Electrovoice Sx200 Speaker System (part 1)
Hands up if you like small loudspeakers! OK, now we have sorted out the people who listen to loudspeakers from the people who have to carry them and set them up. Everyone likes to listen to big loudspeakers - even recording engineers who habitually monitor on near fields like big speakers when they are situated in a room that possesses a well controlled bass. The only people who dont like big loudspeakers are the people who have to grunt and buckle under the weight, and I speak from personal experience as a speaker humper/shifter of days gone by. From a sound point of view, designers would find it much easier to build wonderful speakers if there were no restriction on size and weight, but from a practical point of view these things have to be carried around, and there are additional limitations on size in theatres where loudspeakers cannot be allowed to dominate the space, and on weight where speakers have to be flown. For a number of years it has been seen as a priority to develop speakers which have a good performance to size and weight ratio. Sometimes however, the level of performance has been in inverse proportion to the size and weight, and audiences have been forced to tolerate very mediocre sound for the sake of saving sound engineers lumbar vertebrae. It is unlikely that the loudspeaker which is small and light will ever have a perfect sound with masses of loudness and bass, but there are an infinite number of ways the necessary compromises can produce a bad sounding speaker, and a much smaller number of ways the speaker can sound impressive within its own terms of reference. Manufacturers are now starting to uncover loopholes in the laws of physics that allow a small box to sound much bigger than it is, and much better than it ought to be.
When the phrase PA system is mentioned, many lay people and newcomers to audio will automatically think of large scale concert PA where a massive stack of speakers is necessary, together with a highly visible mound of equipment at the mixing position. But small PAs are becoming of increasing importance, and there is a great deal of audience satisfaction to be achieved by making sure the sound quality is as good as possible. I pride myself on operating the smallest PA system in the UK which consists of two speakers which were the smallest in the B&W range when I bought them, powered by a Quad 306 which can manage about 70 watts per channel on a good day with a following wind, and I use this tiny system for audiences of up to six hundred! You may think that it is impossible to deliver decent sound to an audience of this size with such a small system, but for what I use them for they are just right. The classical guitar is a very quiet instrument, and by itself has difficulty covering an audience of three hundred, unless the auditoriums acoustics are very good and the audience absolutely silent. But subtle reinforcement at a level hardly louder than the guitar itself can carry the sound clearly to the back rows of a larger space, and this is how small a PA system can be, just to put things in perspective.
Classical guitar is just one example of a situation where a small amount of sound is required, but at a high quality. Other applications include speech, and events where acoustic instruments are not quite loud enough to fill the auditorium, or lounge or foyer, adequately. There are also many situations where one or two instruments in a band are not quite loud enough to compete with the others (sometimes where the composer or arranger miscalculated), and a bit higher up the PA scale there is the vocal system, where the instruments of the band have their own amplification and only the singers need a boost. For any of these situations it would be a very sensible idea for a lone engineer to kit himself out with a system that would be versatile and moderately powerful, yet would fit into a saloon car and be easily manageable by one person. It would also be a good idea for a lone engineer to kit herself out with a system that didnt require the assistance of a macho bodybuilder to shift the boxes. And as you might guess, the subject of this review, the Electrovoice Sx200, is just right.