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Anyone using line array speakers (such as Bose "sticks")?


piano39
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I host a weekly open mic, and have been using my trusty Yamaha PAS300 system for years. I need to replace it. The PAS 300 "punches above its weight class". Everybody is amazed how good it sounds, plus it is stereo. I use it for solo piano gigs, also.

 

I was going to replace it with an updated version (either PAS400BT or PAS 600BT), but I am wondering if I should get a line array speaker. I am a Yamaha fan, so I am considering their version. However, Bose seems to be the standard bearer for line array speakers. Line arrays are now offered by at least a half a dozen companies, ranging in price from ~$800 to $3000.

 

Anybody have experience with these? Not only is the LA speaker more expensive than the PAS, but it is mono. I would also have to carry an outboard mixer. However, if it sounds better, I would consider it.

 

I looked online to see if there were legit comparison tests between the various brands, but couldn't find any.

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Our band often uses EV line array sticks instead of our larger sub+speakers PA. They are smaller, easier to load in/out. They also provide very good side to side dispersion from what I understand.

 

I am iffy on the sound compared to our QSC PA, but that's quite a big price difference (one QSC k10.2 is what, 6-7 hundred or so?). It's also possible ours is not dialed in as well as it could be. Doesn't sound "bad" but it seems to have a bit less clarity when we've used it for practices. Nobody has complained at gigs! Best bet is to try them out with piano if you can, that is a good test.

 

My buddy has some (not sure which brand) and he's using them behind the band as both monitors and mains. You wouldn't dream of doing that with regular speakers due to feedback, but the line array makes it possible. We don't do that with ours, we use them just like you would a regular PA stack. We use a main mixer regardless so I can't address that part.

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I don't get this. OP comes here and says the current speaker "'punches above its weight class.' Everybody is amazed how good it sounds, plus it is stereo." So because of those terrible characteristics you want to replace it with something more expensive, more cumbersome, mono, and likely to not sound as good?

 

Years ago I worked with a band that used one of those Bose stick systems as a full band PA - it was hands down the absolute worst sounding PA I have ever heard. Not only that but I think it actually damaged my ears. In fairness, that might have been the fault of the "pilot" though, feeding it clipped audio in a vain attempt to get the volume needed to do the gig - this was a wedding reception and we had to play those "high energy dance sets" to keep the youngsters happy. Perhaps the power amps were doing the clipping, I'm not sure. At the end of the night I would watch the bandleader breaking these things down - each stick was two or three sections with heavy base units, then there was a special mixer or eq module. There were three or four separate bags needed to pack this into. Cumbersome, weighty, twice as expensive as good QSC Ks or similar, and sounding like shit. Smart, right? The last gig I did with him, he had ditched these and gotten QSCs. It sounded a million times better.

 

IIRC the Bose were originally marketed as "personal PAs." I remember seeing pics of musicians playing in a coffeehouse, each with their own "stick." For low volume applications like this, and with limited program material going into them, I have no doubt they can sound pretty good. But they are expensive and seem cumbersome to set up and carry. Maybe don't fix what ain't broke?

 

If the LA system market has matured and some of the downsides I saw have been addressed (only things like price, weight, and clarity at high volumes!) I'm all ears. The bottom line for me - personally, IMO, etc. etc... is that mono is the deal-killer. If you're playing a nice acoustic piano sample, strings, pads, stuff with reverb or other stereo efx, it's gonna sound worse. Again - IMO. So you'd need two of these sticks. Never in a million years would you see me shlepping that kind of gear.

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I saw these at a venue. I was so impressed by their full sound I took a picture of the back to get the model #.

 

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/IP500--turbosound-inspire-ip500-v2

 

Our acoustic act uses the Bose array, light and compact. The Turbosound blows the Bose away.

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Pre-pandemic I heard a single entertainer using the EV line array. I thought it sounded great for what he was doing - well dispersed sound in a small space. I would definitely look beyond Bose these days... based on how well their iQ series has been received I'd put Turbosound on your list.

 

Your open mic singers might not like them though - mini line arrays I've heard have a light airy sound minus the low mid chestiness amateur singers love. They're kind of an acquired taste.

 

Edit: Delaware Dave beat me to it! :D

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I took a look at those Turbosounds. I'm better educated now â prices seem much more in line with conventional PPAs which is a good thing. I'm curious to hear how this would compare to my old K8s for my keys rig. This speaker looks like it breaks down into three pieces - the base, then two sticks with the HF transducers. These go into two bags. I might be jumping to conclusions, but I can't help thinking this can't be easier to carry & set up than my "one-piece" K8, though if you factor in not needing a speaker stand it could be close. BTW the spec sheets claims 100 degrees coverage for the Turbosound and my K8 has 105 degrees. That's what's on the sheet anyway. Maybe one of these days I'll hear my rig through a line array system and be blown away, but I'm happy enough with my current rig.

 

For the OP's use case of amplifying a single performer at an open mic, I'm betting any of these LA speakers would sound OK. But a new Yamaha PAS would probably sound just fine as well.

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I had one of the original Bose systems. We even used it outdoors once (acoustic jazz group) and it did okay. I thought it was kind of fiddly to haul and hook up. I had to be careful about the connections where the two pieces of the stick hook together. It sounded great for an acoustic group in a smallish setting and the wide dispersion is a nice feature. Ultiately, I sold it and bought a couple of DXR10s.
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I can't help thinking this can't be easier to carry & set up than my "one-piece" K8, though if you factor in not needing a speaker stand it could be close.

Yeah, getting rid of the nuisance of the stands would be nice. The stands add setup/breakdown time, and the chore of lifting the speakers on and off of them. They're also nuisance to carry, or if you do the right thing and put them in a carry bag, they add that much more setup/breakdown time. You also have to be aware of where the legs end up and take care they're not going to trip anyone. And you have to wire them up over your head, with long cables dangling down, which can be unsightly, and often requires extra long power cables or extensions. Eliminating all that with something floor-standing that connects at the bottom is definitely a plus.

 

OTOH, its max volume is 118 dB. The QSC K8.2 is 128, and the 19 lb ZXa1 is 126.

 

There's also the variable that line arrays' volume doesn't fall off with distance as quickly. On one hand, that could possibly compensate somewhat for the lower max voume at 1m. OTOH, from what I understand, it does not fall off as evenly. This might be a good starting point for those who want to look into this further: https://www.prosoundtraining.com/2010/03/15/line-array-attenuation-ideal-vis-actual/

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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There's also the variable that line arrays' volume doesn't fall off with distance as quickly. On one hand, that could possibly compensate somewhat for the lower max voume at 1m. OTOH, from what I understand, it does not fall off as evenly. This might be a good starting point for those who want to look into this further: https://www.prosoundtraining.com/2010/03/15/line-array-attenuation-ideal-vis-actual/

 

That's interesting! The typical setup isn't *just* a line array, though, it's a line array plus a base for the bass, right? I wonder how that combination behaves.

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There's also the variable that line arrays' volume doesn't fall off with distance as quickly. On one hand, that could possibly compensate somewhat for the lower max voume at 1m. OTOH, from what I understand, it does not fall off as evenly. This might be a good starting point for those who want to look into this further: https://www.prosoundtraining.com/2010/03/15/line-array-attenuation-ideal-vis-actual/
That's the main (claimed) benefit of line arrays.

 

Many of the early products I saw in the marketplace weren't tall enough to provide a true line source - four HF drivers and a passive column was typical. I did see a band using "proper" line arrays and what was noticeable was that the sound projected well through the venue without being deafeningly loud in front of the stage.

 

The linked article is interesting, and perhaps explains why line array devices are commonly paired with separate (sub)woofers.

 

Cheers, Mike.

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I can't help thinking this can't be easier to carry & set up than my "one-piece" K8, though if you factor in not needing a speaker stand it could be close.

Yeah, getting rid of the nuisance of the stands would be nice. The stands add setup/breakdown time, and the chore of lifting the speakers on and off of them. They're also nuisance to carry, or if you do the right thing and put them in a carry bag, they add that much more setup/breakdown time. You also have to be aware of where the legs end up and take care they're not going to trip anyone. And you have to wire them up over your head, with long cables dangling down, which can be unsightly, and often requires extra long power cables or extensions. Eliminating all that with something floor-standing that connects at the bottom is definitely a plus.

In my case stands aren't a factor, since I put my K8s on those small foldable footstools.

 

Not to be captain obvious but there's always pluses and minuses to every approach. These line array speakers have to have some things going or there wouldn't be a market for them. As far as I can tell they do best at lower volumes and less complex program material. My first post in this thread described how terrible the older Bose system sounded but it was being used as a full-band PA, with drums miced, a full horn section (trumpet-bone-sax), and four vocalists â at ear-splitting volume. A disaster!

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I did a lot of soft-seater shows with a singer/acoustic guitarist using a Bose L1. What we did like was that the system was set up behind us with no feedback issues â so, no monitors necessary, and we knew the balance on stage was the same throughout the venue â no blasting out of speakers for those on the sides of the stage. At the time, the Bose system wasn't equipped with enough user controls, so the keyboard wasn't crisp enough, and was mono.

 

I've always felt "the Bose" sound is too low-mid muddy, but LAs have come a distance since the original L1s and I think they'd be a great choice in a smallish venue for open mic. I've heard the Turbosound in a local hotel lounge and it's very good. Also worth checking out: Yamaha and Fishman.

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Original poster here. From these comments, I am wondering if line array speakers work fine for one or two musicians, but not so much for bands. To that point, perhaps that is why most LA systems only have two or three inputs????

 

This seems strange to me- since these are marketed as "portable PA systems" you would think that they would have 8 or 12 inputs.

 

The open mic that I host is pretty popular. Not unusual to have 5 or 6 players on stage at one time. If two or three players also sing, I max out my mixer.

 

So- Why do the line array speakers only have a few inputs?

Yamaha Motif XF6, Yamaha AN200, Alesis Micron, Sonar X3, Arturia Microbrute, Behringer Model D, Yamaha UX-3 Acoustic Piano, assorted homemade synth modules
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Why do the line array speakers only have a few inputs?

Are these speakers' input sections meant to function as full-fledged mixers? I don't think they are. I think it's assumed that you use these with a mixer in any kind of band situation. My QSC K8 has three inputs. The newer models add more DSP eq profiles but in no way would I think of these as "mixers" in the traditional sense. Maybe you're spoiled by your old Stagepas system with its true mixer that's integrated into the speaker cab. That's different, and unusual in the PPA world.

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Also, I remember Bose advertising these for larger bands where each player had his own! No need for a mixer for that approach... just lots of cash.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Also, I remember Bose advertising these for larger bands where each player had his own! No need for a mixer for that approach... just lots of cash.

 

Pat Metheny used a stage full of the Bose "sticks" for his Orchestrion project as his monitors. I've seen pictures of his more recent bands and some of them using the Bose sticks. Pat's always had quite a on-stage monitoring system.

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I own three of the Bose sticks: the Compact, the 1S and Model II. I also have the two sizes of the sub cabs and one of the ToneMatch mixers. They are stupidly priced when new. I got all of mine via Craigslist and paid much less.

 

What can I say? For a small, intimate venue, they work great. Wide dispersion, great throw, tiny footprint, pleasing to the ears, etc. I sometimes gig AP with an acoustic guitarist who sings. Maybe there's 20-30 people there at best. Great intelligibility for vocals and acoustic guitar. Not bad on APs either. Although the Compact is underpowered and more of a toy.

 

Keep in mind I have lots of other choices to bring to a gig: QSCs, RCFs, et. al. My SpaceStation still gets some use as well. All of those take more space, and are a lot more directional. I can put a Bose stick behind the singer, and get some decent volume before feedback ensues. Can't do that with my other gear.

 

I would not use them for any sort of electric band or larger stage situation, even if I had the inputs.

 

The pole-type units from other vendors sound pretty good to my ears as well and aren't stupidly priced like the Bose. In fairness, none of my Bose products has ever had any sort of issue (despite abuse from multiple owners), and I do prefer the upper register sound of the Bose 1S / Model II to any of the other sticks I've heard. The bass can be a mess with those external modules, so take care there.

 

Perhaps the item that gets the most use these days are a pair of RCF EVOX J8s as FOHs for larger indoor and outdoor gigs. We've played dozens of gigs with them and they do bring some game. You get the clarity and dispersion from the mini-line-array heads, and the bottoms bring some nice thump, although I'm using an external sub for bigger gigs. Very, very surprising in the bang for buck department.

Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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I have two TurboSound iP1000 systems that I use mainly for front of the house in small to medium sized gigs. I have DJ'd outdoor events and weddings with them too. They have never let me down in the 4+ years I have owned them. I like how they sound and my band is very happy with them. I had originally bought just one as a monitor for my keys, and for solo piano & acoustic guitar gigs. I quickly realized these speakers were capable of much more than what I was using them for. I use a digital mixer X-air 18 so inputs aren't an issue.

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