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Reporting For Duty: The Myriad Applications Of Point Source Loudspeakers

From a single powered box on a stick to large clusters, they are more than capable of handling most sound reinforcement situations.

By Craig Leerman March 13, 2018

Ray McLeod of Cosmo Professional Services in Toronto with just some of the company's inventory of QSC K and KW Series loudspeakers.

While line arrays get a lot of attention, the truth is that the majority of gigs are handled with point source loudspeakers. From a single powered box on a stick to clusters in myriad formations, they are more than capable of handling most applications.

In fact, about 75 percent of the events my company serves involve point source loudspeakers as both mains and delays (when needed), and it would be a good bet that this is about the average for most regional production companies. With gigs ranging from grand openings, corporate speeches and meetings, small stages at festivals and bands in smaller venues, line arrays are simply overkill.

We stock older passive loudspeakers in a few sizes, and over the past few years have been adding active (self-powered) models to the inventory. In some applications, we prefer the passive approach, locating the amp rack near the AC power source and only needing to run a single cable (for signal) to each box.

Of course, powered models eliminate the amp rack entirely, and many also now incorporate digital signal processing (DSP) that can replace some or all rack-mounted processors. As a production provider, we really like DSP limiting onboard loudspeakers because it helps lessen the chances of an employee or client blowing them up (costing us money in repairs and/or replacement.) Further, an increasing number of models include basic mixers onboard.

Serving as compact mains at a smaller concert event…

There are even models that have built-in batteries for use when AC power is not available. A few months ago, my company worked an event in a park where power was at a premium. There was a generator for the main stage, but then we deployed compact, battery-powered point source loudspeakers with built-in wireless microphone systems for a second stage area hosting contests and demonstrations.

Setting up for that stage involved simply placing the loudspeakers atop tripod stands and turning them on. An XLR cable fed the signal from one of the loudspeakers (which also included a mixer) to a second one on the other side of the stage. Really simple, really effective.

Plenty Of Variety

Point source loudspeakers come in a wide range of configurations, including two-way, three-way, coaxial, and numerous variations of these configuration. The smallest unit I’ve seen includes a single 3-inch transducer, while the largest contains dozens of drivers and weighs in at hundreds of pounds.

Straightforward two-way models are the most prevalent, usually with a 12 or 15-inch woofer paired with 1 to 2-inch-exit compression driver on a waveguide or horn. Another popular type is a taller cabinet dual LF woofers and the same HF components.

Most cabinets used to be made of wood (with Baltic birch being a popular choice), while plastic cabinets were reserved primarily for “down-market” models. That’s certainly not the case anymore, with very high-quality point source loudspeakers now housed in enclosures fabricated from different synthetic materials.

Here’s an overview of just some of the many ways that my production company deploys point source loudspeakers, usually ones of the more portable variety:

Cue wedges. While headphones are great when there’s the need to isolate a sound source and listen critically during a show, we also like having a pair of compact powered loudspeakers sitting on the console doghouse as cue wedges. Digital consoles provide the ability to delay the output of the wedges so that they’re time-aligned with the PA.

Remote mix wedges. We do a lot of shows where FOH is at the side of the stage or even backstage, and they’re both locations where we can’t hear the PA. What saves the day is having remote console access via apps and a tablet so we can walk the coverage area to hear what the audience is hearing.

However, we also post a pair of quality full-range boxes for monitoring at the console. This is especially important when FOH is positioned right behind subwoofers. Having even small point source loudspeakers providing a reference turns the “bass mush” into a full-range sound.

Backstage monitors. We work a lot of corporate shows where there are many folks backstage like the stage manager, video crew, teleprompter operator, A2, etc. who need to hear what is going on during the show, and small powered loudspeakers work great for these applications. Powered models also give backstage personnel the ability to adjust their own volume levels.

Stage monitors. Many compact point source models have an angled side (or even two) so that the cabinet can be placed on a stage pointing upward toward performers just like a wedge. Of course, if there’s not a built-in angle, the use of what I like to call “Acoustic Aiming Devices” (AADs for short, and simply, angled pieces of wood painted black) can be used to facilitate stage monitor positioning. Some active loudspeakers also have a switchable DSP setting optimized for monitor applications.

Filling the role of stage monitors…


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About Craig

Craig Leerman
Craig Leerman

Senior Contributing Editor, ProSoundWeb & Live Sound International
 
Craig has worked in a wide range of roles in professional audio for more than 30 years in a dynamic career that encompasses touring, theater, live televised broadcast events and even concerts at the White House. Currently he owns and operates Tech Works, a regional production company that focuses on corporate events based in Reno.
http://techworksreno.com/

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