It’s amazing to take a look at the latest generation of portable loudspeaker systems in terms of how far they’ve progressed.
When I was with Electro-Voice as product manager for music systems in the mid-1980s, the concentration was on the design and porting of the cabinets, tweaking the components and passive crossovers for efficiency and uniform frequency response, and protecting high-frequency drivers. A big innovation was using a polyswitch in parallel with a resistor for the latter purpose, nicknamed “the PRO circuit.”
Even mounting sockets and poles in the top panels of subwoofer cabinets were a new innovation. The first power amplifier that EV put into a cabinet was a modestly powered unit in the 12-inch Sb200 sub.
Now a walk through the Winter NAMM show or an online search will yield a variety of portable loudspeakers melded with sophisticated multichannel amplifiers, DSP control, and even display screens – typically priced at less than the equivalent package of loudspeakers, amplifiers, and processors would have cost then, factoring in inflation.
In addition to delivering very good sound and providing integral protection for the drivers, these new systems require fewer cable runs and dramatically speed up the setup process.
Most of the systems in this genre have active subwoofers available to add an extra low-end dynamic while tightly integrating with their full-range companions, usually outfitted with a pole-mount for convenient mounting. Another facet of these designs is that many are well-suited for stage monitoring, with a cabinet angle optimized for this application.
Earning The Name
For years, we’ve been calling them loudspeaker “systems,” and while that’s technically true, many of today’s portable models truly earn that moniker.
For example, the QSC K Series, available with 12-, 10- and 8-inch woofers, are driven by an onboard 1,000-watt class D power module combined with extensive DSP such as DMT (Directivity Matched Transition) that provides for matched LF and HF across the coverage area to help eliminate “dead” or “hot” frequency zones.
And Intrinsic Correction, borrowed from the company’s line arrays products, maps 65 to 75 spatially-averaged measurements to IIR and FIR filters that actively adjust time, frequency and amplitude response to a maximally flat band pass target.
Also onboard K Series models is a mixer with two combo XLR and 1/4-inch inputs, and stereo RCA inputs, (three audio input sources), two direct channel outputs and a single summed balanced output.
It’s all housed in a rugged ABS enclosure with handles that weighs just 32 pounds for the 10-inch model. The cabinet also has 35 mm pole sockets with Tilt-Direct for aiming/adjustment, and for install applications, there are M10 rigging points as well as eyebolt and yoke mount accessories.
Other examples abound. The Mackie DLM Series, available with 12- or 8-inch woofers, is very compact – particularly for a system with up to 2,000 watts of class D power onboard.
This is primarily due to the proprietary TruSource driver, which combines the HF and LF drivers into a vertically-aligned, common-magnet design, and contributes to a footprint for the 12-inch model of just 15.9 x 15.3 x 14.3 inches (h x w x d) and weight just a touch over 30 pounds in part due to a durable but light PC-ABS cabinet that has a pole mount as well as M10 rigging points and other install options.
DLM Series boxes also incorporate a digital mixer with an OLED screen offering versatile input channels with FX, independent channel level, 3-band EQ and effects control, and 16 channel effects that include reverb, chorus and delay. There’s a multi-band feedback “destroyer,” six modes to tailor voicing, alignment delay up to 300 ms, and three memory locations for instant venue setting recall. It handles mic, line, stereo and instrument signals with XLR/TRS combo and dual RCA connectors.