My favorite small speaker

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by Dave Horn

Like any gear guy, I have my favorite products.  And like any good gear guy, those favorites change from time to time. 

Last week, our church launched its community garden space, and we needed a better sound system for the event.  Since our existing small portable system wasn't quite what we needed, we had borrowed a different system for our Easter Sonrise service (outdoors), but I'm a firm believer that churches should own or rent all of the gear that they need, and that borrowing is not a good option. 

So what constitutes a "better" sound system?  Frankly, I was tired of lugging an 80 pound amp rack, with a CD player/iPod dock, small mixer, a wireless microphone, a drawer full of cables, and a power conditioner -- along with speakers, stands, and cables.  The system had served us well for 5-6 years of our outdoor basketball league, for youth events, camps, and more, but I wanted something more portable and something easy enough for anyone to set up and use.  Even as simple as it was, it could have been better. 

The requirements for the speakers:  small, lightweight, built-in amplifier, great sounding, microphone input, line input (1/4" and XLR), pole mount socket, ideally could be used as a small monitor (with the horn in its proper rotation, of course), and they had to cost less than $500 each. 

What did I choose?  The Electro-Voice ZXA1.  For $499.95, I have a speaker that fills all of my requirements. 

One of the best features of the ZXA1 (like many powered speakers) is that it has a microphone level input so you can take a dynamic mic, the ZXA1, a speaker stand and cables and have a complete small sound system.  The line input will take the output from a music source, too - a two-channel mini mixer.  The ZXA1 weighs in at just under 20 pounds, and is about 11x18" on its face, and it sounds great. 

It's just as at home as a small monitor as it is a small main speaker.  Now, we're talking small when I say small.  You're not going to play rock and roll to 500 people outdoors and you won't rattle any windows, unless you get the ZXA1-Sub - and even then rattling windows outdoors isn't terribly likely.  The ZXA1 and ZXA1-Sub combo (a pair of each) is a fantastic small system for youth rooms and choir rooms, too. 

If you're looking for a similar speaker that doesn't need a lot of equalization and that serves a variety of smaller applications well, consider the ZXA1.  I just bought two for my own church, and I could have bought anything.