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Product Review: Yamaha Stagepass 500 Portable Audio System

We have all been to many events, be they community functions or smaller musical venues, where the sound delivery and quality has been sorely lacking. Whether the problem lies in lack of portability or availability of a quality sound system, the release of the Yamaha Stagepas 500 just might be the solution for audio performance on the go! This upgrade of the popular Stagepas 300 adds several features that may have limited the smaller system and makes quality sound for many applications both simple and affordable.

The Stagepas 500 is a lightweight, portable, easy to use PA system consisting of a pair of high performance speakers with a built-in powered mixer. The passive 2-way speakers have 10” woofers and a 1” high frequency compression driver encased in a rugged polypropylene enclosure that is 13.5” x 21.5” x 11.7” (W x H X D). The two identical cabinets are designed with a storage space that holds the mixing board or spare cables and cords. The system is simple and extremely quick to set up and delivers 250W per channel of high quality sound indoors or out.

The main features of the very compact mixer make it suitable for a wide range of venues. The dual 250W amplifiers are designed to fill surprisingly large rooms or to project over considerable distance outdoors. The Stagepas 500 gives you four mono microphone/line inputs and three stereo line inputs, (a total of 10 input channels). It has 2-band equalizer controls on each channel as well as reverb switches on the microphone/line inputs, (with a separate reverb level control).

Channels 1 and 2 feature a LIMIT/COMP switch that allows you to apply either limiting or compression to those channels. Also new to the Stagepas 500 is the addition of switchable phantom power for the four microphone/line input channels. (This allows the use of high-performance phantom-powered condenser microphones, an important feature not often included in small systems.) Although very compact, the mixer provides the power and features that are demanded by serious singers, musicians and small bands.

Our first exposure to the system was when we pulled it out of the box. “Is this all there is?” we asked. Two black plastic speaker enclosures and a single sheet of fold-out instructions were indeed all that was sent.
The whole system weighs only 53 pounds and the handles on the individual speaker cabinets make it easy to carry around. We found carrying the two speakers separately to be easier than competitive alternatives where the two clip together and are carried as one unit.) The mixer is attached to the back of one of the speaker cabinets, fitting easily into the built-in storage compartment. Note: you will need a screwdriver to remove it. As it is, you can use a key or dime to accomplish the one-quarter turn to lock or unlock the panels. The mixer is fully functional when secured in the back of the speaker.

Setting the system up could not have been easier. Opening the storage compartment on the speaker without the mixer revealed two speaker cables and a power cord. After plugging in the speaker cables and attaching the power cord, we were ready to hook up the sound inputs. In normal applications the mixer probably will not be used as a remote sound board. (Your sound tech will look a little silly pouring over a sound board that is only 7” x 13”.) More than likely it will be on stage, either attached to the speaker cabinet, set on another piece of equipment or mounted on a mic stand. In those cases, the 16’ speaker cables are probably adequate, (although a little extra length would not be a bad thing!) Tear down was even easier. We cannot imagine a simpler system.

And what sound! We tested the Stagepas 500 in several applications including a small recording studio, a worship center seating about 125 people and an acoustically challenged community center room. In the first two settings, we had one guitar input and a wireless vocal mike while at the community center we used the system to provide the audio for a big-screen movie presentation. In all cases the sound was surprisingly impressive, filling even the worship center with rich and full sound.

The highs were crisp and the lows were clean up through the normal decibel range. Sound in the 90 to 100dB range was reproduced with very little clipping, which could be controlled and corrected a little easier if the unit had a trim/gain control knob. But wait! There we go again comparing the Stagepas’ mixer to a larger audio console. This was the main problem that we ran into during our evaluation. The fact is, the Stagepas 500 sounds so good, it’s easy to forget that this is a portable unit designed for just that purpose.

Adjustments to the equalizer controls are very easy, although it would have been nice to have at least a third midrange band for finer control. In conditions with wide variance in sound input levels, the limiting switch setting did prevent clipping (and distortion) at the top end, but the compression setting was very impressive and quite effective under most conditions. With compression on, the sound was clean and full without any distortion whatsoever. The only additional adjustment that was necessary was to increase the master volume slightly to compensate for the slight loss in volume.

The REVERB controls also proved useful in generating a rich, live music sound and provided flexibility when dealing with different rooms. This was just another feature that we didn’t expect to see in a small portable unit.

There are only a few options currently available from Yamaha for the Stagepas 500. There are the standard offerings of rolling cases and tripod speaker stands. The individual rolling soft cases make the speakers easier to transport and, of course, provide some protection along the way. (The cases are pretty tight to the cabinets, so don’t expect to haul a lot of extra gear in them.) Also available is a mic stand mount for the mixer that should be extremely useful for small venue musicians, allowing easy access for on-the-fly adjustments.

Our conclusion was that, at $1,249.00 MSRP, the Yamaha Stagepas 500 delivered on its promise of providing high quality sound in a simple and portable PA system. By upping the power and features from the Stagepas 300, Yamaha has created a system that is much more versatile and in some cases could replace the need for a full-featured sound board set-up. It provides a simple, elegant solution to mobile audio. Check it out!