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Fender Passport Venue

Portable PA System

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Best Portable PA System

Fender Passport Venue

  • Don Makoviney
  • Last Updated: November 22, 2016

With top-notch signal processing, extreme portability, reliability, and rich sound the Fender Passport Venue is the one to get. It even has USB ports (1 in, 1 out) so you can play audio clips and even record your performance directly to a flash drive. The Fender Passport line has been around for quite a while now, and this latest version has everything going for it.


Our Pick

On a personal level, I’ve used many Fender Passports for well over a decade. There have occasionally been issues with certain generations of Passports, but it seems like these days Fender has really got these things perfected.

This is why we recommend the Passport Venue. Since Fender has spent so much time perfecting their models over the course of a decade or more, they’ve put in lots of thoughtful touches that make transport and performance a breeze.

One feature we really like is the USB recording feature. Have you ever scanned a document at work directly to a flash drive? With the Fender Passport, you essentially do the same thing with your live performances. Plug a flash drive into the available USB Out port and you can record your whole set. Unplug the flash drive when you’re done and pop it into your laptop. Drag the file over to your laptop and into your DAW of choice for further editing, processing, or mastering. I love this. You will too.

Why You Should Trust My Recommendation

I have many years of live audio experience – from audio engineering to club gigs as a working musician. I’ve had the pleasure (and pain) of using many portable PA systems in more configurations than I can count.

(More on me here.)

Who needs a portable PA system?

If you don’t want to deal with the details of picking every single piece of equipment that goes into a PA system, and something that packs together easily (perhaps with some wheels or rollers) then these are for you. Many musicians – especially DJs these days – want something portable, flexible, and loud enough to fill a small venue without having to sweat the small stuff.

It’s also good to note, as they say over at eMusician:

If you’re in a full band, a portable P.A. is probably not appropriate. But if you’re a singer-songwriter, solo performer, DJ, or duo/trio playing gigs at coffee houses, small bars, clubs, or restaurants, a portable P.A. is the way to go.

However, in full band situations, I have found some great auxiliary uses for portable PA systems, based on my experience:

  1. Rehearsals & Small Venues: The times I have had a portable PA system, it ensured we always had enough sound for full rehearsals and playing small venues. Not only is it great for vocal reinforcement, keyboard players can use it as a keyboard amp instead of lugging an extra amp to rehearsals.
  2. Large Venue Support: There have also been times when we used our portable system to enhance the sound at larger venues. For instance, one larger venue we played often had a decent sound system for the audience, but was severely lacking in decent stage monitors. So we would use our portable PA system to power the monitors.
  3. Giving the drummer some: On other occasions, we’ve used the portable system as a monitor for our drummer at larger venues. We’ve even used them to mic up the drums only, and then feed the line out from the amp to the audio snake back to the board.

What Makes a Great Portable PA System?

A portable PA system that is reliable and powerful enough to fill small venues (like coffee shops and small performance spaces), and flexible enough to adapt for other uses (like the ones mentioned above).

So for this guide, this is our criteria:

  1. Minimum of four channels, preferably more: This allows a small 3-4 piece group, or a DJ with multiple devices, the opportunity to run everything through the amp.
  2. Sturdy: There should be no issues with things breaking from reasonable use.
  3. Expand-ability: Perhaps as your needs/bands/venue sizes grow, you will want to add an auxiliary mixer, a different power amp, or more monitors. Your PA system should be able to handle that.
  4. Flexibility: Also, as mentioned above, your PA can be used for various other purposes and scenarios as you play out. You should be able to make the PA system into, essentially, a Front of House setup if need be, or mixing/monitoring your drums or horn section, or guest musicians.
  5. Signal processing: (bonus feature) If we can find a decent portable PA system with some nice reverb, chorus, delay, or other signal processing, even better! It’s not necessary, but I know from experience it is nice to have those options built right into the powered mixer. The less gear you have to pack from place to place, means you’ll save your back and have less crap you may forget to take with you to the gig.
  6. Portability: This is the Portable PA System category after all. Our pick(s) should have handles, wheels, and possibly even carrying cases of some sort so you can roll it into a venue like a suitcase. (If you are interested in our pick for best PA packages, we’ll have a guide for that soon.)
  7. Powerful: Minimum 300W power amp. I’ve played portable PA systems of various wattage. In my experience, you can play to a medium sized venue, with a noisy crowd, with 300 watts. More is better to cover areas larger than medium size. So 300 watts will be our baseline. (Our pick, the Fender Passport Venue is 600 watts.)

Let’s start with some budget picks:

Our Favorite Budget Portable PA

We put the call out for portable or all-in-one PA systems and had a few recommendations.

The Behringer Eurolive EPA300 is definitely portable, sounds decent. The carrying handle is super sturdy, but at around 45 lbs it could really use some wheels for transport. For this reason the EPA300 didn’t make the cut as a budget recommendation.

If money was an issue, and I could only spend around $500, I’d get the Kustom PA One Portable PA System. The whole bundle can be transported in an optional suitcase-like bag with wheels and a telescoping handle.

I had such a great experience with the Kustom PA, so much so I thought maybe I was an anomaly. However, pretty much all the user reviews are surprisingly good:

Review by Justin C

“I purchased a year ago. I have put this system through tons of heavy gigging, indoors, outdoors, etc and It has performed great. I do use a 15″ speaker for more bass because they are somewhat thin sounding cometimes. I had one problem with the speaker jack stripping but that was an easy fix. My system has never overheated, even on 100 degree patios here in the humid midwest. Absolutly worth the $200 I paid new.”

Review by H.A. Wagoner

“I have had one of these systems for over 5 years and used it on many gigs. I have never had a problem with overheating. In fact, I have had no problems. Gives great service for what it is. I have had other P.A., sound systems and this performs as good or better than them. Can’t be beat for the price.”

Here’s a user’s experience with the Kustom One via Gig Magazine:

“Lately I have been playing some acoustic duo gigs with a cellist friend of mine. My next event with the Profile One was with that cello player. We were hired for a dinner party in a very nice part of Los Angeles. Set-up was in a courtyard and again it took only a few minutes to get our mix together. I used channel one for the cello, two and three for vocals and four and five for my guitars. With the cello added I could really hear the bass end of the Profile speakers and it was amazingly rich. We had more than enough power to fill the area and reach the 50 or 60 people at the party.”

I used this very same model for about 5 years, with a songwriting duo. Highly recommended.

Some Other Picks

The Yamaha STAGEPAS 600I 680W Portable PA System is a very close second to the Fender Passport Venue.

680 watts is 80 watts more than our main pick. More headroom is always nice. The reviews are amazing and if I could not find a Fender Passport I would easily be satisfied with the STAGEPAS. One handy feature is the reverb footswitch. These are handy so you can shut off the reverb in between songs and talk to the crowd.

Wrapping Up

The Fender Passport Venue will work great right our of the box. However, there are a few accessories you might want to keep in mind:

  • Subwoofer: The Passport sounds great and has a TON of bass without the subwoofer. If you are primarily a rock band, an acoustic solo, duo, or trio performer you probably won’t need it.  If you’re a DJ or electronic musician, you’ll may want to grab the Fender Passport Subwoofer.
  • Speaker Stands: Fender makes some aluminum stands for the Passport speakers, as well as the powered mixer.

When you’re ready to grab an all-in-one PA system, there’s a few other important components, including microphones and, of course, our pick for the best microphone cables and our favorite instrument cables.


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Best Portable PA System

Fender Passport Venue

Best Portable PA System

Important Specs

Output Power 600 Watts
Voltage 110-120V, 220-240V
USB record/playback MP3 & WAV
Inputs XLR and 1/4” mic/line inputs
Inputs Stereo 1/8” input
Mono Output For monitor use
Sub Out Yes, with auto high pass
Stereo Out Stereo 1/8" output
FX Onboard Reverb Effect
Phantom Power? Yes
more specs

Synopsis:

With top-notch signal processing, extreme portability, reliability, and rich sound the Fender Passport Venue is the one to get. It even has USB ports (1 in, 1 out) so you can play audio clips and even record your performance directly to a flash drive. The Fender Passport line has been around for quite a while now, and this latest version has everything going for it.

Yamaha STAGEPAS 600I

Our Alternate Pick

Yamaha STAGEPAS 600I

Clocking in at 680W, this easily portable PA System is a hundred dollars cheaper than our pick, and has some really great features like foot-switchable effects and a rich frequency response. It doesn't have the USB recording feature, which we really like. But if that's not important to you, then you'll definitely get your money's worth with the Yamaha STAGEPAS.

Kustom Profile 1 PA

Budget Option

Kustom Profile 1 PA

My friends and I love my Kustom One PA. They're getting harder to find online, so we'll probably be updating our budget pick soon. But if you can find them, the user reviews and my experience these last five years with this PA make this one highly recommended by the reviewers at MSCGR.

- M

Sources

  1. Steve La Cerra & Craig Anderton, eMusician, 20140702
    Roundup: Portable P.A. Systems
Originally published: January 19th, 2015

Important Specs

Output Power 600 Watts
Voltage 110-120V, 220-240V
USB record/playback MP3 & WAV
Inputs XLR and 1/4” mic/line inputs
Inputs Stereo 1/8” input
Mono Output For monitor use
Sub Out Yes, with auto high pass
Stereo Out Stereo 1/8" output
FX Onboard Reverb Effect
Phantom Power? Yes
more specs



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