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Author Topic: Small powered speaker shootout  (Read 23601 times)

Caleb Dick

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Small powered speaker shootout
« on: July 20, 2010, 06:51:00 pm »

A client of ours wanted to hear some powered speakers, so here's what we compared.

EV ZXA1, and ZXA5
QSC KW122, and KW153
Mackie SRM-450

Subs - Yorkville UCS1P
Danley TH-115P

Also had Sennheiser E9xx mics and an A&H iLive-T.

Results, as per a half dozen of us.  Disclaimer - I am a dealer for most of the brands, so I switched between boxes at the DSP and made sure they adjusted levels dynamically so no box would stand out due to being a dB hotter than the rest.  Opinions below are theirs more than mine.

No EQ.  Source was various tracks we all knew well, the best being GnR Sweet Child of Mine.  Crossovers were whatever was on the speaker itself for HPF.  Subs were 24 L-R at 75hz LPF and 18 Butterworth at 30hz HPF.  

ZXA1 - for the price and size, loved it.  It gets harsh when cranked; no surprise, it's not meant for high output.  

SRM-450 - Yep, as non-pleasing as everyone remembered.  Rated the worst overall.

ZXA5 - got louder than expected.  Mid range was indistinct and mushy, HF was harsh especially when cranked.  Was quite disappointing.  

KW122 - sounds a lot like K12 and HPR122, better than Mackie by a lot.  Overall, very average, didn't come back to it for additional listening.  

KW153 - at low levels, very 'flat' sounding, in a non-flattering way.  Sounded like it needed some smile EQ (don't shoot me).  Has that QSC sound that I recognize across all HPR/K/KW lines.  

At 90' back or so, we cranked up the ZXA5 and KW153 to limit.  The ZXA5 was so harsh, they asked me to kill the level quickly.  At full output, the KW153 sounded better, and I'll admit, wasn't bad at all.  The next day they had a small outdoor concert, and I went from 40' to about 300' a few times.  Even at long distance, the vocals stayed on top of the mix, and it sounded better than expected.  

Subwoofers - The Danley had the old, underpowered amp (note: new TH-115P with full power amp is available now), and was compared 1:1 with UCS1PB.  The Danley was a lot tighter and deeper, with many comments about how it sounded 'huge'.  Overall output - I thought the Danley sounded louder, they thought UCS1P but with less LF.  We didn't push to the max, as the -115 belonged to someone else and didn't have the full power amp.  

For the concert, I had the Danley and a KW153 on one side, and 2 UCS1PB's under a KW153 on the other, subs padded down 3+ dB.  Other than crossovers, the only EQ was about a 1dB cut at about 1khz on the console output.  Delay was educated guess, no Smaart, and 7ms (max available on cheap DSP) on tops and Danley, polarity reverse on Danley.  Lots of comments on how the sound was 10x better than ever.  Very little EQ on other channels (D6 kick, AE5400/E935/E945 vocals, i5 snare, SM57 guitar) other than HPF.    

iLive-T doesn't like direct sun.  Even with brightness cranked, the screens were essentially unusable.  Also, the surface of the surface expanded and bubbled by at least an inch after about 5-10 minutes, and the touch screen wasn't happy at all.  After moving to shade and waiting a few minutes, all was well.  

Caleb
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Caleb Dick
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Fernando Lopez

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2010, 10:30:31 pm »

Thanks for this review, but I am a little perplexed on the results of the ZXA5

Also in your conclusion are you rating one side better than the other? The KW over the Danley was better than the KW over the USC's?


Thanks
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Caleb Dick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2010, 01:42:46 am »

I will be re-comparing the ZXA5 and KW153 later today, different venue, different client, no subs. I'll have better idea then. When we fired up the ZXA5 alone in the shop, it was disappointing then too. EV employee set it up and was there with us, so I'm pretty sure it's not broken.

The KW's sounded the same live even though the subs weren't matched. We wanted a live comparison, and didn't have enough of either to use only one brand. Sound-wise I don't think anyone noticed a difference between the L and R stacks.

If load had not been pushed back by over an hour, I would have aligned the system.

Caleb
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Bob Kenton

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2010, 03:01:14 am »

Any chance you can try out one of Mackies new HD122's?
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Caleb Dick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2010, 07:58:13 am »

If there is someone local with the new Mackies, let me know, I don't know of any. We aren't dealers for Mackie, and I don't see that changing. The Mackie was thrown into the mix simply because it was there, they wanted to prove how bad it really was to their powers that be.

I would like to compare it to the now-discontinued Art 522, or 722, or even TT22a.

My biggest complaint about the KW line is that its primary selling point is that it's 'better than the SRM-450'. Why not aim a bit higher, at a modern standard?  I'm not anti-QSC in any way, I've seen this from multiple companies. 'Buy us, we're better than bottom-of-the-line.'

Caleb
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Adam Kane

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2010, 12:36:52 pm »

While I haven't used the powered ZX's, one of the bands I play in uses a pair of ZX5's for mains.

Based my my experiences with those, my opinion of them matches yours of the ZXa5's...especially in regards to the midrange. Our soundguy is always telling me how he can never get the vocals "on top" of the mix. While I've never had the opportunity to use Smaart with them, no amount of EQ has ever gotten them to sound dramatically better.

The last time I played with them, I took a set of Yorkville E15's from work to use for FOH. He bypassed the FOH EQ and after the first "check...one...two" from one of the vocal mics, he said he noticed an immediate improvement in midrange clarity. He said he left the EQ bypassed for the night and said it's the best we've ever sounded (we play that venue often).

Granted there was very little science involved in this a/b comparison, but I'll never go out of my way to use those particular EV's again if I don't have to.
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Caleb Dick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2010, 09:46:36 pm »

I compared the ZXA5 and KW153 again today as mentioned. The EV sounds like it has a smile EQ, while the QSC sounds like a frown EQ. Client chose QSC.

I wouldn't say the EV is bad; rather it sounds like a limitation of being a plastic 15/1 speaker.

Caleb
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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2010, 02:34:12 am »

Caleb Dick wrote on Wed, 21 July 2010 12:58

If there is someone local with the new Mackies, let me know, I don't know of any. We aren't dealers for Mackie, and I don't see that changing. The Mackie was thrown into the mix simply because it was there, they wanted to prove how bad it really was to their powers that be.

I would like to compare it to the now-discontinued Art 522, or 722, or even TT22a.

My biggest complaint about the KW line is that its primary selling point is that it's 'better than the SRM-450'. Why not aim a bit higher, at a modern standard?  I'm not anti-QSC in any way, I've seen this from multiple companies. 'Buy us, we're better than bottom-of-the-line.'

Caleb




Ok, Thanks! Any word on the KW sub yet?
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Jim King

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2010, 01:40:51 pm »

Caleb Dick wrote on Wed, 21 July 2010 04:58

My biggest complaint about the KW line is that its primary selling point is that it's 'better than the SRM-450'.


A much better comparison of all these would be the Mackie SA series or the new HD series. Those and the QSC KW are about the same target.

The Mackie SRM is about the same target as the QSC K series. So that's what I'd be comparing the SRM-450 to.

Good info here anyway... just ignore the Mackie stuff unless you're going to compare apples-to-apples.
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Reggie Kendrick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2010, 06:27:55 pm »

Caleb Dick wrote on Wed, 21 July 2010 21:46

I compared the ZXA5 and KW153 again today as mentioned. The EV sounds like it has a smile EQ, while the QSC sounds like a frown EQ. Client chose QSC.

I wouldn't say the EV is bad; rather it sounds like a limitation of being a plastic 15/1 speaker.

Caleb

Thanks for posting this review but wouldn't a more 'fair' comparison be the QSC KW152 to the EV ZXa5?

Caleb Dick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2010, 10:53:32 pm »

The point wasn't about comparing 15" 2-way speakers. It was a client who initially wanted to buy ZXA5's, then asked last minute to hear them with the KW153's. Possibly better speakers at a lower price point is appealing, no?  

The others were extras we had laying around.

A tangent- I think driver size and number of drivers is becoming last century. For example, when used with subs like all systems should be, a KW153 should smoke a Nexo PS10 r2. If you closed your eyes, could you tell?  What if both had not only subs but full processing?  Why does it matter to hear top speakers unprocessed and without subs, if that is not how they will be used in real life?  I want to remove variables like EQ, and listen for issues that can't be fixed after the fact.

I am also a fan of total system cost. An inexpensive speaker that needs special processing and multiple amps should include those in the cost. Example- SM-60F vs PS10.

/tangent

Caleb

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Caleb Dick
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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2010, 03:40:32 am »

Caleb Dick wrote on Tue, 20 July 2010 18:51




...At 90' back or so, we cranked up the ZXA5 and KW153 to limit.  The ZXA5 was so harsh, they asked me to kill the level quickly.  At full output, the KW153 sounded better, and I'll admit, wasn't bad at all.  The next day they had a small outdoor concert, and I went from 40' to about 300' a few times.  Even at long distance, the vocals stayed on top of the mix, and it sounded better than expected...

Caleb

Another question... how do you know what the limit is on the ZXa5?  They don't have limit light indicators like most other powered speakers.

I just try to play it safe and use the limiting on my processor or play it by ear.

Adam Kane

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2010, 10:32:31 am »

Caleb Dick wrote on Sat, 24 July 2010 22:53


A tangent- I think driver size and number of drivers is becoming last century. For example, when used with subs like all systems should be, a KW153 should smoke a Nexo PS10 r2. If you closed your eyes, could you tell?  What if both had not only subs but full processing?  Why does it matter to hear top speakers unprocessed and without subs, if that is not how they will be used in real life?  I want to remove variables like EQ, and listen for issues that can't be fixed after the fact.

I am also a fan of total system cost. An inexpensive speaker that needs special processing and multiple amps should include those in the cost. Example- SM-60F vs PS10.

/tangent

Caleb




+1
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Mike Pyle

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2010, 03:31:49 pm »

I would guess at limiting the ZXA5 was also a good bit louder than the KW153. I personally have compared the ZXA5 to a few other well reviewed powered cabinets in the same price range and find it to be just about as smooth sounding as any, up to the maximum levels the other cabinets would put out. Beyond that it just keep going and going and going.... and it would not surprise me at all that it might get harsh when it is hitting a few dB higher levels than any of the others are doing.

I know there is a response dip right at the crossover point that could affect clarity in the mids, but none of my customers that use them have complained of any difficulty getting vocals on top of the mix, so I seriously doubt that the problem was with the speaker unless something was broken.
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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2010, 04:38:14 pm »

Caleb Dick wrote on Tue, 20 July 2010 15:51



ZXA5 - got louder than expected.  Mid range was indistinct and mushy, HF was harsh especially when cranked.  Was quite disappointing.  


Caleb



Interesting. First really negative comment I've read regarding the ZXA5.

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Caleb Dick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2010, 07:21:59 pm »

I want to be clear - this isn't a 'bash the ZXA5' thread. Taken alone, with (I'm assuming) EQ and Smaart, the ZXA5 is a very capable speaker. Especially for a basic 15" 2-way. There are many worse out there.

All the listening/demos proved is that if ultimate output isn't needed, it's possible to drop price point into a respectable 15" 3-way wood cab.  

Another factor was all the hype around the ZXA5, which made its shortcomings even more noticable.

Caleb
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Caleb Dick
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Reggie Kendrick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2010, 10:42:51 am »

I went into a local music shop that has the new QSC KW153 along with the KW122. I decided to compare my 2-way EV ZXa5 to the 3-way KW153. Like Caleb alluded, this would be a more solution-to-solution comparison.

The sales guy had the mixer set up with my speaker on one slider and the KW153 on the other. The EQ was flat and the KW153 was set to NORM/FLAT mode. My ZXa5 was running full range mode. We played several tracks from Miles Davis to George Benson to Outkast.  The output volume difference was easily evident. As far as sound, I felt the EV had a very pronounced mid-range sound. The mids were a lot more pronounced than those of the KW153. When pushed to high volumes, the EVs seemed to break up in the highs area. With the QSCs, the sound was more even or flat and I noticed the highs did not break up on the same songs where the EV had. There was a very acoustical George Benson song off the "That's Right" album where his vocals and cymbals come in together. I could hear the distinction and clarity of the cymbals on the KW153 where the EVs sounded overly harsh on those sections. The sales guy was being a little too easy on the KW153s volume levels so I had him crank them up to levels where the limiter began to kick in. The EVs perceived output was still louder overall but the clarity and overall better sound would go the the QSC 3-way. I like the fact that the KW153s have a pole mount and are still somewhat manageable at 87 lbs.

They did not have the KW152s there. If they did, I doubt they would sound better and definitely not louder than the EVs. I did not listen to the KW153s too long in their DEEP mode.  Their bottom end was not overly impressive as a stand alone.  I would be using these tops with a pair of TH-118s anyway so that low end wouldn't be necessary.

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2010, 11:31:34 am »

Reggie Kendrick wrote on Tue, 14 September 2010 10:42

I like the fact that the KW153s have a pole mount and are still somewhat manageable at 87 lbs.




Really, wow the KW153's have a pole mount?  I would be very interested how stable they are at 43" tall and 87lbs.

My U15's are right around 80lbs but are only 34" tall.  So the 153 adds 9" more.
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Reggie Kendrick

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2010, 01:58:20 pm »

Phil Lewandowski wrote on Wed, 15 September 2010 11:31

Reggie Kendrick wrote on Tue, 14 September 2010 10:42

I like the fact that the KW153s have a pole mount and are still somewhat manageable at 87 lbs.




Really, wow the KW153's have a pole mount?  I would be very interested how stable they are at 43" tall and 87lbs.

My U15's are right around 80lbs but are only 34" tall.  So the 153 adds 9" more.

That's one thing I'll do when I go back in there, pole mount the speaker and see how stable they are on some standard $39 sticks.  

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2010, 01:59:52 pm »

Phil Lewandowski wrote on Wed, 15 September 2010 11:31

Reggie Kendrick wrote on Tue, 14 September 2010 10:42

I like the fact that the KW153s have a pole mount and are still somewhat manageable at 87 lbs.




Really, wow the KW153's have a pole mount?  I would be very interested how stable they are at 43" tall and 87lbs.

My U15's are right around 80lbs but are only 34" tall.  So the 153 adds 9" more.



I don't think the KW153 is pole mountable. I'm sure he's speaking of the KW152.

Pat


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Phil Lewandowski

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2010, 03:09:31 pm »

Pat Latimer wrote on Wed, 15 September 2010 13:59

Phil Lewandowski wrote on Wed, 15 September 2010 11:31

Reggie Kendrick wrote on Tue, 14 September 2010 10:42

I like the fact that the KW153s have a pole mount and are still somewhat manageable at 87 lbs.




Really, wow the KW153's have a pole mount?  I would be very interested how stable they are at 43" tall and 87lbs.

My U15's are right around 80lbs but are only 34" tall.  So the 153 adds 9" more.



I don't think the KW153 is pole mountable. I'm sure he's speaking of the KW152.

Pat





Hmm... Unless I am mistaken I believe Reggie mentioned that they didn't have the KW152's there?

But that is what I would honestly think is that the KW153's don't but of course the single 15" and single 12" would be pole mountable.


~Phil
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Pat Latimer

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2010, 03:49:04 pm »

After further review, the KW153 has a standard pole mount. The KW152 and the KW122 have the tilting pole mounts. I don't know that I would want a speaker that is 43" tall and weighs 87 lbs. mounted on a pole though. Shocked

Pat


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Mike Palmer

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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #22 on: October 27, 2010, 11:03:25 pm »

Caleb, have you tried the new Turbosound Milan M15?  They are quite good. Tons of output, great bottom end (down to 36HZ)

I used them on a small gig last weekend and was pretty impressed.
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Re: Small powered speaker shootout
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2010, 05:24:24 pm »

Yep the KW153's do have a pole mount, was surprised but glad to see. I'd think you'd want some heavy duty poles or large sub w/ pole to mount over. (not k-sub for example)

I'd like to hear the KW153 compared to a K10. I really like the sound of the K10, the crossover freq b/t the 10 and horn covers the vocal freq's well. My K10's just don't quite have enough get up and go to run with my LS800p's. (mostly vocal heavy music). I'd think the 153's would be a better match volume wise, sound as good b/c of the 3 way design, and look more impressive to the audience. I don't know how many times I've had bands say "dude you need to go back to the trailer and get some speakers instead of those little things" I always say, just wait until you hear it. Always get nothing but accolades after we're up and running. Cool
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