PA speakers are used to project clear or loud sound across a large area like churches, or even night clubs. On the other hand, home theaters are mostly used at homes. PA speakers are made for producing sound while a home theater is made for reproducing sound, but can you use PA speakers for home theater?
You can use PA speakers for home theater, but it may be uncomfortably loud in your living room, especially if it goes over 80db. PA speakers handle lots of power, and the bass can hit you like a sledgehammer from 100 ft (30.48 m) away when you don’t use it with the right equipment.
Although PA speakers may not be suitable for home theater use, “not suitable” should not be interpreted as threatening. In this guide, we will go over whether you can use PA speakers for home theater.
Understanding How PA Speakers Work: Facts
The term throw relates to the capability of a speaker to project sound at a distance. PA speakers are designed for “short throw” or “long-throw” use. For short-throw use, the speaker system covers the areas nearer to the loudspeaker – around 15ft (4.57 m) while a long throw use covers areas furthest away from the loudspeaker.
PA speakers feature this concept with limited bandwidth and work best touring rigs or outdoor grandstands, where the speaker’s massive size is the dominant factor.
However, the concept may fail in a small facility where you need to have the same frequency response and sound quality in a seat both near and far.
Directivity indicates how directional the PA loudspeaker is and how productive it is to take the sound it generates and send it in one direction instead of all directions.
Since a PA speaker is a long throw device, the wavelengths of sound have a wide range of physical size that makes it impossible for a PA speaker to have the same directivity at all frequencies.
Besides, bass frequencies have very long wavelengths, making it difficult to control their direction and not ideal for small rooms. For instance, to control directivity at 40Hz, it would require you to use it 18ft (5.49 m) away.
A PA loudspeaker is capable of producing the full spectrum of sound from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. If we assume that the system is of very high quality, you will notice that the sound character changes as you move further away.
The bass may remain the same, but the sparkly high end is gone, and the voices may sound a bit off like something’s missing. Where bass wavelengths are very long: 55ft (16.76 m) or more, the sound diffracts around the box because they are too small.
The box has some directivity, and it directs the sound along the axis better than it can at low iteration where it spills the bass off to the side. However, wall reverberation causes sound distortion.
Low frequencies from a PA speaker are powerful enough to cause the ceiling, walls, and the floor to flex and move. Unlike a home theater, loudspeakers dissipate energy and strip away the low-end definition.
If your room is solid brick and concrete, the bass response will be stronger than when the room walls would be sheetrock. Additionally, space can interact with sound waves through reflectivity. But reflections can be good or bad, but acoustically treated barriers can lessen the impact.
PA systems voice-coil gets hot with sustained power, which creates power compression and increases its resistance. When the power delivered to the speaker reduces, subsequent SPL emerges from the noisy end, and the same resistance changes the speaker’s parameters.
The speaker QTS is modified, meaning that the carefully aligned enclosure won’t work as it should. If the inside heats up, there is no airflow, and the vents are incapable of creating a change of air within the enclosure, causing damage. Therefore, it’s necessary to consider a crossover driver to use in your PA setting.
Factors to Consider When Choosing PA Speakers for Home Theater Systems
Understanding how space interacts with audio will help you get the most out of any sound system. Your space’s acoustics largely determine your PA’s performance – difficult room acoustics can interfere with the speaker’s fidelity.
The Size of the Room
It will help understand that the room’s size directly impacts how well specific frequencies will be reproduced. For instance, a 50Hz wave bounces off the walls of a small space, and the reflective wave moves right back along the same path and bounces off, and the cycle repeats.
The audio will have a massive low end because the room acoustics exaggerate low frequencies. To compensate for the problem, you need to use your PA speakers together with an EQ.
PA speakers have contrasting design priorities than home theater speakers. They have a robust build to bounce around in the back of a van going from one gig to the next.
Besides, PA speakers that sound good enough to be in a residential home theater installation are few and far between. Similarly, they may cost you many times more than a home speaker that sounds as good as possible.
They must also play for hours at near splitting levels, gig after gig, in heat and cold, year in, year out. PA speakers are not created to sound their best at a distance of 8-15 ft (2.44-4.57 m) as it is with a home theater.
PA speakers don’t come cheap. If you have a budget of $500, there is no shortage of offerings from SVS, Hsu, Paradigm, Axiom, etc. that will sound better for your home theater setting. There are other costs to consider, like electronics that go together with the PA, such as Amps, crossovers, etc.
On the other hand, a home theater system package includes an audio-amplifier receiver, a subwoofer, and satellite speakers.
Different home theater options that can allow you to allot a budget based on your needs. If you have a slightly spacious room, a 7.1 setup with a bookshelf or floor standing speakers will make an excellent choice.
The Speaker's Amplifier
Most home theater speakers are around 6 to 8 Ohms designed explicitly for sound quality in small room settings. Besides, the amplifier and the speakers are appropriately paired for optimum performance.
Home theater has a wide range of surround sound options that allow you to enjoy immersive surround sound experience. Some of them include theater receivers with a host of equalizer presets.
Now, if you’re considering using PA speakers instead of home theater speakers, but can’t find something a little more intended for home use. Ask yourself these questions:
- How large is your room? – PA speakers are large and take up more room
- What’s lacking, or what do you not like about your current setup?
- What Amp do you have to push the speakers? – passive speakers come with the inbuilt amplifier, but with active speakers, you must purchase an Amp
- Are there any size concerns to be considered?
- What’s your budget?
The Difference Between a PA Speaker and Home Theater
The main difference a PA has from a home theater is that PA drivers have lower QTS, a lower Xmax, higher BL, higher FS, and a higher sensitivity that makes them too loud for use in the home.
Although PA speakers are a bit large and not as attractive as home theater speakers, using PA speakers at normal levels is doable, but know that it will cost you many times more than a home speaker. However, I would be more comfortable recommending home speakers vs. PA speakers.