quality DJ speakers, and these don’t disappoint. These are the smallest out of the Yamaha DBR range, the other two being the DBR12 and DBR15. This speaker is definitely not as powerful as the QSC K10, and we wouldn’t recommend it for a large venue. If, however, you’re doing a DJ set in a small-to-medium sized room, these might just be the perfect mix of cost, power, and portability.
Despite sporting a 10” woofer like the QSC K10, the Yamaha DBR10 weighs 10 lbs less, coming in at 23.2 lbs (10.5 kg). Combined with a top-mounted carrying handle, this easily fits the portability criteria. While this is advertised as a 700 watt speaker, that’s actually the peak rating; it has 325 watts continuous output power. The frequency range is 55Hz-20kHz (-10dB), so if the music you play depends on earth-shaking sub-bass, you’ll want to look into a subwoofer to pair up with it. In terms of build quality there’s not much to complain about. This is a very gig-worthy speaker, and while it has more plastic than the K10, it still feels solid and durable. It has ample inputs and outputs on the rear panel, consisting of two XLR/¼” combo inputs, one stereo RCA input, and an XLR output. There are also some handy EQ adjustments depending on how you intend to use the DBR10.
Sound-wise, this DJ speaker has amazing clarity and a very even, musical sound. The bass, while not its strong suit, is clean and tight. You’ll fill small indoor venues with powerful sound without issue, but as the size of your venue grows or if your music requires a strong bass response, you’ll want to look into a subwoofer like this Yamaha DXS12.
Bottom Line: Yamaha is a big player when it comes to pro audio gear, and you can trust it’s a brand that knows what it’s doing when it comes to DJ speakers. The DBR10 doesn't pack the same punch as the QSC K10, but it’s also significantly less expensive, has similar detail and sound quality, and is just as dependable and professional. With the money you save over the K10, you can potentially buy a second DBR10, or a subwoofer for a versatile and killer DJ sound system.
Electro-Voice ZLX-12P 12" Powered Speaker
Power: 1000 Watts
Woofer Size: 12”
Weight: 34.3 lbs (15.6 kg)
The Electro-Voice ZLX-12P 12” Powered Speaker is one of the best sounding speakers for the price. Under $400 you start entering the budget end of the spectrum when it comes to DJ speakers, and Electro-Voice has managed to make a speaker that neither feels nor sounds anything close to budget.
This 1000 watt Class D powered speaker features a 12” woofer and a 1.5” high-frequency titanium compression driver. The titanium driver results in much more clear highs than anything in this price range. The ZLX-12P can get very loud - in fact, this speaker is often compared to the QSC K12, which costs over twice the price. In terms of inputs this speaker has two XLR/TRS combo jacks, and a 3.5 mm input (we wish the 3.5 mm would be replaced with RCA jacks for easier connection to DJ gear, but this is a small gripe and just requires a small adapter). The ZLX-12P has a very sleek and professional look, and portability-wise it weighs 34.3 lbs (15.6 kg) and has multiple carry handles.
The sound coming out of this speaker is very clear, with a rich and detailed mid-range. The bass is impressive as well, though as is usually the case with 8-12” woofers, you might want to look into an accompanying subwoofer like the Electro-Voice ZXA1-Sub 12" Powered Subwoofer if you play a lot of bass-heavy music. When comparing the sound to the QSC K12, the K12 can achieve slightly higher Sound Pressure Levels (SPL), but not a perceptibly higher volume. The K12 also has DEEP mode for more low end, which the Electro-Voice is lacking. With this feature it would seem that the QSC is a slightly better DJ speaker overall, but it’s really not a fair comparison since, as we mentioned, the QSC K12 comes in at over twice the price. Compared to other speakers in this price point, however, it is nearly impossible to find something that goes as loud and sounds as good as the Electro-Voice ZLX-12P.
Bottom Line: Electro-Voice is a reputable brand, and their speakers are known to last a very long time. This is definitely the budget-friendly rival to the K series by QSC, and considering how much less expensive the ZLX-12P is compared to the K12, it almost seems too good to be true for a 12”, 1000 watt speaker. Nothing quite has the combination of clarity, ease of transport, and price point like this speaker does. We’re also not the only one with this opinion - at places like Amazon, Musician’s Friend, and Guitar Center, it consistently gets rated 4.5 out of 5 stars, with plenty of user reviews. It’s one heck of a value for the working DJ, and despite it not being the lowest priced DJ speaker on our list, because of it’s superior quality it deserves to be named the Best Bang for your Buck.
Mackie Thump12 12" 1000W Powered Speaker
Power: 1000 Watts
Woofer Size: 12”
Weight: 29 lbs (13.9 kg)
For the next recommendation we’re dipping below the $300 range, and luckily that can still get you a very capable DJ speaker. We’re talking about the Mackie Thump12 12” 1000W Powered Speaker. Be aware that 1000 watts is this speaker’s peak power rating. RMS is actually only 500 watts. Still, this speaker can produce a lot of volume. As you might have guessed by “Thump” being in the name, Mackie markets these as having a higher-than-average amount of low end.
The Thump12 has a minimal set of features. There’s a single XLR / ¼” combo jack on the back, so hooking up your DJ gear directly to the speaker might require an adapter. The inclusion of a 3-band EQ (LOW, MID, and HI knobs) with sweepable mid is handy, and there’s even a diagram on the back of the speaker showing ideal knob positions for DJing. This speaker weighs a manageable 29 lbs, and has a handle so carrying it to and from a gig shouldn’t pose much of a problem. Aesthetically it’s entirely black which looks sleek and professional, and has an impact-resistant polypropylene enclosure (it will inevitably get scuffed up unless you buy a bag or a case to protect it during transit).
Sound-wise, this definitely holds its own, and punches above its weight considering its budget-friendly price tag. You might have to play with the EQ knobs a bit to dial it in, but luckily that option is there for you. For a 12” woofer it generates a substantial amount of bass, and perhaps this is because extra attention was paid to the low-end, making it well-suited as a DJ speaker. As with the other speakers we recommend in this guide, if your DJ sets are comprised of electronic/dance/house/hip-hop, investing in the Mackie THUMP18S Powered Subwoofer is not a bad idea. There’s a built-in limiter as well, which is a nice touch and prevents you from blowing the speaker in case you’re pushing it too hard.
Bottom Line: The Mackie Thump12 does an admirable job. It is neither the best sounding speaker in the world, nor the loudest, but in terms of sub-$300 DJ speakers it’s one of the best choices out there. Remember, the stated 1000 watt power rating is a bit misleading since that’s peak, not RMS. This speaker should serve you quite well for a small-to-medium DJ gig, and if you really want to bring the bass, you can use your cost savings to buy the Mackie THUMP18S subwoofer.
Behringer EUROLIVE B210D 10" Powered Speaker
Power: 200 Watts
Woofer Size: 10”
Weight: 18.8 lbs (8.53 kg)
Finally, we come to the speaker we recommend the most in the $200 and under range, the Behringer EUROLIVE B210D Active PA Speaker. This speaker features a 10” woofer and 1.35” aluminum-diaphragm compression driver, and has a 200 watt output. In terms of size, weight, and power output, this is the smallest speaker on our list. Based on our research, DJs in forums are pretty adamant that it’s difficult getting anything worthwhile under the $250 mark. We think that’s true to a certain extent - you certainly can’t expect a 1000 watt speaker with a 12” woofer and amazing sound for a bargain price (and if you do find anything like that from an less than stellar brand, we would advise you to stay away). The B210D certainly can’t get as loud as the other options on our list, but it still packs a solid punch and provides ample volume for smaller gigs and house parties.
The B210D is very portable, weighing 18.8 lbs (8.53 kg). On the back it has an XLR input and a ¼” input, as well as a 2-band EQ (LOW and HIGH). Despite the budget-friendly price tag, we’re happy to report it doesn’t really skimp on features. It’s built well, it has built-in signal processing to optimize sound quality (crossover, EQ, and limiter), and has a 35-mm speaker stand socket or can be positioned as a floor monitor.
Considering it’s a 200 watt powered speaker, it can get considerably loud in an indoor intimate venue. If you’re DJing in front of large crowds, outdoors, or in larger clubs, you might find the B210D struggles to keep up. A pair of these and a Behringer EUROLIVE B1500D-PRO Active 15" Subwoofer, however, would make these quite a bit more versatile (of course then you’re looking at a significantly more expensive setup).
Bottom Line: The Behringer EUROLIVE B210D gets a lot of rave reviews, and for good reason. The simple fact is that it’s difficult to find a worthwhile DJ speaker to purchase when your budget is $250 or less. The B210D is one such speaker, but definitely keep in mind its limitations versus what types of DJ gigs you need it for. If you need a speaker to get you gigging and absolutely can’t go above this price range, the Behringer B210D is the budget DJ speaker we recommend.
The Case for a Subwoofer
One thing you may have noticed we mentioned in all our 5 DJ speaker reviews above is potentially buying a subwoofer. A subwoofer basically takes over and extends the low end of the frequency spectrum, and delivers it with much more power and punch than a powered speaker can by itself. This makes the bass much more powerful, and lets the mids and highs “breathe” more, since the powered speaker is relieved of bass duty. For a DJ speaker setup, this is particularly important. The majority of DJs play music meant to make people dance, and that music typically has a strong bass component. The trouble with speaker woofers in the 8”-12” range is that they can only provide so much bass.
So, do you have to buy a subwoofer in addition to your speaker(s)? Well, it depends on various factors like the music you play in your DJ sets, the size of the venues you’re playing in, number of people you need to reach in the audience, and the normal bass response of whichever DJ speaker(s) you’re using. The good news is that you can try your speaker setup first without a sub, play a gig or two, get some audience feedback, and then go from there.
One of the biggest drawbacks is that subwoofers are not cheap. Oftentimes, a sub that will pair nicely with your powered DJ speaker can cost twice as much (or more) as the speaker itself. On the plus side, it can completely transform how your DJ set is perceived and take your sound to a whole new level. For a handy reference, here is the list of subwoofers that pair well with the 5 DJ speakers we recommend in this guide:
Speaker: QSC K10
Subwoofer: QSC KSub Powered Subwoofer
Speaker: Yamaha DBR10
Subwoofer: Yamaha DXS12 Powered Subwoofer
Speaker: Electro-Voice ZLX-12P
Subwoofer: Electro-Voice ZXA1-Sub Powered Subwoofer
Speaker: Mackie Thump12
Subwoofer: Mackie THUMP18S Powered Subwoofer
Speaker: Behringer EUROLIVE B210D
Subwoofer: Behringer EUROLIVE B1500D-PRO Powered Subwoofer