Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW) of Whitinsville, Mass., has been in the speaker manufacturing game for two decades. The company’s success is predicated on the design concepts of Kenton Forsythe. While it’s hard to find a major tour that hasn’t used the KF850, on the other end of the scale, EAW’s linear activation (LA) series has been extremely popular for club sound installs and van-transported band rigs.
Product PointsApplications: Public address; fixed install
Key Features: compact unit with all-pass filtering
Price: $1,050 each
Contact: Eastern Acoustic Works at 508-234-6158
EAW offers more diverse design configurations than most companies offer, and in an attempt to address some traditional needs, the company has developed a column style or line source (LS) speaker for fixed installation.
Column speakers were very popular with installers in the 1960s. Those rectangular multiple driver boxes by University, Atlas/Soundolier and Electro-Voice grace houses of worship and school auditoriums from sea to shining sea. Whether properly used or not, column speakers filled an economical need of many venues.
Column speakers are physically easy to mount within the design constraints of many structures. While aesthetically unobtrusive, these devices are obviously not known for high Q or controlled directivity in the horizontal plane compared to a horn array.
One desirable characteristic of driver coupling in a line array is the coverage-tightening in the vertical plane, which helps minimize problems with ceiling and floor reflections. Usually because of the internal airspace limitations of small columns, these devices were limited to mid-high frequency use or voice reproduction only. Enter the LS832 ($1,050 each). This is a new breed of column speaker.
The LS832’s diminutive size should not fool you. The density of the package surprised me: 6″ x 6″ x 44″ long and a hefty 30 lb. A durable black, speckle-coat finish with perforated steel grille provides an industrial first impression. Definitely not the faux walnut finish with sparkle cloth of old. Cabinet construction is of Baltic birch plywood. Inset hexnut mounting screws are located top and bottom with a cluster of four, presumably for a large size omnimount bracket on the back. A screw terminal barrier strip input is mounted on a back panel.
Driver-wise, the unit houses a combination of eight poly-coated 4″ woofers with neoprene surrounds, and three 1″ fabric, soft dome tweeters. The woofers are configured in two groups of four with the three tweeters placed between them. The baffle surface plane slopes on an arc that angles the woofers slightly back from the tweeters that fire directly forward.
The LS832 is rated at 200 Watts power-handling capability, with a useable frequency response of 200 Hz to 20 kHz. The filter network incorporates frequency shading, a technique that helps control the radiation pattern in the vertical plane. What EAW calls “all-pass filtering” helps symmetrically couple the multiple drivers into a coherent unit.
In a simple test using a voice-only program in as boundary-free an outdoor environment as possible, I used a signal chain consisting of an EV RE-20 dynamic microphone, Mackie 1202VLZ mixer and a Hafler Pro 3000 amplifier to drive the LS832. In this environment, I found the speaker had an extremely smooth, linear response – an almost surgical clarity, graceful handling of consonant-induced plosives at the microphone and an otherworldly transparent tonal quality.
I was concerned that the speaker seemed to consume gobs of power from the amplifier before delivering the desired SPL. At the time, I attributed this to being outdoors and to the fact that the LS832 has an impedance rating of 12 ohms, preventing the Hafler from delivering to its fullest capability. Later, I commandeered an existing system in a small auditorium, disconnected the column speaker that was being used and connected the LS832 (this system was TOA mixer/amp powered) . I did notice a drastic improvement in intelligibility, and so did several onlookers.
I would definitely recommend the EAW LS832 speaker for installation where a column speaker fits design prerequisites (read: aesthetics, budget, simplicity) because this is no ordinary column speaker. The all-pass filtering works well, delivering clarity that I’ve never encountered in a column. The EAW LS832 may someday change installers’ preconceived notions concerning this type of speaker enclosure.