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Pro Audio Speakers – Different Types of Speaker Systems

The Pro Audio Speakers market has gone from strength to strength in the last decade, with new technology and manufacturing techniques allowing lower costs yet significantly higher quality than ever before.

Performance levels of amplifier and driver components in pro audio speakers has reached incredible levels, especially at the mid and pro level of cabinets which is where we have chosen our specific brands and products. 

The high demands placed on speakers in professional environments is a true test of capability and durability, and its these high stress situations which separate  the really serious performance tools away from the more mainstream offerings.

With product lineups now featuring several new types of speaker design, here is a list of the 6 main groups to help you understand what to look for when deciding on the correct system for your requirements.

 


 

PA Speakers

Still the mainstay of the live music and pro audio speakers world, the humble PA speaker in its various forms has been providing entertainment to parties, weddings, nightclubs and the live music scene for over 50 years, and that’s not about to change.

The favourite of Dj’s and bands, a good quality set of 12 or 15 inch PA speakers can provide more than enough sound coverage and performance, whilst retaining the simplicity of a two box system requiring very little setup and takedown time, and are easily transported. Unless playing heavy dance music or in large sized venues it’s not necessary to use a subwoofer with many of these speakers, especially 15 inch models, making them perfect for all types of work.

The latest pro audio speakers available from our chosen manufacturers are all mid to high level in terms of specification and performance, offering high efficiency and large SPL figures coupled with fantastic build quality and styling. Choosing between speaker brands comes down to your specific needs and what features are required, and of course to personal taste, as you may just prefer the sound or even the look of one speaker system over another.

Available in traditional passive and the more popular active (powered) configurations, the latest PA speakers we offer have the finest digital amplifier modules, DSP systems, bluetooth and IP address control, anti clipping and direct microphone connections, and depending on manufacturer will come in either heavy duty injection moulded cabinets or wooden with hardwearing resin finish, which again is down to personal taste as each type exhibits its own unique characteristics.

The inclusion of onboard amplification has transformed both the cost and the convenience of the pro audio speaker market, removing the need for a separate amplifier and often the need for a mixer too depending on specific use. The built in amplifiers often feature DSP processing and voicing selections that you would not have available from a simple PA power amp and are now the standard choice for performers and events.

Passive PA speakers still have their place though, especially at the higher end of the market. Installations such as nightclubs and entertainment venues will always be passive as its far more practical to have the system routed back to one location for all amplification and crossover control. You wouldnt fit active speakers up on walls or hung from ceilings as adjustment of volume and other settings would require getting to each unit, which is just not practical or cost effective, and gives you far less system control than the equivalent passive setup.

Installation Speakers

Installation speakers of the 80s and 90s used to mean basic ceiling speakers or hifi type speakers mounted in corners up on the wall, and this was never an issue for a restaurant or bar as the systems were only ever used for a bit of background music and tannoy purposes.

With the move in culture in the UK to a more European cafe and bar nightlife and themed restaurants during the last decade, the sound systems fitted to these types of venues are often now required to perform at levels that would previously only had been required in nightclubs, with late licenses and onsite Dj’s breaching the line between bar and club.

Several speaker brands have delved into this market opening, with custom designed installation speaker systems being offered to suit all manner of requirements, from a single room to full multi room situation, churches, shopping centres, sports centres and entertainment facilities, all who require their systems to be visually discreet yet capable of high levels of performance.

Our selected speaker brands all offer ceiling, wall mount and balcony style speaker systems with bespoke paint finishing options and personalised touches to their products which allow you to create exactly the system you want.
With a wide selection of fixture design and powering options along with integration into previously installed systems and decor, you can now have good power and sound clarity without needing to install large unsightly boxes.

Column Array

A relatively new market sector, born out of the technology developed in high powered concert array systems, the column array bridges the gap between portable PA and wide dispersion audio systems, utilising the visually striking upright midbass and tweeter column which is mounted to a frequency matched subwoofer unit. This will either be a solid column or a smaller box thats pole mounted, but the technology is the same.

Column array systems are primarily aimed at vocal performers and live music, where the spread and depth of soundfield is much more desirable than pure SPL or room shaking output as they may be performing in a restaurant or other low key venue where a large PA speaker rig would be unwelcome.

The upright design of column array which is often also curved in appearance gives a much wider sound spread than a normal PA speaker system, which is perfect for vocals, guitars and keyboards, and for room filling music, all possible from just a single column unit, or a pair if desired.

Column array systems are active subwoofer units which then feed a passive top section. They are done this way to ensure the top speaker receives only the power and frequencies that its capable of due to its miniature sized drivers. It also allows factory and user selectable EQ to be built in that are programmed to get the very best audio from the hardware.

Vertical Array

Quickly becoming a fixture in all pro manufacturers lineups, the vertical array is a hybrid of the column array and pa speaker, made possible by the significant advances in driver technology and digital amplification modules. Favouring the 6 inch (152mm) diameter speaker, the vertical arrays start with two drivers, going up to four in a stack, joined with a wide dispersion tweeter unit. The main drivers are high excursion designs with carbon fibre and neodymium construction making them practically indestructible, with SPL ratings that completely defy their modest size.

The latest class D digital amplifiers are extremely efficient and powerful, and on vertical arrays are fed through a sophisticated onboard DSP processor and limiter which monitors and controls peak signal and thermal conditions to keep the unit running at optimum whilst protecting it from damage.

Though extremely capable on their own for most applications, vertical array units are ideally designed to be coupled with a suitable subwoofer system. This pairing provides an immense audio experience suitable for many different situations.

As with all our high end audio, passive versions of our vertical arrays are available for venue installations.

Line Array

The king of the live stage and arena sound for decades now, the technological advances made in line array design and manufacture have filtered down into everything from pro PA, home cinema systems and in-car entertainment.

Unlike traditional speaker systems, a line array is designed to provide a controlled area dispersion in a vertical arc. When flown from truss this classic ‘banana shaped’ configuration gives an enormous throw and sound definition, with relatively small driver sizes in the individual modules working as one giant sound projector when linked. Subwoofers are either flown with the system or are floor located.

For professional touring bands, sporting stadiums and concert venues, there really isn’t an alternative capable of achieving the same levels of coverage and clarity in a large open space that a line array will provide.

There are many types of line array systems on the market, from various brands and at different price points depending on specification and features, though all will give impressive results when correctly positioned and set up. Choosing a Line Array is obviously a big financial outlay, and we will guide you through all the options and specifics available to ensure the system is correct for its planned usage, be that a venue installation, touring rig or rental system.

Subwoofers

A subwoofer is the answer ! Even the best full range loudspeakers will struggle to provide bass below a certain point, and doing so will cause the midrange to suffer badly. It’s simple physics and mechanics that the main woofer cannot be performing the large travel required by subsonics and still be providing the more restrained movement for the rest of the signal. This often extreme cone travel also requires a lot of current from the amplifier, and can cause an excess of heat buildup making the unit suffer and often fail.

A dedicated subwoofer is designed specifically to produce just those lower frequencies. The subwoofers drivers are custom built to withstand the long cone travel and to vent the excess heat buildup from the coil. The cabinets are tuned to enhance the woofers sound by channeling or venting the excess air which relieves the negative pressure from the rear of the speaker.

Though you will find subwoofers in sizes as low as 8 inch, for serious PA usage you will be only really considering between 15 or 18 inch as standard, as anything less simply won’t produce the levels desired.
Due to the large current pull required by the large diameter drivers at these low frequencies most professional subwoofers will be rated at anything from 1000w up to 4000w with either onboard amplification or often its own dedicated rack amplifier, which will be run in mono and set to not reproduce any signal above or below the specified subsonic spectrum.

Our selection of subwoofer systems are all in the mid to high performance level bracket, with both active and passive units in single 15”, 18” , dual 15”, dual 18” and a monstrous 21” unit for nightclub and arena use.

 


 

SC Projects and Stage Concepts are UK stockists and distributors for the high level audio brands Amate Audio, Moose Sound, D.A.S Audio, Nexo, and are also stockists of popular midrange brands such as Mackie, RCF, Cerwin Vega and Power Dynamics.

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Our Projects

From the V&A museum and Saatchi Gallery, to Warner Brothers Studios and Crystal Palace FC, our truss systems and bespoke designed truss constructions have found homes in a wide selection of both public and private events and for a variety of tasks.

We have also supplied trussing and stage deck systems to the Next and TopShop group, Harley Davidson, Jump Giants Trampoline Park, alongside the many private individuals and trade customers that have purchased everything from a singular stage deck right up to a large festival stage roof system.

Large circular truss lighting rigs and stage platform systems for film sets, structural truss arches and walkways for exhibitions and shopping centre events, vehicle plinths and truss for showroom displays, truss based obstacle courses, and the supply of full professional sound and lighting packages means Stage Concepts can fulfill your project requirements no matter how large or small they may be.