The SoundMachine is great and can double as an event PA as needed too - especially if you buy the companion speaker. We've had ours for about 12 years now and it's done well for us. I think we may have blown a speaker in the last year and it's starting to have some issues now, but I've been very happy with it. It is significantly heavier to carry, so a cart or something for the freshmen to use for any distance is a good thing to use. I do believe it's louder, and has a few more features.
There's a pretty good price difference if I remember correctly. I'm torn in the future of which one to purchase to replace our current system. I think either are good choices.