(click thumbnail)Ever since JBL introduced the EON powered speaker over 10 years ago, many companies have tried to emulate the concept and success that they have had. I reviewed the original EON system many moons ago in this same magazine, and I knew they had a winning approach on their hands. The PA-on-a-stick with preamp, active crossover and power amp all wrapped up in one convenient package made for an attractive, modular, portable alternative to component separates. The powered speaker has been firmly embraced in all sectors of sound reinforcement, so it's no surprise that MI equipment manufacturers have followed suit; thus, the introduction of the Crate PSM15P powered full range enclosure ($629).
Fast FactsApplications: Live sound, sound reinforcement
Key Features: Powered Two-way; 300W amp; biamplified; plastic cabinet, integral preamp
Contact: Crate Pro Audio at 314-727-4512, www.crateproaudio.com.
+ High power
+ Quiet operation
+ Very durable
- Incomplete manual
A durable and powerful full-range biamplified speaker at a reasonable price point
The PSM15P has a 15-inch cast frame low-frequency driver and 1.5-inch titanium high-frequency driver mated with a 60 x 90 degree horn in an impact resistant polymer enclosure. It is driven by a 300 watt RMS dual-channel amplifier in a biamplified configuration electronically crossed over at 2.5 kHz with a 12 dB per octave slope. Frequency response is claimed by the manufacturer to be 60 Hz to 18 kHz with a rated maximum SPL of 124 dB. External dimensions come in at 28.5 inches high, 19.5 inches wide, 14.5 inches deep. Weight is 65 pounds.
The preamp is side-mounted into the handle cavity. It contains, from top to bottom, low and high-frequency peak LED indicators, power LED indicator, output level control, separate low, mid, and high EQ controls, input gain control, mic/line sensitivity switch, balanced XLR output and combo XLR/TRS 1/4-inch input jacks, and signal ground lift switch. The rear panel amplifier chassis provides the AC Power switch, IEC AC power cord receptacle/fuse housing, and voltage selector switch.
Since frequency response graphs were not included in the manual, I decided to test it with my NFE DSP2010EX audio analyzer. Driving the PSM15P with pink noise and capturing the averaged response with a calibrated Josephson measurement microphone, I found the unit to be fairly linear, with 5 dB peaks centered at 90 Hz, 300 Hz, 2 kHz, 4 kHz, and 10 kHz, and a 5 dB dip at 6.4 kHz, while rolling off sharply at 50 Hz and 16 kHz. Dialing in the EQ section of the preamp revealed the controls centered at 80 Hz for the low, 2 kHz for the mid, and 10 kHz for the high frequency sections. Boost and cut capabilities for the EQ are ±15 dB for the low, ±12 dB for the mid and ±15 dB for the high sections.
In use at a small 80-seat club, with the band Guitardogs, the PSM15P performed well. Using a Mackie 1604VLZ mixer, dbx 231 dual 1/3 octave EQ, Shure Beta 58s for vocals and SM57s for drums (the exception being an AKG D-12 mic for kick), the system was easy to tune and able to handle pounding kick drum, punchy mid vocals, and synthesizer high frequencies effortlessly. There was plenty of headroom, with vocals prominently featured over a backline that included the typical Fender 60 watt combo guitar amps, a 300 watt Peavey bass rig and large shell Tama drum kit. The low and high peak LED's rarely blinked. Coverage was fairly even throughout the room. And between sets, system noise was barely discernable.
The PSM15Ps would be good by themselves for say, public speaking engagements at sales meetings or corporate events, evidenced by plugging in a Shure SM58 mic straight into the preamp solo sans mixer. A single unit on a tripod (they include an integrated 1.39-inch stand mount) should be able to address a room with a couple of hundred people. It would probably be a good rental unit for these purposes, easy to set up (although at 65 pounds, tripod mounting is a bit tough for one person), and very durable.
Stacking multiple units is facilitated by Lego-like four-point standoffs fabricated into the enclosure. The XLR output jacks provide easy daisy-chaining. The cabinet is designed with one side angled at 45 degrees to enable use as a floor monitor, if desired. Carrying the unit with the single handle is not problematic; it's well balanced. And the heavy steel grille/plastic cabinet combination seem to be able to withstand considerable stress; they took a pretty good slamming around at night's end by tired roadies, yielding no significant scratches as you would normally expect in a plastic enclosure. For permanent installations, the unit has three mounting points with optional mounting brackets available. My one reservation is the manual, however. I found it to be a bit incomplete; as I mentioned earlier there were no frequency response charts and I had to use my analyzer to find the EQ section frequency centers. A phone number for customer service would be nice to include, as well.
I found the Crate PSM15P powered full-range enclosure to be a very capable unit that displays the ability to tackle a variety of applications. It is rugged, powerful enough, and sonically equal to most offerings in the MI marketplace. As a rental unit it should be able to pay for itself in a few outings. In addition, I should mention the 5-year/2-year (5 years electronics, 2 years transducers) transferable warranty that is one of the best in the business. All this for $629, I would recommend as a good deal.