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JBL PRX535 Loudspeakers

Regardless of your PA configuration, it has always proven handy to have a set or two of self-powered loudspeakers available for convenience … providing they are up to the task.

Fast Facts

Applications
Live, Installation

Key Features
JBL three-way driver system with 15-inch woofer, 6.5-inch midrange, and 1.5-inch neodymium compression tweeter; Crown Class D power amps with 650 W total; internal DSP/crossover

Price
$1,799 list

Contact
JBL Professional | 818-894-8850 | www.jblpro.com

PRODUCT POINTS

Plus

  • Self-powered
  • Solid build
  • Accepts wide range of input levels

Minus

  • Unable to tighten onto stand
  • Power and level selector lights on back would be a plus

Score
BL PRX535’s is an all-purpose powered speaker offering high SPL capability, flexibility, good sound. JBL and Crown are names that have been associated with each other behind the scenes for decades. Together they have provided power as well as audio for live events of all sizes and genres.

Now those names have literally combined into one with the rollout of the new JBL PRX500 Series. The series offers solutions for all price ranges and sound reinforcement needs.

Regardless of your PA configuration, it has always proven handy to have a set or two of self-powered loudspeakers available for convenience … providing they are up to the task. On this note, I recently had the chance of running such a speaker — the large PRX535 enclosures, to be exact — through the gamut.

Features

All models in the PRX500 line share some common construction and connection characteristics. Each cabinet is built of plywood with DuraFlex coating, protected by polypropylene end-caps and is equipped with die-cast aluminum handle bars with rubber grips. The speakers are also well protected by a wrap-around 18-gauge steel grille internally lined with acoustically transparent foam.

On the rear of the speakers lives the interface for the onboard Class-D Crown digital amplifier. The amplifier’s built-in digital signal processor provides control over crossover points, dynamic limiting, component optimization and system EQ. If needed, the amp is easily removed for service by removing 10 screws and disconnecting its molex-type interface cable.

Signal connectivity is via XLR and 1/4-inch combo connector for input and an XLR loop through output. There are two LEDs: one for confirming signal is present and one when the input is overdriven.

The system can handle input ranging from -25 to 0 dBu at mic level (also adequate for consumer level input) and +10 to +28 dBu at line level. The level is selectable with the mic/line switch and controlled by a corresponding rotary knob. For a boost in the 100 Hz range, a button appropriately labeled “Boost” is available. This is a welcomed bonus when playing pre-recorded material or when the accompanying subwoofer is not available. A standard IEC power connector and fuse round out the rear of the speaker.

One change that would be helpful is some type of LED illumination in the back of the speaker for power, input selection and even gain setting. The current design has a backlit JBL/Crown logo on the front of the speaker to confirm power is on and is helpful from a FOH position.

The bottom of each speaker (on top for the subwoofer) is a standard pole-mount socket. There is no hardware supplied for rigging.

The models available include the PRX512M, which offers up to 500 W continuous power via a 12-inch Differential Drive woofer and a 1.5-inch annular polymer diaphragm, neodymium compression driver. Good for a smaller front-of-house speaker, this model would really excel as a self-powered stage monitor; the dual angle enclosure design allows for the speaker to work well laying on the side.

Moving up to a 15-inch is possible with either the PRX515 (500 W of power via one 15-inch woofer and a 1.5-inch driver) or the big brother, the 525 (housing dual 15-inch speakers and driver). The PRX525 also ups the power ante with 650 W of continuous power.

Rounding out the PRX Series, the PRS518 subwoofer provides 500 W of power for 37 – 140 Hz via an 18-inch JBL vented, gap-cooled woofer.

The model I reviewed — the PRX535 — is the largest in the PRX500 series and the only 3-way system offered. The 535 provides 650 W via three speakers consisting of a 15-inch woofer, a 6.5-inch mid range woofer and the same 1.5-inch neodymium compression driver as the other 15-inch models. The crossover points, handled by the internal DSP, are set to 430 Hz and 2.6 kHz with a 24 dB filter slope.

In Use

I used these in multiple environments. One was a live outdoor show with full band and a coverage area of about a half-acre. We have all had a similar gig at some point: live band, outside under the blazing sun, kids running around, even balloons hanging off of the speakers. It was an event where the music was as much entertainment for the adults as the nearby playground was for the kids. The event did not alter my desire (or the listening adults) to get the best sonic results I could. Being as real world as possible, I did not do any critical listening with the speakers ahead of time, just pulled them out of the box and went to the show.

When you have a skeleton setup crew available, the equipment weight becomes really important, really quick. The 74 lbs per speaker weight was evenly distributed and quite easy to carry by the handles located on both sides of the speakers. They didn’t tip to one side or the other when carrying them at a 90-degree angle. My back was appreciative of the help when it came to lifting the speakers up onto the stands.

To elevate the speakers, I used a universal speaker stand. This was where I discovered a chink in the JBL armor. Although the speaker fit fine on the mount there is no tightening screw to securely fasten the speaker to the stand. The speakers were a bit wobbly to the touch on the stand, but did not move around when music was pumping through the system.

JBL does offer an accompanying sub woofer to compliment this speaker line but this was not provided for review. I was relying solely on the PRX535’s native woofers to deliver the necessary low end, primarily provided by the kick drum. This is where the onboard Boost button was appreciated and a welcomed addition to “feel” the kick drum.

My arsenal of equipment was limited: a Mackie 24/8 buss analog mixer, minimal outboard compression, effects, and outboard EQ. The microphone selection was a standard Shure package. I miked the kick, snare and put up a drum overhead mic as the drum setup was very light.

My first impression during sound check was that I was in good hands with the speakers. Granted, the earth was not rattling with low end — nor did I expect it to — but the JBLs did a good job handling the lower frequencies.

I was very pleased with the speakers’ sonic performance when it came time to check the acoustic guitar. The signal chain was pretty simple: good guitar into an average DI through the Mackie. The JBLs handled it very well with a nice crisp response but not at all brittle to my ears. I received a similar response with a decent preset from digital piano. Vocal mics included Neumann KM 104 and KM 105 models, which found their niche right in the mix without harsh high-end.

After a quick sound check, I was off to mixing. The Crown’s self-monitored DSP was doing a fine job and, with everything else I had to tend to, I was glad to leave them to handle the crossover management.

The coverage and level (up to 134dB SPL Peak) of the speakers was more than adequate for the outdoor space, and as I walked the area during the music I experienced this in action. The 90-degree coverage per speaker (from left to right axis) was plenty for the audience scattered about the area.

I should also note that this was a nice hot summer day in Nashville and the JBLs were naked under the sun for about four hours. At the onset, I was a bit concerned about overheating. It was then proven that the heat dissipation for the PRX Series was well thought out; the amps were not hot to the touch when it came time to pack them up.

The second gig was a private one: a writer’s feature for about 50 people. The original speaker system that was scheduled for use concerned me — some oversized studio monitors — so I grabbed the JBLs.

The gig included vocal microphones and acoustic guitars, so the low-end boost was not needed and the JBLs delivered flawlessly.

Again, I had good results both sonically and with the coverage area. The acoustic guitars sounded very natural (and did even with the low-mids nicely rounded out), while the vocals cut through crisply and still had good body. This time the front of the chain was a bit more high-end (read: understatement), as the combination of large and small diaphragm condenser microphones ran through a Solid State Logic 9000J then fed back into the main studio directly into the JBLs. Granted, the JBL PRX535s may have been a bit of overkill for this application, but allowed me the headroom should the instrumentation evolve. With the other speaker system I was one impromptu djembe away from a low-end disaster (standard studio midfields wouldn’t have handled such round, low-frequency characteristics very well in this environment).

In the pursuit of thoroughness, I did some testing with a dynamic microphone plugged directly into the microphone input on the JBL. I used an AKG D880 plugged into the back of the JBL and adjusted the gain to get a good solid level. Since this was in mono (the only option when using a direct mic input) I ran from the output of the main speaker into the input of the second. The output is split before the gain stage so the second speaker has to be setup for the same input and gain structure. This configuration is welcomed if trouble were to hit; even if the first speaker were to get unplugged or pop a fuse, the signal still passes unharmed through to the other speaker. In about a minute I had a mic piped up with plenty of SPL

In all instances, the JBLs performed superbly and were exactly what was needed: a good sounding speaker that was simple to use and quick to set up.

Summary

Any facility in need of an all-purpose set of powered speakers should look into this newest series from JBL. The PRX Series offers a solution for anyone ranging from a small club, a church room, a larger conference area or even a DJ needing a consistent and reliable sound solution. Combine a few of these with the subs and a larger club/facility should be up and rocking in no time. The ability to plug a mic directly into the speakers and control gain also makes this series a great fit for a teaching facility or conference area. Coupled with high SPL capability, flexibility and an overall good sound, the Crown/JBL combo is clearly worth a listen.

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