I’ve relied upon an Electro-Voice portable PA (PPA) for the past few years as my “workhorse” system—two E-V ZLX-12P powered cabinets serving as main monitors, stage wedges and all purposes in between. To me, E-V has proven itself as a reliable source of sound reinforcement for a wide variety of pro-grade applications. The EKX Series—E-V’s mid-level PPA—offers powerful-yet-efficient performance, unique and valuable DSP features as well as road-worthy construction at an amazingly good value. For this review, I received a pair of EKX-15P 15-inch two-way powered loudspeakers ($799 each, street) and a pair of EXK-18SP 18-inch powered subwoofers ($899 each, street), comprising a flexible PPA rig capable of handling everything between a small club environment and many outdoors live sound and EDM events, not to mention uses within installed settings—houses-of-worship (HOWs), theaters and various municipal venue environments.
The EKX-15P features a 1,500W Class D power amp providing 134 dB maximum SPL. Like all EKX Series components, this E-V review rig features QuickSmartDSP functionality, accessed via a one-knob interface and accompanying LCD screen for simplw setup. I must stress that E-V’s range-wide PPA systems make setup incredibly easy and flexible for near-novice and needy professional users alike; the EKX Series resides comfortably price-wise where it can serve most any user or application within this range incredibly well.
The EKX-15P features a 1,500W Class D power amp providing 134 dB maximum SPL. Meanwhile, the well-matched EKX-18SP features a 1,300W Class D power amp providing 134 dB maximum SPL; the EKX sub notably provides Cardioid Control Technology, which steers its delivery to the audience with a 35 dB reduction on stage with multiple subs (as in at least a pair) deployed (see more about this E-V technology on the company website). Together, this rig creates what can best be described as a sculpted, waste-free sonic impact in use; the EKX Series is a modern tool in that it is efficient and seems to require less corrective EQ before input. The EKX-15P works incredibly well as a powerful stage monitor, serving its application along the lines of a world-class touring stage wedge; its dimensions are wellconceived for the perfect coverage angle when positioned on its side, which (surprisingly) isn’t always the case with competing @1,000W powered two-way competitors. For installed applications, this EKX rig will shine; the full-range cabinet is easily outfitted with eyebolts for flying—simply replace its M10 screws from its suspension points and fly.
EKX provides comprehensive I/O: 2 Mic/Line XLR/TRS combo inputs each with input level control and an XLR output plus stereo unbalanced RCA inputs, summed mono. For those that have used previous E-V powered PPA products, the EKX’s DSP features are largely the same in application, thus easy to use; as well, EV newbies should be able to intuitively—and easily—dial in the best settings for most applications. Input-wise, the EKX is rather comprehensive, providing two Mic/Line XLR/TRS combo inputs each with input level control and an XLR output with a mix of both input signals. Channel 1 also features stereo unbalanced RCA inputs, summed mono, which can be used simultaneously with Channel 1’s XLR/TRS input. I must note I really appreciate the ZLX Series’ eighth-inch TRS aux input, but the EKX’s RCA inputs largely serve the same needs, just in a more “pro” form factor, as coffee-shop or DIY bands needing to, for example, play prerecorded music in breaks or play along with MI-based prerecorded audio would lean toward the lighter, easier-to-transport ZLX Series anyway.
DSP features abound in the EKX-15P, especially useful in four crossover presets for use with subwoofers, with even custom settings for use specifically with both EKX subwoofers and the E-V ELX118P subwoofer, too. Music, Live, Speech and Club Modes plus Tripod, Monitor, Wall and Suspend settings under the Location menu create distinct frequency response curves that truly serve their intended applications.
If it seems I can’t say much along derogatory lines about the EKX Series, it’s because this rig is exactly the kind of PPA rig I prefer to use: built like road gear, simple to use like MI/consumer gear, and it sounds fantastic, seeming to color source material in the most flattering way possible. That said, the cabinets are relatively heavy—53.9 lbs. and 72.4 lbs. for the EKX-15P and EKX-18SP, respectively. These are generally not tools for the one-person sound reinforcement business, but pro-worthy and worth the heft if weight isn’t a consideration. Unlike the ZLX’s partially composite enclosure, the EKX’s 15mm wood enclosures simply aren’t lightweight; however I’ve found, especially in PPA, that both weight and cabinet thickness translate to power and overall more predictable frequency and overall sonic performance. In other words, the more you’re willing to schlep, the more you’ll get sonically at the gig.
I would enthusiastically recommend the EKX Series to anyone shopping for a medium-to-large club powered PA as well as to houses-of-worship, theaters, and other multiuser environments. Electro-Voice has proven itself as a top player in the portable PA marketplace, and the EKX gives a pro-grade performance that should please audiences and raise eyebrows of its users. Most importantly, I’ve found E-V to be ultimately reliable, abuse-resistant and ready for most every sound reinforcement job.
Strother Bullins is NewBay Media’s Technology Editor, AV/Pro Audio Group, active musician, recordist and club-level sound reinforcement wrangler. email@example.com