After getting a DJ controller or mixer, one of the first things that most DJs buy is a pair of speakers. While speakers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, the humble 12-inch powered PA speaker seems to consistently reign supreme as the most popular option for mobile DJs. However, not all 12-inch speakers are created equal and many of the available models have their advantages and disadvantages that may make one a better option over another. Today, we are going to look at some of the most popular speakers on the market right now as well as talking about why a 12-inch PA speaker is the perfect size for the mobile DJ.
Why 12 inches?
When classifying speakers, the measurement that is given in the description (12 inches for example) describes the diameter of the woofer, which is the largest speaker driver in the enclosure that reproduces the lower bass frequencies. Woofers in portable PA speakers usually range from 8 inches up to 15 inches in diameter. The smaller the woofer, the lighter and more compact the speaker will be. However, smaller woofers struggle to reproduce the lowest notes of the audio spectrum, so the benefits gained from the small size are offset by a reduction in the frequency range. Larger speakers, on the other hand, are usually heavier and bulkier but can produce a much wider range of frequencies.
While speakers with larger woofers are capable of hitting those super-low notes found in pop, hip-hop, and EDM, there is often a tradeoff in clarity. Because most powered DJ speakers have just two drivers – a high frequency “tweeter” and a low frequency “woofer” – the woofer has to produce not only the bass and sub-bass notes but a large portion of the midrange as well. With the woofer covering so much of the frequency spectrum, it’s easy for the music to get muddy at high volumes as the speaker struggles to play the lowest of lows and the upper mids simultaneously. Most of the time, 15-inch speakers only offer a tiny increase in low-end extension at the expense of a being heavy and muddy at high volumes.
All of this nerdy explanation leads me to this – in my opinion, 12-inch powered PA speakers are the perfect size for the mobile DJ. They provide enough low end (over 8-inch and 10-inches models) to produce a full sound for many genres of music without having to deal with the large and unwieldy size of most 15-inch speakers. They are easy to transport even in a small sedan (I know from experience) and easy to place on a speaker pole by a single person. Should a DJ need additional low-end reinforcement for school dances and large events, a 12-inch speaker combines well with an 18-inch subwoofer. I would take a speaker and sub combination over a single speaker any day when it comes to needing beefy low end.
Alright, enough about why you should choose a 12-inch speaker; let’s start talking about the options that are available right now.
The ELX112P from Electro-Voice is a 1000 watt 12-inch powered PA speaker with a 1.5″ high-frequency tweeter up top. Built into the cabinet is a 1000 watt amplifier providing up to 132 dB of output (that’s a lot for a speaker in this price range). Its woofer can reach down to 60 Hz at -10 dB, which is plenty for a large variety of events without the need for a subwoofer. One of my favorite things about the ELX112P is the plywood cabinet which lends a warm sound to your music and is extremely durable. The more traditional speaker cabinet design means that the speaker can be used as a wedge monitor for live sound applications. Around the back, you’ll find two combo XLR-1/4″ inputs with independent volume control along with an RCA input. You have the option to boost the low end for extra bass reinforcement as well as use the built-in crossover if the speaker is used with a subwoofer.
If you’re looking for simple operation, a solid wood cabinet, and big output then the ELX112P might be for you.
QSC K12.2 K2
The K12.2 from QSC is the second generation of the immensely popular K12 that QSC made for years (trust me, you probably know a DJ who is using K12s). With the second generation, QSC bumped up the power of the onboard amp from 1000 watts to a monstrous 2000 watts. The amp, along with the 12″ woofer and all of the electronics, is housed in a rugged ABS (plastic) enclosure that is lightweight and stands up to the abuse of being on the road. The look of the speaker is modern and professional and will definitely blend into any location. Transporting the speaker is a breeze with both side handles and a top handle. Underneath is a feature that I wish more speakers had – dual pole mounting slots. This allows the speaker to fire straight ahead or be tilted 7.5 degrees downward so that sound energy isn’t wasted on the ceiling.
Besides the exterior of the speaker, QSC made some big improvements to the back of the speaker. What was once simply a handful of knobs and switches is now a full-featured digital display with a whole host of adjustable parameters. It offers a handful of presets like stage monitor, dance music, and musical instruments while also offering the user the ability to save their own settings. More advanced users can take control of things like delay, EQ, contour, and crossover. Moving to the ins and outs, the K12.2 has the typical combo XLR-1/4″ inputs along with a 3.5mm TRS jack for playing music off of phones and computers. All of these inputs have independent gain control while the first has selectable mic/line level input and the second has selectable Hi-Z/line for musical instruments.
If you’re looking for a lightweight speaker with maximum flexibility and control then the QSC K12.2 might be for you.
The DRM212 from Mackie is yet another high value portable powered 12-inch PA speaker option for mobile DJs. Mackie, which is well-known for their value-conscious Thump line of speakers, also produces some more powerful speaker options for those lookin to build their arsenal. The DRM212 is loaded with a 1600 watt amplifier with built-in protection that pumps out an impressive 134 dB. Like the ELX112P, the DRM212 is built in a plywood cabinet with texture coating to hide the scratches and dings from normal use on the road. It also has an angled cabinet design so it can be used as a floor monitor if desired. If you’re going to pole mount the speaker like most DJs, it includes a dual pole-mount socket like the QSC K12.2 so that users can select the throw angle that best fits their event’s needs.
Like both of the speakers we previously discussed, the DRM212 has 2 combo inputs and an auxiliary input. All of these inputs also have a direct output for linking multiple speakers. There is also a mix output that sends the entire processed signal to the next speaker in the chain. Above the inputs is a high-contrast full color display with a single knob for controlling all of the features and settings. The Advanced Impulse DSP provides acoustic corrections, time alignment, and EQ adjustments.
If you’re looking for a combination of some of the best features available in portable PA speakers such as wood cabinet design, high output, and a high degree of control, the Mackie DRM212 might be for you.