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Tech Roundup: Portable PA Systems 2021

One of the most important things needed in a portable PA system is more important than ever: Portability. Beyond that, systems provide a range of features that, depending on your needs, could be incredibly useful or just unnecessary bells and whistles. Since so many important things in life come through the portable PA—singer/songwriters, weddings, yoga retreats, graduations, comedy, school sports, bingo games, worship bands, many smaller scale events—all things we are returning to. Here are some things to think about as the need for these speakers ramps up.

Last June, the Alto Professional UBER FX indoor/outdoor portable PA system debuted, providing an option which can perform with or without access to AC power. UBER FX is a self-powered portable wireless speaker with Bluetooth technology; it accepts a range of wireless or hard-wired signal sources. Alto positions UBER FX as ideal for outdoor applications without AC power. The series has 15 built-in Alesis FX and a 2-band EQ for precise tonal adjustment. The unit features two input channels, each with its own independent volume control. Users can stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth-enabled device, and there is a convenient USB charging port. A 100-watt peak power capacity drives an 8-inch 2-way speaker, a high-quality microphone and a long-lasting 45-hour rechargeable battery. Features include: Two Line/Mic channels with XLR/1/4” combo inputs; NFC pairing and 1/8” stereo aux channels; Master Volume, Line Out and battery level indicator; convenience features including top panel storage tray, telescoping handle and built-in wheels.

The AmpliVox Titan Portable Wireless PA SW800-96 is dubbed “Brilliantly Blue” because it has a colorful blue back panel that shows off its full range of extensive capabilities; but it’s also blue because it’s now proudly made in the USA. The move to bring manufacturing back home was to focus on upgrades such as improving from 16 to 96-channel wireless capability for interference-free sound and to improve quality control and extend the warranty from one to three years. The Titan joins Amplivox’ growing array of made-inthe-USA AV products. A 100-watt amplifier covers audiences up to 2,500, in rooms up to 10,000 square feet, or outdoors. A built-in UHF wireless receiver and choice of wireless mic (handheld, lapel & headset, or fleshtone over ear) provide freedom of movement up to 100 feet from the base unit; also included is a wired hand-held XLR mic with 25 foot cord. A 96-channel receiver syncs with any of the three wireless microphone options; a built in media-player plays recorded music or speech from multiple inputs – Bluetooth receiver, SD card slot, or USB slot. It’s compact at 35 pounds and rolls like a suitcase. The rechargeable battery lasts up to 10 hours, and additional receiver, mics, and other accessories are available.

At 130 dB and designed to reach crowds of more than 5,000, the Anchor Audio Bigfoot 2 is a portable sound system suitable for big projects. Operating in the 1.9 GHz frequency range, and with its wireless microphone platform, AnchorLink, Bigfoot 2 can connect up to four wireless microphones, providing a line of sight wireless range of more than 300 feet. Its rechargeable lithium ion batteries are rated to last 2,000 cycles, and the reduced weight of the batteries results in a lighter speaker. Additionally, Anchor AIR allows it to wirelessly connect multiple companion speakers.

Last spring, the AtlasIED Temporary Audio Systems (TAS) debuted in response to demand for portable indoor/outdoor packaged PA systems for temporary healthcare and testing facilities. To alleviate overcrowding at hospitals and to care for an increased number of patients, facilities need high-quality public address systems to assist with crowd control, patient messaging, and critical announcements. For quick and easy setup, the TAS systems come packaged with all the necessary components, including all-weather speakers, handheld and desktop microphones, speaker/ mic stands, power conditioners, amplifiers, cabling, and more. Four different packages are available, designed to serve facilities from 4,960 square feet up to 187,000 square feet. Packages include the TAS-1 (up to 20,000 square feet), TAS-2 (up to 4,960 square feet), TAS-3 (up to 47,678 square feet), and TAS-4 (up to 187,500 square feet). Equipment comprising the TAS packages is also ideally suited to indoor and outdoor venues of all types including athletic fields, gymnasiums, and other places where gatherings occur.

In November, the Bose Professional L1 Pro portable line array systems debuted and won an SVC Innovative Product awards as voted by our readers. These stylish portable line array systems replace the classic L1 line (the original L1 compact will stay). The new systems include the L1 Pro8, the L1 Pro16, and L1 Pro32 with its choice of two subwoofers. A RaceTrack driver design integrated into the L1 Pro8, L1 Pro16 and the Sub1 and Sub2 modular subwoofers, claims extended bass response and less bulk, making them much easier to transport, carry and fit onstage. Builtin multichannel mixers offer EQ, reverb, and phantom power, plus Bluetooth streaming capabilities and access to the complete library of ToneMatch custom EQ presets. The L1 Pro8 (38.9 lbs) provides a solution for intimate spaces; the L1 Pro16 (54.8 lbs) performs in small-to-medium spaces; and the premium L1 Pro32 (just 28.8 lbs) is a portable system for entertaining large audiences. The systems are complemented by the L1 Mix app, providing full wireless control of the built-in mixers for on-the-fly tweaks. Users can adjust mixer settings via phone or tablet from the stage, or walk the room. Volume and tone settings can be changed in the app as well; the mixer and app are synched in real-time. Two combo XLR-1/4” phantom-powered inputs, 1/4″ and 1/8″ (3.5 millimeter) aux inputs are included.

The Cerwin-Vega CVi-218S (Contra-Sub) is a portable, dual 18in. dedicated subwoofer system designed to extend and supplement the low frequency extension of CVi full range systems in live music and playback applications. The CVi-218S features two high power, cast frame 18in. transducers with 3in. voice coils for extended use during high SPL applications. Steel handles and a pole mount cup are also featured for use as a base for pole-mounted full range systems. This configuration allows the two drivers to work together in the same acoustic space to reduce distortion components caused by driver mechanical non-linearity when the system is driven at high levels. The result is cleaner, smoother low frequency reinforcement at higher SPL levels.

The EAW Redline RL12 and RL15 include an on-board 1,250-watt bi-amplified electronics package mated to customized precision transducers. Redline features EAW Focusing processing to deliver the impulse response of a studio monitor, while DynO algorithms optimize the power transfer from amplifiers to transducers to audience, to optimize headroom and integrity of sound at maximum output. Both models offer consistent directivity via Beamwidth-Matched Crossovers on 90°x60° user-rotatable horns, and 4-aperture elliptical ports provide bass support with no turbulence while maximizing transducer-cooling air flow. The simple predefined voicing help the user to set up quickly, and a rear-panel LED mute keeps Redline invisible in aesthetically-sensitive situations.

The ElectroVoice EVOLVE 30M system includes a speaker array, a two-piece pole connector, an array and pole backpack carry case, and a powered subwoofer. It also has an eight-channel digital mixer, studio-quality onboard effects and remote control of all audio, effects and mix functions via the ElectroVoice QuickSmart Mobile application (available on the Apple Store and Google Play). The app utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) technology for the adjustment and monitoring of all parameters of up to six EVOLVE 30M systems simultaneously. The column array and its six 2.8-inch neodymium drivers provide 120” coverage through proprietary waveguides; array-formed 40” asymmetrical vertical coverage ensures acoustic output is directed towards both sitting and standing audience members. A Class-D amplifier provides up to 1000 W of output, 500 W to the subwoofer and 500 W to the column array. The QuickSmart DSP allows navigation of system parameters through an LCD with single-knob control or with the app, as well as multiple options for signal routing and inputs. Functions include four presets, EQ, graphic EQ, five user-programmable presets, phantom power, visual monitoring of limiter status, input level control and meters, and a master volume control. The array enclosure is composite; the sub enclosure is wood. Developed in collaboration with EV’s sibling brand Dynacord, the integrated digital mixer has multiple inputs, with preamps and mix functions, plus independent aux sends and a range of effects. A white version is also available.

Constructed out of polypropylene enclosures, the FBT X-LITE 15A includes three carrying handles, four M10 flying points, and a full-front grille for protection and sturdiness. Features include built-in Class D amplifier modules providing 1,000W of power, and a user-friendly DSP allows four EQ preset selection to tailor the performance of the X-LITE to various sound requirements. In addition, the X-LITE series offers a professional control panel that allows users to set up configurations with or without subs. Additionally, the X-LITE low frequency response can be extended with the dedicated X-SUB 18in. powered subwoofer.

With versatile controls and connectivity, the Fender Passport Event portable audio system is useful for amplifying voice, instruments, and background music in a wide range of locations. Its full-range speakers, features, friendly front-panel controls, and 375W of power provide clear and reliable sound. Conveniently self-contained with suitcase-style portability and easy setup, Passport Event also features Bluetooth connectivity for streaming wireless audio from mobile devices. The PA system has a seven-channel powered mixer and full-range speakers, with eight inputs (four XLR mic/ line, 1/4in. instrument/line, 1/4in. stereo, 1/8in. stereo, stereo Bluetooth), plus separate volume, treble, bass, and reverb controls on each channel.

The Fishman SA+6 Bundle, which includes the SA330x, SA Expand, and SA Deluxe Carry Bag, provides a portable 6-channel solution best suited for small to medium sized rooms, clubs or similar sized venues. The SA+6 features 330 W of power plus six channels, each with three bands of EQ, Reverb, Gain, Phase, and 10dB Pad controls. As a wide-dispersion modified line array, it allows everyone in the audience to hear without blowing away the front row. Additionally, it features full-range audio source handling via three TRS Aux inputs, one 1/4in. Input, and two 3.5mm inputs. The included Deluxe Carry Bag is designed to be extra-tough and versatile, with ample room for extra equipment and wheels for easy transport.

The Galaxy Audio Traveler (TV10) is an AC/battery operated portable PA system that allows for a quick and uncomplicated setup. The system features a 10in. woofer, 1in. horn, 150 W max amplifier, and can be configured in a variety of ways to meet specific space needs. The system includes four inputs (X:R, 1/4in., RCA, and 1/8in., each with its own volume control), a 2-band EQ, and a master volume. Audio outputs include a dual RCA line out and a 1/8in. line out. The durable ABS enclosure features a convenient carry handle and a provision for standard pole mounting. The TV10 has a retractable handle and durable wheels for easy mobility. The Traveler also has a “plug in” modular design, which allows optional function modules to be added or removed.

Featuring a 5-channel mixer, Bluetooth audio streaming, and integrated reverb effects, the HK Audio Lucas Nano 305 FX is a compact 10.3kg system. It consists of an active system subwoofer and two satellites that can be stowed away in the subwoofer transport bay. The active, multifunctional PA system features integrated on-board reverb effects, 2-band EQ for channels 1-3, and phantom power for channels 1-2. Optimized for use as a 2.1 stereo system, it can be extended into a twin stereo system setup when used in conjunction with any other 300 series Lucas Nanos. With 750 W peak power, 120 dB max, and SPL low-ranging bass down to 44 Hz, the Lucas Nano 305 FX is best suited for background music and announcements at small events. HARMAN Professional Services JBL IRX Series portable PA loudspeakers carry a lightweight build for easy transport, and include features like Bluetooth audio streaming to help ensure a professional sound system in varied environments. The IRX Series consists of two active PA loudspeakers, the IRX108BT, sporting an 8-inch woofer and the IRX112BT, which features a 12-inch woofer. As well as Bluetooth compatibility, the JBL IRX Series speakers also offer custom, application-based presets and automatic signal processors, speeding up the dial-in process. Built-in dbx Automatic Feedback Suppression protects the speakers, stopping feedback before it starts. One-touch ducking automatically lowers music volume when speech input is detected, in the same fashion as sidechain compression. The 1,300-Watt amplifier will help the IRX Series loudspeakers deliver a sound with minimal distortion at high levels. The IRX108BT features a frequency response down to 54Hz and maximum SPL of 127dB, while the IRX112BT goes down to 53Hz with a maximum SPL of 129dB. As is the norm for JBL loudspeaker products, the IRX108BT and IRX112BT have undergone 100 hours of stress testing to ensure performance in real-world conditions. Two combination XLR/ TRS inputs on the back feature professional-grade preamps to deliver clarity for mics, playback devices and mixing consoles. Streaming from mobile devices is made easy with one-button Bluetooth connectivity, or you can use Bluetooth to connect two speakers to provide a true stereo image.

With a light, compact design, Bluetooth connectivity, and up to six hours of play time provided by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the JBL EON ONE PRO provides audio through its seven-channel analog mixer with integrated effects. Similar to the technology used in large venue speaker arrays, the JBL EON ONE PRO optimizes the spacing of each driver for sound quality and consistent directionality. The cabinet houses an 8in. subwoofer with bassflex technology providing well-defined, low-frequency response. The linear array speaker system fully collapses into the base, and it features an ergonomic handle design and weighs 37.5 lbs. (17 kg), so no shoulder bags or multiple trips required. It has four combo 1/4in./ XLR inputs, a 3.5mm jack, and a stereo RCA input, plus bass, treble, and reverb controls allow for fine-tuning. In November, JBL announced the release of EON ONE USB Power Cable, designed to expand the versatility of EON ONE Compact by powering AKG WMS and DMS100 and DMS300 wireless systems and DigiTech and DOD guitar pedals directly from the sound system. The 1m cable features a USB-A terminal that connects to an EON ONE Compact PA and a 5.5mm power terminal that connects to external devices. Two versions are available: a 12V version powers AKG WMS wireless systems, while a 9V version powers AKG DMS100 and DMS300 wireless systems as well as DigiTech and DOD effects pedals.

The compact LD Systems CURV 500 PS is an easily configurable array system with eight interlocking satellites that are operated via a SmartLink adapter. The elements (12x12cm. in size) are equipped with LD System’s WaveAhead technology, and one 4in. and three 1in. drivers provide detailed playback. The 10in. bass-reflex subwoofer houses the Class D power amplifier and includes a limiter, protection against short circuit, overheating, over-voltage, as well as a 4-channel mixer with 16 digital effect presets and Bluetooth. Combo and Speakon-compatible sockets offer extensive connectivity options, and the subwoofer features four digital system presets, an M20 threaded flange, and three carrying handles. The second subwoofer with its own power amplifier offers identical technical specifications, but does not require any mixer. The CURV 500 Power Set includes two subwoofers, one with a mixer unit, eight satellites, two SmartLink adapters, two extension tubes and matching speaker cables. If more power is required, the CURV 500 Power Set can provide a power of 920 watts RMS and a maximum sound pressure of 134 dB.

The Mackie SRM-Flex combines an ultralightweight design, SRM Series sound quality, a full-featured 6-channel digital mixer, and wireless control and streaming. The modular design of SRM-Flex features a 10” LF woofer in the molded cabinet base module, which also contains the 1300W amplifier and built-in digital mixer. The 3-piece tower houses a wide-dispersion array with 6 x 2” high-performance HF drivers for clear, whole room coverage. This modular tower design allows the user to easily change the height of the mid and high frequencies to match the ear level of the audience. At under 30 pounds, the SRM Flex is easy to carry one-handed, and it’s small size means it will fit easily into the trunk of a car – or even on a bus. Two flexible Mic/Line inputs accept microphones, instruments, and more. There is also a dedicated stereo channel with dual 1/4” line inputs and a dedicated 1/8” Aux In / Bluetooth streaming channel. Channels 1 and 2 are equipped with individual 2-band EQs and Reverb level controls with 3 different reverbs to choose from and three voicing modes. Connecting to a second SRM-Flex or house PA is easy via the professional XLR Mix Out. In addition to physical controls, the SRM-Flex Connect app allows wireless control from your iOS or Android device. The app not only provides the same control available on the SRM-Flex itself, but offers even more customization like front LED and metering behavior, presets, and more.

BlacklineX Powered brings active options to the Martin Audio BlacklineX family. Comprising the 12-inch XP12 and 15-inch XP15 full range enclosures plus the 18-inch XP118 subwoofer, BlacklineX Powered integrates acoustic, DSP and amplifier technologies. BlacklineX Powered offers optional Bluetooth control, streaming, and a built-in 3-channel mixer, providing increased flexibility and features for a variety of uses, including live venues, DJs, corporate events, and houses of worship. The series features 1300W and 2000W Class D amplifiers, onboard DSP, and userrotatable horns for horizontal or vertical enclosure orientation. Mounting options include wall bracket, eyebolt suspension, and pole-mounting.

The MIPRO MA-808 is the company’s flagship portable wireless PA system. The rugged one-piece speaker cabinet houses an efficient class-D/ AB amplifier with a 10in. woofer and a 1.5in. tweeter that drive high sensitivity two-way loudspeakers, with limiter circuitry that reduces distortion and increases intelligibility for powerful, clear sound. It offers an ideal public address solution for large crowds. It features up to 4 UHF or 2.4 GHz diversity receiver modules with 16 auto-scannable frequencies, and a built-in active antenna prevents accidental antenna breakage. The Voice Priority option mutes music when a wireless mic is used. Additionally, it includes a Bluetooth receiver for music streaming. A retractable handle and wheels make it easy to transport.

The Peavey LN1263 is a low-profile portable column-array that utilizes 1,200 W of potential maximum power. The unit contains 12 2.75in. custom drivers for the midhigh column and a custom 12in. driver for the subwoofer. Completely self contained, the unit has no visible cables in mono operation, making it well suited for applications where speakers need to be heard but not seen. The satellite speakers feature rugged aluminum housing and quick attachment design, and the subwoofer is built from multi-ply birch, making it durable and lightweight. Each satellite features a speaker stand and a twist lock speaker cable connection, allowing the satellite to be positioned remotely for applications where stereo configuration or additional coverage is desired. Featuring both an onboard LCD screen and remote control via Bluetooth using a custom iOS application for control, the LN1263 offers EQ and Effects, plus Simple and Professional mode, allowing options for both advanced and novice users. The onboard mixer features 4 combo inputs, each with the option of selecting a guitar input.

The PreSonus CDL series includes the CDL12 constant directivity loudspeaker and the companion subwoofer, the CDL18s. Both Dante-enabled, the powered enclosures can be flown as a vertical array, or combined for ground-stacked applications. Each CDL12 consists of eight 2-inch drivers aligned in a segmented circular-arc high-frequency array centered in front of a 12-inch woofer. The output of the lowfrequency driver travels from the same acoustic axis as the high-frequency array so that the pattern always radiates from the center of the CDL12, whether used individually, or as part of an acoustically coupled vertical array with up to six enclosures. The CDL18s features a custom 18in. low-frequency transducer with 4in. voice coil that can travel 7mm before over-excursion, and handles 800 W.

The QSC K.2 Series is comprised of the 8in. K8.2, 10in. K10.2, and 12in. K12.2 fullrange loudspeakers. Each loudspeaker model in the K.2 Series is equipped with a 2,000W power module matched to high-performance woofers and compression drivers. DMT (DirectivityMatched Transition) ensures smooth coverage across the entire listening area. Onboard DSP provides Intrinsic Correction voicing and advanced system management to further optimize performance. K.2 Series models additionally provide operators with a library of preset contours for common applications, while offering storable scenes to recall user-configurable settings such as input type, delay, EQ, cross-over, and selected contour via the loudspeakers’ LCD screen and control panel. All three models can be operated as either main PA or as a floor monitor. Each model can also be flown, wall- or truss-mounted, or placed on a speaker pole, either straight firing or with 7.5-degree down-tilt utilizing the dual pole cup.

Expanding the EVOX J Series, RCF has added an 8-input digital mixer to the system. The EVOX JMIX8 features onboard processing from the Z.CORE DSP, which provides full mix functions and includes instrument FX and AMP simulations. It also includes an EVOX iOS/ Android-compatible app for users to manage the JMIX8, and Bluetooth audio and a Hi-Z instrument input. All the available functions on the EVOX JMIX8 system integrated mixer can be managed from the operating panel, with select buttons that include Input, Output, Home, System, MFX, and FX, which give access to all the parameter pages on the LCD display. The system includes RCF’s ClassD power amplifier technology. The D-Line amplifiers feature a mechanical aluminium structure, stabilizing the amplifier during transportation and helping the fanless heat dissipation.

The Samson Expedition XP208w Rechargeable Portable PA carries 200 watts of power, 20 hours of battery life, a 4-channel mixer and Bluetooth audio. A variable reverb control adds depth, and a voiceover ducker automatically lowers the music when speaking or singing into a microphone (XLR or wireless inputs). In addition, a master 2-band EQ is provided to adjust the tonal characteristics of the XP208w, as is a line output to daisy-chain additional speakers. The system includes a wireless handheld microphone for completely cord-free performance. It’s housed in a polypropylene enclosure with a steel grille, locking telescopic handle and smooth rolling wheels that weighs just under 24 pounds. A 1 3/8” speaker mount allows the XP208w to be mounted using any standard speaker stand.

The 2,400-Watt Turbosound TVX118B is a front-loaded 18in. subwoofer system that is engineered to work in conjunction with Turbosound loudspeaker management systems. The bass reflex port design enclosure has a high-powered carbon fiber 18in. low frequency driver and provides fast and accurate transient response for virtually distortion-free operation. Finished in a durable semi-matte black paint, the cabinet is constructed from 18mm birch plywood and includes a powder coated perforated steel mesh grille backed with reticulated foam, an integral 35mm pole mount for satellite speaker applications, and carry handles that are strategically placed for easy transport. The rear panel connector plate carries Neutrik speakON NL4 connectors, with switchable input and link connections to accommodate standalone subwoofer applications, or subwoofer and satellite speaker connectivity via 4 core speaker cabling.

The Yamaha STAGEPAS 1K portable PA system improves upon previous models with more power and the free STAGEPAS Editor iOS/Android app. The STAGEPAS 1K is driven by a high-frequency array speaker with 10 small-diameter 1.5” drivers and a 1000W Class-D amplifier, a significant upgrade in power from its predecessors. A 12” subwoofer utilizes Yamaha’s Twisted Flare Port technology to effectively reduce wind noise in the bass reflex port. The array speaker is simply affixed to the subwoofer cabinet, requiring no cables or speaker stands, for a fast and easy setup. A 5-channel mixer, ingenious IO, and optimized compression settings are among the additional features. Due to ship in early fall of 2019.

With 5.5 hours of runtime at full output power and a standby battery life of more than 48 hours, the Yorkville Sound EXM-Mobile is capable of getting users through a variety of gigs where AC power is not an option. The 60 W system weighs just under 20 pounds and uses two 6.5-inch woofers and a studio monitor quality soft dome tweeter. It features three discrete input channels with individual volume and tone controls, is Bluetooth enabled, and includes an integrated digital effect processor.

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