In the quest to design a compact, high-power to low-weight ratio speaker, leading-edge companies have used everything from exotic woods to fiberglass to formed plastic enclosures.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound
Key Features: Wide horizontal dispersion; unique carbon-fiber enclosure; high power in a lightweight box
Contact: Audio Composite Engineering at 760-741-3787; www.audiocomposite.com.
+ Excellent sound quality
+ Durable, lightweight, powerful
+ Configurable waveguide
The Score: High-power capability in a low weight, compact carbon-fiber enclosure, with wide dispersion and smooth response, combine to create a break-through high-performance product.
Audio Composite Engineering of Escondido, Calif. has come up with what it hopes is the solution: carbon-fiber-technology enclosures. This material is used in everything from motorcycle fenders to jet plane wings and allows superior rigidity at a low weight.
This superior rigidity excludes the need for extensive bracing, further reducing cabinet weight. If the cabinet were sawed in two, one would see the woven-fiber skin and imbedded underneath it a phenolic honeycomb structure in a wafer-like sandwich.
Owing to this material, the 1160WR ultrawide-dispersion loudspeaker has a solid, water- and scratch-resistant cabinet. Intrigued, I put the speaker enclosure, along with its sonic performance, to the test.
The Model 1160WR ($2,395) is a 300 W/8-ohm two-way speaker. It features a dual-purpose ultrawide-dispersion, high-frequency wave guide – driven by a JBL 2450 SL driver and a low-frequency 10″ JBL woofer. It has a frequency response of 100 Hz to 16 kHz and a sensitivity of 98 dB.
The waveguide is novel in that there are low-frequency exit ports integrated alongside the high-frequency lens, giving the enclosure economy of space. Furthermore, the waveguide can be realigned or reformed to switch from a wide horizontal to a wide vertical pattern by removing and resetting the waveguide 90 degrees.
The woofer is cast frame with a hefty magnet that nearly covers the inner perimeter of the frame. From casual inspection, the passive crossover contains high-quality Solen Mylar capacitors and air-core inductors. The interior is lined with a spun-polymer damping material. With these components removed, the unit is very light. Loaded, the speaker weighs more than 40 lbs.
The top recess utilizes Aeroquip flyware as a handle in a dual-purpose role. A hefty cup for tripod mounting is on the opposite side. The two input connectors are parallel Neutrik Speakon connectors. The cabinet measures only 22.75 inches high, 11.75 inches width and 9.75 inches deep, and is a six-sided affair with 45-degree angle planes along the rear to facilitate use as a stage monitor.
As the unit claims a nominal coverage of 160 degrees horizontal by 50 degrees vertical (wide dispersion), I decided to test the unit with my rotary platform, NFE DSP 2010-EX FFT analyzer and Josephson microphone. In a pink-noise test, the speaker displayed slight dips at 1 and 2 kHz but otherwise had a very linear response from 125 Hz to 16 kHz, as claimed.
Rotating the speaker on axis, I was also impressed with a sine wave in the critical 2.5-kHz region and the even horizontal dispersion beyond the outer limits of the standard small-format, two-way speaker; serious rolloff didn’t come into play until at least 60 degrees off-center. From these findings, I decided the best use for the 1160WR would be in a wide-fill situation, such as under a balcony, satellite overspill zone or outdoor coverag
A nearby small town has an annual arts festival that includes several small stages with live acts. On one stage, an acoustic band with guitars, drums, stand-up bass and vocals performs, followed by an electric blues act. As these bands were not high-powered onstage and a wide outside area had to be filled (a long street parallel to brick structures), I decided to use the 1160WRs on tripods with a pair of Gauss dual 15″ front-loaded subs (crossed over at 150 Hz). The speakers were powered with Hafler Pro P7000 Transðnova amplifiers.
Before kickoff, a few of the performers came up to me with their concerns. “Are those little boxes gonna cover this area?” they asked. “I hope you know what you are doing!”
The crowd and performers loved the smooth, unobtrusive, sweet quality of these speakers and I was pleasantly surprised by the even coverage and manageability (no intrusive EQ needed) in their intended frequency range. The SPLs attained by these small boxes were impressive. The Audio Composite 1160WRs were a hit.
These speakers were fine without covers in a light rain – Ozite-covered speakers would have been soaked and possibly ruined).
The Audio Composite Engineering speaker line is sold through a limited network of dealers throughout the U.S. You may hear them if you are fortunate to have tickets within the first several rows for a show being rendered by Sound Image, the touring company that is intertwined with development of the Audio Composite speakers (the current Jimmy Buffett tour used them, as are other Sound Image tours as front fills). Groundbreaking enclosure technology, incredible sonic quality, and that elusive high power to low weight ratio combine in an impressive package.