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What makes the Sennheiser KB1 special is that it is a product which was developed in an environment (K-array) that is orientated towards the "professional" sector.Innovation Elevated to Fine Art
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Comments about Sennheiser KB1 Portable Line Array PA System:
I'm a professional singer and my main business is doing Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Bobby Darin impersonations. I sometimes perform with a band, but people's budget's being what they are these days, most of my shows are done to pre-recorded tracks. For years I used a conventional sound system with self powered speakers, but what was looking for something smaller and more portable without sacrificing sound quality. So, I began looking at the various line array systems available and here is my take. I've done all the work for you.
FOR PERFORMANCE, SOUND QUALITY, PORTABILITY, EASE OF USE, SMALL FOOTPRINT, PRICE & VALUE, THE K ARRAY BLUELINE KB1 SYSTEM IS THE CHOICE HANDS DOWN!
I've heard and sung through the top of the line Bose system and although I was impressed with the even sound dispersion throughout the venue, the sound quality itself was lacking in my opinion.
I investigated many of the units available, HK Elements, HK Soundcaddy, K Array KB1, The Vertus by F.B.T. and the Linea system by Fohhn from Germany and of course the K Array KB1.
The problem with most of them is that very few of the are available from suppliers in the U.S. which already creates headaches with customer support should you need it. It also makes it difficult to find one to hear before buying it.
From the reviews and technical date, the Fohhn units seemed excellent, but were way overpriced. HK Elements looked good, they have a presence in the U.S. but neither the elements nor the Soundcaddy has phantom power a must for me since I favor condenser mice. And there were other issues with the HK stuff.
The HK Soundcady is definitely the most portable of the bunch, but 1) it doesn't have much low end to support the tracks, the voice will sound fine. 2) HK themselves only rates the unit as being good for very small audiences (like 50 to 100 people). I need more than that.
Likewise, the HK Elements were expensive it you ordered them the way they recommend for audiences of 150 - 200 people.
Bose on the other hand is overly optimistic about the capacity of their units when they say the Lll with B2 Bass can handle audiences of 500 people!. Well, if you get a room that can seat 500 people and then play the Bose system in it, I'm sure it will fill the room with sound, WHEN IT"S EMPTY! As soon as you add 500 real people, who are having dinner, or talking, like at a wedding, forget it! So it may be the case that Bose overestimates their capability and HK underestimates theirs.
I've heard good things about the Vertus by F.B.T. A plus for them is that the line array and the sub both have their own amps and can work independent whereas some of the others must operate as a unit. Downside? Virtually no U.S. distribution and apparently poor customer service.
All of these factors combined left with me with two options, the Bose or the K Array KB1. Since K Array is imported by Sennheiser I was not worried about customer service.
I contacted Sennheiser and they were more than happy to arrange a demo for me. Yesterday, I finally had the chance to test the the K Array Blueline KB1 line array system distributed by Sennheiser. The testing was done at Sam Ash in White Plains, NY which is where I buy all of my equipment. Many thanks to them and to Zach Salpeter, the sales rep from sennheiser who brought the unit and conducted the demo.
All the staff who were present, myself and several customers, were thoroughly impressed with the unit including one customer who currently uses a BOSE tower. The subwoofer puts out more lows than my current Mackie 450 SRMv2′s, and the highs were clearer and less harsh than the Mackie's. I'm not saying that my Mackie's are harsh, but they are harsher than the KB1.
The digital mixing program run from the laptop is fantastic and will allow you to do anything you could do on a conventional mixer and more. Further, K Array has eliminated the KBW model and has added the wifi capability to the KB1 for the same price. So, if you wish, your sound engineer can wirelessly mix from an ipad while moving around the room checking the sound in all areas in addition to using the laptop from a USB. Additionally, the unit can be run by any conventional external mixer, or in a pinch, you can plug directly into the integral mixer housed in the subwoofer.
By using the laptop mixing program, you can change the vertical angle of dispersion from 10 degrees , to 35 degrees or 60 degrees.
Setup was incredibly fast. I arrived at the same time the rep did. After introducing myself, I excused myself to use the restroom and when I came back, he already had it out of the cases and up and running. The whole unit breaksdown into two components, a softcase with the subwoofer, and a short "rifle style" hard case for the pole and the line array.
The sound was great. I sang through it along with some of my tracks and they sounded as good as they ever have. Prior to the test I had been apprehensive, because the horizontal angle of dispersion listed in the specs was 90 degrees so I was worried how dramatic the fall off would be outside that range. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not that noticeable and found the sound to be virtually unchanged for at least a span of 120-130 degrees, beyond that on either side the loss of highs was more apparent, but even at almost 180 degrees it was still acceptable. It is also very expandable as a second unit can be added for larger venues AND the second unit can be the less expensive KBR unit ( no mixer).
Bottom line, I ordered the KB1. The sound quality was excellent, as was the coverage area. It was the least expensive of all the portable line array systems, but still well made ($1999 all in.) and had excellent sound quality and clarity. You can get the KBR which has no mixer for $1499. It's as compact or more so than any of the others and lastly, since it is imported by a reputable company (Sennheiser) with a strong presence in the U.S. market, I'm confident that if I encounter a problem or a question, it will be resolved quickly and competently. I use Sennheiser microphones and my dealings with the company have been excellent.
I've had the unit since mid December and have used it on a number of gigs and it has performed flawlessly. Unlike the Bose Tower, this is a true Line Array system and as such it has one characteristic which really gives it a huge advantage over conventional PA speakers:
Conventional PA's like my Mackies can really crank, but the sound drops off fairly quickly over distance so in a long room, in order to reach people in the back you have to crush people in the front.
With the K Array KB1, the max volume is not quite as loud as my Mackies ( but with better low end due to the subwoofer ), but it doesn't need to be because the sound does not drop off quickly over distance. So, you can reach those folks in the back and the people in the front can still enjoy the music instead of having to cover their ears.
This past Saturday I did an event for 120 people and the only thing we used was the KB1 and we had no problem reaching everyone in the place. For really large gigs, in addition to adding the KBR mentioned above, the KB1 works well hooked to my Mackies as well.
In any event, that's my take on it. With Sennheiser backing them, I think you will see more and more portable K Array sound systems here in the U.S. in the next few years. In fact, a big Sound reinforcement company here in NYC uses their Pro Redline series as their main go to systems. They used them in Philharmonic Hall in Lincoln Center and for Ivanka Trumps wedding. They are already highly sought after in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe. I've received positive comments on the KB1 at every gig I've used it on and I'm in NYC. Like the song says, " If you can make it there you can make it anywhere." Trust me, the KB1 is making it!