How to choose a PA and handheld megaphone

Choose the right PA and handheld megaphones

PA and handheld megaphones – there’s nothing like a small audience


A megaphone is a cone-shaped device designed to amplify spoken words or manufactured sounds (such as a warning siren). Megaphones have a long history dating back to the ancient world. They are a natural acoustic improvement. In other words, rock formations or even organic forms like tree branches or sea shells can act like a megaphone: focusing sound waves in a single direction.

As with many inventions, its first use was in the military, helping battle units communicate in the field. However, its usefulness in the field of dramatic entertainment and public speaking was quickly recognized and indeed became more important over time. For example, some believe that masks used in Greek theatrical performances as early as the 6th century incorporated funnel-shaped mouths that, like megaphones, amplified the actors’ speech. Even today, the megaphone is often synonymous with the image of a film director (first used in a Cecil B. DeMille film).

Historically, megaphone designs were as small as a bread box or as large as a railroad car, however, most megaphones used today are electronic, portable, and hand-held. Power is now a function of circuitry rather than size.

Whether sports instructors use them for training or law enforcement officials use them for crowd control, megaphones remain important tools for a wide variety of situations.

Hand-held public address systems:

Handheld PA systems differ from megaphones in that they usually include a shoulder strap and a wired or wireless microphone. They can also have connections for external devices, such as a CD player, and can even be mounted on a pole. Some are capable of being battery operated (DC) or plugged into an AC outlet (AC) or both. The power of public address systems is generally higher than that of megaphones, although some modern megaphones can produce 30 watts of amplification.

Hand-held public address systems vs. megaphones:

There are four main considerations: price, power, range and options.
In terms of price, megaphones tend to be cheaper, but are more limited in what they do. Power and range requirements should be considered when choosing between PA and megaphones.


Power output (or rated power) can be stated in many different ways, but usually in terms of watts. A public address system with a power of 200 watts is usually enough to cover an audience of 200 people. A megaphone, however, has a fairly narrow amplification focus, so its effective range (the maximum area that receives the amplified signal) needs to be specified as well as its power.


The effective range of a megaphone depends on a number of factors, including the background noise level of the environment in which it is used. In noisy environments, a more powerful megaphone is usually required. The main difference is the shape of the area where the amplified sound is heard. By definition, a megaphone with the same power as a public address system will cover a triangular area that is longer and narrower. This is why a speaker with a megaphone must rotate to cover a crowd in front of him.

Finally, consider the options that fit your needs before you buy.

The main difference between megaphones or PA systems of comparable power is the available options, literally bells and whistles. For example:

We supply both pistol grip megaphones and hand held PA systems.

Distinctive siren signage will draw the crowd’s attention and ensure your ad is heard.

The pole mount adds a handy hands-free feature.

The auxiliary output offers multimedia capability.

For your convenience, I have reviewed some products that fit into this category along the lines suggested above. In particular, I have arranged some portable megaphones and PAs by power output with their special characteristics indicated for convenient comparison. I’ve also included a price comparison based on AudioLink’s current discounted pricing.

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