PreSonus has been rather busy the past few years in introducing a number of live sound products, including StudioLive Active Integration (AI-series) loudspeakers. The range consists of three full-range models and a companion subwoofer.
Partnering with noted loudspeaker designer Dave Gunness and Fulcrum Acoustic, the AI-series makes use of Fulcrum’s Temporal EQ (TQ) DSP algorithms to incorporate processing that includes high-pass and low-pass filters, parametric EQ, delay, finite impulse filters, and temporal (time domain) filters.
In addition to the processing, the AI-series offers wired or wireless control for configuring, tuning and monitoring networked loudspeakers. Users can control DSP input, a high-pass filter, a group 31-band graphic EQ, 8-band parametric EQ (total of 10 bands), mute, delay, and signal polarity.
Custom settings can be stored onboard the loudspeakers for recall later from the back panel without a computer or tablet. An included USB Wi-Fi LAN adapter enables wireless networking, and wired communications are provided via a card with an etherCON port. Dante networking is also provided via an optional card.
In The Boxes
Full-range models are all 3-way designs, with an 8-inch midrange driver and 1.75-inch titanium compression driver in a coaxial configuration, joined by a single 12-inch (model 312AI) woofer, a single 15-inch (315AI) woofer, or dual 8-inch woofers (328AI). Transducers are driven by 2,000 watts of Class D amplification (1,000 watts LF -- 500 watts per 8-inch woofer in the 328AI) and 500 watts each for MF and HF.
On the back, there's an IEC power cord socket and power switch, combo XLR/TRS line input with volume control, XLR microphone input offering 12-volt phantom power with volume control, master level control, XLR mix output, USB port, DSP preset and network control and monitoring areas, and the etherCON control card. Selectable DSP contours include "normal" for main system duties, "LBR source" for low bit-rate source audio, and "floor monitor," with a user setting layer on top of the selected contour. A 100 Hz roll-off switch is provided, as are signal, limit, clip and thermal indicator lights. A network area allows the user to configure and monitor WiFi connectivity.
18sAI companion subwoofers have an 18-inch cone driver driven by a 1,000-watt Class D amplifier. Processing includes dynamic limiting and excursion limiting. There's also a pair of TRS XLR combo jacks for inputs, a pair of XLR outputs for jumping to the full-range boxes, and a single subwoofer volume knob. DSP settings include “normal," "extended LF” for a bigger bass sound, and a “user” customizable preset.
Both full-range and sub cabinets are constructed of plywood, have heavy-duty metal grills, and include side handles. Full-range models also have M10 flypoints and a dual-position pole mount with straight forward and 10-degree down angles, as well as a 50-degree angle on one cabinet side for monitoring applications. (Dual-position pole mount is not included on the 315AI.) The sub has a pole socket on top, and note to use a 31.5-inch PreSonus or third-party pole -- a longer pole could cause instability.
Each of the 328AI loudspeakers evaluated for this Road Test have a stated frequency response of 59 Hz – 22 kHz (-6 dB) and a maximum peak SPL of 133 dB. They measure 29.1 x 14.3 x 15.7 inches (H x W x D) and weigh 51 pounds. The stated frequency response of the 18sAI sub is 32 Hz – 110 Hz (-6 dB) and maximum peak SPL is 135 dB.
At 21.8 x 24 x 26 inches (H x W x D) and 94 pounds, the subs may be a bit bulky for a single person to pick up and move around without help. But with a handtruck I had no problems easily moving them, and PreSonus also supplied me with a platform dolly (D18s) that's finished the same as the loudspeakers and has heavy-duty locking casters.
In unpacking the two 328AIs and two 18sAIs, the first thing I noticed was the nice look and solid feel. The grilles have a built-in logo that glows blue when cabinets are powered on. The finish is really rugged, like a truck bed-liner, and looks great. The handles are comfortable and the cabinets sport nice rubber feet.
The loudspeakers ship with locking IEC cables (a great feature) as well as a USB plug-in wireless adapter for using StudioLive Room Control software. The software works with both PC and Mac, and is also available as an app for iPad. Adjusting parameters with the software is very easy, similar to using a remote with a digital console. You can even store a setting in the loudspeaker for later recall, and also monitor things like temperature and clipping.
Setup was easy. Everything is well labeled and I had a stack up and running within a couple of minutes. The 328AI was immediately impressive -- I’m a big fan of coaxial designs, and this mid-high coax is certainly among the best I've ever heard. The pair of 8-inch woofers puts out plenty of bottom end, especially considering the compact size of the box. Adding the 18sAI turns the rig into a powerful 4-way system that sounds fantastic.
Stacking the 328AI over the sub is easy for a single person, but for me, the pole height is a little short, with the center of the coax only about 65 inches from the floor. I prefer to get my cabinets up in the air a little higher, especially the horns.
Variety Of Uses
It was time to deploy the loudspeakers at some gigs. The first was in a small auditorium with a female singer performing with tracks. I was going to use the AI-series as the mains but had already contracted to provide a larger system (even though it was overkill), so instead used a single 328AI on stage in the side monitor position. I engaged the “floor” setting and set it directly in front of the singer, who had told me she didn’t really move around and didn’t need two monitors. For both voice and music, it performed quite well, and after the show, the performer said it was the first time she's ever been totally happy with her monitor sound.
Next up was a company awards luncheon in a large banquet room with curved walls of windows. The program was background music followed by a few speeches and videos, and then an awards presentation. I placed the 328AIs on a couple of my taller pipe and base stands and used the 10-degree down-angle stand socket to focus output on the audience while keeping energy off the curved wall surface. This proved really handy, not to mention effective. Even though the mains produced more than enough bass for this gig, I placed a single sub in a corner for a little extra bottom end. Sonic performance was again stellar with both music and voice.
A few weeks later, the AI-series seemed like a perfect system to serve as a DJ rig for a corporate party -- and it was. It's easy for a single person to deploy the 328AIs pole-mounted on the subs, and in this case, the height was perfect for focusing energy on the dance floor. Further, the built-in dynamic and excursion limiting, established ahead of time, came in handy when the DJ decided to put a “smiley face” on his EQ and turn everything up to 11.
Finally, I deployed the rig for a trade show party at a casino ballroom with a live band. The 328AIs were mounted on my pipe and base stands next to the subs, and it was a breeze delivering enough output to blanket the entire room with full-range music and announcements. In addition, a pair of 312AIs (single 12-inch LF) served as monitors, and were a perfect complement to the mains. Both the keyboard player and female vocalist commented how nice they sounded.
If you're seeking a portable rig that's excellent in terms of form, function, and every other phase of the game, put the PreSonus StudioLive AI-series at the top of your list.
U.S. MSRP: 328AI -- $1999.95; 312AI -- $1899.95; 315AI -- $2099.95; 18sAI -- $1899.95