I want to talk about what I will call the “portable stick speaker phenomenon” and their usage and sound. Most everyone in professional audio is somewhat familiar with Bose L1 (and variants), but there are others out there: K-Array, HK Audio Elements, FBT Vertus, and the LD Systems Maui series. The following information will be about the “stick” Compact Line array concept and the LD Maui systems in particular.
In my experience the main advantages of stick speakers are 1) easy transport, 2) a clean neat look, and 3) even coverage with great audio distribution. Many detractors of these systems claim a lack of low frequency coverage and little “sparkle” in the highs but acknowledge good vocal range coverage. In fact, the original intended purpose of this design was for vocal audio reinforcement. For many users, the three advantages are generally much more desired than outstanding sound quality. But I want it ALL! Don’t you?
The history of Line Arrays goes a little like this: In the late 1950s, a very clever man called Henry Olson discovered that placing several drivers one on top of the other had a remarkable effect on their combined sound. In short, arraying drivers in a column meant that sound shot in a very tight beam vertically, but a very broad beam horizontally — essentially in a cylindrical shape, rather than a sphere. In the context of most performance rooms, this means sound being spread evenly from left to right (ie. towards the audience), while avoiding the floor and ceiling and, therefore, those unwelcome reflections.
So far so good, but there was one other effect that would prove particularly useful in a concert setting: the fact that columns project in a cylindrical pattern meant that the inverse-square law no longer applied, meaning that the drop in sound level experienced when you moved away from one of these columns was greatly reduced. That is why you see concert sound systems configured as line arrays!
Sound systems for live audio and DJ usage come in all shapes and sizes and in many price ranges from the very cheap to the amazingly expensive. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. However, there are very few that require no stands, no interconnecting cables and take up less floor space than a case of your favorite canned beverage and can be setup and ready to run in under two minutes! The Maui 28 sets up by taking the three pieces out of their transport bags and connecting them together and plugging in the IEC power cable. No other cabling (except the feed audio) is required.
The Maui series is not named for an island in Hawaii but rather an acronym for “Multiple Array User Intuitive” audio system. LD Systems calls the system a compact, all in one system. It is truly all in one as no speaker stands or connecting cables are required. The system is a stack of sixteen (16) passive speakers and a tweeter that plug into the active subwoofer base that houses all the amplifiers and electronics and a pair of folded 8 inch woofers. The amplifier is a 5 way class A/B system with 400W RMS and 1600 W Peak power and dual limiters. The design provides an amazing amount of headroom and very wide audio dispersion.
The input and control panel is very simple, and everything is easy to access. There’s a pair of XLR and TRS combined inputs, and a pair of unbalanced RCA inputs, for a quick connection of an MP3 player or other audio device. The main system level and the relative subwoofer level are controlled by rotary knobs, and there are also matching outputs for passing the signal through to another system or secondary subwoofer.
From the first time I saw this system, I just knew that I would be impressed with the sound and I have not been disappointed at all. It does not have the chest pounding bass of much larger systems that you would use in a club or high school prom, but for weddings and other parties it is impressive. For larger groups I would suggest a second Maui 28 which would provide a substantial amount of additional coverage. The systems are available in Black or White and are finished in a durable textured finish. The entire system weighs about 75 lbs and the sub around 50 by itself. While not difficult to carry, it fits easily on transport carts. The MAP price of the unit as tested is $1399 as I have a white one; the black is $100 less. I also consider the carrying bags to be an essential part of the purchase.
The Maui 11, is the baby brother of the Maui 28. While the design concept is very similar, the Maui 11 has eight 3” midrange array speakers, a tweeter and two 6.5” Subwoofers. The top array is a single piece while the Maui 28 is two pieces. The class D amplifiers are rated at 300 W RMS and 1200 W Peak and the control panel has the same combo XLR/TRS stereo input with XLR stereo output and stereo RCA input as well. This makes for a great unit to use as remote sound to fill a room, or as a ceremony audio system for weddings. In my opinion, the subwoofers of the Maui 11 make it stand out far beyond the Bose Compact for audio output. The Maui 11 is also available in Black or White and is priced at $899.
After using the Maui 28 for several months and the Maui 11 for a few events, I am convinced that I will likely never go back to a conventional sound system. I look forward to being able to test the Maui 44 which has 1600 W RMS, larger array drivers and dual 12” woofers! I have discovered that with the Maui systems do I get the three advantages of all “stick” speakers, but I get amazing, full range sound with impressive levels as well. Truly the best of all worlds.
See full line specifications for LD Systems at www.LD-Systems.com distributed exclusively in North America by Musical Distributors group. For to locate a dealer, or become a dealer, contact Top Gun Systems
Until next time, Alan Dodson
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