Fast FactsApplications: Live sound, sound reinforcement, installation
Key Features: Three-way; 10-inch woofer LF driver; 10-inch woofer mid range driver; 1.4-inch exit compression HF driver; onboard amps; internal DSP; line array configuration
Contact: A-Line Acoustics at 814-663-0600, www.a-lineacoustics.com.
Soundcraft Series Five 48-channel FOH console; Klark-Teknik DN360, dbx 2231 EQs; BSS MiniDrive speaker processor ; A-Line Acoustics LS18 powered subwoofers. Not too long ago, I enjoyed telling you about a revolutionary new line array speaker system, the A-Line Acoustics AL10 system. Absolutely knocked out by their sound quality and ease of rigging, I personally purchased sixteen of these little gems for my own sound company, and have relished every moment with them. Shortly after, I began to lament about the need for power amp racks, for all speakers in general, and began to wish for powered speakers. A-Line Acoustics has answered the call for powered speakers with their new product, the AL10A.
First, a quick overview of line array. As originally conceived, line array was (arguably) created to solve the sight line issue associated with conventional/ trapezoidal speaker boxes. It was discovered by lining up like components in a straight downward line, that they would couple, and truly provide a volume and dispersion that is more than the sum of the parts, as well as fly well above the sight lines of the audience.
In conventional speakers, it is argued, that placing many cabinets next to each other, actually adds up to be less than the sum of the total, due to horn and speaker apertures creating disturbances that actually cancel out segments of the waveform. Furthermore, conventional cabinets don’t necessarily align on a similar plane and center, thus creating a frequency “hole” because of the lack of frequencies being generated at the same time in to a given space. Time differential translates directly into phase differential, or phase misalignment.
By lining up similar components (woofers, drivers) on to one plane, a “line” is created. Depending on the size of the woofers and horns/lenses and the way they see each other in the “line,” depends on how much actual pattern control can be generated out of a given length “line.” Also, smaller components allow for more even and gradual bends in the line. The shorter the line, the less tolerant the line is of curvature, and the longer the line the more tolerant the line is to slight bends. The bends are needed to facilitate the focus process of a line array, but when focusing a line, it is very important to keep the line as straight as possible, even in a long throw application, as the more you bend the line, the more you begin to uncouple the components and create misalignment of the components. Some of the line array purists (myself included) believe that a total bend of more than four or five degrees to a 12-foot array, will begin to unravel the alignment process, and have an adverse effect on the overall line. There are many theories about this process, but the more you experiment with line array and the more you indulge in critical listening, the more experience you will develop with these products.
The A-Line Acoustics AL10A (the last ‘A’ for active or powered) contains two 10-inch neodymium woofers and one 1.4-inch exit compression driver, all B & C. The first 10-inch woofer functions in a frequency range of 90 Hz – 500 Hz, the second woofer operating from 90 Hz – 800 Hz. The woofers are passively separated by an internal crossover which uses no solder to impede any of the signal distribution process. The transformer balanced XLR input and output allow for parallel connection of multiple AL10As or powered subs. XLR is the input connection of choice by all ICE modules in the A-Line Acoustics stable.
The actual separation of frequency bands from lows/mids to highs is achieved through the use of the power amp module, in which the digital signal processor (DSP) is contained. The DSP sees a composite signal of full bandwidth. It then separates the frequencies above 800 Hz, and routes them to the 1.4-inch compression driver, at a slope of 24 dB per octave on the high pass side and separates the frequencies below 800 Hz to the two woofers via the internal passive crossover, at a slope of 24 dB on the low-pass side. Additionally, the DSP allows for a virtually unlimited amount of EQ presets, precision delay for driver alignment and limiting from the factory. (ICE amplifier module comes with two customizable DSP settings to tailor the enclosure for a particular setup.)
The power amplifiers are two-channel ICE modules, which deliver amazing amounts of ultraclean audio power in a relatively small package. A-Line presets all of the DSP settings prior to leaving the factory. The ICE module amp in the AL10A delivers 1,000 watts RMS to a 4 ohm load for the lows and 250 watts RMS to an 8 ohm load for the highs, both amp channels deriving their power source from a single switching power supply. A-Line Acoustics recommends using the AL10 speaker cabinets in powered pairs, where the first cabinet houses the power amp and the second cabinet is unpowered, but slaved to the amp in the first cabinet. The result is the ideal load situation for the ICE amp, since all of the speaker devices are 16 ohms, creating a 4 ohm network in the lows and an 8 ohm network in the highs, when a second unpowered cabinet is slaved to the first.
The ICE module adds only 8 pounds to an 82-pound speaker cabinet, so the resulting weight of the AL10A is around 90 pounds, making these speakers very Genie Tower friendly when flying situations are called for, but no support structure is available. The AL10A is 36 inches wide, about a foot tall and 16 inches deep.
The accompanying steel hardware for flying and angle adjustment (EZAL™) has taken a quantum leap from an already incredible rigging system. The new cabinets now have quarter degree incremental adjustments as well as all new silk-screened angle markings. The angle adjustment hardware is an ingenious arrangement of plunger pins coupled to a fulcrum operated pitch control handle, allowing for focus of the entire speaker line while still in the air.
My first meeting of the A-Line Acoustics powered line array speaker was at the Country Thunder music festival in Twin Lakes, Wisc. My company contracted three stages of sound and lighting production, and we employed the A-Lines on two of those stages. The stage that I personally mixed, had six per side, or three powered pairs per side, and four A-Line powered LS218 powered subs per side. We flew the line array speakers from two Genie ST24 towers, via the smaller fly frame, which comfortably holds up to eight per side. Installation on the Genie Towers was incredibly fast and painless. We tilted the array back on two wheels of the accompanying wheel board, took the forks up about 2 feet, enough to clear the Genie outriggers, and tilted the whole line in to place with the fly frame firmly resting on the Genie forks. Final anchoring of the line was done by choking spansets around the fly frame and forks and tightening with shackles. I have suggested a possible attachment to A-Line, and they have agreed that a hitch pin slot on the fly frame will be a welcomed lockdown attachment, eliminating the need for spansets.
Angle adjustment of the AL10A system was achieved by having an assistant adjust the pin-based levers on the appropriate cabinets while I called the pitch to him by radio. The perfect focus was achieved in about three minutes total for both sides. The line is transported in four speaker increments, on A-Line’s proprietary wheel board, and the time it took to move the AL10As from the truck, until they were focused, on the Genies, was about 10 minutes total. You can transport these speakers six units tall, but I recommend some good shock absorber material between the stacks to impede possible trucking damage. A-Line recommends four units to a wheel board, but when truck space is essential, they ship quite nicely in stacks of six, and are not terribly top heavy for two people to handle.
I found the sound quality of the AL10A powered speakers to be superb. The representation of the audible frequency range was clear and full. The B & C components were arranged perfectly within the cabinet, such that time alignment was perfect and I detected no audible phase/time issues. I used an analyzer several times on the system when set up for ball park-type shows and was able to walk the entire overage area. What I found was an extremely even coverage of frequency, with no hot spots and no dip zones. The frequency coverage was unbelievably smooth while moving parallel to the speakers at a distance of 200 feet and the mids and highs were very clear and succinct throughout the throw zone of the system. I was most impressed with the attack capability of the A-Line speakers on transient sounds like drums/percussion. The vocal presence was unmatched, as were guitars, keys and strings.
At each day of use with the powered system, we received numerous positive comments, comparing the A-Lines to many of the very well known high-end line speaker systems. Rightfully so, as the EQ required to make these speakers sound like studio speakers, was minimal. There were six to eight points on the third octave EQs, with no more than 5 dB of cut at any one frequency.
As I indicated with the original A-Line system that I reviewed, I was absolutely knocked out with the sound quality of these speakers. The addition of internal ICE module power amps added no noticeable weight, but added a nice dimension of sound quality to an already incredible sounding speaker system.
A-Line Acoustics has definitely done their homework with this product, and I am told that there are several more powered products on the way… more on that in another review. The sound quality of this system, coupled with the ease of rigging and system focus, makes this the finest line array system I have ever used. If you are in the market for a line array system that is modestly priced and has these kind of characteristics, I give my highest recommendation for the A-Line Acoustics AL10A powered line array.