When it comes to modern PA systems you don’t have “stick” to traditional systems! Since the introduction of the Mackie SRM450 in 1997 self-powered speakers for the working musicians have largely remained the same. A simple black box with a 12” speaker, 1” tweeter and an amplifier with various power ratings. That’s not too say there can’t be variety within this, changing speaker size, cabinet material and amp settings all yield diverse results. However the basic premise of a 2 way powered box has not changed. In recent years however we have seen the introduction of a new form of powered speaker for the everyday musician, the so called “Stick PA”.
These units typically comprise of a small sub and a long “stick” containing multiple speakers. These speakers tend to be lot smaller than the traditional powered boxes coming in at around 1.5” to 3.5” depending on the model. The idea being that by coupling multiple small speakers together in conjunction with a sub they can be used as mini line array in covering a large area. The advantages of this result in a more even distribution of sound, the idea being that the person in the front row is getting basically the same signal at those in back. There are also practical advantages, stick PAs tend to mixers built in meaning there is less gear to move around. One stick PA can be the equivalent of taking 2 12” boxes and sub and mixer out with you. Lastly the stick PA tends to have a smaller footprint and is more subtle than 2 big black boxes, important for venues and gigs where aesthetic detail is important.
Those are the general advantages and below we delve a little deeper into 4 models that are out in the market.
Whilst better known for noise canceling headphones and small stereo systems BOSE really kicked off the stick PA trend with the L1 system. Since then they have released a variety of systems and the L1 S is the mid-range offering. Using 12 x 2.5” speakers the L1 S boast a pretty impressive 180 degree coverage. This is particularly useful for covering wide areas or making sure the entire band can hear what’s going on without using monitors. The B1 sub is a 2 x 5.25” configuration for extended low end. Unusually for this type of PA there is no inbuilt mixer, the L1 S features a single analogue input that you can attached a separate mixer. If you need something that compliments the main system you can always purchase the BOSE Tone Match mixer which that will contact via cat 5 cable to the main system. The L1 S comprises of 4 main units, the speaker array, a separator, a power stand and the sub. The power stand, speaker array and separator all come apart and can be transported in a carry case.
Key Feature – Flexibility. The BOSE L1 S can be added to with the aforementioned Tone Match mixer and additional B1 subs. It’s really designed to allow you to upgrade in the future to get the most from the system.
Electro-voice (EV) have been in the PA game for a long time and the Evolve 50 is their latest offering. Using 8 x 3.5” speakers in the main array speaker the unit can cover up 120 degrees horizontally. The sub is heavy duty using a 15 mm wooden enclosure that houses a 12” speaker which can get down to 37 Hz. Also in the sub is a small mixer comprising of 2 mic/line inputs and aux input for directly connecting music playback. One of the nice features of this is that the unit can be controlled by EV’s QuickSmart Mobile app which can be used for monitoring levels, controlling parameters such as EQ and streaming music via Bluetooth to the Evolve 50. For transport the unit comprises of the sub and sub pole and the speaker array which all connect to each other through a magnet system to hold them in place.
Key Feature – Sound quality. The Evolve 50 can produce volume of up to 127 dB and as mentioned can go as low as 37 Hz. If outright volume and low is an important factor the Evolve 50 should be of interest to you
Arguably the biggest the PA brand in world has 2 stick PA systems available, The EON ONE and the new EON ONE PRO. The Pro is actually slightly smaller than its predecessor using an 8” sub instead of a 10” with the idea of making it more portable. Portability really is the key word here as the Pro uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery allowing for up to 8 hours mains free operation. The array part of the Pro uses 6 x 2” providing a 100 degree by 50 degree coverage and uses 2 separator bars for multiple height placements. The mixer is probably the most advanced in this comparison featuring including 4 mic/line inputs, a stereo RCA/mini jack input, a Bluetooth input for music steaming, phantom power for channels 1 and 2 and Hi z inputs for 3 and 4. In terms of portability the 2 separator bars and the speaker array all pack down into the back of the unit meaning you can carry it off in one easy package.
Key Feature – Portability. This is the not just the only stick PA that uses a rechargeable battery but pretty much the only PA system full stop that uses a battery and is capable of producing 118 dB SPL. Combine that with the fact that the whole unit can pack down into small box weighing only 17kg and you have unit that you can take and use virtually anywhere.
The Turbo Sound Inspire, or IP 2000 uses 16 x 2.75” neodymium drivers in its main array, the most of any of the stick PAs we are looking at. Coupled with a 12” sub-woofer there is a lot of speaker on offer. It can produce volume of up to 123 dB and bass response of down to 45 Hz. What the mixer section lacks in inputs, it has 2 mic/line inputs and Bluetooth streaming channel, it makes up for in processing. Using a 24 bit processor the mixer analyzes incoming signals and automatically places EQ filters on them. If you want you can manually adjust these parameters either on the unit or remotely via the dedicated app available for IOS devices. The sub also has it separate volume control meaning you can balance the bass with the top end depending on your situation. Weighing about 30kg it’s the heaviest of the units featured here but the top 2 sections break off from the main sub so should be relatively easy to transport.
Key Feature – Processing. The fact that its mixer almost does the job for you could prove of great interest to musicians who just want to get on and play rather than messing around with EQ controls