JBL EVO Intelligent Sound Reinforcement System

When I was first contacted to evaluate this system, I had heard some mention at Infocomm about a concept that JBL was coming out with that was all-inclusive, with a built-in loudspeaker management system, analyzer and measurement microphone. The EVO was conceived with the premise that it should be easy to set up, operate and adapt to multiple sound reinforcement situations.
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When I was first contacted to evaluate this system, I had heard some mention at Infocomm about a concept that JBL was coming out with that was all-inclusive, with a built-in loudspeaker management system, analyzer and measurement microphone. The EVO was conceived with the premise that it should be easy to set up, operate and adapt to multiple sound reinforcement situations. When the EVO system arrived at my company warehouse neatly packed into four boxes and shrink-wrapped on a pallet , I was curious to see what was included in this package.
Product PointsApplications: Installed sound reinforcement

Key Features: EVOi.net loudspeaker analyzer/controller; powered intelligent EVOi.324 speaker with integral DSP processor, 16 x 4 mixer with built-in Lexicon effects, dual diversity UHF wireless mic receivers

Price: $11,499

Contact: JBL Professional at 800-852-5776, Web Site
Features

The system includes the EVOi.sys mixer station, two EVOi324 speakers and the accessories kit. The EVOi.sys mixer station is the "heart" of the system; it includes a 16-channel by four-output mixer with built-in Lexicon effects processing, power supply, two diversity wireless receivers and a loudspeaker management/analyzer unit, all built into a steel case, which also has a docking space for microphones. A cover is included with the unit. The case is not the over-the-road ATA type, but utilitarian and meant for containing all the apparatus in a centralized manner. I also found six dynamic microphones, a UHF handheld dynamic mic/transmitter, a UHF bodypack transmitter with a condenser lavalier mic and mic adapter clips. The EVOi324 powered speakers come individually boxed and include mounting hardware. The accessories kit contains a measurement microphone, four tripod boom stands, six 50-foot XLR cables, three 100-foot XLR cables and four two-foot XLR cables. In short, all the components necessary for a small format PA system.

Starting with the EVOi.sys mixer, each input channel includes an 18 dB high-pass filter switch, three-band EQ with high and low-shelving and sweepable midrange, internal post fader Lexicon FX control, stereo pan positioner, mute switch, sub and mix assign buttons with channel solo button lead to a peak LED and 100mm fader.

The mixer jackfield includes 1/4-inch phone insert and line in jacks for each channel, along with XLR mic inputs. Below the mixer within the steel enclosure/case are two separate diversity UHF wireless receivers side by side. The adjustable antennae are built in and fold neatly against the face of the unit. The receivers cover the 710 - 861 MHz range, and can be selected among 15 different carrier frequencies. Power button, squelch adjustment, RF, diversity and audio level LED indicators, along with channel and volume rotary controls, grace the front panel. Rear panel XLR balanced and 1/4-inch unbalanced outputs allow interconnection to the mixer.

This unit, which sits at the base of the case, is the heart of the system and is the user interface for loudspeaker control. The EVOi.net communicates with the EVOi324 speakers over standard XLR mic cables utilizing the JBL proprietary BiDAT (Bi-Directional Data-over-Audio Transceiver) protocol, which exchanges critical control information with the speaker's onboard DSP for monitoring and adjustment of crossover, EQ, limiting, delay and thermal management. At initial system setup, a calibration microphone is inserted, and a sequence can be initiated which analyzes the acoustic environment through a series of test tones. This information allows the DSP to set speaker parameters. An RS232 port can allow PC access to control the loudspeaker processing with Windows-based software.

This brings us to the speakers. The EVOi324 is what JBL describes as a Filtered Array Technology (or "FAT") design that provides a constant 80 x 80 degree horizontal and vertical coverage pattern. The three-way design includes two 14-inch carbon fiber cone woofers, one for low frequencies and one for low mids, and a neodymium compression driver with aluminum waveguide for highs, each with a dedicated high-speed-switching power supply amplifier delivering a combined total of 1,300 watts. The previously mentioned internal DSP sets crossover, EQ and limiting functions, along with monitoring voice coil temperature to make allowances for power compression when driven to excessive levels. The 65-pound. enclosure is a plastic composite material called Sheet Molding Compound, in the form of a 42-inch tall column with a half-ellipse back. A handle is integrated into the rear cavity, where the XLR signal input, power LED indicator and AC power connector are found. A perforated steel grille protects the fascia. And sockets for eyebolts are located at key points to facilitate mounting.

In Use

My first experience operating the EVO system came at the Tinicum Guitar Barn, a vintage instrument retail outlet that has an integral performance (jam room) facility frequented by all the hot local players. With manuals in hand, the speakers and live mics were arranged to handle four vocals. Test mode was engaged to check operational (continuity) status, emitting pink noise. When it was determined that all components were properly connected, the calibration mic was placed in a centralized location where point-source listener capture was perceived to be, or about a third of the room away from the back wall. The main out setup button of the auto EQ setting section was pressed, and the test signal commenced. A couple of minutes later, the setup was complete and the results were impressive. The EVOi324 speakers put forth clear, concise reproductions of varied source signal from voice to close miked acoustic guitar. The included microphones had a nice hi-mid bump with close facsimile to an SM58, and the system had a very good signal-to-noise ratio (dead quiet during times of no activity).

The next opportunity was for a live performance of the John Thomas Project, an up-and-coming indie band at a local club. This is where I tried the Live Anti Feedback control. The added headroom among many instrument and personnel changes throughout the night was a huge plus - and gee, I did not miss ringing out the mains one bit. The band liked the Lexicon stereo effects, and the board was easy to navigate (great graphics, glassy long-throw faders, no tiny EQ knobs). The system put the band across the way they were meant to be heard.

Summary

For a club, auditorium or church, this is the ultimate plug-and-play system. And while all the speaker mounting hardware is for fixed installation, there are handles on the back of the EVOi324's for portability. Tripod standmount cups would be a nice addition for added mobility. With its all-in-one design this system could be successfully enhanced with some sturdy roadcases and other appointments. As it is, it is a landmark package where concept, design and performance bring the intelligent audio system closer to the end user.