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Tech Roundup: Portable PA Systems 2024

Sometimes the situation calls for the flexibility of a portable PA, whether for worship reinforcement, bar and restaurant stages, or corporate presentations. In the past year, some new options have joined the lineup of proven PA options.

In February, the Alto Professional UBER FX MK2 Bluetooth 5.0 array debuted. Its 5-speaker, 320-degree sound array is not just for music applications; with its flexible I/O and up to 100 hours of charge, it can support business meetings, training sessions, and award/graduation ceremonies. The 200W system features an 8” Woofer, stereo tweeters, and full-range sidefiring drivers providing 320° of audience listening area. The side-firing speakers also make for excellent live performance monitoring. UBER FX MK2 features two input channels, each with its own independent volume control and 2-band EQ and digital effects, and there’s an additional third 3.5mm aux input. Users can stream from any device to UBER FX MK2, and wirelessly connect a second UBER FX MK2 to create a stereo PA system. The Alto Pro App for iOS and Android provides control of mixing functions; the simple single screen mixer allows users to select a channel and control all parameters. It’s easy to transport with its telescoping handle and wheels, top storage
compartment, and two USB charging ports.

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-in-the-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.

The AtlasIED Temporary Audio Systems (TAS) originally 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.

The Bose S1 Pro+ delivers the same performance in a lighter package than its predecessor, weighing just 14.4 pounds. Four positioning options allow the speaker to adapt as needed —vertically on a table, tilted back, horizontally on a floor, or mounted to a stand; auto EQ adjusts regardless of orientation. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to 11 hours of usage on a single charge. An integrated three-channel mixer features two channels for microphones and instruments and one dedicated to music playback. Intuitive rotating OLED displays for each channel make it easy to access independent EQ, reverb, and ToneMatch controls. Full, wireless app control supports volume, EQ, reverb, and the entire ToneMatch library of EQ presets. The S1 Pro+ streams via Bluetooth, and an optional mic/line and wireless RF transmitters pair with the system’s integrated wireless RF receivers, which store in the S1 Pro+ unit, and charge when not in use.

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.

At NAMM 2024 the EAW LA Series was showcased, a two-way, self-powered loudspeaker featuring EAW’s signature sound in a portable and lightweight package. The LA Series supports events that are often geared towards pole mounted deployments, such as small to medium live shows, weddings, corporate events, restaurants, bars, and clubs. There are four models, the 12” LA121 and LA123, and the 15” LA151, and LA153. Performance versions LA123 and LA153 utilize a 3” voice coil compression driver providing higher output, crisper highs, and clearer vocals. The series employs EAW Focusing DSP that EAW says perfects the impulse response of a loudspeaker in the time domain, eliminating horn “honk” and splashiness, for a studio monitor sound. All four models weigh less than 50 pounds individually and the asymmetric pattern of the horn maintains high frequency directivity where required.

At the end of February, the Electro-Voice ZLX G2 Portable Loudspeakers debuted, the second generation of the ZLX series with 8”, 12” and 15” two-way models in both powered and passive versions. The new G2 offerings have increased the maximum SPL to 129 dB (ZLX-15P-G2). The woofer and compression driver in each ZLX G2 model are coupled to a patented SST (Signal Synchronized Transducers) ported waveguide, said to aid low-frequency extension, and deliver even vertical and horizontal coverage across all frequencies. Efficient 1000 W Class-D power amplifier modules have an integrated four-channel, three-input digital mixer with high-quality effects. The mixer includes two XLR/TRS combo jacks and provides 24 V phantom power and Hi-Z compatibility. The mixer also includes automatic feedback suppression, ducking, compression, loudspeaker delay settings, an array of system modes, and more. Powered ZLX G2 loudspeakers also contain subwoofer presets that adjust for both gain and time alignment. Additional high pass (HP) filters are available in the DSP for increased compatibility. All functions can be remote-controlled and monitored using the Electro-Voice QuickSmart Mobile Android/iOS app. The app allows pairing and grouping of up to six Bluetooth-equipped Electro-Voice portable loudspeakers, including stereo pairing.

Also this year, the Electro-Voice EVERSE 12 joined the 2022 EVERSE 8 to bring a larger and louder 12” two-way option with the same battery performance and wireless-friendly features that have made the 8 popular. A maximum SPL rating of 126 dB (compared to the EVERSE 8’s 121 dB) and low-frequency response to 45 Hz is combined with wide 100º x 60º coverage.

With versatile controls and connectivity, the Fender Passport Event 2 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 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.

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, applicationbased 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 professionalgrade 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.

In March, HARMAN Professional Solutions announced the launch of JBL Pro Connect V2, the newest version of its free universal control application for select JBL portable PA speakers and systems. V2 features a new Demo Mode for touring the app capabilities and the ability to configure system settings and presets without needing to be connected to a Pro Connect-enabled speaker. Full Screen Mode enhances resolution for editing and adjusting controls, and Snapshot Language Support adds the convenience of saving snapshots in select local languages. Setting volume and adjusting EQ, activating Lexicon reverb and effects and dbx Digital DriveRack signal processing, customized ducking, saving, and recalling presets, and more are all included features. The Android/iOS app also offers a choice of pre-loaded presets for accessing popular control features like input EQ, dynamics, gates, limiters, and chorus delay. A variety of even deeper presets for EQ, gate, compressor, tap, delay, reverb, chorus, output limiter, output EQ, and more are also included. App-exclusive features and settings include snapshots, multi-speaker grouping, tap tempo, and more. JBL Pro Connect is currently available for the following speakers and systems: JBL PRX ONE, EON ONE MK2, EON700, PRX900 and EON ONE Compact, with additional models continually being added.

HARMAN’s JBL EON ONE MK2 battery-powered column PA carries the EON-family acoustic innovations, 5-channel digital mixer,
comprehensive Lexicon and dbx DSP, Bluetooth 5.0 functions, and full app control in a lightweight, rechargeable battery system that weighs just 42.5 pounds. Its geometrically optimized, C-shaped array of eight 2-inch tweeters works in combination with a 10-inch woofer for even response down to 37 Hz. This C-shaped array provides wide horizontal dispersion and deep vertical throw. The MK2 has a built-in 1,500-watt (peak) amplifier; Variable Power Performance technology automatically optimizes performance for either AC or battery power, providing 4 dB of extra headroom when connected to AC power. A full-color LCD display lets users choose beginner, intermediate or advanced control. The system features Lexicon effects like reverb, chorus, and delay, in addition to a full suite of dbx DriveRack technology, including AFS (Automatic Feedback Suppression), parametric EQs, limiters, delays and SubSynth. User-configurable presets and onboard hardware EQ with three fixed knobs are easy to use. Easy ducking, Neutrik XLR combo jacks, one Hi-Z input, balanced passthrough, two channels of 48V phantom power, and an app are among the features.

Also in January, LD Systems MAUI G3 Series debuted. This third gen compact column MAUI series includes the MAUI 11 G3 and MAUI 28 G3 models. The new models offer more amplifier power, as well as numerous acoustic improvements that raise the sound and dispersion behavior fitting to a next gen release.

In January, the Mackie ShowBox came on the scene. It’s a battery-powered all-in-one performance rig combining a portable PA, acoustic guitar amp, six-channel mixer, effects rack, and USB-C interface into a single device that can can be carried in one trip from the car. A 400W amp, custom drivers, included battery, and six input channels support up to 12 hours of use. Mackie highlights an innovative breakaway mix controller; connecting to ShowBox through the included (lengthy) fabric-covered Ethernet cable, the mix controller mounts directly to a mic stand and provides control over levels for mics and instruments as well as built-in effects, tone shaping, user snapshots, looper, tuner, and recording controls. ShowBox replaces amps and PA systems with switchable “amp” and “PA” voicing modes, plus settings for indoor and outdoor performance. It features two layers of dynamic effects for vocals and instruments, and 3-band parametric EQ and singleknob compression on each channel. A built-in USB-C audio interface supports streaming online or recording. ShowBox can also record straight to an SD card, and Bluetooth allows for streaming backing tracks and fill-in music between sets.

Martin Audio BlacklineX Powered brings active options to the 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 user-rotatable 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 P Series PA system comes in two sizes, the 180-watt P1 BT and the 200-watt P2 BT (for Bluetooth). They have rear-facing mixers with three channels, each with their own dedicated 2-band EQ and volume control. Channels 1 and 2 have XLR and line-level inputs, while channel 3 has RCA and 1/8” inputs, with Bluetooth connectivity at the touch of a button. There is also a master volume, a 1/4” sub-woofer connection, and XLR connections for pairing units for stereo setups. The P1 BT has a pair of hi-fidelity 6.5” woofers and a 1” high-frequency compression driver, while the P2 BT has a trio of 6.5” woofers and the compression driver. The P1 BT comes in at 263.5mm (D) x 235mm” (W) x 584 mm (H), weighing just under 7kg, with the P2 BT a little taller at 762mm and weighing in at 15kg.

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 aluminum 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 Yamaha STAGEPAS 200 was the first in the range to provide a rechargeable lithium-ion battery powered option (200BTR). STAGEPAS 200 provides all the features of a high-quality portable PA system in a remarkably compact, 30mm cube-shaped enclosure. It supports Bluetooth audio streaming and remote control. A 1.4” HF + 8” LF high-quality coaxial compression driver is powered by a 180 W Class D amplifier. An onboard five-channel (3 mono mic/ line and 1 stereo line) digital mixing section is included; each input channel is equipped with a 1-knob EQ/preset and 1-knob Effect controls – a function proprietary to Yamaha. Together with the ‘Mode’ compressor on the main outputs, users can easily and intuitively create the sound they want. Priority ducking, feedback monitoring, and an app are among the features. Multiple mounting options are included, and a comprehensive app supports most functions. Optional carry case contributes to ease-of-use options.

With 5.5 hours of runtime at full output power and a standby battery life of more than 48 hours, the Yorkville Sound EXMMobile 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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