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How to Get the Best Sound for Your Engagement Party

Playing good music at your backyard BBQ engagement party or garden-set bridal shower requires more than just an amazing playlist.

Skip the iPod Dock - Get a PA System

With no walls and ceilings for the sound to bounce off of, your music could fall flat in an outdoor environment. So nix the iPod dock -- you're going to need a portable PA system, basically made up of speakers, an amplifier, cables (power strips and extension) and in some cases, speaker stands, microphones and a sound mixer. Convenience aside, they also have enough power to withstand the open air and ambient noise to blast the rich, full sound that’ll help break the ice and keep guests mingling and dancing.

How to Set it Up

A portable PA requires a few more steps to set up than an iPod dock or Bluetooth speaker. But trust us, it sounds more difficult than it is. In most cases, you'll need to connect your iPod or mp3 player with a standard audio cable (also known as 3.55mm stereo cable), which are available at most electronics stores or online.

A Word on Microphones

Most portable PAs also come with a detachable or wireless microphone and have a "speech" mode function to tweak the tone and clarity - so when it's time for the champagne toasts, your uncle's booming voice won't overwhelm guests. And while having more knobs and buttons to adjust can be daunting, it also means you'll have enough control over your sound to make the most out of every moment in your party. You'll be able to fine-tune bass and treble to easily switch from casual cocktail hour to lively dance party.

Finding the Right Speakers

In general, the bigger the speaker, the better the sound. A larger speaker can produce a more dramatic sound. And while most systems allow you to place the speakers on the ground or on a table, elevating them on a tripod stand can help disperse your volume and give it an extra boost. If you're throwing a smaller party, consider a speaker with no less than 250 watts. For medium to large-sized crowds, you’ll most likely need a speaker with at least 500 watts.

Rent or Buy?

You can find them for roughly $30 and $80-per day if you're renting, and $200 and $1000 if you're buying. It really depends on whether you think you'll have any use for it in the future. While portable PAs typically come in all-in-one packages, they're still lightweight and easy enough to set up and store away. Some can fold away like a suitcase while others have built-in handles and wheels, or come with a heavy-duty case for the road.

-- Hannah Soo Park

See More: Wedding Music + Dancing , Wedding Receptions