Road Test: Biamp Desono EX-S6

Evaluating a recently released compact loudspeaker in a working application.

The Jacksonville (Florida) Symphony resides in Jacoby Symphony Hall (1,800 capacity) in the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, sharing a large lobby with the proscenium Moran Theater (3,000 capacity). Patrons of both theaters share one lobby, including its 70-volt overhead loudspeakers, requiring that sound operators for both venues coordinate their announcements so they don’t step on each other.

Many Jacoby Hall productions require late-arriving patrons be seated during a break in the program, so an audio feed of the programming accompanies a large flat-screen video image of the stage near the lobby door. In the past, this was accomplished using a “hot spot” loudspeaker on a straight microphone stand, like the one regularly used for symphony pops shows by the conductor.

Besides getting knocked over by patrons and ushers, this waist-high approach was plagued by poor sound quality and minimal coverage. While there are many two-way full-range surface-mount options, the symphony wanted both high-intelligibility announcements and high-fidelity foreground music reproduction, which is where the EX-S6 compact loudspeaker from the Biamp Desono line comes into the picture. As part of the production team for the symphony, I recently implemented an EX-S6 as an upgrade to the previous loudspeaker.

The Desono business audio line includes point source, ceiling, column and pendant loudspeakers as well as a range of surface-mount units, all available in either black or white. The EX-S6 is the smallest of three EX Series premium two-way point source designs joined by the EX-S10SUB subwoofer that can extend the low-frequency response of both the EX-S6 and EX-S8.

The Biamp Desono EX Series.

Team Effort

Charlie Hughes, who joined Biamp about a year ago as principal design engineer, was responsible for the electroacoustical design of the EX Series, including driver specification, waveguide development, passive crossover design and DSP optimization presets. Hughes points out that the series is the result of a solid team working together, beginning with the feature set and performance for each model and carried through to mechanical realization, electroacoustic design, manufacturing, and regulatory compliance.

He also notes that GLL files are available for all EX models, which can be used in AFMG’s EASE, Evac and Focus. AFMG’s free GLL Viewer application allows viewing the GLL files, running calculations and extracting additional manufacturer information.

The line’s three full-range products (the aforementioned EX-S6 and EX-S8 joined by the EX-S10) all have a passive crossover around 1600 Hz for their coaxial high-frequency drivers plus dynamic driver protection circuitry. The EX-S6 sports a 1-inch diameter high-frequency voice coil soft-dome tweeter, with 1.4-inch HF voice coil compression drivers on the two larger models. Continuous power handling specifications are 200, 250 and 300 watts from smallest to largest, while nominal maximum SPL is stated as 118 dB, 121 dB and 123 dB, respectively.

The main difference between them is the size of the paper-cone low-frequency driver (and the loudspeaker enclosure) – 6.5-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch, as well as the previously mentioned soft-dome tweeter on the smallest model. At a nominal 110 degrees of conical dispersion above 1000 Hz, the EX-S6 provides the widest coverage, narrowing to 100 degrees for the EX-S8 and 90 degrees for the EX-S10.

All three models include 70/100-volt transformers in addition to 8-ohm low-impedance inputs. The EX-S6 and -S8 provide 10-, 20-, 40- and 80-watt constant voltage transformer taps while the -S10 offers 15-, 30-, 60- and 120-watt taps. The EX-S10SUB has no low-voltage transformer.

FIR loudspeaker optimization presets for the series in Biamp’s Community ALC (amplified loudspeaker controller) 1RU amplifiers provide improved frequency response and nearly flat phase response above 400 Hz, with the 4-channel ALC-404D’s 400 watts per channel making an ideal match with no other processing required. Otherwise, the use of a second-order high-pass filter at 45 to 60 Hz, depending on the model, is recommended.

Installation Flexibility

Operating on one of Jacoby Hall’s legacy auxiliary amplifiers, the frequency response of the un-equalized EX-S6’s somewhat bright response worked well with the carpeted floor of the two-story atrium lobby. The EX Series is designed for quick, easy installation using either of Biamp’s innovative, patented ClickMount options.

The ClickMount Pan-Tilt bracket attached to an EX-S6.

The ClickMount Pan-Tilt bracket provides indexed aiming control and allows for mounting the loudspeakers quickly in either their vertical or horizontal orientation without moving the bracket position. The bracket provides a horizontal pivot angle of 120 degrees in precise 10-degree increments, and a vertical pivot of 56 degrees in 8-degree increments, including up to 32 degrees of down tilt. This is the option we chose to mount the EX-S6 in the lobby.

Alternatively, the ClickMount traditional U-Bracket form-factor provides slightly lower-profile mounting, with a pivot angle of 200 degrees in 10-degree increments and includes a ClickPlug with an integrated wire gland-nut for weather-resistant applications. Both ClickMount options are theft and tamper resistant.

The EX Series is ideal for distributed foreground playback and live reinforcement, and the largest EX-S10 could even be used for front of house applications in for smaller spaces (think Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge at Nashville International Airport) or in distributed applications without needing subwoofers.

All three models can provide high-quality fill or auxiliary zones for larger systems and are good candidates for seasonal and outdoor applications all the way up to multi-channel Dolby Atmos applications. Additional uses that come to mind include houses of worship, hotels, casinos, shopping malls, health and fitness clubs, presentation spaces, sports facilities, outdoor entertainment, exhibit halls and theme parks.

The EX-S6 neatly installed in the lobby of Jacoby Hall in Jacksonville.

Either ClickMount option allows installations to be wired early and later quickly attach the loudspeakers. Outdoor and patio applications can easily take down the loudspeakers and wrap their ClickMount connections in plastic for the off-season. By the way, an Environmental Rating of IP54 per IEC 60529 as well as ratings for sun exposure, salt mist, sulfur dioxide and chlorine make the loudspeakers well suited for outdoor and seasonal applications.

The Jacksonville Symphony’s new Desono EX-S6 loudspeaker provides several benefits: its elevated location provides better coverage from the direction of the hall; its high-frequency presence aids intelligibility for pre-show and intermission announcements; positioned near the lobby ceiling, its quarter-space loading increases its lows to warm its response. And the symphony sounds great through this loudspeaker.

EX-S6 U.S. MSRP: $490

Go here for more specifics about the Biamp Desono EX Series.

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