Live Review: Alto Pro Black Series Powered Loudspeakers

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Part of InMusic Brands—parent company to Alesis, Akai and M-Audio—Alto Professional has evolved into a recognized portable PA brand, thanks to overall affordable prices and burgeoning sales. I’ve personally discovered notably high overall quality and innovative ideas in the brand, too. From the clever TEC Award-nominated Stealth wireless system for active loudspeakers (www.prosoundnetwork.com/altostealth) to what’s reviewed here—the flagship Black Series Powered Loudspeakers—today there are more and more Alto Pro logos to be seen at live music venues, houses-of-worship and rehearsal spaces of all types and sizes.

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Having previously reviewed Alto Pro’s Truesonic Series of powered portable PA—prosoundnetwork.com/AltoProTrueSonicTS115A—I wasn’t expecting such a “tour-grade” build quality in the Black Series. Sure, the Truesonic speakers are impressive performers and well-built, but with a “low-cost” qualifier; they feature lightweight polypropylene cabinets, albeit well-made, scratch resistant, and good-sounding.

Reviewed here, the Black 12 two-way full-range pair ($599 street, each) and accompanying Black 15 SUB subwoofer ($1,099 street) are really not lightweight—built of 18mm plywood and adorned with various beefy custom-molded handles, stand and pole mounts and rigging points with a steel speaker grille—and are comparatively great-sounding. Each Black Series component features an advertised 2,400 W of Class D juice, albeit “peak” power; a more comparable spec would be its 1,200 W continuous power.

All Black Series components are ready to work with Alto Pro’s Live Drive wireless speaker app for iOS, allowing for level-matching, EQ adjustment, compression, time-alignment, and more. Also included per component is an extended-range (up to 100 feet) Bluetooth antenna for wireless device pairing. While I personally had little use for the Bluetooth features, I can see many applications where it would come in handy, perhaps even moreso in the near future.

The Black 12 provides a 12-inch LF transducer and 1.75-inch HF driver; the Black 15 SUB provides a 15-inch long-excursion LF driver. The Black 12’s built-in two channel mixer offers mic/line amplification on #1 and line only on #2 via XLR/TRS combo connectors; XLR mix out with mix pre/post volume switch; and five DSP modes, switchable via toggle button—Flat, Contour (boosted bass and treble), 80 Hz HPF, Ext LF (extended LF response), and Custom (customizable via Line Drive). The Black 15 SUB provides dual XLR/TRS combo inputs and subsequent XLR outputs; polarity reverse; crossover bypass switch; and five DSP modes, also switchable via toggle—LPFs at 80, 100, 120 and 140 Hz and Custom (via Line Drive, too).

I had the pleasure of using the Black Series rig at several various gigs—an outdoor wedding (under an events tent), two medium-sized club gigs, and a loud music playback/DJ job. For each, the Black Series flaunted its flexibility. Paired with my iPhone, Alto’s Live Drive app opened up a world of detailed flexibility normally unattainable in most portable PA boxes, and even without the feature, the DSP presets provided sufficient EQ-based parameters to choose from.

I immediately noticed the smooth HF response of the Black 12 tops; it reminded me more of a refined studio monitor than a portable PA speaker. Band members commented that it sounded “classic,” “full,” and “not hyped.” I can’t help but think the overbuilt, thick-walled cabinetry of the Black Series contributes greatly to these sonic characteristics.

If there’s any negative to the Black Series, I’ve alluded to it above. Compared directly to competing products, these cabinets are heavy, even with lightweight Class D amps (the Black 12 is 51 lbs. and the Black 15 SUB is 83.4 lbs.). I’ve love some casters on the subwoofer, as it’s not the easiest cabinet to carry; it’s front-heavy and awkward at first to move, even with two people. That said, the weight isn’t a deal-breaker and, if purchasing for a relatively fixed install—clubs, HOW, and various other venue applications—it really wouldn’t matter at all.

Most importantly, the Black Series, in my experience, stands up performance-wise next to competition costing literally hundreds of dollars more per component, pushing Alto Pro up to compete against some of the most recognizable brands in live sound reinforcement. For my money, that alone makes the Black Series a plunge worth taking.

Contact: Alto Professional | http://www.altoproaudio.com/