We love fellow muso's who might read this, here's the TL:DR (too long didn't read) and then a LONG POST (my longest to date?) so make tea and come back with a snack if you want the full details
TL:DR Needed to replace PA for small gigs, researched Portable array speakers, priced them, spoke to sound engineer friends who said hell no, made a call on using the JBL Eon One, used it, overall 8/10 product, 9/10 result for our needs. Context is key, read on for detail of our research and reasoning.
We are a 5 piece, 6 piece, and sometimes now even 7 piece ( Hi Mr Hawke!).
1-3 vocals, 1 Slide guitar, 1 Electric, Mandolin, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica, Bass, + guests.
We're blues/rootsy/folksy/rocky/country, tend to be more Melodic and I sing in a not-yelly kind of way.
We started as a Traditional Production Band - 2 X Front of House, maybe a bass bin if we had one, 3 monitors.
When we got to the point where we weren't managing our own sound production any more, we let our gear lapse - old school Amp/Compressor/FOH passive speakers/Mixer etc, all 'lent' to us by our beloved mate Geoff Columbus.
Some truly vintage stuff ;-) It was starting to fall apart.
New Gear Parameters
To do some rootsy market action I thought it was time to get some new gear.
These were the parameters:
1. Not too $$ - this stuff is going to be used occasionally and leaving $ on the shelf is poor business
2. Ease of logistics - If I have to do this myself, I want to be as well organised as I can
- Setup time
- Footprint - yeah space is an issue
3. Sound quality - If sound is bad, why are we doing it lol.
4. we need to replace speakers, fold back and a mixer. We have cables, mics, a too-big-to-deploy desk, speaker stands, a multicore, mics and stands.
So what's all this about portable Arrays?
Mr Wizard came in with a Magazine showing an ad for the EVO 50 portable array and suggested we have a look at it. It's new. It's shiny.
We're technology friendly for a roots act :-) I liked the idea. I googled.
It was confusing.
Many Many opinions.
Soundo Friends Says Stick To New Style Old School Speakers
All our soundo and DJ mates suggested current generation Powered speakers, like the QSC 10.1
Great rep, good sound, and the new generations of powered speakers are awesome.
The Signal processing inside them makes them pretty much Musician Proof.
Still, same old same old. Speaker stands, running cables to and from the mixer, the usual.
Enter the New Tech
So this is the BOSE L1 Compact. We'll come back to this in a bit.
But, it's a small footprint. I am intrigued.
Some claims that are made:
But the biggie, the big one, is,
If you happen to be asking 'wtf is foldback ', Foldback are the speakers that play the music back to the musicians, so we can hear what we're doing.
I sorted that for myself with In Ear Monitors some time ago, which has led to much less blowing out of harmonicas as I am no longer competing for noise level with my two guitarist bandmates.
However, Theo likes to hear what we're playing and Rosie needs to know when I have stopped singing so the Solo can start.
Setting up Monitors means a 2nd set of leads, speakers and setup.
If you can ditch the monitors that would be amazing.
Hey I just had a brilliant idea. Why don't we just put the MAIN speakers...BEHIND us! Brilliant! Then we can hear what the audience hears! (also: Deaf)
However, for technical reasons (feedback loops) it's not really possible.
If the microphone you are using is picking up the sound of the speaker you are using to transmit the sound, you get a feedback loop and its nasty nasty nasty eek no.
May go very badly.
Yet - in the reviews I read online, people are claiming to do it....
System Research commences.
With some searching and reading, it was time to go to a store that had Demonstration units.
Hey Electrovox, you know that EVO 50? A note on your advert. If you put a phone number in it, try to have the people who answer it be; A: Interested in the product. B: Be interested in helping you buy one.
As a result, instead, it was off to our local Hipster Filled DJ Supply Store to demo some OTHER brands models.
Comparing The BOSE L1 Compact, L1 series 2, JBL EON ONE and RCF ART 312
I am a fan of the RCF Art, and the QSC, yet....it's still old school deployment.
I tested the RCF 312 for sound quality so I had a good benchmark for an Old School, Proven, understandable solution, thus it had to be considered as a genuine contender.
Test sound was a copy of Rosie and Bill playing Hidden Hand as, recorded live in the open air on a stereo pair, and given very high end capture and post processing. A very clean signal indeed.
I also took in a Shure 58 and a harmonica to test some live action.
Bose L1 Compact (array)
-Sweet mids and highs
- small footprint
- the wide dispersion pattern is great for our needs
- 2 inputs? Um. Err. Ok.
- Lowest price point UNTIL you add the extra inputs via their add on Tone Mixer when all of a sudden the price goes up by 100%
BOSE L1 Series 2 (array)
- has an embedded 4 channel mixer
- Didn't sound as sweet as the L1 Compact
- Felt like it needed some tweaking
- 20% larger than the L1 Compact
-100% price increase
JBL Eon One (array)
- Bigger unit overall, bottom speaker largest
- 2 XLRs, 2 Phono jacks, then an RCA and a mini phone jack? hmm. Kind of pro-sumer level
- Sound did not thrill me, seemed entirely ok, but flat.
- Priced between the L1C and the L1v2, but cheaper than both when you add the BOSE Mixer.
RCF ART 312 (Traditional Style Powered Speaker)
- Sound was great. I like RCF so I am biased a little towards them.
- Small, 2/3 of the price of the L1 compact per speaker
- Absolutely stock standard dispersion pattern etc.
Outcomes Test 1.
I thought the RCF was the best sounding, then the cheaper L1 Compact.
I couldn't come to a conclusion on the other two.
Sound Quality parameters are now close to fulfilled.
L1 Compact in the lead.
Buy Other Sound Equipment
A soundo friend really went hard against the idea of BOSE gear. I thought it was a bit mean, however, it did give me pause.
So I went looking for alternatives, such as the RCF EVOX.
I like RCF products generally yet I ruled the EVOX out pretty much straight away as it was now at the same $$ level as buying a pair of good powered speakers and a desk.
Solve The Problem You Have
As this will only be small and pop-up show kit, why solve a problem you don't have? I'm not buying to replace Venue based sound production.
Ok, so we've now determined
- a price point that's rational for our needs
- sound quality is acceptable from all of these devices
- we're up for taking a risk.
After consideration, on inputs, power/wattage, we figured that the JBL Eon One was the leading contender.
More powerful than the L1C, a bit more robust too, cheaper than the L1 series 2.
JBL has produced other speakers I like, yet - I still preferred the L1 Compact's sound....hmmm
Ok, rational choice. Test again!
Went back to the same store, ran the tests all over again, this time focusing on Fold Back.
Using the JBL Eon One with a track from my iPhone playing at high volume, I opened up a Microphone, pointed it at the speaker and waited for DOOM!!
To my great surprise.....it.......worked.
It bloody worked.
Well colour me surprised.
Choice Made - not the perfect choice, the best Risk Choice
With so many opinions on line, and the knowledge that only in-field testing would confirm it, we opted for the middle choice.
The JBL Eon One had enough inputs to do the job, the foldback question was solved, the wattage sufficient.
I read all the reviews showing problems with the unit and made some adjustments to our process.
We bought a JBL Eon One and a Small Yamaha Mixer.
Test 3 - Home Test
Foldback/ FEEDBACK good results
I set up 3 open mics directly in front of it and started testing.
Still no problems.
Input level was low, had to crank the inputs on the device..
When I added another speaker via line out from mixer to small EON 8 inch powered speaker, I got feedback straight away.
When I pulled it out of the mix, bang, no feedback.
When I added the small mixer in to lift the input levels, I got feedback when I started to push the gain above 50% but I was very close to the speakers, 1 metre or less, so that's amazing.
Pre-Solving The Problems.
I'd read the following complaints about the EON ONE.
- Pre-amps crappy. Low level!
So we'd bought a small mixer, the Yamaha MG06X, CHEAP little thing
I added that, running into 1 Channel on the EON ONE.
It made a major difference and suddenly the sound sprang to life. . Clear as a bell.
I might need to swap it for a model with 2 more XLR's though.
Setting the inputs on the desk at 50% and the master out at 50% the sound was sweeeet.
Now, all of a sudden, what I liked about the L1 Compact and was coming out of the speakers.
- Head Gash when removing the module stick thing with the speaker on it.
I read that the plastic modules fit together so snugly it put one guy in the ER with a head gash when trying to disassemble.
When I tested Assembly/Disassembly, yeah it was tight as heck and I was very glad that I was aware of this, so that when it popped apart i didn't ding myself.
I used a little Silicon Lubricant Spray
100% sorted. I didn't use too much, it still very very snug, but now comes apart without the sudden rush that might lead to hitting yourself in the head.
Aaaand the last problem;
- Too few inputs
Yeah that's kind of fair. 4 XLR's is what we need. That's the why 8/10 for the device.
2 XLR, 2 X Phono, 1 mini phono and an rca ? hmmm
But that's why I got the Yamaha MG06X desk...also gain staging but anyway..
Of course, I kind of stuffed up and got a desk with only 2 XLR. So by fiddling, I still really had 4 XLR, but the Tone Control options on the Eon One's native inputs are pretty limited.
Test 3 = WIN
3 open mics, within 1.5 metres of the speaker, facing it, with me making the neighbours unhappy with my noise testing.
ALSO: here's my entire gig rig.
2 X Mic Stands
1 X EON ONE
My harp case
Mics and leads
the spare small Eon foldback powered speaker I use for Theo so he can have his own foldback. It went BACK into the car after testing at the live gig!
This is 1/3 of the space of a traditional system. ye gods. Less than 1/3.
Test 4 - Live Deployment
Markets gig, we love'em, sandwiched between two walls, with the potential sound level issues, rain, safety concerns. Also: Lemon cakes.
And here she is setup
Behind, to the stage left of the band, 2 metres from the mics or less, at 50% power.
We could be heard clearly and cleanly for the entire area and around the corner.
What Went Right
No more Rosie hiding behind the speakers, 'hey that pair of legs did a great solo'
Here's Carl doing a moment, and shows where I positioned it. And it's draped with drop cloth it cos : rain. The Hat was Theo's idea
Great. The Mixer/Additional Gain Staging was important (get an external mixer as all the online reviews said). Clear, crisp.
The dispersion pattern was a winner. You could hear this well at the sides, the front, ah nice.
Sound level was fine, was no need for additional powered wedge (brought it just in case) so that went back to the car.
- NO FEEDBACK!
2 Amps 1 drum kit, all going into the live mic cos yeah that happens, I could hear Theo's Drums, Mr Wizards amp all coming through the vocal mic, 2 vocal mics picking this up! PLUS 1 harp mic open.
Theo? Happy as a clam. Clear foldback.
Rosie's guitar? ran a direct line out to the mixer, then to the Eon ONE cos direct from the DI box to the Eon One was too low level.
Great. Sound was great. Rosie was happy.
OMG setup time for 2 vox, 1 harp, 1 guitar input, running power was....
Actual setup time for the device including plugging in the mixer was 5 minutes
Only two trips from the car, including my harps. WOW.
And Now A Moment Of Conjecture:
I believe this will change the way we play small gigs, by placing us inside the sound.
it also means that if Mr Wizard and Theo get too enthusiastic, they have to pull back. Can't hear the vocals? You're too loud.
We are hearing what you are hearing.
This week I'm going to test it live with our mates in FINN at their small pub gig.
Jim thinks it won't be loud enough. I think it will.
Testing is required!
The JBL Eon ONE is aimed at solo/duo's and represents a good price point for a mid range unit.
With a few tweaks, such as an eternal mixer, it's a solid performer even for a 5 piece.
The speed of setup, ease of transport and simplicity of operation makes this a winner for smaller bands who have to do their own sound.
The use of it as a Front of house/foldback device, removing the need for separate foldback is so wonderful that I still find it a little unbelievable. If I hadn't done it myself I would pretty much refuse to believe it. I am actually going to test it in a closed room and report again/ update this post. Cos I still don't believe it :-)
Sound Quality is GOOD. Yes I like RCF and QSC and JBL powered units, but I wouldn't swap back. I might consider a higher end Portable Array but this tech is going to be the future standard, it has too much going for it for DIY Musicians and Self Propelled Artists.