I'm wondering if there are any coffeehouse owners out there that have experience with a portable PA System. We do live music 2 to 3 times a week and would like to have our own in house system. I'm afraid that if I ask musicians they'll tell me some top of the line system that will be more than I need. The room is a little over 800 sq ft with 15 ft high ceilings covered in tin and hardwood floors.

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I'm assuming your doing mostly singer/song writer, small ensambles, and the such. I've always told them to bring their own. If they wanted it, they can arrange it. I'd suggest against buying it.

But if not, find a good local equipment shop. Ask their advice and for training on how to use it. These things are not easy to break, but can be totally ruined if used wrong. I would suggest that you get a small 8 channel board (I would rather have sliders, but knobs work are are usually more compact) a small amp, a set of house speakers, a set of monitors that do not tax that amp. Microphones, speaker stands, music stands mic stands, direct boxes, cords, etc. And a box can be bought that allows you to store the whole thing in. Likely it will cost you $2000 or so bucks.

So, they are not cheap. If you want it to last, it's going to require someone who knows how to make it work be there while it's being used. They take up space. You never know what the band will actually need (especially when it comes to direct boxes, cords, etc). And they break down from time to time. Wether from non-use, abuse, general wear and tear, over use, someone spilling a latte in it, they break and must be replaced and repaired.
It depends on your budget? I spent around $1500 out the door including mics., mic. stands, wall brackets for 4 speakers, and probably 150 ft of cables to run all throughout the place. Our shop is roughly 1600 sq. ft. with 4 open garage doors during the summer so I went with over kill, but I ran the same system with only 2 speakers at our other location which is around 800 sq. ft. with only 2 garage doors. It is more than sufficient and at times over kill still.

I went to Musicians Friend several times, but they could never come up with anything that fit my budget or that I liked. Their website is good for reference, but I went to a local Seattle shop called American Music and I was sold in 10 minutes. Anyways I will list what I went with below and keep in mind that I also wanted to play mainly jazz and cafe music as background music during the day. I would have to say I love our system! Before we bouhgt this system we had Misicians bring their own systems and most brought really expensive Yamaha and JBL systems, but since they all have switched to using the house system both for conveinence and they have said it sounds just as good if not better.

Mics: Shure SM58-LC
Behringer amp/EQ Europower PMP 2000
mic stand, wall mount brackets, speaker cables, etc.
2-12" Paradigm Professional Series speakers.
2- 8" Monitor speakers (can't remember the brand).

I got the Bose L1 tower system w/o the optional sub. With the size of your room, you wont need monitors and you can plug a few (maybe 4) channels directly in, but a little 8 channel power mixer would be a great fit with it. The L1 system sounds and looks great, has a very small footprint and takes about 5 mins to setup and two to teardown. You should be able to get everything you need for around $1500-2000, but the L1 has a pretty good resale value if you decide to get rid of it. Good luck.
I heartily endorse the previous. I have the L1 and it's PERFECT for a small coffeehouse. The only drawback is that it can be quite expensive. I bought mine used for about 1500, and I don't regret it at all. The main thing is that it sounds better than other systems, is easy to use, easy to store, and it has a 15 foot remote cord that lets you turn the volume down or up without having to get in the musician's way. For a long time we relied on musicians to supply their own systems, and what I found was inconsistency. Some would sound great but some would sound terrible. I got sick of it.


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