(click thumbnail)Powered speakers are not new to this industry by any means. They are an effort by the manufacturers to present the best-matched amplifier, processing, and speaker to the consumer with the marketing approach and consumer benefit of taking up less room in transit and on the floor at the gig as well as faster setup and strike times. Behringer — the well known, German-headquartered international pro audio firm — took another stab at powered speakers with the release of the B412DSP and B415DSP, both of which are manufactured in China.
The B412DSP and B415DSP are very similar in features. Both speakers’ back panels include two line/mic inputs on XLR connectors with a -40 dB to +10 dBu input sensitivity and 27k ohm impedance. The line out is a balanced 120 ohm XLR connector. After the mixing function is a simple two-band parametric EQ with +/- 15 dB at 100 Hz and 12 kHz, a sweepable high-pass filter that can be set from 40-160 Hz and a variable noise gate that can be set from off to -30 dB < -45 dBr.
Both models offer a 460-watt peak (at 8 ohm) Class B amplifier on the low-end driver. The B412DSP contains a 12-inch driver crossed over at 1.7 kHz; the B415DSP contains a 15-inch low driver crossed over at 1.5kHz. Both models contain a 1.75-inch titanium diaphragm compression driver mounted on a 90 x 45 degree horn and powered by a 140-watt peak amplifier. Behringer claims that these speakers are capable of putting out 128 dB at 1 meter and have a frequency response from 40 Hz to 20 kHz.
These B412DSP and B415DSP offer a lot of features to be packed into such small price tags ($589 and $739 list, respectively). Also, they are user-serviceable in the event an unfortunate breakdown does occur.
As I unpacked the boxes, I was immediately taken with the grille over the woofer. This grille said a lot. Its unique design was ‘un-dentable.’ By that I mean this: I put all of my weight into it, and it wouldn’t move. I took this as a challenge and then got out my trusty rubber mallet. After several hits I still couldn’t tell where I hit it. The boxes’ plastic casing also holds up well to a general use beating. Upon moving from show to show and around the shop, only a few minor scuffmarks and scratches occurred. The scratches that did occur were only noticeable upon close inspection. The advantage of plastic is it is the same color all the way through, and it doesn’t show scratches and scuff like wood and paint.
I do have one major “issue” with the speakers’ physical attributes: the handles. Good handle placement and design is important when you are moving these speakers on a daily basis from venue to venue, and I first thought the boxes were designed to carry briefcase-style. I found the handles small for my hands and awkward to use in lifting and carrying the boxes; the smaller B412DSP weighs 65 lbs, so this wasn’t treating my body, or knuckles, well. The most comfortable way to carry these was to hold the box high on your chest, a hand in each handle. It made me a little top-heavy and unbalanced, but it kept my hands from getting crushed.
Live mains, monitor, or fill speaker; solo artist/instrument PA.
2-channel mixer; gate; timed turnoff; 2-band parametric EQ; music and vocal EQ contour; balanced XLR loop through; 600 watts of power
$589 and $739 list, respectively
Behringer | 425-672-0816 | www.behringer.com
Upon turning on the speakers, I noticed that they created a lot of hiss. This is not surprising and is quite typical of similarly priced preamps. I played several CDs of many genres of music, each going directly into the speaker’s XLR input. My first impression was that they sounded good for the price range. They had good solid lows and crisp high end. They didn’t sound “honky” — a characteristic typical of plastic boxes — although they did have a low-mid muddiness that I couldn’t get rid of with the EQ knobs or contour switch on the back. The last CD played was a test tone CD I created; I played the pink noise track; it worked great for annoying the neighbors as well as a noticeable boost in the 5 kHz range and a honky/muddy sound in the 160-200 Hz range. When I played a logarithmic sweep of the spectrum I noticed the imperfections of the speakers and how much work the DSP was truly doing.
The boxes were set up as wedges, and I plugged a Shure SM58 into one of the inputs. To get an audible volume, the volume knob had to be set really high. The on-board parametric EQ offered no help in feedback rejection, yet the angle of the box did offer a perfect angle for monitors. You can get up on top of the monitor and still hear it as clear as when you step back. The design of the horn performed well in this application.
The gate feature is an interesting option in that I am not sure why they put it there. There is a delay in kicking on and turning off, but it didn’t sound bad at all. There is also a handy LED to show when the gate is open or not. Personally, I would have liked to see a compressor over a gate; I see no use for a gate in a “two-input maximum” situation.
One of the neat features of these boxes that I really warmed up to was a timed turn-off switch. After approximately three minutes of not seeing signal, the speaker would go into standby, therefore saving power. This is a great feature for an installed box that is out of reach to turn off or regularly forgotten about. Upon seeing signal, the boxes immediately turn back on.
The speakers have EQ contours for music or speech. In the music setting, the box put off a beefier bottom end and had a warmer sound; the speech setting offered a boost around 3 kHz to 5 kHz for vocal clarity. Either setting worked well for voice. The voice setting did give a bit more projection to the box, which is useful when a slightly longer throw is needed.
The boxes were field-tested on an acoustic act: a B412DSP pair and B415DSP pair as monitors and mains, respectively. Instrumentation was a single acoustic guitar and a vocal microphone. Both inputs went into the first monitor, using the loop-through feature to go to the other boxes. On setup, the handles again offered awkwardness and trouble, so I grabbed a friend. It made the burden of weight easier, but again, the awkward handle placement made matters worse trying to place them on a stand.
On-board EQ didn’t offer enough options for the vocal and acoustic. Personally, I would like to see a sweepable mid there as well; however, because of the price, I’m not complaining.
- Economically priced to not break the bank
- A lot of features for the buck
- Multi-use as monitors or mains
- Handle placement
These boxes are a great solution and very economically priced.
On the next show with this artist, a small mixer and a 31-band graphic EQ were added. These tools made the job much easier and not only by audible standards; it was physically easier to adjust as needed (instead of crawling and leaning forward a wedge to achieve perfection) and I was able to get a good sound out of these speakers. The main notch I took out of these speakers was between 160 Hz and 315 Hz; it really took away the muddiness of the box and cleaned up the vocal.
Back at the shop, I decided to test the serviceability of the boxes and learn more about them from the inside out. The first step was to take off the amplifier panel. The panel is held in with several #2 Phillips screws around the outer edge of the module. The amplifier module is in a gasket-sealed metal chamber. This may prevent water or bar sludge from getting inside. Liquid can still enter by the vent on the top of the module, but is highly unlikely because of how it is set in on the back of the box. I wouldn’t recommend putting it out in a torrential rain, but it appears like it would hold up until you got things covered.
The grille on the woofer comes off very easily with more #2 Phillips screws, and again more #2 Phillips to take out the low driver. The woofer easily comes off via two push-on terminals. Tapping the woofer while in the box determined that the 160-315 Hz muddiness is the resonating of the box itself. Upon removal of the woofer, I took note of no batting in the box.
Lastly, I attempted to pull the horn driver; on this one, I had to give up. It seems you have to unscrew the entire front plastic panel, and my longest Phillips screwdriver could not reach the screws in the deep holes of the box.
If these boxes’ pretty LEDs ever get knocked out or broken, or if you want to change colors on the front, it is glued into place from the back (accessible when the driver is taken out) and soldered in. Those who don’t like them just have to take off the back amp module and unplug the 3-pin connector.
Overall, I found that the B415DSP and B412DSP would be great solutions in an installed situation. While they don’t offer any rigging points, they are an economical solution to acoustic music or book-reading “coffee house” PA applications. Also, they would make a great fill speaker in a club or a bar.
These boxes would also be good options for the starving musician needing an economical PA that doesn’t take up a lot of room. The speakers may be awkward to carry, but in most cases a pair is used at a time. Some creative use of plywood and the addition of the caveman’s favorite invention (the wheel) would most definitely help with the handling issue. These boxes are very economically priced, so owners of these speakers can pocket a few dollars to later spend on gas to get to and from shows.