Every now and then, a new company featuring a new product comes along, that introduces a new way to do things. Really, technology of the concert sound industry has been advancing with quantum leaps in the last 20 years, at a pace that keeps it difficult to keep up with all the great inventions and pieces of equipment. One such recent invention, is a new line source speaker system that, in my opinion, has raised the ability to exact the science of sound to a new level, the A-Line Acoustics AL-10.
Product PointsApplications: Sound reinforcement, live sound, installation
Key Features: Three-way; twin 10-inch B & C woofers; 1.5-inch HF driver; Line Source Replicator; EZAL rigging system
Contact: A-Line Acoustics at 814-663-0600, Web Site.
What defines a line array, is that the speakers are actually arranged in the shape of a straight line, allowing individual components to couple, effectively creating what will function as one large speaker. When the components are arranged in a proper fashion, one can shape the array by adjusting the relative angle of speaker cabinet to speaker cabinet. For the proper coupling to happen, it is essential to the nature of the line array, that the relative angle actually remain minimal. The less the number of cabinets, the less angle, or bend, there should be in the array. Conversely, the greater number of cabinets in the array, the more tolerant the array is to being bent. The main purpose of a line array is coverage, although some would say the development of the line array was to solve the sight line issue that usually accompanies larger and more cumbersome traditional speaker cabinets.
Line source speaker systems send sound forth in an elliptical shaped cone, or lobe, that provides a venue with a very even distribution of frequencies, that ultimately provides a better listening environment throughout the venue. When flown at the proper height, and focused to the proper shaped lobe, line array speakers offer a truly exceptional sound experience. Okay, enough Line Array 101, on to the review.
The A-Line Acoustics AL-10 is a three-way speaker system, offering two 10-inch woofers, and a 1.5-inch exit high-frequency driver, all are B&C drivers. It is recommended by the manufacturer that the two 10-inch woofers be separated by an active or optional passive crossover, to avoid build up of frequencies that are in the realm of a wavelength of the distance between the exact centers of the two woofers. The driver is coupled to a device that replaces the conventional compression horn, a dissipation device called the LSR, or Line Source Replicator. This LSR is essentially a lens system, that allows for more even frequency distribution by smoothing out the frequencies, and not allowing blasts of frequency groups to build up and create hot spots.
The most intriguing aspect of the AL-10, is the accompanying patented rigging hardware, which I have not seen anything similar to before. Many line array systems can only be angle adjusted by bringing the entire array back down on the floor, and going through a series of knuckle busting operations to re-align the array. The AL-10 has a unique, fulcrum assisted rigging system, called the EZAL system, or easy alignment system.
Through a series of captive, load-rated plunger pins, focus of the entire array can be done while still in the flown mode, by either lowering the array to a height just above ground level or visiting the array via a personnel lift while the array is at the actual show/working height. Similar pins allow for attachment of further AL-10 to the array, to the custom rigging bumper and to the custom dolly. The dolly has a footprint that is a little larger than that of the actual speaker boxes, thus providing good travel protection and avoiding chafing of cabinets against other cases, racks or subs.
Additionally, the dolly offers rear outriggers, to assist in providing a highly stable platform for ground stacking the array, when flying may not be possible. The manufacturer recommends traveling the arrays four speakers to a dolly, but we transported five and actually ground-stacked five high.
The actual specs, provided by A-Line Acoustics show the dimensions of the AL-10 to be 13 inches tall, 36 inches wide and 16 inches deep. The 13-layer Baltic birch cabinet weighs in at 83 pounds, including rigging hardware and speaker components. The front of the AL-10 is finished with an attractive perforated metal grille, powder-coated in black, thus matching the matte finish of the overall box.
The rear of the A-Line box contains the connector panel, which houses two parallel Neutrik NL8 connectors, as well as one Neutrik NL4 connector whose first two pins (1+ and 1-) are tied to the identical pins of the NL8s, offering a possible connection to subs flown directly with the AL-10 array.
The back of the box also offers a mid-cabinet handle, conveniently placed to assist in the EZAL rigging/alignment operation when using long arrays. The efficiency of the AL-10 is rated at 108 dB for the HF driver and 101 dB for the woofers, with program measured at one meter at one watt. Overall max SPL is rated at 129 dB at same parameters.
A-Line Acoustic provided us an entire system, of four standard AL-10 cabinets and one AL-10W (wide dispersion LSR) cabinet per side, for a total of five per side. I already had a rack of QSC PowerLight amplifiers, with a BSS Mini-Drive speaker processor, that I have used for many a speaker review. Prior to the first trial gig with the new system, I prepped the rack of power amps at our shop, and set the various crossover frequencies and slopes suggested by A-Line.
Our first gig with the AL-10 system was with Doc Severinsen and the Phoenix Symphony at a rather huge New Year’s Eve gala in an equally huge ballroom.
The AL-10s were flown from our 40-foot lighting truss with amazing ease. The provided rigging frame offered a myriad of rigging possibilities, we settled on a hang that employed four points of shackled spanset (nylon sling) on the bumper to two points of choke on the truss. After actually taking the whole truss out to working height, we attacked the EZAL angle adjustments, and actually focused the array-to-room in a span of only eight minutes. Never having used this system before, I figured that the proper place to start was with my 20-year tested settings on the console, in conjunction with the usual ring-out process to the actual room. When it came to be show time, I was amazed at the clarity of sound and evenness of frequency dispersal throughout the room. In fact, I had not heard the Phoenix Symphony sound so clear and succinct in my 20 years of providing production for the orchestra. We did several other jobs with the Symphony, employing the AL-10 speaker system, and each time the results were better than the previous. In fact, the AL-10 system became so easy to fly and angle adjust, I could not believe how much labor time we were saving, relative to employing conventional cabinets.
Okay, they sound great with a symphony, but can they rock? We took the entire AL-10 system to a gig featuring country star Collin Raye. This show was in a tent for 2,500 people. At first glance, you might think that this is not sufficient speakerage to properly handle a show of this realm, but based on the previous five shows with the Symphony, and the AL-10 displaying incredible efficiency, I decided to give it a whirl. This time, the array of AL-10 speakers was flown by use of Genie ST24 Supertowers. The forks of the Genie tower fits perfectly under the bumper and above the speaker box. After properly rigging the array to the Genies, we flew the speakers to a bottom cabinet height of about 10 feet and a top cabinet height of about 15 feet. With a few EZAL adjustments, and walking the venue to ensure the coverage, we proceeded with sound check and show.
This A-Line Acoustic system most definitely can rock with the best of them. We attained working levels of 113 dB, with console levels of -10, and power amp levels of -20, illustrating the incredible efficiency and power handling capabilities of the AL-10.
I was knocked out with the sound quality, rigging hardware, efficiency of components and the ease of transport of the AL-10 system. In particular, I was most impressed by the ability of this system to have the dexterity to handle the Symphony, yet the power to handle the loudest of rock ‘n roll shows with no sign of even coming close to bottoming out. The ease of transport, two stacks of five taking up less room in the truck than one level of four conventional speakers, was amazing. The amount of time and labor saved in assembling the system, I estimate to be about half of any other speaker system I have used.
In conclusion, I have not been this impressed by a new speaker product in some time. I give this A-Line Acoustics speaker system my highest recommendation, and urge you to go to a demo of this product if you are in the market for a line source speaker system. A-Line tells me that a powered version of the AL-10 will be available soon.