Fender PD-150 Pro

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There may be slightly better sounding or feature-rich PA systems in this price range, but nothing comes close to the outstanding portability of Fender’s Passport. It’s barely 30 pounds, and when it’s packed up and put together in its slick integral case no moving or delicate parts are exposed to scraping or damage. And since the case tapers at each end, it’s easy to carry without it bumping against my side with every step.

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I use it primarily as a sort of keyboard amp for a laptop, also for playing music from an iPod. I play in a band with some friends and plan to use this Fender PA system for small or outdoor shows. There are three of us in the band, and we needed vocal and laptop amplification. The PD-150 has three mic/instrument inputs, so we’re all set.

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It’s most cool as PA; the mixer is perfunctory but useful and welcome. It is a trade-off in terms of price, portability and integration, like a boom box versus a component system. The advantage of buying the speakers, amplifier and mixer separately is that you can customize the amount of power, mixer features, and speaker quality that you’d like, but it will be more expensive and harder to transport. The portable PA is just so cool in that it does the basics decently and packs itself into a supercompact little suitcase.

I purchased a PD-150 that I found on Craigslist for $150, but the current model is the PD-150 Pro, which supposedly has better sound quality, and adds a second stereo input. It’s also 3 pounds lighter.

-- Mark Groner  

Fender Passport 150 Pro Portable Sound System
$400

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Fender