A public address system (PA system) is an electronic system comprising microphones, amplifiers, loudspeakers, and related equipment. It increases the apparent volume (loudness) of a human voice, musical instrument, or other acoustic sound source or recorded sound or music. PA systems are used in any public venue that requires that an announcer, performer, etc. be sufficiently audible at a distance or over a large area. Typical applications include sports stadiums, public transportation vehicles and facilities, and live or recorded music venues and events. A PA system may include multiple microphones or other sound sources, a mixing console to combine and modify multiple sources, and multiple amplifiers and loudspeakers for louder volume or wider distribution.
Simple PA systems are often used in small venues such as school auditoriums, churches, and small bars. PA systems with many speakers are widely used to make announcements in public, institutional and commercial buildings and locations—such as schools, stadiums, and passenger vessels and aircraft. Intercom systems, installed in many buildings, have both speakers throughout a building, and microphones in many rooms so occupants can respond to announcements.
The term, sound reinforcement system generally means a PA system specifically for live music or performance. In Britain any PA system is sometimes colloquially referred to as a Tannoy, after the company of that name now owned by TC Electronic Group, which supplied a great many of the PA systems used previously in Britain.