Portable PAs Technology Showcase
Feb 14, 2011 12:00 PM, By Mark Johnson
Way back when, in the olden days of audio, "portable" meant adding handles to loudspeaker cabinets initially built to be installed. However, because of the size and weight, it was like trying to move a refrigerator. As advances in technology and materials yielded smaller, lighter, and more efficient components, "high-powered" and "portable" could be said in the same sentence. Now with a whole new generation of portable PAs and a product category unto itself, manufacturers are coming out with veritable Swiss Army knives of loudspeaker products. These handy speakers can be used for practically any application that requires audio amplification: main or monitor systems; keyboard or drum monitors; fill and delay speakers; small to medium indoor or outdoor utility systems for presentations, events, houses of worship; and of course systems for DJs doing weddings, anniversaries, and other parties.
Initially, plastics or composites were the materials of choice for the cabinets providing a lightweight yet durable enclosure that minimized resonances; however, wood cabinets are available in some designs for the traditionalists. One identifying feature is a pole pocket for tripod- or pole-mounting, though manufacturers are typically offering more rigging options such as M10 or M8 points providing even greater flexibility for application. And with line array columns coming into vogue again (Can anyone say "VocalMaster"?), the columns themselves provide the height that's needed to get the speakers over the heads of the listeners on that particular type of configuration. Many of the systems offer companion subwoofers for extended low-frequency response.
Whether the application is utilitarian or creative, it's always handy to have a pair or two of portable PA loudspeakers in inventory, ready to solve a specific problem or just make your job a little easier. We'll be looking at self-powered systems for this showcase.
American Audio's XSP-12A is a two-way design with a 12in. woofer and a 1.75in. HF compression driver. It weighs 44lbs., and its nominal coverage is 90 degrees horizontal by 50 degrees vertical with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. The speaker features one mic and one line input and bass, as well as treble and volume controls.
The Anchor Audio Beacon is a portable line array with eight 4in. drivers and three 8in. woofers. The system can run off of AC or DC power and versions include integrated MP3 players and wireless receivers. The Beacon features two microphone inputs, a rolling enclosure with collapsible handle, and it weighs 51lbs.
Azden offers multiple iterations of its compact APS 25 model. The system features auto-on/off circuitry that's triggered by any audio input. Versions include a base system, and options are various combinations of UHF, VHF, or infrared wireless modules.
The PTA1200-R from Bag End features a wood enclosure housing a 12in. LF driver and a 1in. exit compression HF driver. The 80-degrees-horizontal-by-60-degrees-vertical horn can be rotated 90 degrees. The system weighs 49lbs., and its maximum output is 127dB. Its frequency response is 75Hz to 20kHz.
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