Like dynamic microphones, portable PA is a product category that appeals to a wide range of potential hi-fi audio customers, thus the regular coverage of such products. That said, some portable PA systems are far more versatile, and portable, than others.
Yamaha STAGEPAS 500 review
Yamaha’s STAGEPAS line — especially its flagship model, the STAGEPAS 500 ($1,249 list) — is an ideal example of a desirable portable PA: one with clean, full, and pleasing (and potentially loud) performance beyond the assumed limitations of its small size and light weight; useful features packed into relatively few components; intuitive (even “novice-proof”) controls; and superb build quality, to name a few. So how does the STAGEPAS serve these (and possibly your own unique) portable sound reinforcement needs?
STAGEPAS 500 Features
The Yamaha STAGEPAS 500 is an incredibly lightweight, portable, easy-to-use PA system consisting of a pair of high-performance speakers with a built-in powered mixer.
Out of the box, STAGEPAS 500 is essentially two pieces, all within two 500S enclosures, a two-way, bass-reflex-type speaker. These are made of black polypropylene, each loaded with a 10- inch, low-frequency, cone driver and one-inch, high-frequency, compression driver, together capable of 55 Hz to 20 kHz frequency reproduction; crossover frequency is 4 kHz. They have built-in 35mm sockets for stand mounting as well.
On the back of one speaker is the STAGEPAS 500’s 10-channel powered mixer featuring a two-channel 250W (max. output) amplifier and plenty of useful/simple I/O, controls, and functionality. With a simple quarter turn of two flathead screws, the mixer can be removed from the speaker for more useful positioning, even mounting on a microphone stand (via a $20 BMS10A adapter, not included). On the back of the other speaker, a steel panel covers a handy compartment for storing cables, microphones, etc.
The powered mixer’s first four input channels feature mic (XLR) with phantom power and line-level (quarter-inch) inputs; the last three are stereo, with L/R quarter-inch inputs on 5/6 and 7/8, and RCA inputs on 7/8 and 9/10. Each input strip offers a two-band, fixed-frequency EQ (+/-15 dB at 100 Hz and 10 kHz). Channels 1 and 2 offer a switchable (on/off) fixed parameter limiter and compressor, while channels 1 through 4 offer one simple Yamaha SPX reverb, also fixed parameter per channel, with a master reverb control knob for all four “effected” channels. A six LED master level meter is included below the mixer’s output section comprised of main outputs and unpowered monitor outs (both quarter-inch jacks) and L/R RCA record out jacks.
According to Yamaha specs, the STAGEPAS 500 is capable of 116 dB maximum output level and a 55 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range (+/-10 dB). The entire kit weighs 53 pounds; one able bodied person can easily carry the entire PA, one speaker per hand, thanks to well positioned handles on the top of each speaker.
STAGEPAS 500 In Use
Over the span of three months, I used the STAGEPAS 500 in several locations on multiple occasions on a variety of sound sources: in a recording studio live room as a rehearsal PA; a small bar for sound reinforcement and monitoring (as one main and one monitor for three acoustic instrumentalists/ vocalists); and in a coffee shop as a singer/songwriter PA (two mains for multiple artists in an “open mic” situation). I was pleased at how the STAGEPAS 500 sufficiently filled each environment with surprisingly full, low noise, predominantly vocal-based audio and was incredibly easy to set up and load in/load out. These environments highlighted the STAGEPAS 500’s user-friendliness; in each case, participating artists had no apparent trouble in making their own mid-set (or mid-rehearsal) adjustments on the fly.
As everyone understood the availability of two limiter/compressors and an overall reverb, they were happy to tweak the few available parameters on their input(s) to their liking. Sure, one-knob threshold and per-channel reverb level adjustments would be nice to have in this package, but it was hardly missed; considering all the extra hands that frequently touch a portable PA, the absence of such parameters could be considered a operational plus!
Summary about STAGEPAS 500
The STAGEPAS 500 may not be the biggest or most dazzling PA you’ll ever use, but I challenge you to find one that can serve so many small gigs with fewer headaches. For that purpose, I would recommend this package to anyone who needs a “trunk-sized” complete PA, especially those who are in the business of amplifying acoustic instruments and singer/songwriters on the go.