When looking for speakers as a mobile DJ, sound per size is more important than sound per dollar, as only so much gear will fit in a vehicle.
Powered tops are the industry standard and will minimize things to carry/worry about, opposed to passive. They’re generally lighter too.
But as good as those tops will sound, you’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle if you’re going to run them without subs.
Subwoofers are the backbone to any sound system for DJing, and trying to run speakers without is going to be lacking no matter how good the tops are.
I work with pro audio a lot, and I can tell that QSC and Electro-Voice hit a sweet spot of quality, durability, customer service, and price suitable for beginners and home/amateur/beginning pro, and stuff like the QSC K-series sounds nearly as good as speakers nearly ten times the price, albeit at less amplitude.
The column systems have a lot of limitations regarding optimal placement. They all sound thin compared to a standard point source speaker, and normally the cost/value relationship is not that good. The primary thing going for them would be aesthetics.
There’s a lot of info in this article, and I also recommended some combos of speakers and subs, so make sure you read until the end. Enjoy, and I hope this piece will be helpful!
Things You Need to Ask Yourself Before Buying
1. What’s your budget?
2. How much power (wattage) do you require? What size and type of party are you trying to cover? How loud do you need/want the speakers to be?
A solid sound system for a 200-person wedding is not the same as a 200-person rave.
Here are two great articles that cover this topic:
3. What about the ease of transport? Do you have a truck? Is this a solo operation, or will you have roadies?
4. What’s your skill level? Do you have an understanding of sound systems and proper setup? Do you want something fairly simple to set up?
5. How about scalability? Do you need a system where if you’re only reserved for a 100 person party, you only need to bring half of your equipment to suffice?
We will go over EACH of these things in the article, just hold tight and keep reading. In the end, you’ll know exactly what kind of speaker and subwoofer you need, as well as the combination of both.
If you want bass, subwoofers are essential, but the better ones are also very large and heavy. There are solid ones for the size and weight, but those are designed for portability over volume, so your needs are most important for finding “the best” sound system.
Look for Active (Powered) Speakers For Mobile DJs Speaker Setup
Definitely go active for mobile DJing. I don’t believe I’ve witnessed a mobile DJ use a passive pair of speakers in more than ten years.
The amps in active speakers add very little weight. If you look at the specs for the active and passive versions of the same speaker model, you will see that there are usually only a few pounds difference.
External amps are bulky and very heavy, and decent-length quality speaker cables are expensive and heavy.
Portability is a big thing. Some amps can be huge, which might be an issue if you have many. However, active speakers tend to be heavier since they have an amp.
Another thing to consider is setup time. If you have powered speakers, your setup time might be slightly less than passive ones.
Also, if you rent only the speakers to somebody, they may not know how to plug in the amp. Active speakers are more plug-and-play type.
I’d say go with active speakers, particularly if these are your first ones.
Best Speakers for Mobile DJs
1. Electro-Voice ELX-200
My first choice would be EV-powered speakers, like my ELX-200.
Going on one year of use, they sound great. They have nice lows if you want to opt-out of a subwoofer for now too. My only complaint is that the housing isn’t the strongest material and the corners dents easily even when transported in cases.
I have (3) ELX-200, and they are workhorses. I recently bought a single EV EKX 15SP sub, and it does an excellent job rounding out the low range.
Electro-Voice was the innovator of the Loudspeaker. They have been making excellent speakers for a long time.
Popular Mackie Thumps have a reputation for their internal amplifiers failing. Also, their power output is severely overrated.
For about the same cost, you may do better with Electro-Voice. Thumps don’t even come close to the EVs or any real pro-PAs. And they blow amps all the time. The EVs are quite solid for the price.
Here’s the link to Amazon.
2. QSC CP12
My brother owns the QSC CP12 (link to Amazon), and they are great sounding, bulletproof, reliable, and rugged.
I understand that some people don’t have 500 dollars apiece to spend on a speaker, but these are the speakers to own if you have them.
Many folks like to criticize the QSC speakers because they can’t afford them or feel overpriced. Very similar to the comments about AppleComputers. There’s a reason why they’re expensive. That’s understandable.
QSC has been producing power amps for a very long time. Same thing as their speakers; great-sounding, bulletproof, etc.
They also have QSC amps in all of their speakers.
Once you want to upgrade, the CP12 can become a monitor wedge for you as a booth speaker. Wanna just chill in the backyard? Get an XLR–> 3.5mm and just run a phone off it. This speaker will last you 10+ years and still not die.
House parties and weddings
K10.2s are loud and light and work nicely for the events like house parties and weddings.
The quality of these speakers is excellent, with the highs being nicely loud and the bass existent on trap/dubstep/bass-heavy songs.
QSCs sound awesome and are well regarded as bulletproof because they are reliable and rugged.
Alto speakers are ok, but people had some issues with them
My buddy recently bought his first subwoofer – Alto ts215s to use with two Alto ts310 tops. These are what I would call mid-level setup but still cost around $1,000.
They’re decent and serve him well for now, but a significant number of people have reported a problem with drivers.
Many people have blown the drivers on those speakers, and I think it is related to either gaining set too high or using the Contour (bass boost) button. Avoid using the Contour function if you purchase them.
A pair of their 15″ tops with their 18″ woofer struggles with a crowd of around 75 people even in a small venue, so anticipate a bit less than that with what you have. If you utilize them with a Pioneer mixer, you may want to EQ the treble down a bit, so it’s not overly screechy.
If You Can Buy Only One Speaker, This One is a Great Choice
If you’re finally getting around to getting your own PA system and your budget is pretty tight, you can only buy it piece by piece.
The logical thing to do is to buy only one speaker. No matter what type of music you’re mixing, you need something with a halfway decent bass response since you’re only buying the one speaker without a sub.
There are a lot of choices out there, like the Mackie Thump 15bst, JBL Eon 615, and the EV ZLX 15, but I have only one to recommend.
JBL EON ONE is loud, has good bass, and will fulfill any small venues. I’ve heard them. They definitely can get loud for their price and have surprisingly good bass. Its price goes for around $600, but you can get them used even cheaper.
Many people consider how much bass is enough difference, but one should do.
If you really want to get that deep, powerful bass, you could go with 2 of them, used to get that cheaper price. They will definitely have a good combo.
Keep in mind that one EON ONE could handle 70+ people, but it would be best to hear them in person again to refer to how people consider the different amount of bass enough.
Some extra advice: do not buy beginner subwoofers. Just trust, build up some money to buy good subs.
What About Subwoofers and Which Are My Picks?
*These are not the only subs I’ll recommend in this article but just to illustrate what an average mobile DJ needs and to tell you what do I use.
If you assemble a rig for mobile DJing, you need a subwoofer. You cannot depend on tops to provide low-end bass for a dance environment. It doesn’t matter how good they are.
Either you’re giving too much money for them and counting on speakers to do too much, or you’re overdriving them and destroying your mids. Get a sub.
I was involved with the design, construction, and set up of touring PA systems and club installs, including a 32kg system at 136db. The sub(s) is more effective than a 3rd full-range speaker.
An excellent example of a solid system is a pair of Electro-Voice ZLX-12BT tops and a Klipsch SPL-120 sub (check them on Amazon). I prefer powered subs (XLR balanced connections) rather than amplifiers; it’s a simpler setup.
This system will give you enough sound to easily fill a modest-sized dance hall environment, i.e., a wedding or party and you’ll most likely be overpowered on the bass end of the sound, but, well, some like it that way.
If you were to expand, you can add another pair of ZLX-12BTs to go four corners, but I believe you could just turn up the subwoofer to increase your bass without distorting. When you purchase the system with an eye to the future, you’ll have room to grow it.
If you want to feel the bass, then get a sub; you’re not going to feel it in your chest without one.
You might get nice sound reproduction across the spectrum with good tops, but you won’t have that house music, party style feeling per se without a subwoofer.
If you have been pleased with your current speakers and need a subwoofer, try a single or pair of SPL-120 subs.
Buy the same model speakers and subwoofer if you don’t have any.
Should you get one or two subwoofers?
Adding the second sub will theoretically result in a 6dB increase in SPL. That would seem to nudge the output numbers in favor of the dual over the single sub. But practically speaking, a decibel or two either way likely wouldn’t be pronounced enough to establish a purchase decision.
When you double the cone area, there’s a 3dB increase. When you double the power, there’s a 3dB increase.
When you double both cone area and power, there is a 6dB increase, whether or not the subs are coupled.
Moving the cabinets apart more than 1/4 wavelength of the highest frequency of interest will result in frequency-dependent addition and cancellation, but the initial gain is 6dB regardless.
If you want really deep bass in a light sub, I like the JBL PRX 818. But it’s a bit big unless you use a truck.
If you decide to go with QSC, there is the 18″ KS118 (47kg) or the 2×12″ KS212C(40kg). These are very powerful speakers.
I reckon a pair of the 2x12s will do the job nicely, even one. But it’s a lot of weight, though. The 18″ is insane, but the 2×12″ has “cardioid subwoofer energy suspension” to increase the forward gain/ efficiency, so it’s not far behind the 18″ but lighter.
There is a 12″ KS112, but I feel you would be better with the single twin12″ rather than two single 12″ because it works out lighter and louder.
Best Mobile DJ Setup for 300 or More People
A good system would be a pair of good 15″ tops coupled with a good 18″ sub or two. That way, you can bring just the tops for smaller parties and then lug out the sub for bigger ones.
That setup will probably do up to 300 or more people if you go with the pair of subs. While I think 12″ tops sound better with subs than 15s, the versatility of just bringing the tops to smaller parties might work better for you.
The DBRs are likely the best 15″ top in that price range, and the sub absolutely pounds, although it is big and heavy (SUV or truck would be better than a car if you want a pair).
If you want to go higher-end, there’s the QSC KW series, the EV ETX series (Amazon link), the Yamaha DSR series (although I would stick with the DXS18 sub).
My brother uses the DXR8s that don’t have the same wide coverage but are comparable in SPL and frequency range. He generally reserves the 8″ tops for smaller weddings – 125 or less – and pairs it with a single 15″ sub for a manageable mini system.
He uses 10″ tops for bigger parties as he finds they throw a little further and provide a little warmer low-midrange at not much more of a size and weight increase.
With that, he’ll pair it with 2-3 subs for bigger parties and sometimes use the 8s as either monitors or side-fills.
I believe anything smaller than a 12″ top needs to be paired with a sub, even for small weddings.
Why Specs Can Be Misleading?
Something to consider when buying PAs is not just the RMS rating (which companies will often overrate as a marketing tactic).
You should be looking at the speaker’s frequency range because this indicates how well it will perform and the quality of the components it’s built with.
All power ratings for anything but the most professional level touring gear is severely overrated.
Some speakers are not even approaching written wattage in real-world use. It’s just become another marketing number that companies use to influence uneducated buyers that think wattage = loudness.
I did a power draw test on my setup, and I’m pulling about 8 Amps (1000 Watts) with two EV 12s rated 1000 Watts each and an EV 15 sub rated at 1300 Watts. Plus all my lights, mixer, controller, etc.
This is similar to buying a shop vac or an air compressor rated for 5HP or more. A single 15 Amp household circuit will only handle 1800 Watts – less than 2 1/2 HP. Those “peak power” ratings are last for about 100 milliseconds when the motor locks up and the breaker trips.
Regardless, the point is that using listed specs – especially wattage – to determine loudness isn’t the best idea in today’s marketing-driven specs.
I do know that SPL also isn’t an accurate number. Still, at least it’ll give you a general idea of what’s louder – for example, a “1000 watt” ZLX12 has a listed max SPL of 126 vs. a K12.2s listed max SPL at 132, so even if neither speaker will really go that loud in the real world, it’s a good way to tell which speaker is louder.
Even if they didn’t outright lie about the wattage on speakers, it is still just a measure of how much power is being used and does not directly relate to the amount of sound you hear. It also tells you nothing about frequency response curves or sound quality.
There are so many factors involved…off-axis response is rarely considered at the consumer-grade level but can greatly affect your sound when playing in larger buildings or outside.
I think the reason the K series, Yamaha DBR and DBX, EV ELX, and ZLX get mentioned so much has a lot less to do with their specs and more to do with the fact that people have heard them and know they are up to the task.