Hands-On Review:Yamaha STAGEPAS 300
Yamaha STAGEPAS 300
The portable PA with muscle and smarts
By Ted Gennerro
My, how quickly things change. It wasn't that long ago that a portable PA was a megaphone. The first portable PAs—two speakers, an amp, and a crude mixer—weren't much better (or very portable). They were only good for speech reproduction and very basic multimedia audio. Thanks to a technology market driven by Moore's Law, now we not only get better, more powerful equipment every year or two, it gets smaller as well. With the exception of tube-obsessed, Ludditesque electric guitar players, who doesn't want their equipment better, smaller, and easier to use? It's a win-win.
The STAGEPAS 300 from Yamaha is definitely a win-win situation for portable PA users. You know who you are, all you singer-songwriters, folk singers, DJs, and small combos. Holding true to Moore's law, Yamaha's newest offering to the portable PA world is packed with more features and more power than the competition. In fact, the STAGEPAS is the first portable system with the capability to handle more than just single performers and small groups in small rooms. Best of all, Yamaha's engineers went out of their way to make the STAGEPAS intuitive and foolproof, perfect for performers unfamiliar with PA equipment or those who have better things to do (like write songs!) than master complicated PA setups. And on top of that the STAGEPAS has a cool, very compact design and is very, very small and light.
The total package
First of all, the STAGEPAS packs more power than most other all-in-one PA systems currently on the market—a big 300W (150W per channel). This will take you safely into bigger rooms than most portable systems, where the extra wattage will keep you from pushing it too hard and overheating the amp. It also has a six-channel mixer with four mono channels and two stereo channels that deliver flexibility for nearly any situation.
Each of the four mono channels has a mic/line switch that toggles between the two inputs: a balanced XLR and a balanced 1/4" jack. The fifth channel has left and right 1/4" and RCA jacks for a stereo output instrument such as a keyboard or an audio playback device. Each channel has a single volume control and a two-band shelving-type EQ, the LOW knob in command of the 100Hz range and the HIGH in charge of the 10kHz range. On the mono channels there's also a switch for the onboard 24-bit digital reverb.
Versatile sound delivery
In the output department, the STAGEPAS has it covered too. The left and right 1/4" outputs for the passive loudspeakers are controlled by a single Master knob for the volume and have a little LED meter for monitoring the output level. Two more LEDs indicate power for the unit and limiter activation, respectively. For those moments when you can't seem to quite figure out why there's nothing coming out of the speakers, the little green power LED will let you know, “Yes, the power is, in fact, ON." And when you've pushed the levels a little too far into the red, the limiter LED will light up and indicate the limiter kicking in to save your speakers from those cone-smoking spikes.
Recognizing that in many situations the STAGEPAS may be used simply for speech reproduction, and not music, the output section also has a simple SPEECH/MUSIC switch that slightly changes the frequency response and range of the STAGEPAS. The switch controls a preset EQ carve that boosts low end for music but for speech flattens the overall response while juicing up the gain a little and rolling off the low-end to cut down on wind noise and rumble.
Plenty of trunk space
The speaker enclosures are no less impressive than the mixer. Thanks to smart engineering from Yamaha sound designers the STAGEPAS enclosures are light, small, and, most importantly, sound fantastic. Each speaker contains an 8" woofer and 1" compression driver, driven by an efficient 150W Class D amplifier. By expertly tuning the polypropylene bass reflex cabinets to the specific drivers and amplifiers used, Yamaha gets a sound that is wider, more clear, and bigger than similar cabs out there. You'll appreciate their professional appearance as well.
The cabinets can also accept polemount adapters and compartments in the back house either the mixer or important accessories. This makes set up, tear down, and transporting the STAGEPAS a breeze, as it can completely pack up into itself so that it looks and handles like a couple of PA speakers. The mixer/amplifier cleverly locks into a special recess on the rear of either speaker enclosure using two simple twist fasteners. That leaves the other speaker cavity available for holding the speaker cables, power cable, microphones, and other accessories. Another nice aspect of this feature is that the STAGEPAS system will operate with the mixer left mounted on the rear of either enclosure, so you don't have to haul around a table or anything to set the mixer on. And because the mixer is so small, it can be mounted on a microphone stand (with a special adapter) allowing easy sound tweaks during your performance.
In addition to all of this, you also get the Yamaha badge. That little emblem stands for 40 years of sound engineering, the result of which is that you get great sound that's reliable from a system that's rugged and won't cost you an arm and a leg. If you're in need of an easy-to-use PA that's just as effortless to own and haul around, the STAGEPAS 300 is your cup of tea.
Features & Specs: