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Best Combination Boards 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]

Last Updated December 1, 2018
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Billy JacobsHey friends! I’ve got something important to talk about today! After 54 hours of research including speaking with consultants and experts, and plenty of parents and 24 hours spent testing 10 combination boards, I believe that I found the best combination boards of 2018.

I have been writing about technology and entertainment since the early 90s from my secluded home in West Virginia. In this section we provide our readers with a comparison table of our top picks. Scroll past the table for a closer look at each of the 3 best combination boards in our review section.

Best Combination Boards of 2018

However, after giving you the TOP list, I will also give you some of the benefits you stand to gains for using it. The best combination boards will make your fairytale dreams come true!

I have taken the initiative to educate you on the top three best combination boards that you can buy this year. The “Total” indicates the overall value of the product.

Test Results and Ratings

Rank №1 №2 №3
Total 4.8 4.5 4.3
Ease of use
4 points
4 points
4 points
5 points
4 points
4 points
5 points
5 points
4 points
5 points
5 points
5 points
Awards 1
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№1 – XBoard 48 x 36 Inch Magnetic Dry Erase & Cork Board Combination

XBoard 48 x 36 Inch Magnetic Dry Erase & Cork Board Combination

Exact size: 47.3″ x 35.2″. Dry erase board on left side provides protective, anti-scratch surface lets all dry erase markers write smoothly
Self healing cork surface on the right allows you display and orgnization with push pins without holes after use
Everything is OK.

Why did this combination boards win the first place?

The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. The rear part fits perfectly! It is mounted really tight and reliable. I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product. I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch!


Ease of use










№2 – Combination Whiteboard Bulletin Board Set – Dry Erase / Cork Board 24 x 18″ + 1 Magnetic Dry Eraser

Combination Whiteboard Bulletin Board Set - Dry Erase / Cork Board 24 x 18

PREMIUM SET – contains 1 combo whiteboard bulletin board + 1 magnetic dry eraser + 2 magnetic black markers + 2 magnets + 10 colored pins. Landscape layout only. REMINDER: The whiteboard part is covered by protective plastic film. Before use, cut along the board frame and tear off the film from the corner.
A little more expensive than comparable models.
It gets scratched easily..

Why did this combination boards come in second place?

Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. I really liked it. It is amazing in every aspect. It did even exceed my expectations for a bit, considering the affordable price. The design quality is top notch and the color is nice. I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made.


Ease of use










№3 – Quartet White Magnetic and Combination Board

Quartet White Magnetic and Combination Board

Communicate with impact on this versatile combination board
Dual-purpose board
Smooth magnetic white writing surface wipes clean easily
Some people don’t like this design.
Very expensive.

Why did this combination boards take third place?

It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. A very convenient model. It is affordable and made of high-quality materials. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time.


Ease of use










Combination Boards Buyer’s Guide

If you keep the before points in mind, you can easily go out to the market and buy combination boards, right? No!


Where money is no object, the Z370 Aorus Gaming from Gigabyte quite literally shines. Decked out in RGB lighting galore, it’s the best way to celebrate Intel’s 8th-generation Coffee Lake processors in an ATX tower case. Limited not by power, but instead by the restraints of your other components, it’s also a champ when it comes to overclocking. That’s right, you can expect upwards of 5GHz consistently on this Z370 mobo.

Only RAM slots

You don’t need to break the bank to get your computer off on the right footing. This board from MSI is a great, inexpensive solution. It’s limited in options for future expansions, so it’s ideal for a one-and-done build. Since it’s a gaming motherboard it has support for things like “Mystic Light Sync,” which lets you synchronize all your RGB lighting with a single click.  

Blazing-fast RAM speeds

On-board graphics support  RAM tops out at 32GB 

Small and powerful, this ASRock motherboard is a beast, supporting overclocked memory speeds up to 3,466MHz for CPUs that support it. If that wasn’t enough to get your motor running, it also supports 4K resolutions and full Blu-ray support through its HDMI ports. Yes, ports: it has two, as well as on-board video support.

Best Intel Core X-Series motherboard: ASRock X29Taichi

This one goes up to 11, but more accurately, 4400MHz memory

Flex and speed don’t go together.

When you choose a style and shape it will come with a certain flex. Not every combination exists, however it is good to know what’s out there. Most boards have a flat deck, some have a bit of a camber (more for cruising) and some are more of a rocker (more appropriate for free ride and downhill).


The durometer indicates the hardness / softness of the wheels. Softer wheels are more shock absorbent and provide a smoother ride for your board, where as harder wheels are a bit more bumpy. Harder wheels are better for speed.

Most common cruising wheels are around 78A durometer. For freestyle, free ride it’s 86A.

The Insider Pick

The cutting board is perhaps the most essential tool in your kitchen for meal prep. Plastic and wooden cutting boards both have their pros and cons, so we’ve found the best of both worlds in the plastic OXO Good Grips Cutting and Carving Board and the wooden John Boos Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board.

Let’s face it: a cutting board is not the sexiest utensil in your kitchen. It’s not shiny, it doesn’t turn, flash, or beep. In fact, it doesn’t perform any high-tech hijinks at all. It just sits there. Still, a high-quality cutting board is an essential culinary tool. The preparation of many foods and meals require that you use one. In addition, a high-quality cutting board can help keep you and your family healthy by preventing foodborne illness. Some of them are even beautiful to display on your kitchen counter.

Most experts agree that you should have a minimum of two cutting boards: one for cutting raw meats and one for chopping raw vegetables and everything else. There are cutting boards made from a variety of materials, but according to experts, including those at Good Housekeeping and The Sweethome, plastic and wood are best for most kitchens. You can also get glass ones, but they are prone to shattering and they dull your knives quickly.

Softwood lumber

Softwood lumber is cheaper because conifer trees grow faster than hardwoods. Consequently, softwood lumber is primarily used in construction, like in framing a house or building a deck. If you’re going to do a home DIY project, you’re likely going to use softwood lumber. You can find it aplenty at your local big box home improvement store.

Hardwood lumber

Hardwood trees take a much longer time to grow to maturity, so the lumber they’re turned into is much more expensive than the softwood variety. Consequently, hardwood lumber is typically used in fine woodworking, furniture construction, cabinetry, and flooring. If you want to get into woodworking, you’ll primarily be using hardwoods. Big box hardware stores don’t stock much of it though, so you’ll often have to visit a specialty woodworking store or a lumberyard to purchase it.

With the basic distinction between softwood and hardwood lumber out of the way, let’s get into the nitty gritty of each type.

Softwood Lumber Classifications and Grades

Because every tree is different, individual pieces of lumber will show a wide range of quality in strength. To ensure that the right kind of lumber is used for the right job, the U.S. Department of Commerce established the American Softwood Lumber Standard.

Yard Lumber

Lumber intended for ordinary construction and building purposes. Yard lumber is usually graded visually, meaning that an inspector looks at the lumber’s appearance to give it a grade. Yard lumber is broken down into two further categories: common and select.

Common Yard Lumber. Common lumber is suitable for construction and utility purposes, and is graded using a number classification:

No. Common. Highest quality of common lumber. No. Common lumber will have a few small, tight knots.

No. Common. Has larger knots than found in No. Common. No. is often used for paneling and shelving and is suitable for general woodworking projects.

No. Common. Has more and bigger knots than No. The wood is typically damaged and blemished. Well-suited for fences, boxes, and crates.

Select Yard Lumber.

Select yard lumber looks much nicer than common lumber because it has no or very few knots. Because of the fine appearance of select yard lumber, it is intended for natural and painted finishes.

Select yard lumber is graded using a letter classification:

C Select. Almost completely clear of any defects and is widely used in interior trims and cabinets.

D Select. Has a fine appearance, but contains a few dime-sized knots.

Shop and Factory Lumber

This is lumber that’s selected for “remanufacturing purposes and intended for non-structural applications.” Doors, ladders, pencils, molding, and boxes are typically made from shop and factory lumber. The grading will vary depending on how it’s going to be used. So shop lumber that’s used for doors will have a different grading system than shop lumber used to make pencils. While each use has a different grading nomenclature, the grading is typically based on how much high-quality wood you can get from that piece of lumber for an intended use.

Hardwood Sizes

There aren’t any standard widths for hardwood lumber like there are with structural softwood lumber, but there are standard thicknesses. Hardwood is cut into quarter-inch increments. Below is a chart of the standard thickness of hardwood lumber:

Hardwood Lumber Classification and Grading

Hardwood lumber classification and grading is much simpler than softwood lumber. For hardwoods, appearance is the primary factor in grading. The National Hardwood Lumber Association governs the standard grading system of hardwoods in the United States.

There are four possible hardwood lumber grades. Grade is determined by the amount of clear surface area a particular board has on its poorest looking side (with hardwoods one side will look better than the other). A higher grade board is long and wide with a large percentage of its area defect-free. The clear lumber can be removed from the board with a few large cuts.

Example of a piece of FAS hardwood lumber

FAS (First and Second). This is the highest quality grade. An FAS board must be at least inches wide, to 1feet long, and is 83.3% clear on its poorest looking side.

Different hardwoods have different criteria you look for when giving the above grades. You’ll want to check the National Hardwood Association’s website for details.

Common Lumber Defects

Both softwood and hardwood lumber will have defects because of the way the tree it came from grew or from how it was machined during the milling process. While lumber defects can be worked with and incorporated into fine woodworking projects, defects in structural lumber should be kept to a minimum. Be on the lookout for the following common defects:

Plywood Grades

There are a few plywood grading systems out there, but most of them follow an A-D classification with A being the best. Plywood is also classified as Exterior, Exposure 1, Exposure 2, and Interior. The type of plywood you choose will depend on economics, how much exposure to the elements the wood will get, and whether looks are important to you.

Exterior. Fully waterproof bond (glue) between the layers and designed for applications subject to permanent exposure to weather and moisture.

Exposure Fully waterproof bond but not for permanent exposure to weather or moisture.

Exposure Interior type with intermediate bond. Intended for protected construction applications where slight moisture exposure can be expected.

Interior. Interior applications only.

If you don’t have a lot of money and you don’t care if your plywood is baby smooth on the surface, go for a lower grade. It’s just as strong as the nicer looking grades.

A. Smooth, paintable surface. Repairs to the veneer like replacing knots with patches can be made, but no more than 1Used for projects like cabinets.

D. Larger knots and knotholes permitted.

You’ll often see plywood with two grades as in “A-C.” This means that the face side is an A grade and the back side is a C grade.

In addition to the above two classifications, plywood is also rated as Sheathing, Stud I-Floor, and siding. This just specifies what a particular end use a piece of plywood was designed for. Most of the plywood you buy from the hardware store for projects around the house like a workbench will be classified as sheathing.

As with softwood lumber, plywood will have a stamp with all this information somewhere on the board. It looks like this:

Well, there you go. Pretty much everything you’ll ever want to know about lumber. Bookmark it so you can come back to it next time you need to go to the lumberyard to buy some wood. I hope you found this useful!

Pure Color

Primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, without the addition of white, black, or a third color, are pure (or saturated) colors. They are intense, bright, cheery, and untainted colors.

When white is added to a pure color, you get a tint. Some people refer to these as pastel colors. They are lighter and paler than a pure color, and not as intense.

Tints range from slightly whiter to almost-white.

When black is added to a pure color, you create a shade. These darken and dull the brightness of pure colors, and range from slightly darker to almost black.

Adding black and white in different amounts to a color subdues the intensity quickly.

The Completed Color Wheel

Whew! So there we have it: a complete color wheel with primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, plus their tints, shades, and tones. You can see how it all fits together on the color wheel below.

Cool colors are all on the left side of the wheel, in the blues and greens. The warm colors are all on the right side of the wheel, in the yellows and reds.

Now that you understand color theory and the color wheel, you can start to use color purposefully in your content marketing.

Choosing Color Combinations

Keeping your color combinations simple will help you in the long run.

A study from the University of Toronto showed on how people using Adobe Kuler revealed most people preferred simple color combinations that relied on only to favorite colors.

Too many colors make for a confusing message. So how do you choose those or colors? The color wheel can help.

Opposites attract!

When the human eye sees a painting full of different kinds of greens, any bit of red is going to stand out amazingly well. Why?

Because red is the opposite color of green. When the eye has been looking at a lot of the same color, it wants to see the opposite for a visual break. Using complementary colors is the easiest way to get something to stand out. Use them with caution to keep your content from being too visually jarring.

Pro Tip: pick a primary color as your main color, and then accent it with its complement color for more of a 7:ratio. This provides a beautiful color pairing, but also lets your eyes break on the opposite color.

The Color Psychology of Red

Red is a very powerful, dynamic color that reflects our physical needs whether to show affection and love, or to portray terror, fear, and survival. Red is also a very energizing color that can portray friendliness and strength, but can also be demanding and show aggression depending on its context.

The Color Psychology of Orange

Orange is also known to be a color of motivation, lends a positive attitude, and general enthusiasm for life. Overall, orange is great for bringing comfort in tough times, and creating a sense of fun or freedom in your visuals.

Orange is commonly seen: Fruits, sporting events, and board games.

The Color Psychology of Yellow

Yellow is the epitome of joy, happiness, cheerfulness, optimism—you name it. Anything happy is almost always yellow. The wavelength of yellow is particularly long, making it have one of the most powerful psychological meanings, while also being the easiest color to visibly see. (Did you know yellow is the first color infants respond to?)

Yellow is commonly seen: Traffic crossings and signs, smiley faces, and window-front displays.

The Color Psychology of Blue

Unlike red, blue lends a more mental reaction rather than physical that allows us to destress, calm down, and think of the most ideal situation. Unfortunately, it also is one of the last colors to be seen, and can be perceived as distant, cold, or unfriendly if used it great amounts.

Overall, blue is a well-liked color that can bring a sense of calmness and trust when building relationships, especially in marketing.

Blue is commonly seen: Workout facilities, hospitals, and spas.

The Color Psychology of Purple

Purple is most commonly known for its imagination and spirituality. It possesses the energy and power of red, with the stability and reliability of blue, making it a perfect balance between the physical and spiritual. Purple is often used to show luxury, loyalty, courage, mystery, and magic.

Purple is commonly seen: Magic shows, fairy tales, and luxury products.

The Color Psychology of Pink

Pink is a sign of hope. It is also known to be very romantic as it shows empathy and sensitivity. If too much pink is used, it can be very draining, show a lack of power, and even immature. Overall, pink can be a great counter-option to the color red when used appropriately.

Pink is commonly seen: Cancer patients, little kid objects, and bathroom products.

The Color Psychology of Gold

Gold has quite a few different meanings depending on your culture. Across the world, though, gold consistently represents some variation of charm, confidence, luxury, and treasure. It also can have an element of friendliness, abundance, and prosperity that is naturally attractive. Too much gold, however, can seem egotistical, proud, and self-righteous. Similar to colors like brown and black, try to use gold more sparingly to highlight rather than be the main attraction.

Gold is commonly seen:  Luxury products, rings, and trophies.

The Color Psychology of Black

Black is a color of sophistication, seriousness, control, and independence. Although, it can also be used to show evil, mystery, depression, and even death. Black is a very reserved color that completely lacks any light as its an absence of all the colors. It likes to stay hidden, in control, and separate from others. For this reason, black is a great color for high contrast and easy legibility. Unfortunately, since its a very powerful color, too much black can cause sadness and overall negativity so use it sparingly and in your text more so than the visuals itself.

Black is commonly seen:  Professional attire, luxury products, and limos.

The Color Psychology of White

White is color that is complete and pure, making it a perfect example of purity, innocence, cleanliness, and peace. White can also represent new beginnings, providing a blank slate, and gives refreshment for new ideas. Since white has an equal balance of all the colors, it can exemplify several meanings, with equality outweighing them all. White is a great color for simplicity, cleanliness, and idea creation; however, avoid using too much white as it can cause isolation, loneliness, and emptiness.

Cultural Color

Every culture understands a color differently. It has a role to play in religion, politics, ceremony, and art. The culture your audience is in affects how they understand deeper meanings of color. Even the context you use the color in affects the meaning of color. For example, in India, red means purity, while in the U.S. it denotes passion and specific holidays.

Word Connections To Color

In a survey, people were asked to choose the color they associated with particular words.

Trust: Most chose the color blue (34%), followed by white (21%) and green (11%)

Security: Blue came out on top (28%), followed by black (16%) and green (12%)

Windsurf sails

A good all-round sail size for most people is 5.5-6.3m (18-20ft), suitable for winds of up to Forces four or five. However, if the wind strength increases further, then ultimately it will create too much power and pull to be able to control. The point at which this happens is very much determined by your own bodyweight and strength – a heavier and/or stronger sailor can hold on to a bigger sail in stronger winds than a smaller person, using their weight and strength with the harness to balance against the force of the wind.

However, all windsurfers will ultimately have to ‘change down’ to a smaller sail as the wind gets stronger. So, for sailing in a wider range of conditions, a couple of smaller sizes of sail will be necessary – 5.0m and 4.0m (15ft and 13ft) are popular choices, and will increase the wind range of your board comfortably up to a solid Force six.

Sail selection doesn’t stop there, for there are sails available in all sizes from as small as 3.0m (approx 9ft) to as large as 10m (3ft). Many of these are designed as specialist sails – the very small sizes are for experienced wave sailors sailing in gale force conditions, and the very big ones are generally only for racers wanting to go as fast as possible in very light winds. The point is that there is a large variety of sails available, so you should always be able to find a size to suit your ability, stature and requirements.

Rig components for windsurfing

As well as the sail, the rig requires a mast, boom and mastfoot to be assembled correctly. In the case of a complete rig package this will all be correctly matched to your sail, but most rig components are actually bought separately. Consequently, booms, masts and mast extensions/feet come in many different sizes, to cater for different size sails, and also in different constructions.

In your early days of windsurfing it might seem that getting the cheapest makes most sense, but lightweight components can make a great improvement to the way the rig feels…

You can pay three or four times as much for a very lightweight boom or mast as for a basic model. In your early days of windsurfing it might seem that getting the cheapest makes most sense, but lightweight components can make a great improvement to the way the rig feels, so if you can afford them they will be a good buy.

Wetsuits for windsurfing

Your location for windsurfing will have major bearing on the type of wetsuit you need. In some countries, even in the hottest of summers, the wind chill factor combined with repeated immersion in the water can cool you down very quickly if you’re not properly protected. But all you’ll need for windsurfing in the summer is a light, 2.5-3mm short-armed wetsuit, which you’ll hardly even notice you’re wearing.

Forget any preconceptions about windsurfing being a cold sport. The modern wetsuit is an incredibly sophisticated and efficient piece of kit, as well as being lightweight and stylish. It’s easy to get on, and allows you to sail all day long without any feelings of chilliness.

The most important consideration in buying a wetsuit is getting one that fits. It doesn’t matter how expensive or how many gizmos and gadgets the suit has, if it doesn’t fit correctly it won’t keep you warm.

The ideal wetsuit is one that fits so snugly that it is virtually waterproof, simply because there is then hardly any room for water inside!

The ideal wetsuit is one that fits so snugly that it is virtually waterproof, simply because there is then hardly any room for water inside! The thin layer of water trapped between your skin and the neoprene will be warmed by your body heat, thereby enclosing you in a cocoon of warm water.

If the suit is too big the warm water will be washed away and replaced by cold water too often, cooling you down in the process. This is why it’s important not to try and make a too-loose wetsuit fit by wearing clothes underneath – ideally neoprene should be worn next to the skin.

When choosing your suit, be sure to try on a good selection before you buy. Make sure the suit isn’t too tight or too loose, especially at the neck, wrist and ankle seals, and around the biceps and forearms, which will inevitably get pumped up during a good sailing session. If the suit is too tight it can cause muscle cramps; too loose and it will let too much water in, causing heat loss. (However, a waterproof summer steamer can be made even warmer for use in colder weather, simply by donning another wetsuit – a shortie or vest – underneath it).

For summer use, you can get away with a relatively thin suit, but for colder weather a thicker winter suit is essential. Suits designed for spring/autumn/winter also have waterproof seams (either blind-stitched, glued, taped, or combinations of the three), so there is less chance of any water getting inside. Suits that have a non-waterproof ‘overlock stitch’ are cheaper, but will let in small amounts of water every time you fall in; useful on very hot days to help keep you cool, but not so good for colder weather.

Buoyancy aids

Although your wetsuit will provide a bit of extra flotation, in the early days of learning, a buoyancy aid does wonders for your confidence as well as providing an element of safety. On some inland waters you’re not allowed to sail without one.

Roof racks for windsurfers

We can recommend racks from Thule and Paddy Hopkirk. They’re not cheap, but they’re well engineered, safe and built to last. If you can stretch to one with some sort of locking device, so much the better, as this is required by most insurance companies if you want anti-theft insurance.

The racks on a car roof should be positioned as far apart as possible. Place the board on the rack deck down with the nose pointing to the front of the car. A second board can then go on top, (better than placing two boards on the roofrack side by side, as this creates a lot more lift).

With care, four 370cm (170 in) boards and rigs can be carried safely on a small family car. Do make sure that the rack and rack straps are correctly fastened and tight. Every year there are accidents with racks and boards coming off car roofs while speeding down the motorway, so tighten the rack properly and yank those straps down good and hard!

A great alternative to all this is the purpose-built Quiverack, which simply bolts to your existing roof rack and allows you to store your sails and booms inside with the boards on top, offering both security and safety.

Windsurf insurance

Insurance is absolutely vital in windsurfing. If you own a board, you should also own insurance – third party at least to protect yourself and anyone you might inadvertently run into. Third party insurance is in fact compulsory at many sailing locations.

There are also a number of fully comprehensive insurance policies on offer for windsurfers, giving the all-important third party cover, along with full damage/theft protection for your equipment. They are reasonably priced and well worth considering, since most countries suffer a certain amount of board/equipment theft, particularly from car roof racks. realbuzz team

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Doug Mahoney

The Irwin 17944612-inch Combination Square surpassed the other combination squares we tested thanks to several details that differentiate an excellent tool from an average one; in particular, we liked the smooth machining of the main body, the evenly chamfered edges, the nice powder-coated finish, and the fact that it’s a touch heavier than the rest, which gives it a truly solid feel. Like some other combination squares we tested, the Irwin has a zinc body and a stainless-steel ruler, so it won’t rust or corrode. Our carpenter test crew kept coming back to the Irwin because it got the job done and it feels like a high-quality tool—much higher quality, in fact, than its price would suggest.

Who should get this

A combination square is a useful tool for layout and marking, particularly with any woodworking project. Every carpenter I’ve ever met carries one. At its most basic, the tool gives you a way to draw a line square off the edge of a board. It can also mark one at a 45-degree angle. The ruler slides within the tool, and you can lock it in place with a knurled thumb turn. This design lets you easily mark a specific measurement off the edge of a board (say, if you’re going to cut a notch) or draw a line parallel to the edge of the board. You can also remove the ruler and use it in situations where a tape measure is impractical. This article at StartWoodworking explains even more uses for the tool, from calibrating a table saw to checking the end of a board for square.

How we picked and tested

Among combination squares, the models with the 12-inch rulers are the most useful because they can extend a square line a little over 10½ inches, which is enough for most common widths of lumber (for lengths beyond that, you can flip the square to the other side of the board and complete the line). The ones with 16-inch rulers are unwieldy, and the 6-inch models are too small. People consider the 12-inch models to be the standard, and basically every carpenter has one somewhere in the toolbox.

The tested combo squares (left to right): Swanson Savage, Empire, Craftsman, Irwin, Swanson, and Swanson composite.

Pull Quote

For around-the-house use, a combo square with a zinc body is the best option. It’s reliable and easy to calibrate, and if the ruler bends, replacing it doesn’t break the bank.

Stainless-steel rulers like the Irwin (left) are highly recommended. My old Stanley (right) came with a protective coating on the blade, but that has long since worn off, and now I can’t even read the ruler.

To test our selection of combo squares, we first confirmed whether they provide a perfect 90-degree angle, and we did any necessary calibrations to correct them. We then used each one during a large garage shelving project, paying attention to overall handling (how easily the ruler slides, the action on the knurled knob, and the ease of flipping the ruler in the base). I also checked each metal ruler for accuracy with a Lixer Tape Measure Inspection Tool (all of them were well within 1/6inch of accurate).

Beyond the look and feel, the Irwin has a zinc body and a stainless-steel ruler, neither of which will rust or corrode over time. Both of these features were common among the better squares we tested, but not available on all of them. Many inexpensive combo squares have steel blades coated with a protective finish; once the coating chips off (and it will chip off), the blade quickly deteriorates to the point where you can’t read it.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Every combination square comes with a small metal scribe stored in the base of the handle. You can use this item, which looks like a nail, to scratch a precise line in lieu of a pencil. On most combo squares, the scribe has a threaded piece that screws into the base to store it securely. On the Irwin, however, the scribe is only pressure-fit into the handle. The connection stays tight and allows you to remove the scribe quickly, but I’d prefer the more secure connection of a threaded piece. In the end, though, you might never use the scribe. I was about three years into my carpentry career before I even knew it existed, and since then I haven’t used it a single time.

Fin Configuration

The fin configuration of your SUP is important when considering whether you want to use your SUP in the surf.

Three fin ‘thruster’ configuration = more manoeuvrable and versatile in surf conditions.

Single centre fin = suitable for cruising in calmer conditions.

Racing = Look for interchangeable fins which can be switched out to accommodate high-performance and water conditions.


As a performing musician you want a PA system that can deliver your sound with clarity and definition. But with so many different pieces of equipment designed for different live performance needs, it can be difficult to know just what it is you should be looking for.

Certainly, there are a lot of variables to consider when choosing a PA. For instance, you’ll need to think about the size of your audience, where your performances will be, how portable you need your system to be and how much money you can invest.

This guide will help walk you through these and other important considerations to help you find the gear that’s right for you, whether you’re buying your first PA system or looking to add equipment to your existing system.

PA Systems in a Nutshell

In short, a PA system—more formally, public address system, and also known as a sound reinforcement system—is an electronic amplification system used to get sound from the performer(s) to the audience. It’s made up of several components, and while one system can vary greatly from the next, each one handles these same basic functions:

Different PA equipment will have different capabilities, features, and designs associated with each of these functions. Your specific needs will determine what you want out of each.

Prepackaged PA Systems

If you don’t want to get too deeply into the nuts and bolts of PA equipment, you might want to consider one of our complete, live sound PA system packages that include everything you need to get up and running. If you’re new to PA gear, these systems can help you avoid the problems that can arise from mismatched PA components. And by purchasing bundled gear, you can save a lot of money.

Musician’s Friend carries prepackaged systems from great brands like Yamaha, Fender, Behringer, JBL, Peavey, Mackie, Kustom, and many more—all at the best prices you’ll find anywhere—guaranteed.

The Yamaha EMX5016CF / S115V PA Package with Monitors offers a complete live-sound performance solution with carefully matched components for plug ‘n’ play simplicity.

Musician’s Friend offers hundreds of live sound packages to match a wide range of performance needs and budgets.

All-in-one Modular PA Systems

For solo acts, duos and other smaller groups that play in venues lacking a built-in PA, a modular tower system can be a clean, simple way to get heard with a minimum of fuss. These systems typically house a speaker array, mixer and power amp in a single, column-like structure that breaks down for easy transport. Because the components have been optimized to work with each other and the speaker arrays are designed to generate high-quality, room-filling sound, these systems offer an affordable, portable option to standard PAs.

The JBL EON ONE Linear-Array PA System is an excellent example, delivering robust sound that’s highly intelligible. JBL engineers have created an array that serves up pro-quality sound to every corner of the room. A 10” bass-reflex subwoofer adds the kind of bottom end that can sometimes be a weak spot in similar systems. With its Bluetooth streaming capability, you have the option of going wireless—a great feature for active musicians, instructors, and other presenters who roam the stage or room. The 6-band mixer is simple to use and lets you easily connect all your gear. A parametric EQ section helps you dial in your sound with independent channel volume controls, a master volume and an onboard reverb.

The JBL EON ONE is so portable you can carry the entire PA with a single hand, then set it up in seconds.

With its great sound dispersion. the JBL EON ONE is at home in all kinds of settings.

Other modular PAs to consider include the Bose LCompact System with its two inputs, it’s a solid choice for singer-songwriters. The 800-watt Harbinger MuV MLS800 Line Array PA System houses a 3-channel mixer plus HF drivers and an 8” LF driver for convincing sound in smaller venues. For bigger gigs, multiple units can be daisy-chained.

PA Power Amplifiers

One of the most important questions when it comes to PA systems is “How much power do I need?” This is a consideration when purchasing a power amp for the system.The power amp’s job is to boost the low-level signals coming from the mixer and broadcast them through the speakers. How much power it produces is measured in watts. And you want to make sure you’ve got enough wattage to fill the venue without compromising the sound quality.

Exactly how many watts you need hinges on a number of variables. The most obvious of these is the performance location (room size, indoor/outdoor, acoustics). However, there are additional factors that complicate the issue. For instance, there is the efficiency of the speakers (i.e., how much sound the speakers produce per watt of power). There also is the concept of headroom (how much power it takes to handle peaks without distorting) and the desired volume level of the music.

Using speakers with average sensitivity, a rock band playing in a medium-sized club will need around 1,500 watts total power at a minimum, whereas a pop or jazz group might need between 250-750 watts. For simple folk music in the same venue, that requirement can come down to as little as 60 watts. Keep in mind though that these power estimates are generalizations; difficult performance spaces and music with a lot of dynamics can require considerably more power. As we note below, factoring in plenty of headroom will help ensure great sound when you’re performing in a challenging environment.

The very portable Crown XLS100Power Amplifier delivers 350 watts of clean power at ohms and offers extensive user controls including onboard DSP.

It’s important to buy an amp with plenty of power to drive your speakers plus enough headroom to prevent distortion. When shopping for speakers, you’ll see that they have a power rating, measured in watts. As a general rule, you will probably want an amp with twice the wattage of your speaker’s rated power handling to ensure a clean, undistorted signal gets to them. We will discuss this further when we cover PA speakers and their power requirements.

Keep in mind that a stereo power amp provides two channels, each able to drive its own speaker load. So if your amp provides 500 watts per channel, a pair of speakers rated for 250 watts would be a good fit. Note that the rated output for stereo power amps is usually given on a per-channel basis. A rating of “2x450W” indicates that the amp generates up to 450 watts into each of its stereo channels.

Getting to know the mixer

Learning to use a mixer might initially look like a daunting task, with all the buttons, knobs, and faders. But keep in mind that every channel has the same controls. Once you learn how to control one channel, you’ll know how to control every channel.

Every channel on a mixer is either mono or stereo with an XLR, 1/4” or RCA connection. (Some inputs are designed to handle both XLR plugs from microphones as well as 1/4” inputs.)

A channel strip is a group of circuits and controls that function together on a given mixer channel to affect the audio signals that pass through it. These usually include:

Compression and limiting

A compressor as the name suggests compresses the overall dynamics of the audio signal limiting the amount of variation between the loudest and softest sounds.It smooths your sound and protects gear by helping to avoid damage caused by clipping—a speaker-destroying phenomenon resulting from overdriving the amplifier into distortion. Well designed compressors not only prevent signal distortion, but add pleasing sustain to your sound.

The dbx 166xs has both compressor and limiter functions to smooth out live sound by producing tighter mixes and fattening up drum sounds.

A similar tool, the limiter keeps your speakers and ears from getting blown out by limiting the peaks in the music. A limiter allows compression to occur only above a set threshold, and the compression ratio can be very high. This prevents clipping, distortion, and other related problems.

Other common processors

Sonic enhancers such as the BBE Sonic Maximizer give your sound more presence by delaying the low frequencies relative to the higher ones, removing subtle inaccuracies in timing to preserve the sonic characteristics of live instruments.

The BBE 382i Stereo Sonic Maximizer enhances high- and low-frequency to help clarify and add punch to your sound.

There are many other processors that offer a huge selection of sound-shaping options to meet all your effects needs. Browse the huge selection of signal processors at Musician’s Friend.

PA Speakers

Once your mixer, signal processing gear, and power amp have shaped your audio signals, it’s your speakers’ job to turn those signals back into physical sound waves. Speakers reinterpret the signal by using the voltage from the amplifier to move their cones back and forth, producing the sound waves that reach the audience’s ears.

Maybe it goes without saying, but speakers play a critical role in delivering quality sound to an audience, and it’s an area where quality gear can make a real difference.

As is true for the power amp, the size of the venue you play will help you decide on the power handling (wattage) and size of the speakers needed. For example, smaller gigs, conferences, and lectures may require about 350-500 watts, while club bands, garage bands, and mobile DJs may need 500-1,000 watts, or even more, depending on the venues they perform in.

Weighing in at a hefty 10lb. each, this pair of Yamaha C215V speaker cabinets have dual 15” woofers and compression drivers mounted on horns to handle high frequencies. Best used in permanent installations, they handle up to 1,000 watts of continuous power.

PA Monitor Speakers

Musicians need to be able to hear themselves and other performers clearly to sound their best, which is why stage monitors are essential. While floor monitors can cause feedback and increase the risk of hearing damage, they are preferred over in-ear monitors by many performers because they are easier to use. These usually wedge-shaped speakers allow performers to hear themselves and play better because of it.

The popular Yamaha A12M Floor Monitor has a a 12” woofer, 1” high-frequency horn, and handles 300 watts of continuous power.


Almost every PA system will need mics. With so many types to choose from, you may want to consult the Musician’s Friend Microphone Buying Guide to get familiar with the basics.

There are two major microphone types: dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics are durable, reliable, and made for onstage use. For vocals you will likely want one similar to the legendary Shure SM58.

The Shure SM5is among the most popular onstage dynamic mics thanks to its bulletproof construction, excellent audio performance, and its versatility in capturing everything from vocals to guitar cabinets.

Condenser mics are made to capture more subtleties, handle high sound pressure levels (SPLs) and capture fast transients. They are usually used for recording, but can also be perfect for live sound. They’re often positioned above drum kits to capture the sound of cymbals. Condenser mics require phantom power, so you will need to ensure that your mixer includes sufficient phantom-powered inputs.

The Blue enCORE 300 Condenser Vocal Mic is designed for highly detailed reproduction of the voice and is built to withstand hand-held use onstage.

To minimize feedback, you also will want a mic that is unidirectional (as opposed to omnidirectional) for vocals and instruments. Unidirectional mics are available with cardioid, supercardioid, and hypercardioid pickup patterns. Cardioid mics are ideal for live sound situations because of their wide, forgiving pattern.

If you decide to use condenser mics in your system, they usually require phantom power, which means the power needed to run the mic must be delivered from another source, usually the mixer or a mic preamp, through the mic cable, or from a separate standalone phantom power device. If you buy a phantom-powered mic, make sure you have a power source available.

Other PA essentials

We highly recommend getting a cable tester. If your system isn’t working correctly, a cable tester can save you hours of troubleshooting. We also recommend that once you find the defective cable, you immediately throw it away rather than putting it in a box to be accidentally used again someday, only to find that it (still) doesn’t work.

You may also want a dB meter; many venues require that you don’t exceed a certain volume level, and a dB meter will let you accurately monitor your volume.

Browse the complete selection of cable testers and dB meters at Musician’s Friend.

If your PA system is not being installed, you’ll need some heavy-duty cases or bags to transport your gear. Well built, durable cases are essential to protect your valuable equipment.

Speaker stands and brackets are another must-have accessory. Make sure to get sturdy, reliable nonskid stands that are strong enough to hold your gear securely. Check out the individual adjustability of each stand and make sure it will get your gear into an optimal position. Read specs to ensure the stands are rated to handle the weight of your speaker cabinets.

Microphone stands are also an essential accessory for most PA rigs. You’ll find a broad range of mic stands designed to position mics for vocalists, instruments, and speaker cabinets. Choose designs with stable bases/tripods that will resist being easily knocked over during performance. Mic stands with adjustable booms allow more flexible placement.





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Final Word

First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.

Most important, have fun and choose your Combination Boards wisely! Good luck!

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