Labgruppen FP Series Amplifiers

But the questions still loom large that we must answer: whether the touring world needs more power and less bulk, or is this just another highly touted, fast-sell upgrade we all could have lived without.
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Swedish amplifier manufacturer Lab.gruppen has built on its reputation with the new FP+ Series of touring amplifiers. These are monsters in power but not in size. But the questions still loom large that we must answer: whether the touring world needs more power and less bulk, or is this just another highly touted, fast-sell upgrade we all could have lived without.

Features

The FP+ Series comes in four different offerings: the two-channel 13000 (pictured) and 7000 models, 6500 W and 3500 W per channel at two ohms, respectively; and the four-channel 10000Q and 6000Q models, 2500 W and 1500 W per channel at two ohms, respectively. Off the top, the FP+ Series’ most amazing feature is that all models are only two rack spaces small, including the four-channel ones. All amps are bridgeable: the four channel amps are bridgeable A+B and C+D channels with automatic -6 dB summing compensation. All amps are equipped with full LED meters per channel, VHF (very high frequency) monitoring filters and LED indicators, as well as open load and high temperature indicators on the front panel. The FP+ Series amps all weigh less than 27 lbs.

As you may assume from the amps’ light weight, FP+ Series models are switch-mode power supply amps maintaining a consistent output down to 90V (US). They come with a 30-amp twist-lock AC connector, and there are separate 230V or 115V (US) versions. The 7000 and 6000Q can be changed to a 20-amp plug, if required.

The FP+ Series are Class TD output stage amps; Class TD is a patented class that combines the high output of a digital Class D with the sonic signature of a Class B. This helps reduce the amount of voltage that is unused, which ends up in the output stage as heat and helps create a great sounding amp that doesn’t weigh a ton. All FP+ Series amps come with XLR inputs and binding post output connectors; the 10000Q, 7000 and 6000Q ar also available with Speakon outputs.

Each amp in the series is equipped with a new VPL (voltage peak limiter). This will monitor and limit the output voltage of any channel to maximum peak output in selectable increments of 195V down to 38V depending on each amplifier’s output rating. This is an additional piece of protection for your high-dollar cabinetry. Frequency response is listed as 6.8 Hz - 34 kHz ±3 dB with a signal to noise ratio of 112 dBA from 20 Hz - 20 kHz. All amplifiers are input gain selectable via dip-switches at the rear panel in dB steps of 23, 26, 29, 32, 35, 38, 41 and 44.

As with most — or at least any decent — modern day amplifiers, the FP+ Series is networkable. Lab.gruppen designed its proprietary NomadLink network to run on standard CAT-5 cables. Yeah!

The literal hub of this network is Lab.gruppen’s new NLB-60E single rack space unit. One NLB-60E can control up to 960 amplifiers over the aforementioned single CAT-5, and up to 16 NLB-60E’s can be utilized per system. That is control of up to 960 amps and 12.5 million watts (using all 13000 models) of power on a single laptop! The network does not carry signal, only control and real time monitoring of every amp within a closed loop chain. This means you can still use your existing snake (analog or digital) and your existing DSP processing without having to change your entire rig around your new amps … a systems tech’s dream. Every FP+ amp comes standard with the ability already built in — with both CAT-5 ins and outs — with no need to buy additional cards, only the hub (NLB 60E) and some CAT-5.

The FP+ Series is also RoHS compliant. The EU (European Union) has set new standards in the manufacturing of electronics, requiring them lead-free. In today’s push to make products more “green” this is great for the environment. Lab.gruppen also stands behind its products with an excellent six-year warranty.

In Use

I was able to test and use three FP+ Series amps — the 13000, 10000Q and 6000Q — over several months. The first thing to note, of course, is the power-to-weight advantage; no more heavy and bulky amp racks to run my line arrays or multiple bi-amp monitor mixes. When I can take out just three amps and run an entire EAW KF730 line array with SB850 subs or get four bi-amp mixes out of just two amps — something that used to take up four amps and eight rack spaces — I am beyond thrilled. Plus, the FP+ Series is so much lighter than the older amps we have now. This can save the back of an old soundman like me.

FAST FACTSApplications
Live reinforcement, permanent installs

Key Features
Lightweight, powerful, four channels, only two rack spaces

Price
13000, $6,645; 7000, $5,095; 10000Q, $6,945; 6000Q, $5,695

Contact
Lab.gruppen | 818-665-4900 | www.labgruppen.com

PRODUCT POINTS

Plus

  • Lightweight
  • Networkable
  • Amazing sound

Minus

  • No digital inputs
  • No internal DSP

Score
Truly a series of amps for the modern dayThis is all good, but the proof is not in weight but in how they sound … and that is amazing. Running the 13000 on 18-inch subs at four ohms is nothing but pure power (4400 W per channel). It had the sonic quality I used to get from the old, heavy, non-switching power supply amps from the early ‘80s. I was disappointed that Lab.gruppen did not list the damping factor in its specifications, but, that aside, I was very impressed.

Also, the amps did not get “cooking” hot like those older amps, and maintained a reasonable operating temperature throughout their use. I didn’t have a large enough compliment of 13000s and 7000s to run RCI Sound Systems’ larger EAW KF760 line array, but would still like to try that out in a rock concert-type setting. I am sure it would make a difference specifically in the overall sonic quality and sound of the rig.

I did have the ability to run the 10000Q and 6000Q in a larger variety of configurations. The first was with the aforementioned KF730 rig, and the 10000Q proved itself with ease. I can run a bi-amped rig in stereo off of one amp and make it sound better than it did with our other amps. Now, I know that this is not an amp “shootout,” but we did do a head-to-head comparison in RCI’s shop against a US-made amp we shall not name. Everyone we pulled in to hear this did not know which amp they were listening to and everyone chose the Lab.gruppen. This does not prove anything scientifically, but it does make an impression. I was simply overwhelmed with the reactions.

Furthermore, using the 10000Q (low) and the 6000Q (high) models for a set of four monitor mixes was thrilling. I had never heard RCI’s EAW SM500 and SM200 sound so good. If you think that amps are not as important as good speakers, you have been mislead and are corrupting your signal chain in the process. Don’t ever start thinking, “Yeah, our amps are old but they still work; we can still get by,” because you will only hurt your client and your gear in the process.

Unfortunately, the NLB 60E hub was not able to be field-tested to network the amps together. This was a disappointment, as from my vantage point Lab.gruppen got the proprietary structure for these amps right. Coming from RCI Sound — which does not already have a structure for remote amplifier monitoring or control but does not want to leap into a manufacturer’s infrastructure that is confining all the way down to the signal path — this is the perfect fit. RCI is still analog and has yet to see a “solve all” digital solution at a good price. Speaking of digital, digital inputs of some sort would be a handy addition to the line, much like models from other manufacturers that incorporate full DSPs in their amps. I have heard rumors of Lab.gruppen’s work with Dolby Lake, but there is no evidence of that in this model. Maybe the future will hold even more for this series …

Summary

In the last few days and months, I have come to rely on these amps. As a company, RCI already owns some FP+ Series predecessors (fP 6400 amplifiers). They have been rock solid workhorses over the last few years. I would love, and am pushing, to update the rest of our old amp racks with a variety of amps from the FP+ Series.

It is a new day and age and truly a time to look to the future of less weight with a bigger punch. I feel that Lab.gruppen has hit the nail on the proverbial head. Let’s hope this has come in time for these amps to replace the old heavy ones and save all of our backs!

David Rittenhouse is the senior account executive and A1 engineer at RCI Sound Systems in Beltsville, Maryland, and a regular contributor to PAR.

Review Setup:

EAW KF730, KF300, SB850, SM500, SM200 Dbx 480