Music Gear Central: Fender Passport Deluxe PA: Innovative and portable

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For a musician, it’s often irritating to get hired at a venue that does not provide a house sound system. Because the frequency of such a pinch often does not justify spending a large chunk of money on a PA, many players often borrow one or rig up systems using whatever they have on hand. This does suffice, although it’s nice to not have to scramble for gear.

Musicians looking for an affordable PA system can count on Fender. The company continues to be on top of its game, and is one of the most trusted names in the industry.

Fender’s Passport Deluxe (PD-250) is the outcome of years of technological superbness. And it won’t break you.

The cost of the PD-250 more than justifies itself. The flagship of the Passport lines, it’s a simple plug-in-and-play system that is perfect for audiences of 200 to 350 people, depending on the acoustics of the room.

Among the features are 250 watts of stereo power, a six-input mixer (four microphone/line, two mono/stereo), digital reverb, two 5.5-inch woofers with dual-arrayed 2.75-inch tweeters per cabinet, and a docking carriage for a wireless receiver.

Two included cardioid microphones with cords will work very well for speaking engagements. For singing, replacing them with Shure SM58 model mics would be a wise move. These mics work well with the Passport’s Vocal Input Priority (V.I.P.), which slightly lowers background music and stage noise when someone speaks or sings, making mixing easier. Shure SM58 microphones have become the industry standard for their clarity and ability to withstand rugged treatment, which is inevitable if you plan to bring them outside of your practice room. At $80 to $100 a piece, they are worth the extra expense.

To properly allocate power, the PD-250 operates on an AC adapter or with Fender’s special Passport DC power accessories.

With a sleek design making transport simple, the speaker cabinets latch to the board, creating a single, weather-resistant and easy-to-carry package. Fully assembled, the PD-250 weighs about 50 pounds, depending on what rides along in the on-board storage compartment, and is 33.7 inches long. A dust cover is also included.

Although tripod speaker stands are not included, Fender does sell them separately. I have used Fender stands, and they are very durable. For the Passport products, Fender offers the ST-275 tripods, which list for $169 for the pair. Other brands of stands include Hercules, Pro-Line and On-Stage. These manufacturers also make mic stands, which will also be a separate purchase. A durable microphone stand will run between $25 and $40.

Keep in mind that Fender does make 80- and 150-watt models of the Passport two-speaker systems. The P-80 sells for around $450, and the 150-watt Passport will cost you about $600. Although there may be certain calls for these small units, they are extremely limited. Spending an extra $200 to $350 for the PD-250 is a smart buy. With public address systems, it’s always a good idea to have too much power than too little. Levels can always be safely brought down. Over-working a small board almost always results in distortion, feedback and eventually blown channels, especially when attempting to cut through stage noise or amplify instruments.

Aside from being a solid piece of gear for musicians, the Fender PD-250 serves as a superb tool for amplifying corporate presentations, small funeral and church services, banquets or school assemblies.

The Fender PD-250 lists for $999. Most retailers sell them for $700 to $800. After upgrading to pro-level microphones and adding the cost of stands, you should be completely outfitted for around $1,150.

Product specifications and other information about Fender public address systems can be found online at Information about Shure microphones is at

Jim Hagerty is a staff writer for The Rock River Times. He’s also a singer/songwriter and drummer. He can be reached at 703-7383 or

From the Jan. 24-30, 2007, issue

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