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Portable P.A. Systems 2018

Compact, Powerful Systems Add Bluetooth, Batteries and Versatility

Only a few years ago, there was a pretty clear distinction between a professional touring loudspeaker and a “portable P.A. system.” The former went out on tour, packed in trucks, and required a crew to handle, while the latter took only one pair of hands and a semi-strong back to load into a van and then unload 15 minutes later at a coffee shop.

Things have sure changed. The power, output, clarity, coverage and reach of compact loudspeakers has improved dramatically, perhaps driven by the demand from the house of worship, installation and small-tour markets to bring big sound to the proliferation of smaller, multipurpose venues around the world, those in the 200- to 600-capacity range.

And with advances in technology and materials, we now find features such as battery power, Bluetooth and Dante connectivity, variable coverage patterns, built-in performance wireless systems, internal mixers, and a whole lot more. It’s becoming a crowded market. Heck, even the new breed of compact, columnar line arrays from the more traditional touring sound companies can fall into the new model of power and performance, at a low cost, handled by a single rigger.

Not every company comes out with a new model every year. The JBL Eon system is still going strong, as are the original groundbreaking Peavey lines. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of the recent releases that caught the attention of our editors.

Bose S1 Pro Multi-Position P.A. System

It was a hit at NAMM, and it was a hit at InfoComm. The new Bose S1 Pro is an all-in-one P.A., floor monitor, practice amplifier and primary music system designed for singer-songwriters, DJs, other musicians. Weighing only 15 pounds and measuring 13 x 9.5 x 11.2 inches (fits in an airplane’s overhead compartment), the S1 Pro is engineered to be used in four different positions—tilt-back, elevated, mounted on a speaker stand, or placed on its side (as a floor monitor). Built-in sensors detect positional changes and trigger Auto EQ, which automatically recalibrates the system’s internal settings. The S1 Pro comes with a 3-channel mixer. Reverb and tone controls are featured on two channels with XLR/quarter-inch combo jacks, and a third channel is for either 3.5mm (1/8-inch) line-in or wireless Bluetooth connectivity. Additionally, a line-out jack offers easy expansion to other systems. MSRP: $599.

Electro-Voice Evolve 50 Portable Column System

The Evolve 50 is a three-component loudspeaker system powered by a 1,000 W Class-D amplifier and driven by Electro-Voice’s QuickSmartDSP. The system consists of a 12-inch subwoofer capable of a functional frequency output down to 37 Hz with eight 3.5-inch neodymium drivers in the column array, delivering up to 127 dB SPL. The eight composite waveguides control high frequencies with 120° of horizontal coverage, and 40° of asymmetrical (down-facing) vertical coverage. The processing engine allows for easy setup via four presets (Music, Live, Speech, and Club), three-band EQ, five user-programmable presets (Store and Recall settings), output delay, phantom power (+15V), visual monitoring of limiter status, input level control and meters, and master volume control to ensure optimal gain structure. The new Electro-Voice QuickSmart Mobile application utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) technology for the wireless configuration, control, and monitoring of up to six EVOLVE 50 systems simultaneously.

Galaxy Audio TQ6 Portable PA System

Compact and under 10 pounds, Galaxy Audio’s new TQ6 fits right in the Traveler Quest Series, good for crowds of about 300. It includes a high-performance 30-watt amplifier, 6-inch woofer, and wide-dispersion 1-inch HF horn. A wired mic input complements a highly versatile media player with an SD card slot, USB connector, left/right RCA audio connections, and built-in Bluetooth compatibility for use with a phone or MP3 player. Also, individual and master volume controls, a tone control, and an echo feature make it easy to control disparate sources. The TQ8 adds two channels of built-in wireless, a 150-watt amp, two XLR/1/4-inch inputs, an RCA input and one aux 1/8-inch input. Both may be AC powered or operated from an internal battery

L-Acoustics Syva Co-Linear Source System

L-Acoustics, pioneers in line array technology, last year released Syva, a new format, high-power speaker system that features six medium-frequency and three high-frequency speakers in a sleek J-shaped curvature format. It produces an H/V 140° x 26° (+5/-21°) directivity pattern that is optimized for exceptional surface coverage and 100-120 feet of throw. Syva can be accompanied by the Syva Low subwoofer or Syva Sub infra extension to achieve 142 dB max SPL. Its companion Syva Low enclosure features two K2-grade 12-inch drivers designed to provide low frequency contour and extended bandwidth down to 40 Hz. Syva Sub features one KS28-grade 12-inch driver, to extend the bandwidth down to 27 Hz. One LA4X amplified controller can drive up to four Syva enclosures. Syva can be wall- or pole-mounted, as well as flown, or used alone with its baseplate. Alternatively, Syva can be rapidly mounted on top of Syva Low or Syva Sub using the AutoConnect plug-and-play audio.

LD Systems Maui P900

LD Systems makes a whole range of battery-powered, detachable-module, portable P.A. systems, and last year introduced the Maui P900, designed in conjunction with Porsche Design Studio. And it sure does look sleek, stemming from its integrated design approach. Plug-and-play ready, Maui P900 features response from 42 Hz to 20 kHz, 131 dB maximum peak SPL, and 140° x 10° (H x V) dispersion. The vertical column measures 85 inches and houses 32 1-inch neodymium HF transducers, 16 2.8-inch neodymium MF transducers and two 10-inch neodymium woofers. The complete system is amplified by a single Class D 1,400W/2800W (RMS/peak) module, carefully coordinated with the company’s DynX DSP technology. Connections include two XLR stereo line inputs and stereo Bluetooth streaming, with dedicated mono XLR outputs and local controls for Main level, Sub level, Bluetooth, Mono/Stereo setup, and Power on/off. It’s expected to be available this month.

Portable P.A. Systems 2017, by Strother Bullins, Jan. 12, 2017

Mackie FreePlay Series

A month or so before InfoComm, Mackie introduced an all-new personal P.A. plus matching portable Bluetooth speaker series, the FreePlay Series Personal PA and Portable Bluetooth Speakers. Available in three models, the FreePlay LIVE, FreePlay HOME and FreePlay G, the FreePlay Series delivers stunning sound quality and value in an even more compact form than the original FreePlay. It can run on either AC or battery power, with the built-in high-capacity rechargeable battery offering up to 15 hours. FreePlay LIVE includes inputs for microphone, guitar, keyboard or playback device. With the FreePlay Connect app, users can control levels, EQ, reverb and more remotely for FreePlay HOME or GO over Bluetooth, and even link it to a second FreePlay Series speaker with enhanced control. Sold individually, the U.S. MSRP pricing is $559.99 for the FreePlay LIVE, $349.99 for the FreePlay HOME and $256.99 for the FreePlay GO.

PreSonus Air Series

Yes, the series was introduced two years ago, but it’s now filled out and selling well, The full-range Air Series from PreSonus includes the Air 10, Air 12, Air 15, along with Air 15S and Air 18S subs. Each comes with two combo XLR mic/TRS line inputs, each with a Class A microphone preamplifier and independent gain control. A stereo 1/8-inch connection admits signals from smartphones, tablets, and other consumer audio devices. These signals can be combined with the AIR10’s internal mixer, and a balanced XLR Mix output lets you send pass the signals to other AIR Series loudspeakers.

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Air 10 uses a 500W (continuous), Class D amplifier for the 10-inch low-frequency driver, providing efficient, clean low end when you need it. A 200W (continuous), Class AB amplifier powers the 1-inch high-frequency driver, delivering a natural sounding, “AIR-y” high end. The combination can deliver up to 121 dB SPL of sweet, clear sound between 66 Hz and 20 kHz.

Renkus-Heinz DC Series, Iconyx Series 3

Renkus-Heinz recently introduced the new DC Series Directivity Control vertical column speakers. The first product in the series is the DC12/2, a self-powered column speaker with 12 2-inch full range drivers, 12 amplifier/DSP channels, and predefined, user-selectable presets. To ensure simple out-of-the-box performance and reduce setup complexity, the presets can be selected using a smartphone.

The new IC12/3 is a full-blown Iconyx loudspeaker in a smaller, high-value package. It incorporates all the features that have made Iconyx an industry-leading steerable solution, including RHAON control, beamware integration, Dante or AES input options, and RJ45 or fiber optic network connections. The IC12/3 has 12 3-inch full range drivers with broad horizontal coverage and 12 amplifier/DSP channels to deliver high granularity for maximum steerability. Up to three IC12/3s can be stacked. As with all Iconyx loudspeakers, several variations of the IC12/3 will be offered.

Yamaha DZR/DXS-XLF Series

Yamaha’s new DZR line of powered loudspeakers, along with the DXS-XLF powered subwoofers, represent the company’s first fully-integrated, smart/editable speaker range of professional, powered loudspeakers. DSP is all done at 96 kHz, which, combined with the newly developed Advanced FIR-X tuning technology, minimizes latency and phase distortion. Speakers come in 10-, 12- and 15-inch models, and are available with Dante integration via a 2-in/2-out I/O configuration. Using the Analog I/O and the Dante break-IN and break-OUT capabilities inside these speakers makes flexible routing and system configuration options easy to set up. An onboard LCD screen allows users to easily navigate the variety of DSP functions, load presets, and make precise adjustments to PEQ, delay, and routing. Up to 8 user presets can be stored, or use the optimized dedicated factory presets for using DZR and DXS XLF Series in combination. The DXS-XLF comes in 15-inch and 18-inch versions that extend down to 30 Hz.