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  • Writer's pictureThe Mighty Ship


As with almost everything in our modern lives, musicians are now offered more choices than ever on just about anything and sound equipment is no exception. With so many options to consider, one can be easily overwhelmed by the daunting task of selecting the right system for you that is responsible for conveying your sound to the world. There are many things to weigh in on when engaging in such a task: sound quality, cost, brand reputation, power, portability, room type, type of band/genre, etc. To make matters even worse, we also have the option of the type of PA we want. Let's talk point source systems vs line arrays.

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Perhaps some quick definitions are in order. According to Yamaha, the term "line array" is used to describe a "speaker system having multiple speaker units with the same characteristics arranged vertically to emulate a linear acoustical source". (1) Point source speakers, in contrast, are "typically rectangular, come in a variety of sizes and usually contain a horn designed to cover a specific vertical and horizontal angle. They are often used individually, but can be arranged as part of a larger array or cluster. " (2) So, very basically, a vertical line of smaller speakers vs two rectangular speakers on stands facing the audience.

Which is best and why? Again, there are many schools of thought here. Line array systems are said to be able to throw sound in a wider spread, project it more evenly over distance, and are less prone to feedback. They can be very portable and easy to set up, but may be more expensive and fragile than point source options. Height can also be an issue contingent on the model. Connection point integrity and tipping may also be concerns. Conversely, point source systems can arguably offer more diverse coverage depending on how/where you place however many stands/speakers you use, have active and passive options, can be cheaper, but also require stands, cords, which means more gear to carry, which takes more time to set up/tear down, and require more space during transportation and storage.

In the end, you have to figure which is best for your project. As a one-man band, who is now in his 50s, the convenience of a line array system is undoubtedly one of its most attractive options. To carry less stuff, which can be set up and torn down, far more quickly, and occupies less space, is a huge plus. Bringing my point source system, which sounds great, is a lot of more work especially if under a time constraint. Consider the room sizes you generally play. If you're playing small to medium rooms, a smaller line array system might be the best choice for you. If playing bigger rooms, perhaps point source is the way to go. Some might argue that the genre of music might better suit one than the other. Another option that should be factored in is the number of people in the band. If people are willing to share the load of moving a point source system, great! If not, because people are unwilling to help, your bandmates are clumsy or apathetic about gear that isn't theirs, or the system's owner likes control over his/her property, then maybe a point source system isn't for you.

I've dipped my toe into the line array water. Previously, I have used both the Yamaha Stagepas 400 BT and a 600 BT, which I pair with a Bose Sub 1, and they're great. It is a lot of stuff to carry though. Currently, I use both a Bose L1 Model 2 for larger gigs and a Fishman SA 330X combined with my Bose sub for smaller ones. I have been using those a lot more than my Stagepas options lately. The Bose offers a clean look and great sound, but I have less control over the bass (depending on the sub I'm using - B1 vs B2). It also seems to throw sound more evenly and doesn't sound as loud when closer to it, which is great for the folks in front. I can use it for up to 500 people, or so Bose claims, where I'd use the Fishman for something much smaller if I didn't want to carry the Bose. I also use a Yamaha MG10XU board with them both so I can use monitors as required, which I cannot with the Bose T1 Mixer.

What type of system do you prefer to use and why? Let me know in the comments below.

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