Product Reviews

My favorite small speaker

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by Dave Horn

Like any gear guy, I have my favorite products.  And like any good gear guy, those favorites change from time to time. 

Last week, our church launched its community garden space, and we needed a better sound system for the event.  Since our existing small portable system wasn't quite what we needed, we had borrowed a different system for our Easter Sonrise service (outdoors), but I'm a firm believer that churches should own or rent all of the gear that they need, and that borrowing is not a good option. 

So what constitutes a "better" sound system?  Frankly, I was tired of lugging an 80 pound amp rack, with a CD player/iPod dock, small mixer, a wireless microphone, a drawer full of cables, and a power conditioner -- along with speakers, stands, and cables.  The system had served us well for 5-6 years of our outdoor basketball league, for youth events, camps, and more, but I wanted something more portable and something easy enough for anyone to set up and use.  Even as simple as it was, it could have been better. 

The requirements for the speakers:  small, lightweight, built-in amplifier, great sounding, microphone input, line input (1/4" and XLR), pole mount socket, ideally could be used as a small monitor (with the horn in its proper rotation, of course), and they had to cost less than $500 each. 

What did I choose?  The Electro-Voice ZXA1.  For $499.95, I have a speaker that fills all of my requirements. 

One of the best features of the ZXA1 (like many powered speakers) is that it has a microphone level input so you can take a dynamic mic, the ZXA1, a speaker stand and cables and have a complete small sound system.  The line input will take the output from a music source, too - a two-channel mini mixer.  The ZXA1 weighs in at just under 20 pounds, and is about 11x18" on its face, and it sounds great. 

It's just as at home as a small monitor as it is a small main speaker.  Now, we're talking small when I say small.  You're not going to play rock and roll to 500 people outdoors and you won't rattle any windows, unless you get the ZXA1-Sub - and even then rattling windows outdoors isn't terribly likely.  The ZXA1 and ZXA1-Sub combo (a pair of each) is a fantastic small system for youth rooms and choir rooms, too. 

If you're looking for a similar speaker that doesn't need a lot of equalization and that serves a variety of smaller applications well, consider the ZXA1.  I just bought two for my own church, and I could have bought anything. 


Best New Headphones for 2013

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Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine published its picks for the best new headphones for 2013.  Not surprisingly, one of our favorites made the list.  In the category, "Best for Living Out Your Arena Rock Fantasies", the Westone 4R in-ear phones won out.  At $499, they are absolutely fantastic sounding, and will give you top-shelf performance for listening or personal monitoring applications.  If a detachable cable isn't important to you, get one of the limited-quantity Westone 4's that we have left at $399 - a relative bargain. 

If you'd like to read all of what the Forbes reviewer had to write, click here


Behringer X32 Digital Mixer - take two (literally)

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by Gary Williams

After my glowing review of the Behringer X32 out of the box, we felt it was time to share our experience with the real-world application of this mixer. After all, it may look pretty sitting on a desk but how does it really perform?

Forget all the features, bells and whistles, and the place for your iPhone, when we really get right down to it, the question we have to ask is 'how does it sound?'

My answer to that is "It sounds like a digital mixer." Shocking, I know.

What I mean by that is that there is...

Read more: Behringer X32 Digital Mixer - take two (literally)


Change pitch and tempo on songs on your iPhone and iPod Touch!

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Denon Professional | Pitch Control App
The DENON Professional Pitch Control App is a free application (available to download from the App Store) that enables independent Key and Tempo (Pitch) manipulation of your audio tracks in real time. 

Simply playback your chosen tracks using the the iPhone/iPod Touch music files via the app's intuitive layout of choice (artist, title, album and playlist filters) and use the touch screen controls to speed up or slow down the music as you would using a Professional CD player with Pitch control, but with your iTunes library. 

Master Key adjustment is included in the App, allowing the musical key to be maintained while changing the tempo of the music, making this app the perfect accompaniment for music teachers and students, gym, fitness or dance instructors, or anyone that demands additional control over their audio tracks stored on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Think about that.  With your iPhone or iPod Touch, you'll now have the ability to change pitch and tempo independently.  It used to cost $600 to buy a CD player that would allow you to rehearse songs at a different tempo and in the same key, or to change the pitch while preserving the tempo for an accompaniment track.  And it's free.  Download it here

As far as a review, the app just works, and it's free.  I downloaded it today and had it working in about 10 seconds.  It preserved the key while changing tempo and vice-versa.  Use it as a rehearsal tool, an exercise aid, or for live performance. 


5 Reasons to Choose a Countryman DI

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Okay: we're a little obsessed with direct boxes. We enjoy inspecting aluminum extrusions for nicks, browsing switch datasheets during lunch, and devising new ruggedness tests for the legendary Type 85, and new Type 10, Type 10S Stereo, and Type 85S Stereo boxes. In our defense, the DI is one of the first elements in your system, and the way it performs can make or break your sound. A lot goes in to a great DI. Find out why Countryman DIs are an essential part of road kits worldwide:
1. Tough
Every Countryman Direct Box is built unreasonably tough, because we know life on the road and in the studio is rarely reasonable. When it comes to outrageous ruggedness, Countryman DIs crush the competition:

Read more: 5 Reasons to Choose a Countryman DI


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What others say

By the way, the M-400 is stinkin' awesome!  I always knew it could do this stuff, but I've never seen it in action.  I set the loaner board up, stuck in my thumb drive, loaded my settings, and bam, there they were!

Every tweak, every name, every setting, all right there!

Just thought I'd share that with you!