Choosing the best megaphone is sort of like choosing the best car. “Best” can mean many different things to people, but is more meaningful only after narrowing down what’s most important to you.
Staying with the car example, if fuel economy is more important than the ability to haul lots of passengers, the logical choice would be for a two-door sub-compact instead of a 14-passenger van. Or if you wanted to drive at high speeds instead of navigating rough, non-paved roads then a low-slung sports car would be a better choice than a four-wheel drive truck with a high suspension.
Megaphones, or portable PA gear more generally, normally don’t involve choosing between such radically different functions or designs. For the performance of a megaphone as well as for portable PA gear, perhaps the most important feature is its “horsepower”, usually measured in Watts.
Megaphone performance and portable PAs typically have power ranging from 2 – 100 Watts (and even beyond). A 2 or 5-Watt VoiceSaver for instance is small enough to be belt-worn and can project for up to 8 hours to a class of 40 or 50 people on a single charge. The high end power for a megaphone is typically 25 Watts and can have a range of up to 1,000′ or 325 yards.
If you’re considering a PA which will be moved from location to location, indoors as well as outside, chances are that the choice will be for a battery-powered model. This will enable you to use it anywhere without being limited by the need to plug into an electrical outlet. Battery size is a key determinant of the unit’s loudness, power and to a certain degree its size. Returning to the car example for a second, driving quickly gets you to your destination faster, but one trade-off is the lower fuel efficiency. Batteries work the same way in that you can draw more power from them for louder music being played (or messaging), but the unit will need to be recharged sooner. (Read more about battery life.)
Mechanics aside, there are other factors to consider when using a megaphone or portable PA when outdoors. Wind noise, nearby traffic sounds and even obstacles such as buildings and trees can all interfere with and reduce the effective range as well as how many people can hear the messaging. For better sound distribution (and to combat external noise), sound professionals rely on using multiple speakers, often daisy-chained together.
Learn more about the most commonly used portable PA functions in our “How To” series.