MI Pro checks out some innovative new ideas recently introduced to the portable PA market.
The PA market might be all about power and clarity in pro audio, but in MI, practicality is what manufacturers have been going for lately.
It’s every musician’s dream to play to a capacity festival crowd with some serious Wattage behind them in the form of a towering system complete with line arrays and cabs stacked as high as a house.
Even the biggest bands have to start out somewhere though, and that means not just smaller venues, but a more modest backline too. And when it’s time to take their musical talent on the road, they don’t want to be stuck with a gargantuan system that requires its own crew to set up. They want something that can be packed up in minutes and thrown in the boot of a car – but also a product that packs plenty of punch.
On the manufacturer’s side, more are starting to want a piece of the action and instead of trying to make the loudest PA, ease of use is the primary concern.
Whether it’s making their system as lightweight as possible, including as little components as they can or by going for an all-in-one approach, the majority of the following firms have chosen practicality over power. Let’s see what they have to offer.
Described by the manufacturer as ‘the world’s fastest PA,’ HK Audio’s SoundCaddy One is designed with the quickest possible set-up in mind. The user simply needs to extend the mid/high unit, hook the signal sources up to the four-channel mixer and then it’s ready to go.
The Elements range from HK Audio is another easy-to-use option and comprises six components that can be combined to create a system from the most basic of configurations right up to a set-up with plenty of power. The pieces are then automatically linked together via E-Connect, an integrated coupler/bus and if space is limited, even a large Elements system leaves a tiny footprint on stage.
The Yamaha STAGEPAS series is the best selling in the UK and comes in a variety of sizes. The STAGEPAS 300 is a 300-Watt portable PA system designed for the mobile musician and comes with detachable eight-channel powered mixer. Each channel on the mixer includes a two-band equalizer and the built-in reverb effect helps create a great vocal sound.
The STAGEPAS 500 is for those wanting a bit more power and comes with two 250-Watt power amplifiers for superior sound projection inside and outdoors. Its ten-channel mixer offers switchable phantom power for its mono microphone/line inputs and the line outputs can be used to connect more speakers or send the mixer’s output to a recording device.
Monacor’s IRS-200 wireless infrared transmission system is ideal for those wanting to operate several systems in different rooms and it’s licence free, even if there are changes to the frequency assignments.
The IRS-200 features an infrared receiver with two wireless microphone channels, as well as a wide infrared detection angle. It can operate via switch-mode PSU or built-in rechargeable lead gel battery, which can run for three hours. Two F-standard jacks for connecting infrared sensors are also optional.
LD Systems has been busy over the last twelve months expanding its portable PA offering.
The MAUI 28 portable line array system includes a pair of eight-inch subwoofers and two vertical line array columns with three-inch speakers and one-inch horn tweeters. Its amp section drives 200 Watts to the sub section and 200 to the columns.
Also new from LD Systems is the new Roadboy system, a compact system primarily intended for small event and conference use. This battery powered unit weighs just 5kg and comes with a CD/MP3 player with gain and tone control, USB and SD input and a 12V battery pack that can run for five hours.
New from Turbosound is the Milan Mi0 self-powered two-way loudspeaker. This compact trapezoidal enclosure consists of a ten-inch reflex-loaded neodymium low frequency driver with one-inch high frequency compression driver. The integrated two-channel amp has an LF Class D section that delivers 180 Watts and an HF Class AB section, which pumps out 50 Watts.
The cabinet is made from gas-injected polypropylene and its 43-degree angled sides means it can also be used as a wedge monitor. A dual-angle pole mount socket is fitted, a recessed flush handle is provided on the top and a balanced male XLR output provides a line level mix-out signal to additional Milan loudspeakers, if required.
Kam’s Kompact 10 features two passive 100-Watt satellite speakers and a subwoofer, as well as accompanying stands and cables and speaker bags as optional extras.
The two-way enclosures offer a 90Hz-20KHz frequency response and 3.5KHz crossover point, while the sub provides male and female XLR inputs and quarter-inch phone jack output, along with 350 Watts of power.
Now distributed in the UK by Numark, Alto Professional has its Truesonic series, a family of passive and active speakers, as well as subs.
At the low end of the range is the TS110A, a ten-inch, 600-Watt two-way speaker system with one-inch compression driver, followed by the TS112A, an 800-Watt unit with 12-inch speaker and the TS115A, another 800-Watt enclosure, but with 15-inch speaker.
These lightweight, trapezoidal models feature two mic/line combo inputs with independent volume controls, XLR outputs to link speakers together and a clip
limiter with red LED. They also include a contour switch for increased EQ control.
Available in three sizes, Fender’s Passport Pro series allows you to record with CD quality straight to a USB stick and offers .wav and .mp3 playback, a sub-out jack for an external sub and lighter weight than the old Passports.
The eight-channel Passport 500 Pro represents the top of the line with its 500-Watt Class D power amp, six mic/line inputs, two stereo inputs and effect loop. The 300 Pro is a six-channel, 300-Watt option and the 150 Pro delivers 150 Watts and four channels.
Ranging from sub-£100 eight-inch passive cabinets to remote controllable 15-inch units with USB inputs, Stagg’s portable PA range is, like all of the manufacturer’s lines, intended to save the customer a fair few pennies.
The SMS12P LCD offers a 180-Watt powered speaker with 12-inch horn and an MP3 reader with LCD screen, USB and SD card inputs. Featuring balanced XLR and stereo jack mic inputs with level control and front selectable push switches, these speakers might be low priced, but that doesn’t mean they’re low quality.
Based on the earlier ABS-moulded K series, QSC’s KW range features Baltic birch construction and the same Class D power modules (2x500W) and DSP as the original K’s. They are all fitted with the same 1.75-inch HF device and Directivity Matched Transition matches LF and HF coverage across the whole listening area.
Covering three models – three loudspeaker types and an 18-inch sub – these units are armed with DEEP technology, which extends the low frequency response, Intrinsic Correction, a feature that allows them to perform across the whole sound field and durability is ensured thanks to tour grade 16-gauge steel grilles and ergonomic handles.
Putting the emphasis on portability is the XP Series from Samson. Both the XP510i and XP308i models are made up of dual two-way speakers that slide together to form one unit, with a compartment inside where the mixer is housed. The mixer includes phantom power and can be removed and set up on its own for tabletop use.
The 500-Watt (2x250W) 510i consists of dual two-way speakers with custom designed 10-inch woofers and a ten-channel stereo mixer with 24-bit DSP effects, while the 300-Watt (2x150W) 308i provides a similar service, but with eight-inch woofers and an eight-channel mixer. Both feature integrated iPod docks.
For small bands and DJs there’s the Kinetic Series from Wharfedale Pro. Professional quality features include compression drivers, custom-designed low distortion woofers and PTC HF protection.
The loudspeakers provide a 90 x 60-degree elliptical waveguide and a road-tough carpet finish and high-impact handles mean they can take a bit of punishment too.
Mackie unveiled the TH-12A – the latest addition to its Thump series – at Musikmesse earlier this year. The 400-Watt two-way unit is designed by the same team that worked on the SRM series and its Class D Fast Recovery amplification is tuned to match the 12-inch woofer and compression driver.
Pole mountable and a useful stage monitor, the TH-12A features protective circuitry that prevents overload and thermal shutdown and it comes with an RRP of £249.
Made by the same engineering personnel behind the company’s studio monitors, M-Audio now has a presence in the portable PA market with the GSR series. Aimed primarily at musicians and DJs in small to mid-size venues, the range includes ten and 12-inch PA cabinets and an 18-inch subwoofer for when extra bass is needed.
The GSR10 (250-Watt) and GSR12 (300-Watt) models are equipped with carefully matched transducers and proprietary wave guide technology is used to make sure the mid and high frequencies are spread as widely as possible.
Roland has ensured it’s not left out of this popular sector. The BA-330 is a stereo portable amplifier with four 6.5-inch speakers and two tweeters and it will more than hold its own in small music venues.
Powered either by AC power or AA batteries, the BA-330 also offers a built-in effects library that includes EQ, Reverb, Delay and Wide. A tilt-back stand allows the user to play around with the monitoring angle and other notable features include Advanced Intelligent Anti-Feedback and a Stereo Aux input complete with a dedicated volume control knob.
The QR-Series from QTX Sound features a main or battery-powered built-in amplifier with a main driver and compression-driven horn unit. You get not one, but two VHF wireless handheld mics thrown in with this system, with the receiver built-in to the section situated on the rear side.
A moulded handle and pole mount are other inclusions, along with a retractable trolley handle and wheels, making this a very portable unit.
£755 would get you the Impulse 12D from Peavey. This unit can blare out 1,200 Watts of power and includes a 12-inch field-replaceable dual voice coil neodymium speaker and true ribbon driver.
JBL – another big name in the audio world – is also a major player in this market. Its EON 210P was launched at NAMM in January this year and consists of two ten-inch two-way powered loudspeakers, one with a detachable mixer and the other contains a storage department, along with speaker cables and power cord.
A ten-inch woofer and 1.5-inch neodymium compression driver, 300-Watt Crown Class D power amp and integrated mixer are all part of the package.
Mackie TH-12A – £249
Pole mountable and a useful stage monitor, the TH-12A features protective circuitry that prevents overload and thermal shutdown.
Peavey Impulse 12D – £755
A DynaQ section features advanced controls like Bass Enhancer, a Music/Speech switch to optimise EQ settings and a Contour mode for program music.
Fender Passport 500 Pro – £1,126.80
Tilt tone control can be found on each channel, along with level, reverb, master volume and master tone.
QSC KW Series – From £1,318.80
A Tilt-Direct pole cup mounting system allows the user to angle the speaker so that the sound is directed at the ideal angle for the audience.
HK Audio Soundcaddy One – £2,099
With 600 Watts of Class D power, this system is also equipped with edge guards for safe transport, built in wheels and integrated handles.
LD Systems MAUI 28 – £820
This active system requires no stands or cables to operate, making it very easy to put up and take down.
Stagg SMS12P LCD – £291
Featuring balanced XLR and stereo jack mic inputs with level control and front selectable push switches, these speakers might be low priced, but that doesn’t mean they’re low quality.
Turbosound Milan Mi0 – £TBC
The two-channel integrated amplifier offers 180 Watts from the Class D low frequency section and 50 Watts from the Class AB high frequency section.
Kam Kompact 10 – £TBC
Features two passive 100-Watt satellite speakers and a subwoofer, as well as accompanying stands and cables, along with speaker bags as optional extras.
Yamaha STAGEPAS 300 – £514
An all-in-one system is comprised of a pair of 150-Watt passive speakers and weighing just 18 kilograms.
Monacor IRS-200 – £566.79
This model offers an adjustable mic input, line input and common tone control.
Samson XP308i – £504
Both the XP510i and XP308i models are made up of two speakers that slide together to form one unit, with a compartment inside where the mixer is housed.