Live Sound

The Top Live Sound Power Amps for Today’s Demanding Musicians

When you shop for a live power amplifier, make sure you mix the correct amount of wattage with the best features you need in a live PA system. But it’s not as easy as you think. With so many features in power amps, it can be difficult to make the right choice. So keep reading to learn much more and find out about the top live sound power amps for today’s demanding musicians.

Credit: BEHRINGER

Top Pick: Behringer EP2000

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Durable, reliable and affordable live power amp with great sound quality. Perfect for gigs in medium sized clubs, church services, public spaces and with mobile PA systems.

Having the right equipment means reducing a lot of potential frustrations when you play live. Making sure you won’t have to deal with distortion and lack of power and reliability is often worth paying a few more bucks for a better piece of equipment. Here are a few tips on what to look for as you shop for live sound power amps. You’ll also find a few reviews to help you start your search.

All About Live Sound Power Amps and Speakers

So, how do you choose a power amp? First, look for one of the live sound power amps that provides power equal to two times the rating of the speaker’s program. For example, if you have a speaker that has a 350-watt program power rating, you will need a 700-watt amplifier to match it. If you have a pair of speakers, your amplifier needs a rating of 700 watts per channel.

And you don’t need to worry about transient peaks above the speaker’s power rating because a high-quality speaker can handle them. Extra headroom in your amp will make sure you have no distortion. You’ll just get clean power straight to your speakers. Headroom is the difference between the maximum level of your amp before it distorts and the normal level at which it operates.

Since you will see a large degree of variation in the dynamic range of music, there will be a lot of distortion if you don’t have enough headroom. Many amplifiers have additional headroom, so they produce those transient peaks cleanly when they exceed the rated power. So, choose live sound power amps with a program power rating equal to the output power rating.

If you are in a studio, you want an amp that can sustain its peak transient capabilities. These types of live sound power amps produce up to two to four times its program power rating. If you can’t afford a piece of equipment with that much power, don’t force your amplifier into that distortion range. It can damage your speaker and your system.

Live Sound Power Amps: Understanding Impedance

To achieve the optimal system performance with the speaker’s total ohm load, match them correctly to the amplifier. You measure resistance in ohms, and live sound power amps generally work with resistance in either 4, 8 or 16 ohms. The power going to the speakers goes down when the total speaker impedance is too high. If the impedance is too low, the power going to the speakers will be higher. However, this can damage your amplifier and overload the speakers.

It is possible to connect several speakers to just one amplifier if you wire them correctly. Also, when you put them together, they shouldn’t fall below the stated level of resistance. When you connect several speakers, wire them together in a parallel circuit whether it is an amplifier, a speaker enclosure, or a mixer/amplifier.

When you connect a parallel circuit, you should put the enclosures at the same impedance. Remember, it important to divide the impedance by the total number of speakers you are connecting.

Why Class D Amplifiers are So Popular

Class D amplifiers have become the most popular design in the live sound market in the past decade. Previously, Class A and Class AB live sound power amps have led the market. However, they are large and heavy. Also, they have a tendency to have a high heat output and power consumption despite their great sound quality. Class D amplifiers are able to give you the same amount of power as the Class A and Class AB design. But, they are more efficient and weigh less while still giving you the same amount of sound quality.

Why Use Bridged Mode?

It is possible to put together a two-channel amplifier and bridge them together to create one load. This enables you to make a large single channel amp out of a two-channel to amp for more power. This provides a lot more power to the speaker than a one channel amp can do on its own.

When an amplifier is working in bridged mode, it can only use speakers with double the impedance of the amp’s minimum rating load. So, if an amp has 4 ohms in normal running mode, it will need 8 ohms when it is running in bridged mode.

How Limiters Fight Distortion and Overload

Built-in limiters maximize the signal level, which will help stop distortion. They also prevent overload when in a signal chain, and set the volume level at the maximum. This safeguards in-ear monitors, live sound power amps and speakers from distortion. So, a limiter is a great tool when you want to set a max gain setting and keep signals from surpassing it.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
BEHRINGER EUROPOWER EP2000
tons of power, low-noise operation ideal for gigs in medium-sized clubs, church services, public spaces, and mobile PA systems$249.99
Crown XLS25000
Multiple inputs make it extremely flexible, allowing you the ability to plug in almost anything, anywhere, includes many system setup configurations$599.00
Behringer NU6000DSP
state-of-the-art power switching mode give amplifiers serious punch when they are combined with this amplifier technologyOut of stock
QSC GX5
the perfect amount of power for the most popular speakers used by professionals$399.99
QSC ISA 300 Ti
more durable and affordable than any sound system that is permanently installed$789.99
Yamaha P7000S
Dual-channel amplifier gives you professional-grade power that is lightweightOut of stock
Crown XLS 5000
durable all-steel chassis, forced air fan is efficient and stops too much thermal buildup
Peavey CS4080
Perfect choice for outdoor gigs, plus performances in small clubs and concert halls
Seismic Audio - MBG-4000
MBG amplifiers are a step up providing uncompromising quality while still staying in your budget$249.99

Top Pick: BEHRINGER EUROPOWER EP2000

Credit: BEHRINGER

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The Behringer EP2000 has everything musicians love about live sound power amps including great sound quality, durability and reliability. It has tons of power plus a low-noise operation ideal for gigs in medium sized clubs, church services and public spaces. It works with mobile PA systems, too.

The front panel has simple controls that give you all the important signs you need. Independent gain dials are on both channels with clip LEDs that let you know when there is distortion. All you need to do is reduce the gain. Signal LEDs also light up when the input is present.

The back panel has a panel of switches with a variety of options on both the EP2000 and EP4000. You can get even more out of the amplifier with the clip limiter that keeps the amp and your speaker system from overdriving. The built-in circuitry senses automatically when it starts to distort reduces the input level to avoid clipping.

Infrasonics or ultra-low-frequency sounds are due to mic thumps, rickety stage vibrations and wind noise. Although they are technically inaudible, they cause a large amp power drain that can damage your speakers and provide a muddy bass range sound. But a defeatable low cut filter cuts off frequencies below 50 Hz or 30 Hz. Switches on the same panel allow the amp to work in either bridge or mono mode or in stereo mode.

Linking to Extra Power Amps

Also, you can link them to extra power amps when they in parallel mode. The reliable Toshiba/Fairchild power transistors, plus the high-current toroidal transformer, give the EP2000 high transient response and reliability. The independent DC and thermal overload protection on each of the channels automatically protect the speakers and the amplifier from meltdowns. Plus, you don’t need fuses, which can cause headaches in the middle of a gig.

Both inputs and outputs are flexible including ¼” TRS and XLR inputs, five-way binding posts, and Speakon-compatible outputs. The final parts of the back-to-front cooling include an exhaust fan through the back panel. Also, the durable and impact-resistant rackmount chassis protects them in transit.

The Behringer features precision power that monitors performance through signal and clip LEDS. They are compatible with any source and the “touch-proof” binding posts and professional speaker connectors support most speaker wiring systems. Also, the adjustable low-frequency filters remove distracting infra-sound frequencies.

These amps use Accelerated Transient Response (ATR) technology for superb clarity and punch. They also have switchable limiters to give you the most output without overload. And the detented gain controls give you precision settings and sensitivity.

A high-current toroidal transformer provides the ultra-high transient response with reliability. And the “back-to-front” ventilation system includes an air filter for reliable operation. Lastly, this durable, impact-resistant live power amp is available at an affordable price of $250.

Pros:

  • Quality amp at an affordable price.
  • Excellent sound production.
  • Cool running and lightweight amp.

Cons:

  • The cooling fan is a little noisy.

Other Products to Consider:

Crown XLS25000

Credit: HARMAN

The Crown’s XLS Series live sound power amps provide unparalleled performance and technology at an affordable price. Multiple inputs make it extremely flexible. So, you can plug in almost anything, anywhere, plus it includes many system setup configurations.

The switch-mode power supply provides superior sound quality while the integrated crossovers and Peakx™ limiters safeguard your speakers. This lightweight amp weighs just 12 pounds, and is easy to set up. This amp is extremely portable, which is great for gigs.

The Crown XLS2500 is one of the more reliable, efficient and versatile amps on the market. Also, it gives you different levels of ohms on each channel. Other features include the Integrated PureBand Crossover System to improve your sound quality. The Crown XLS25000 costs approximately $425.

Pros:

  • No distortion on the high end.
  • A good value for the money.
  • Lightweight and doesn’t create a lot of heat.
  • Excellent sound quality.

Cons:

  • Not useful for home audio.

Behringer NU6000DSP

Credit: BEHRINGER

The Behringer iNUKE Series power live sound power amps bundle an immense amount of power into a lightweight design ideal for rack mounting. Its revolutionary Class-D technology with an efficient switch mode makes this a high-density, feather-light dynamo. And it will power your system smoothly for a long period of time.

Behringer has fine-tuned this system and selected transistors with high slew rates and optimal circuitry. So, these amps will instantly react to the most powerful electronic bass pulses. The state-of-the-art power switching mode gives the amplifiers serious punch when you combine them with the amplifier technology. Also, they run cooler, so they don’t need large heat sinks or weighty toroid transformers.

The iNuke series amps are simple to operate with control and indicators on the front panel you can see clearly. You get positive-detent Gain controls with LEDs that light when a signal is present for all the channels. Another feature are the clip LEDs that indicate when there is distortion in a signal, so you’ll know when to lessen the input signal.

The Behringer NU6000DSP iNuke is lightweight, but still powerful, providing up to 6,000 watts. In addition, it has a DSP control and a USB interface. It only weighs 12 pounds and uses cool-running technology with near-zero thermal accumulation for reliability. The switch-mode power supply removes noise and offers a transient response while using low power.

The Behringer NU6000DSP includes a high-performance DSP and signal integrity with 24-bit/96 kHz converters. So you get a dynamic range you can trust. Also, its DSP section provides great delay, EQ, crossover and dynamic processing. This amp costs around $400.

Pros:

  • A quality amplifier for a low price.
  • It’s lightweight yet loud.
  • The amps are easy to configure.

Cons:

  • The front panel can be hard to figure out.

QSC GX5

Credit: QSC, LLC

Professionals who want quality performance plus portability on a restricted budget should check out the QSC GX5 Stereo Power Amplifier. These live sound power amps have a simple hookup with easy adjustments. Also, you get great sound quality, a dramatic look and QSC reliability. The GX amplifiers provide the perfect amount of power, so they are the most popular speakers for professionals.

Most speaker manufacturers suggest using an amplifier with a power output equal to the speaker’s program power rating or two times the continuous power rating. The GX5 supplies the maximum possible power to 4 ohm and 8-ohm loads. It also uses a Class H system they based on the most important elements of the PL Series. This doubles the power of these amps, but with the same weight and size.

What is GuardRail Protection?

The GX5 also has GuardRail protection to give you the most power while stopping harmful overloads. Whether it high distortion or heavy overheating, the GuardRail will reduce gain enough to protect the music’s integrity. Also, it preserves the speakers without shutdown or high distortion levels.

The Crossover switch lets the GX series split the full-range input. The gain controls on the front panel balance the top and sub box. Additionally, the GuardRail gives optimal peak power to the top and sub separately to provide a better dynamic range and musical impact.

They designed the QSC to work with the real-world headroom of 4 and 8 Ohm speaker systems. Its phono input connectors, XLR, and 1/4 TRS work with any source outputs, too. Also, the Speakon combo gets 1/4 (TS) plugs or Speakon two and four-pole plugs. This amp costs approximately $400.

Pros:

  • A lightweight amp with quality sound.
  • You get plenty of power for the price.
  • It is reliable and cool running.

Cons:

  • The fan noise is noticeable.

QSC ISA 300 Ti

Credit: QSC, LLC

The QSC ISA 300 Ti amplifier protects speakers with its selectable high-pass filters. In fact, they stop speaker transformer saturation with little effect on the program material. The ISA Series gives you added circuitry protection, too. It includes RF, DC, thermal overload, infrasonic and short circuit protection.

Also, you get many loading options with the QSC ISA 300 Ti. The comprehensive set of features make the ISA Series more durable and affordable than permanently installed sound systems. The ISA 300 Ti is a powerful amplifier that can simultaneously amplify a small distributed system and a small distributed system. It also gives you 25-, 70-, 100-volt and low impedance outputs at the same time.

There is a convenient strip connection that is a simple barrier to determine the output mode. So, it lessens the number of amplifier channels you need to power the speakers. The gain controls on the rear panel are tamper resistant with 2dB detents for repeatable, quick settings. Plus, it has XLR and input connectors that are the detachable Euro style.

The ISA 300 Ti is one of those live sound power amps with independent defeatable clip limiters to lessen distortion. Also, the indicators on the front panel include signal, clip and power. The DataPort V2 goes with the compatible DPV2 signal processing accessories SF-3, LF-3, XC-3, and DSP-3DSP-4. And it has an external power supply. The ISA 300 Ti has no reported cons and is available for around $800.

Pros:

  • It is a unique amp.
  • There are many ways to configure it.
  • This amp is loud and clear.

Yamaha P7000S

The audio engineers at Yamaha created the new P-Series Power Amplifiers to match the popular Club Series loudspeakers. They gave these live sound power amps a large power output that works with the Club Series Speakers power handling capabilities. Also, they installed Yamaha Speaker Processing for a signal in tune with the loudspeaker’s needs.

The Yamaha P7000S is a dual-channel power amplifier that provides professional-grade power. A lightweight amp, it comes with Neutrik Speakon and phone plug. Also, it has ¼ TRS, XLR inputs and five-way binding post outputs. Additionally, the P7000S includes sweepable high- and low-pass filters with a variable speed fan.

And, the exclusive EEEngine technology gives you superb performance with high efficiency. If you want a professional-grade power amplifier with a ton of configurations, check out the Yamaha P7000S. The P7000S is available in the $1,200 range.

Pros:

  • Provides excellent sound and easy to use.
  • This amp is highly portable and powerful.
  • This is a lightweight amp with a clean sound.

Cons:

  • You can’t remove the handles.

Crown XLS 5000

Crown XLS 5000 live sound power amps offer a four-ohm stereo mode with 1800 watts per channel. It has an overwhelming 5,000 watts when in four-ohm bridge-mono mode. This amp has a durable all-steel chassis. Also, it comes with a forced air fan that is efficient and stops too much thermal buildup.

There are dual precision-detented rotary level controls on the front panel, as well as a LED power switch. And you get six more LEDS to indicate clip, signal, and fault for every channel. Two electronically balanced XLR inputs come with the rear panel connections. It also has Speakon outputs and a touch-proof binding post.

The Crown XLS 5000 is a popular amplifier in the music industry that is also affordable. You get 2,500 watts per channel with this all-steel device. And lastly, it can power most live settings efficiently with an affordable $800 price tag.

Pros:

  • This is an efficient yet affordable amp.
  • You get lots of headroom and power.
  • This amp offers a clean sound and runs cool.

Cons:

  • The electrical can be a bit of a pain if you use it for gigs.

Peavey CS4080

The Peavey CS4080 Power Amplifier has some of the loudest and cleanest audio available. Peavey live sound power amps are famous for efficiency and performance. So the CS4080 offers up to 4,080 watts of power when in bridged mono operation. Plus, it has protective features that help you to stop thermal buildup and any damage.

This power amplifier is a popular choice because it gives you an output in either mono or stereo. The Peavey CS4080 Power Amplifier is a good choice for outdoor gigs as well as small clubs and concert halls. The CS Series is a workhouse that is not only reliable, but it also has the most popular audio innovations.

Also, the exclusive DDT compression and distortion protection keeps circuitry safe from improper loads, shorts, high temperatures, abrupt turn-on levels and subsonic frequencies. Toroidal power transistors come with all CS power amps for increased power and a lighter weight. The Peavey CS4080 is available for $1,200.

Pros:

  • This amp is easy to use and provides great sound.
  • It’s good for gigs, delivering lots of power.
  • It’s a clean amp that is solid.

Cons:

  • This is a heavy amp.

Seismic Audio – MBG-4000

If you like the LE series, you will find that the MBG live sound power amps are a step up. Also, they offer uncompromising quality while still staying in your budget. And these powerful amps are fully capable of pushing a pair of dual 15” speakers or two 18″ subwoofer cabinets.

The front of the amplifier houses volume controls and a maximum level indicator, signal indicator and power indicator. You will find the XLR and ¼” inputs, as well as a binding post and Speakon connectors in the back. This affordable power amp costs approximately $500.

Pros:

  • You get a good quality sound, yet it runs quiet.
  • This amp delivers lots of power at a great price.
  • It is clean-sounding.

Cons:

  • This amp is on the heavy side.

These are the top live sound power amps for today’s demanding musicians.  Did you find the perfect one for you? Depending on your budget, you can find the right one for your needs. Just make sure to take your time while shopping for one, so you can spend your money wisely.

Sources:

Ohm cooking 101: understanding amps, speakers and impedance


https://peavey.com/support/technotes/poweramps/bridgemode.cfm
http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/The_Truth_About_Compressors_and_Limiters

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