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Powerage: Are Live Power Amplifiers on the Way Out?

Christian Wissmuller • October 2019Survey • October 4, 2019

With less than 15 percent (13.3%) of participants in this month’s dealer survey – sent out to over 300 MI retailers – claiming that sales of live power amplifiers are up when compared to 2018, this segment would appear to be pretty bleak. So why’s that? If you’re a retailer or end-user of PA and sound reinforcement equipment, you likely already know the answer.

As one participant who declined to be named put it: “Powered speakers are killing amp sales.” Eric Hanson of Hanson Pro Music LLC (Port Huron, Michigan) doesn’t mince words, observing that, “Live power amps are going the way of film cameras.” Indeed, if you can remove the expense, space, and weight of a major system component (powered amps) and still get all the performance and volume you need – the appeal of active speakers – then why wouldn’t you?

However, the latest generation of live sound system amplifiers tend to be Class D designs, which deliver greater power than previous amps, relative to their weight and size. Some customers – even those who don’t plan on mobile applications of their PA systems – appreciate the efficient, reliable output of these units. “Most installation customers want the Class D amps, even though they will never be moved,” says Dan Petterson of Fort Payne, Alabama’s Roger’s Music.

It may be becoming something of a niche market, but live power amplifiers are still profit-generators for well-schooled retailers who understand how to target potential customers.


What trends have you been noticing in terms of live power amps?

“First it was powered mixers, then powered cabinets. Most of our rack mount amp sales are for ‘big boy’ systems or installs.”

Jerry Vesely

Vesely Music

Parowan, Utah


“Sales of power amps [were] strongly affected by the advent of powered speakers… Lighter, simple to use, and easier to get around. As the demographic ages, most people are attracted

to the lighter weight, easier to use products. Who wants to carry around a truck full of racks with power amps, EQ’s, and crossovers? Answer: No one.”

Tim Bascom

Morgan Music Services, Inc.

Lebanon, Missouri


“Powered speakers are the current trend.”

James Winter

Winter Sound Co.

Gloucester Point, Virginia


“On board DSP, digital, lighter weight, big power… lower dollars.”

Jeff Hashbarger

Jeff’s Morrell Music

Kingsport, Tennessee


“Down year for live sound, altogether.”

Jeff Barber

Majestic Music

Show Low, Arizona


“Portability, passive is better, and interchangeable with using different desks for different situations. Effects [are] important.”

Jow Feldtmann

Paul Bothner Pty LTD

Centurian, Guateng

Republic of South Africa


“More and more of or PA customers are opting for powered speakers, thus our power amp sales are down over 50 percent.”

Ed Intagliata

Cassell’s Music

San Fernando, California


“Passive speaker sales are the lowest in record, everyone wants active. Our rental inventory is all active for the first time in history.”

Anthony Mantova

Mantova’s Two Street Music

Eureka, California


“More are wanting them with DSP and/or built in crossovers/high pass filters.”

Scott Gilreath

Musical Depot LLC

Florence, South Carolina


“Most sales are powered speakers.”

Robert Degraaf

Sound Vibrations

Corpus Christi, Texas


“Passive speaker sales are the lowest in record, everyone wants active. Our rental inventory is all active for the first time in history.”

– Anthony Mantova

Mantova’s Two Street Music

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