Bose’s best portable PA system for live music

Stadiums, arenas, and larger venues typically feature in-house PA equipment to ensnare audiences with powerful audio. However, everyday working musicians who go to perform or busk may need to bring along a portable PA system. Smaller venues might not have any equipment at all, or what they have may be of poor quality. Investing in a PA system can amplify your music without getting in the way of the performance. How do you choose the right one for you?

Guitarist adjusting the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

What musicians look for in a PA system

Here’s a look at the top eight factors musicians should consider when shopping for a new PA system.

1. Portability

Man carrying the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

Bigger isn’t always better. Inexperienced musicians might believe they need a giant PA system to sound professional, but in many circumstances, large speakers can be overkill. You don’t want to spend too much money on something unnecessarily bulky when more compact options are available. A portable Bluetooth® PA speaker can make it easy for you to perform anywhere.

Solo performers certainly don’t need the extra stress of lugging around heavy speakers and tangled wires. If you’re a singer with a guitar playing in bars and restaurants, you likely don’t need a cumbersome 20-inch speaker. Instead, consider a more lightweight speaker, such as the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System, which you can easily carry into any venue. Portability comes in handy for groups, too. Suppose you’re in a small band — rather than your bassist or keyboard player bringing their own amps, they could connect directly to your PA system.

2. Inputs

The back side of the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System showing the control features and inputs

Consider how many instruments and devices you will need to connect to the system on a regular basis. Do you need a microphone and a guitar, or are you looking to connect a four-piece band? An early-career singer, for example, likely only needs two inputs, whereas a garage band would require more.

Some musicians like to have several PA systems in their arsenal so they can choose the right one for each scenario. Think about how many inputs you’ll need and try to select one that will prove the most versatile for the scenarios you expect to find yourself in.

3. The latest technology

Controlling the S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System through the Bose Music app on a smartphone

Much like the phone in your pocket, the technology inside PA systems improves over time. Musicians understandably tend to focus on sound quality — but also consider how certain features can help make the technical side of your job easier, allowing you to focus on giving the best possible performance.

Bluetooth connectivity can link your headphones to the PA system for mixing purposes and quality control. This is a beneficial feature if you’re playing in a crowded venue; without Bluetooth capabilities, you might struggle to hear yourself playing over the sound of audience chatter, glasses clinking, and doors opening and closing. Using Bose transmitters (sold separately), you can connect the microphone and instrument to the S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System so you can move around the stage effortlessly.

Remote control through the Bose Music app, can be helpful as you adjust the tone and sound — no need to hunch over your PA system. This type of flexibility can give you the freedom to make on-the-fly adjustments to optimize the experience for your audience.

Also consider any optional accessories. Will you go old school with wired accessories, or is a wireless microphone your biggest priority? Make sure accessories are compatible with your PA system and have a reliable connection with a far enough range to let you move around the stage comfortably.

4. Mixing ability

Man adjusting the bass of the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

Some musicians opt for 8-channel mixers, but you can get an updated portable PA system with built-in mixing abilities. If mixing is a big priority, you could choose a mixer and download various apps to adjust the tone and sound. Alternatively, you might choose a portable Bluetooth PA speaker that can address the basic settings, such as treble, as well as effects like reverb and delay.

Bands often require robust mixing options, such as the ability to turn up the bass if other instruments are overpowering the sound or turn down the lead guitar a notch during a particularly intense solo riff. Mixing used to be entirely analog but leaving knobs and faders behind for an integrated wireless mixing option can make mixing that much simpler.

5. Power

Violinist using the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

Larger PA systems often plug in directly to a wall outlet. This is typically a safe option — you know the system will work as long as the venue doesn’t lose power, such as in the event of a storm or blowing a fuse. However, plug-in power is often unnecessary. Portable Bluetooth speakers can last longer than your vocal cords without requiring any electric cords. The Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System’s rechargeable battery lasts up to 11 hours, giving musicians plenty of time to put on an excellent show.

Wireless also becomes a necessity when venues don’t have the option of an electric power source, like busking, for example. If you want to jam out on a pedestrian street and collect tips, battery-powered PAs are the way to go. You might have the option to plug into a generator at larger outdoor venues, such as concerts in a park; however, the noise from the generator can drown out your music, meaning that a battery could also come in handy.

6. Price

Musician adjusting the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

Every musician has a different budget and requirements for their PA system. Your resources and needs will also probably change throughout a long career. Early on, you may buy the least expensive possible option. But as cheap systems break and your career grows, you may choose to invest in higher-quality equipment.

There’s a wide range of pricing for PA systems. More basic equipment may cost only a few hundred dollars, while elaborate commercial systems can cost thousands of dollars. Weigh all of the other factors in relation to the cost to make sure you are getting the best value.

7. Ease of use

uitarist using the Bose S1 Pro+ Wireless Mic/Line Transmitter – XLR with the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

Having a system that’s intuitive and easy to use allows you to focus on your craft. If you grew up with analog equipment, using a digital app to control your PA system could have a learning curve, but its functionality really brings out the benefits of evolving the technical aspects of music.

If you’re playing at a pub, you want to avoid pushing past customers as you enter the venue with armfuls of gear. Having a portable system you can carry on your own and set up in a few moments can save you time and stress. A plug-and-play style system makes the setup process easier for you, your bandmates, and the audience.

8. Durability

Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System on a speaker stand

Longevity matters, so you’ll want to choose a durable system that lasts. Of course, musicians try to handle equipment with care, but the nature of a portable system means it will need to withstand multiple trips to various locations. Superior materials and thoughtful design can make the difference between a speaker that blows out after a few months and one that lasts several years.

Dougie Do and Megz Kelli of the Hip Hop group Magna Carda performing with the Bose S1 Pro+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker System

A sound decision

Ultimately, sound quality is paramount. The whole point of a PA system is to ensure the audience can hear your music from a distance. Well-made speakers will bring your voice or instrument to the back of the pub or wherever you perform. The underlying technology and engineering are often invisible in sleek systems, but you — and your audience — will hear the difference.