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Real World Gear: The Latest Large-Format Line Arrays

Bigger can be better

It seemed just a short time ago that the line array market was headed in one direction: down. As in, virtually every new line array was smaller and lighter that its respective predecessor.

Yet recent events have shown that the large-format genre (which we loosely identify as models with 12-inch and larger woofers) still has plenty of life left. As a matter of fact, within just the past year or so, at least five new large-format series have hit the market, and we know of several more in the works.

There are several possible enclosure designs. Some employ dual woofers with a center high-frequency section to provide horizontal symmetry. The simplest systems may just have a single cone and high-frequency driver. Quasi 3-way solutions use dual woofers, but low-pass one woofer at a lower frequency than the other, thereby eliminating cancellations at higher frequencies where their acoustic centers are farther apart than the wavelengths being reproduced.

True 3-way designs operate separate low-, mid- and high-frequency drivers, each in their own band. There are several approaches to horn-loading, which can provide higher sensitivity for additional power. And now, we’re seeing some true 4-way systems, with the mid-frequencies subdivided into two sections.

Meanwhile at the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re also seeing smaller footprint, self-powered models also sporting 12-inch woofers. While these systems are “apples and oranges” in comparison with the “big guns,” they provide viable options in certain cases in addition to fitting our woofer-size criteria.

Most line arrays also have companion subwoofers to provide improved low frequency coverage, pattern control and extension and for musical applications. Some manufacturers also have complementary array elements with larger angles of coverage that perform better as the lowest near-throw enclosure in a vertical array.

Enjoy this Photo Gallery Tour of the latest large-format line arrays.

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