A sound reinforcement system is the combination of microphones, signal processors, amplifiers, and loudspeakers that makes live or pre-recorded sounds louder and may also distribute those sounds to a larger or more distant audience. In some situations, a sound reinforcement system is also used to enhance the sound of the sources on the stage, as opposed to simply amplifying the sources unaltered.
A sound reinforcement system may be very complex, including hundreds of microphones, complex audio mixing and signal processing systems, tens of thousands of watts of amplifier power, and multiple loudspeaker arrays, all overseen by a team of audio engineers and technicians. On the other hand, a sound reinforcement system can be as simple as a small public address (PA) system, consisting of a single microphone connected to an amplified loudspeaker for a singer-guitarist playing in a coffeehouse. In both cases, these systems reinforce sound to make it louder or distribute it to a wider audience.
Some audio engineers and others in the professional audio industry disagree over whether these audio systems should be called sound reinforcement (SR) systems or PA systems. Distinguishing between the two terms by technology and capability is common, while others distinguish by intended use (e.g., SR systems are for live event support and PA systems are for reproduction of speech and recorded music in buildings and institutions). In some regions or markets, the distinction between the two terms is important, though the terms are considered interchangeable in many professional circles