Can the Bose L1 Classic Cylindrical
System replace a conventional PA?
The Bose L1 Classic
radiator system was introduced to the UK some time ago and when
Bose launched it, it took the PA industry by storm. Since then,
it has completely revolutionized the way we think about conventional
PA systems and rightly so.
This amazing speaker system
consists of 24 tiny little high quality speakers mounted on two
poles which snap together and sit on a power
stand which keeps the speaker poles stable and
provides their amplification. To the side, you have the option
to plug in up to 2 small bass sub speakers (more about them later).
All in all, the Bose L1 Classic
System is a small, portable PA system that can fit in the boot
of a small family car and the quality of sound that it produces
is nothing short of breath-taking.
Who should use it?
Bose have primarily designed this system with solo musicians/singers
in mind who will be using it in small/medium sized venues. So,
if you regularly play large venues (and by large I mean 200+ seat
venues), theres probably no point in reading much further.
However, the Bose L1 Classic system is perfect if you play in
small/medium venues and is especially ideal for singers who sing
with backing tracks or guitar vocalists etc.
Being able to turn up to a gig 5 minutes before youre due
to start, with your PA in hand, your iPod backing tracks in one
pocket, and a microphone in the other, is like a dream come true
for most singers
and the Bose system makes that dream a reality.
Plus youll get a better sound than youve
heard before in your life which will also delight your audience!
Using It Live
Ive used my Bose L1 Classic system for two years now and
have tested it in hundreds of different rooms and environments.
I can state here and now that I would NEVER go back to
using a conventional PA system EVER.
Before I bought the Bose
L1 Classic system, I had a really hefty PA system which needed
a Ford Transit van to move it around. Now I get all the musical
equipment I need for a gig in to a little Citroen Berlingo van
(with lots of room to spare). The quality of sound I now have
with the Bose L1 Classic system is like no other PA system I have
ever used before (well, except possibly for a £20,000 Nexo
system that I used a few years ago which was almost as good quality
as the Bose, but was very bulky and heavy to carry around).
Ive been using the Bose L1 Classic system mostly to provide
the PA for a duo (myself on keyboards/vocals, and a singer/compere
on vocals). The instruments that have been going through my system
at a gig have been electronic keyboard + iPod backing tracks +
2 microphones. Ive been using a separate mixing desk because
I need more inputs than the Bose L1 Classic systems power stand
has, but if youre a solo singer who only needs inputs for
say a microphone and your backing track player, youll be
able to plug straight in to the Bose without the need for a separate
I actually use TWO of these Bose L1 Classic systems,
with 2 bass subs attached to each. Why do I use TWO of the Bose
L1 Classic systems I hear you ask? Well thats the number
of Bose systems I personally need to get the equivalent volume
that I used to get from my old PA system. Its very important
if youre thinking of replacing your old conventional PA
with a new Bose system that you make sure you have the same amount
of volume coming out of your new Bose system as you are used to
hearing from your old PA system (or you wont be happy, despite
the quality of the Bose being better)!
My old PA system used a 2000w amplifier to power my conventional
speakers but a single Bose L1 Classic system only has an output
of 750w RMS to power its speakers. Right away, it was obvious
to me (and should be obvious to you) that youre NEVER
going to be able to replace a 2000w PA system with a 750w PA system
and get the same volume that the audiences (and you) are used
to hearing. By the way, that figure of 750w for the Bose system
isnt a definite figure because Bose tend to be very shy
about divulging power ratings, instead they prefer that you listen
to how loud their system is a bit of a nonsense
if you ask me!
So, the most important lesson you can learn from this article
is that if you think for one minute youll get the same volume
out of one 750w Bose L1 Classic as you got from your old 2000w
or 3000w PA system, youre living in cloud cuckoo land. Sadly,
there are many music shop assistants and salesmen who inhabit
cloud cuckoo land, and unlike us, dont actually go out there
in the evenings and perform live gigs every night, so dont
listen to them if they try to tell you that one Bose "pole"
and a bass sub is enough to take the place of your old 2k rig!
However, its not just quite as clear cut as that...
Just to throw a bit of a spanner in the works, the Bose L1 Classic
system DOES actually sound louder than the 750w its
supposedly putting out, so Bose (and the music shop assistants)
are correct to a certain extent.
Without a doubt, 750w of Bose power definitely sounds louder to
the ears than 750w of any other PA system.
And the reason the Bose sounds louder than a normal 750w
PA system is because of the way it disperses the sound. All the
little speakers in the Bose pole radiate the sound
to every nook and cranny of the room. And while a conventional
PA system pushes the sound out the front of its speakers (and
its loudness drops quite dramatically when you stand more than
10 feet away), the Bose system magically gives you
almost the same loudness from 20 feet away as it does from 40
feet away. Incredible as this may sound, I can assure you it works!
Needless to say Bose are understandably staying tight-lipped about
how they achieve this. I suppose all you need to know is that
it DOES work and this system allows you to play at lower volume
levels than normal, yet still put out enough sound to fill the
whole venue. If you have a conventional PA system youll
be familiar with the age-old problem of it being too loud for
the people sitting near the front of the stage, while the people
sitting at the back of the room can hardly hear it the
Bose L1 Classic system spreads and balances your sound out around
the room much better, so although itll still be quieter
at the back of the room than the front (thats the law of
physics and even Bose cant change that), there wont
be as big a difference in volume as there would be if you had
a conventional PA system servicing the same room.
To my ears and with my experience
of using this system at hundreds of gigs, I would say that the
volume of a single 750w Bose Classic system is the equivalent
to the volume youd get from a 1000w conventional PA system.
So, first if youre thinking of replacing your conventional
PA with a Bose L1 Classic system, look at the power rating (in
watts RMS) of your current amplifier and calculate 75% of that
figure thats how many Bose watts youll
need to get the equivalent volume. Then, secondly, bearing in
mind that each Bose system is 750w, divide your "Bose watts"
figure by 750 and thats how many Bose systems you should
buy if you want to replace your conventional PA system and get
the same volume/loudness.
There is one other very important thing you should also take in
to account before deciding how many Bose systems you'll need...and
thats bass response.
Different types of acts need
different types of bass response from their speakers. If you compare
a solo singer to a 4 piece band, the 4 piece band will need more
bass speakers attached to their Bose system than the solo singer
because their system will need to handle the drummers kick-drum
and the bass players bass guitar.
Yes, I am aware that even a backing track contains bass guitar
and kick-drum but this is not really comparable. Backing tracks
are studio recorded using a multitude of compression-type effects
which result in them producing a much more disciplined and predictable
sound (as opposed to the undisciplined and unpredictable sound
of a real live bass player or drummer - especially when he's in
the middle of an energy-charged gig, playing to screaming fans,
flashing lights in a smoke filled stage etc...you get the picture!
Fortunately, I've devised an
easy way for you to to calculate just how many Bose bass subs
you'll need to attach to your Bose L1 Classic system.
First look at your old conventional
For every one 18 speaker you have in your old PA system,
youll need two Bose subs, for every one 15 speaker
youll need one Bose sub, and for every one 12 speaker
youll need half a sub (if that makes sense)! Here are some
Old PA = 1000w PA amp with 2 x 12/horns speakers
Bose equivalent = 1 Bose L1 Classic system with 1 sub
Old PA = 2000w PA amp with 4 x 15/horns speakers
Bose equivalent = 2 Bose L1 Classic systems with 4 subs
Old PA = 3000w PA amp with 2 x 12/horns, 2 x 15, 2
x 18 speakers
Bose equivalent = 3 Bose L1 Classic systems with 7 subs
In example 3 youll notice
that to get an equivalent bass response as your old PA system,
you should really use 7 subs spread between 3 Bose L1 Classic
systems. But unfortunately each L1 can only power a maximum of
2 subs. Bose realise that in some situations some users will need
more bass subs, so they sell a separate power amp which will allow
you to add up to 2 more subs on to any one system.
In a nutshell, the Bose L1 Classic system is either going to suit
you right down to the ground, or its just not going to be
your cup of tea at all. Love it or hate it - theres usually
The artists who will HATE this system are probably
the singers/musicians/DJ's who like their music blaring. Rock
bands, musicians who play at rowdy student-type gigs, or DJs
who play at mad, crazy rave parties probably wont like this
system. In fact anyone who likes to play at excessive volume levels
with thumping bass "hitting" the audience in the chest
should forget about this system its just not your
style at all! Also, singers/musicians who intend playing larger
venues of 200 seats or more probably wont find this system
suitable - yes, arguably you could buy a dozen of these Bose systems
and situate them all over a large stage but thats hardly
practical in cases like this, you would probably benefit
more from a conventional PA system.
The singers/musicians who
WILL benefit most from this system are those who
would like to have a sound onstage equal to that pure, sizzling,
quality hi-fi sound that you get from the very best home theatre
system money can buy, but at volume levels that are loud enough
to fill a live music venue. I suppose its no surprise that
Bose have spent most of their business life cutting their teeth
producing incredible sounding home theatre systems, so their area
of expertise has always been getting clean ultra-high quality
sound from very small speakers theyve just taken
it one step further now and are giving that same high quality
sound on a much bigger scale.
Despite what I've said above, dont
think for one minute the Bose system isnt loud it
is VERY loud.
If you buy one of these systems and youre anything like
me, the first time you use it at a gig your audience will be asking
you to turn the volume down! This is because up until now, we
musicians and singers have been accustomed to having to play at
relatively high volume levels - we're especially used to having
to have the volume of our PA system up quite loud so that the
sound will reach the people at the back of the room. That's why
I personally found it very strange for the first few gigs to be
playing through a PA system that didnt sound (to my ears)
any louder than the onstage monitors I used to use and yet this
level of sound needed to fill the whole room it was quite
strange and took a bit of getting used to. But believe me when
I tell you that it DOES fill the room with plenty
of lovely loud sound - how it actually achieves it may be a bit
of a mystery...but it just does!
For me, the proof of the
pudding is in the eating. I have a better sound now than Ive
ever had in my life and my audiences just love it they
can talk to each other while Im singing without screaming
over the tables to each other and the people at the back of the
room can hear it almost as loud as people at the front of the
stage. Everyone who comes to my gigs and listens to me agree that
this system is just Quality, Quality, Quality with a capital Q...
If the Bose L1 Classic system suits
your type of act and the types of venue you play in, go buy it
Article Written by Kenny Campbell
(This article cannot be reproduced without express
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