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. 


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)


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


Mixed Live and Multitracked on a Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 w/ iPad

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We can use words to let you know about how a product works.  Today, we have the benefit of video with audio, so that you can experience it. 

I'd like to introduce you to a friend and client Jared Mahone.  We mixed his CD Release Party just a few weeks ago.  What you'll hear is 16 tracks of audio recorded to a stock Macbook Pro.  Mixed live on the Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 via iPad.  Look for the bald guy at front-of-house.  I think that you might recognize him.  (The other console was used only by the opening band.)

Presonus StudioLive is a complete recording and mixing (and ear monitoring and music publishing and personal mixing and room tuning) solution.  Priced from $1299. 


Line 6 M20D - Intuitive enough for virtually every user.

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Review: Line 6 StageScape M20d Digital Mixer

by Strother Bullins

Intelligent and intuitive, this unique digital mixer is the heart of Line 6's ambitious rewrite of what users know about portable PA.

I've come to expect the unexpected from Line 6, a pro audio company with an overall design philosophy that, first and foremost, serves musician end-users. From their first incarnation of the POD digital guitar amp modeler in the late '90s to their 2010 entree to live sound, their XD Digital Wireless line, Line 6 has well served those not tied to the traditional standards of legacy pro audio equipment.

The StageScape M20d live sound mixer is another Line 6 innovation of that kind; at first glance, it's nothing like the channel-stripped mixers of old. Unique and high-tech sexy, it is streamlined, largely naked of knobs and buttons and provides no vertical faders. Paired with complimentary Line 6 StageSource loudspeakers, is built to do things that traditional portable PA rigs do not, such as provide touchscreen visual-based mixing; multichannel recording with soundcheck loop capabilities; comprehensive iPad remote control; auto-sensing I/O; loads of DSP power; and much more, all in an intelligent, digitally-networked rig.

Key Features

Out of the box, the M20d feels rock solid, like a tightly-built MacBook Pro (and it even looks similar, though no relation). In typical Line 6 fashion, this forward-thinking product is built for the expected rigors of a modern gigging musician's life, and its seven-inch, full color touch screen and 20 buttons/knobs brings all the capabilities of the M20d to my fingertips. Its footprint is approximately 16 inches wide by 14 inches deep - compact but large enough for any user, thanks to its uncluttered design and layout.

I/O is comprehensive - a dozen auto-sensing mic/line (XLR or quarter-inch) combination inputs; four quarter-inch auto-sensing line inputs; four auto-sensing monitor outputs (balanced XLR); and two audio-sensing main outputs (balanced XLR). Also included - quarter-inch headphone output with adjacent volume knob; eighth-inch "aux in" for mobile device audio input; dual quarter-inch foot switch inputs; USB PC jack (for recording/playback via standalone DAW); as well as a USB 2.0 dock and a SD card slot (either is recording/playback-ready via the mixer's internal recording software as well as preset and MP3/WAV file storage).

Most interesting within the M20d's I/O category is Line 6's proprietary L6 LINK connection. (click the Read More link below to read the rest of the article)

Read more: Line 6 M20D - Intuitive enough for virtually every user.


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