Column loudspeakers is a pro audio product genre that continues to grow, with several new models from noted manufacturers introduced over just the past few months. They deliver efficiency in the vocal range combined with even coverage and a very slim, unobtrusive profile.
The characteristics of line source columns – wide horizontal coverage, minimal vertical coverage above and below the enclosure, and coherent sound in the vocal range – are all attractive for reverberant spaces. These characteristics have made them a popular choice for installations, but performance improvements combined with convenient mobility have also make them an increasingly prevalent in portable applications.
Driver spacing determines the highest frequency at which a column of identical drivers acts as a line source, while the height of the column determines the lowest frequency with directivity. Column loudspeakers with 6.5-inch diameter cones, when tightly-spaced, will couple up to about 1,000 Hz. Four-inch cones couple to about 1,600 Hz, and 2-inch cones to 3,300 Hz.
Above these frequencies, top and bottom lobes appear in the polar response; however, restricting the high-frequency response of some of the cones can reduce lobing. This can be achieved with passive filters in the cabinet or with active filters. It’s common for columns to be combined as multiple cabinets to achieve better performance as taller systems for bigger rooms. Longer columns provide pattern control reaching to lower frequencies.
A specialized version of the line source column is the “digitally steerable” variety, with individual amplification, delay and equalization for each driver, allowing the column’s vertical coverage to be tilted down (or up) and focused for short or long throws, though its horizontal coverage remains fixed.
Renkus-Heinz has been a leader in beam steerable loudspeakers for well over a decade since the introduction of the Iconyx Series in 2004. The company was early to capitalize on advancements in DSP and amplifier technology to further desirable attributes of line source loudspeaker design principles.
Both the Iconyx and IC Live Series systems now utilize the Gen5 update that includes proprietary UniBeam Technology that further enhances the ability to utilize digital beam steering to shape the coverage pattern. Further, Iconyx IC Series and IC Live ICL-F Series models are available in “RD” versions, offering dual-redundant Dante network connectivity with audio transport and configurable sample rates up to 96 kHz.
In addition, applications requiring additional bandwidth and dynamic range have lead to 2-way designs that incorporate separate high-frequency transducers in addition to the column of tightly spaced loudspeaker cones. Some systems have companion LF columns that employ long-excursion/small-format woofers to extend pattern control to lower frequencies.
Alternately, traditional subwoofers can supplement a column’s LF response, and lately, we’ve seen more columns packaged with dedicated subs that house amplification and DSP as well as providing a base for mounting into one cohesive unit.
Enjoy this Real World Gear look at the latest column loudspeaker models.
Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC Live ICL-R
Type: Digitally steerable
Drivers, LF: 5 x 6.5-in cone drivers
Drivers, HF: 3 x 1-in titanium domes
Frequency Range: 80 Hz – 20 kHz
Dispersion: 150 x 20-30 degrees horizontal, +/-30 degrees vertical
Power: Self-powered (RHAON II) w/10 presets
Weight: 20 pounds
Size (h x w x d): 48 x 8 x 11.3 in
Mounting: Mounts on IC2 15S-R sub, AeroQuip flytrack
Companion: IC215S-R subwoofer (dual 15-in)
d&b audiotechnik 24C
Type: Column (2-way)
Drivers, LF: 6 x 4-in cone drivers
Drivers, HF: 6 x 1.1-in dome tweeters mounted in vertical horn array
Frequency Range: 110 Hz – 17 kHz
Dispersion: 90 x 20 degrees; vertical aiming of LF/MF beam: -5 degrees; vertical adjustment of HF section: 0 to -14 degrees
Power: d&b D Series amplification
Weight: 19.8 pounds
Size (h x w x d): 39.4 x 4.9 x 4.9 in
Mounting: Adjustable wall-mount brackets
Also: 16C and 24C-E
Yamaha Commercial Audio VXL1-16
Type: Column array
Components, Full-Range: 16 x 1.5-inch drivers
Frequency Range: 73 Hz – 20 kHz
Dispersion: 170 degrees horizontal, 30/20 degrees vertical (adjustable)
Power: 80 watts at 12 ohms
Weight: 8.8 pounds
Size (h x w x d): 33.3 x 2.1 x 4.1 inches
Mounting: Several brackets available, including 2-axis adjustment
Also: VXL1-8, VXL1-24, VXS1ML, VXS3S
Type: 3-way active line source
Components, LF: 2 x 12-inch woofers
Components, MF: 4 x 6.5-inch cone drivers
Components, HF: 1 x 2-inch compression driver on a waveguide
Frequency Range: 45 Hz – 20 Hz
Dispersion: 90 degrees horizontal, 30 degrees vertical (asymmetrical: +5 degrees/-25 degrees)
Power: Self-powered (dual class D amplifiers), DSP, current monitoring
Weight: 116.8 pounds
Size (h x w x d): 43.3 x 14.9 x 18.4
Mounting: Pole-mount, flypoints