The rigors of the road require that the components be wrapped in a tough enclosure immune to even the most gorilla-fisted roadies. Within the bounds of these requirements, the Phonic RoadGear 260 mobile sound system goes a long way toward providing a tough, good-sounding portable sound system for smaller clubs and moderately sized speaking events.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound
Key Features: Two speakers; mixer; 130 W/channel amp; onboard digital effects; wheels; ships with microphones, cables and mic stands
Contact: Phonic Corporation, 813-890-8872, Web Site.
At a bit more than 69 pounds, the Phonic RoadGear 260 ($849) is compact and has integrated wheels that make it relatively simple to transport.
It is a true stereo system, with output power rated at 130W per channel into eight ohms. Although the amplifier will drive four-ohm loads, the manual advises that care must be taken to avoid driving the amp into overload.
The two speaker cabinets look like penguins. Each houses a compression tweeter and 8-inch woofer, as well as a standard 35mm fitting on the bottom for stand mounting.
The four mono inputs all have balanced XLR connectors and unbalanced 1/4-inch jacks, while the two stereo inputs have unbalanced RCA and 1/4-inch jacks. Phantom power can be switched to the XLRs and the 1/4-inch jacks have enough gain to directly take a mic or electric guitar.
Other inputs and outputs include two send/return paths, tape out, effects out, two speaker outputs for each channel and a footswitch connector that can switch the RoadGear 260’s effects on and off. Which brings up the subject of effects: this unit has a bunch of built-in, clean-sounding digital effects, including a variety of echoes, reverbs, delays and ambiance effects.
All variable controls are on smooth-feeling rotary pots, including a two-band EQ for each input channel and a three-band EQ for the master output. The RoadGear 260 ships with two Phonic cardioid dynamic microphones (model UM-99), complete with mic stand adapters and 20-foot XLR cables.
When the unit is packed in mobile mode, the speakers cover the main console’s control surface and are held in place by latches with combination locks. On the back of the case is a compartment that stores the microphones, mic cables, speaker cables and a standard three-pin power cord.
Underscoring the portability of the RoadGear 260 is the input power switch on the back, which lets the unit run on either 115V/60 Hz or 230V/50 Hz power. The overall measurements of the system are about 32 x 25 x 14 inches (H x W x D).
The Phonic RoadGear 260 was easily set up with nary a glance at the well-written user’s manual. Unlike some other smaller mixers I’ve seen, the input channels and other controls on this unit were all completely logical and self-explanatory.
The cabinet materials felt substantial and heavy, certainly capable of taking the sort of abuse that a club performer might give it. I doubt the unit’s ability to withstand a four-foot drop onto a concrete floor but short of that, it felt tough enough for the road.
The rotary pots had a pleasantly smooth feel and the switches all operated cleanly. The case, consisting of the main electronics console and the two speaker cabinets, was a bit fussy about being opened and closed but felt solid when clamped together for travel.
The relatively small speakers make good sound and disperse it fairly well. In particular, the speakers sound natural with acoustic guitar and vocals, with a bit of upper-bass presence on male singers. The sound was natural enough that I didn’t feel the need to tweak the EQ for the folk/pop performer with which I used the RoadGear 260.
At a volume setting that would fill a small club, the RoadGear 260 was clean and undistorted. Sibilants from the vocalist sounded normal and unclipped, and individual strings on the acoustic guitar were well defined.
After an hour’s use, the massive heat sink on the rear of the unit was just barely warm to the touch. At no time did I see the “limiter” LEDs light up, meaning the unit had some headroom before clipping was reached.
One feature I particularly enjoyed was the built-in digital effects. They sounded very good to me and getting the right effect at the right level was child’s play.
The dynamic microphones supplied with the unit are professional quality with XLR connectors. They are acceptable for speech and vocals but otherwise didn’t make an impression on me.
Packing up the RoadGear 260 is easy enough but I don’t have a lot of confidence in the latching hardware. It held up fine for my gentle use but might not pass the test of airline baggage handlers and club bouncers. If you are the unit’s owner and handle it most of the time, the hardware will probably last forever.
The Phonic RoadGear 260 mobile sound system is ideal for a soloist or small combo that performs in bars and modest venues. It would also work well for corporate, government and educational use where a small but punchy sound system is needed for cafeterias, classrooms and conference spaces.
Particularly noteworthy are the unit’s flexible inputs and outputs, digital effects and clear uncolored sound. This is a good compact product that will put the focus on the performer instead of the sound system — and that’s always a good thing.