Apr 03, 2020
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Ask An Expert: The Difference Between PA & Monitor


Every now and then all you need is a new perspective for greater freedom. The new ICOA full-range loudspeaker series from LD Systems can be used as PA and as a monitor boxes. We asked sound engineering expert Ivan Klepac from Adam Hall why this is otherwise not possible, what the difference is between PA and monitor, when the Bluetooth function becomes important and what you should generally know before buying your speaker system.


gigmit: What’s the difference between PA and monitor, Ivan?

Ivan Klepac: The difference between PA and monitor is told easily. The PA loudspeaker fills the audience, the monitor box fills the band. PA loudspeakers are available in different versions – for example, as full-range tops with a separate subwoofer – and should reach as many people as possible with as little effort and enclosure space as possible. A monitor speaker (also called a wedge) is usually placed at the front edge of the stage so that musicians can hear themselves and their bandmates well on stage. Above all, a monitor speaker has to be powerful and is therefore tuned differently, i.e. it emphasises different frequencies compared to a PA speaker. Moreover, it has a different shape and radiates the sound differently. For these reasons the monitor speaker does not work as a PA speaker – but vice versa if an emergency calls for it.

The new ICOA series seems to make no difference between PA and monitor. What exactly is the advantage of the ICOA series?

After all, both the powered and unpowered loudspeakers in the LD Systems ICOA Series are true all-rounders. They can be used as active full-range PA speakers, as satellite speakers in combination with subwoofers and as monitor speakers on stage. This is ensured by the coaxial design and the horn which can be rotated by 90°. In addition, the integrated DSP processor with its presets is extremely practical for adjusting the ICOA speakers to different conditions at the touch of a button.

“Coaxial design” or “BEM-optimized CD horn” – what does that mean exactly?

ICOA speakers front and back
                      Click to enlarge

In a classic 2-way speaker, the tweeter is located at the top and the woofer at the bottom. In a coaxial design, tweeter and woofer are on the same acoustic axis. The different frequencies, therefore, come from one source or direction. This has the advantage that the sound waves do not interfere with each other in phase, which results in a clean and full sound image. A BEM horn is a horn that has been measured by the manufacturer himself and perfectly optimized for the loudspeaker. BEM stands for “Boundary Element Method” and refers to the calculation and simulation of sound radiation. But that would lead too far here…

What are the benefits of the Bluetooth option?

Bluetooth is a blessing – especially for solo musicians or sound engineers. Imagine you’re a DJ on the road, a singer-songwriter playing a gig in a bar or a singer at weddings and want to sing along to a backing track or play music during breaks. Without Bluetooth, you are forced to connect a mixing console or cable your player directly to the (active) speaker. With a professional CD or media player, this is still halfway comfortable. With a smartphone or tablet, however, you end up in adapter mess… The ICOA series features an integrated Bluetooth module, so you can connect your smartphone wirelessly via Bluetooth at the touch of a button. All you need to do is access your music library and press play.

What are the classic mistakes when buying speakers?

It is difficult to answer. Often, one concentrates too one-sidedly on high SPL and watt figures, chooses a size (10, 12, 15 inches) that is – for one’s own purpose – unsuitable or does not think enough about which and how many inputs one really needs. Furthermore, there is no way around listening to the speakers live and testing them under comparable conditions. In other words: a singer-songwriter with filigree guitar accompaniment rates a PA differently than a deep house DJ or a metal band. Furthermore, it is important to know the dispersion characteristics of the tops (especially the horizontal dispersion, which determines how wide a box emits its sound) and to compare it with your own requirements.

banner: ICOA speaker series

What is your advice for artists who are looking for PAs or monitors, but don’t know exactly how to decide?

  1. First of all, you need to know your own requirements in terms of performance, functionality and application area,
  2. then gather information
  3. and finally, go to your trusted music dealer for test listening!


HERE you can learn more about the ICOA series from LD Systems.
You like good sound and know the difference between PA and monitor?
Book your live act HERE or find your next gig HERE.