A few years back, Bose Professional really brought something innovative to musicians with its L1 portable systems. These towers and subs almost "magically" disperse sound in a 360-degree array — which, in some cases, means a single L1 system can pull double duty as a monitor and house P.A. for small to medium venues — and can be easily transported in a Mini Cooper. They may be a bit pricey for original bands struggling to make ends meet, but remain wonderful systems for touring singer/songwriters, tribute acts, event bands, and other groups that bring in revenue and need awesome and consistent sound. If you don't know about the L1, check it out here.
Recently, Bose invited me to its offices in Framingham, Massachusetts, to see its brand new portable sound system —designed, once again, with musicians in mind—the F1 Model 812 Flexible Array Loudspeaker and F1 Subwoofer.
The F1 system gives bands, DJs, and other musical acts the ability to disperse sound in a number of ways — just like the mammoth pro systems you see hanging from the ceilings and towering over stages in theaters, arenas, and large venues. As with the L1, the new F1 is super easy to use, it's gig tough, it produces clear sound, it's extremely portable, and all the pieces fit together like a military-grade Lego set. And, like the L1, the F1 system will be a bit on the expensive side. UPDATE (7-23-15): It's estimated that the Model 812 speaker and the optional F1 Subwoofer may go for $1,199 each. You don't need the Subwoofer to run a viable house system, but when you use both modules together, it's a pretty sweet proposition, as the speaker stand for the 812 is integrated right into the Subwoofer.
The Model 812 offers eight Bose proprietary 2.25-inch drivers and a high-powered 12-inch woofer, while the Subwoofer includes two 10" woofers. Both modules are powered with 1,000 watts each (2,000 watts in a combined system). The "killer app" here are the adjustable vertical coverage patterns available with the Model 812. With just a single, one-handed move, you can optimize the speaker for Straight (when the audience is on the floor along with the band—a high-school dance array, so to speak), J (to hit an audience sitting or standing below the height of a stage, as in many club venues), Reverse J (for an audience seated mostly in a balcony situation), and C (when an audience is seated from the floor and upwards, such as bleacher-type seats). In addition, the F1 system automatically adjusts its internal EQ for the optimum tonal balance for each coverage pattern. Here's a visual:
For a real-world test, I was brought to a beautiful club — the 1,000 capacity Showcase Live — near the New England Patriots' Gillette Stadium in Foxborough (not the most comfortable place for a San Francisco 49ers fan, by the way). There, I heard a DJ using a two combined F1 Model 812s and Subwoofers in a stereo configuration, and set up on the club's main floor. The venue was large and empty, so I obviously couldn't assess the system in a crowded dance party with sweaty, bouncing humans absorbing the sound. That said, the system sounded crisp and clear with a hell of a wallop on the bass end, and the output power was not anywhere near maxed. When we asked the DJ to remove the Subwoofer from the system, the low-end was obviously diminished, but the bass was still forceful enough to work for a wedding or small to medium party venue.
For a live-band evaluation, two Model 812/Subwoofer combos were positioned with one at each end of the club's stage. The wood stage was a good three to four feet off the floor. The band was an excellent Americana-style ensemble — two guitars, bass, and drums — backing singer/songwriter/guitarist Will Dailey. The club's house system was deactivated, and the band used in-ear monitors, so the only sound we heard was blasting out of the F1 system.
I couldn't tell the difference between the F1 and a great installed house system. The vocals were present and clear, the miked guitars were mean and articulate, the bass thumped nicely, and the miked kick and snare of the drum kit had impact, snap, and presence. The various coverage patterns were initiated during the band's set, and the changing EQ spectrum was very audible.
The house soundperson assured me that the F1 was quickly and easily patched into his system — good new for touring acts that would want to use an F1 exclusively to ensure consistent sound from venue to venue.
Again, the club was more or less empty with approximately 20 or 30 people milling around during the test, so I couldn't determine how the F1 would work with lots of bodies in the mix. In addition, Will Dailey isn't a punk, hard rock, or metal artist, so I also couldn't assess how the system would fare if the guitars and bass were cranked up, and if the drummer was pounding like John Bonham.
But, those elements aside, my initial experience with the F1 was all kinds of awesome. It appears to be another slam dunk for the Bose team, and its evolution of portable live-sound tools for every-day musicians.
Obviously, Guitar Player will do its own real-world testing of the F1 system, so please watch for the review in a future issue.
If you want to learn more NOW...
Check out this video from Frankfurt Musikmesse 2015
Hear Pro Front of House Engineers Talk About the F1
Get a System Overview
See the Easy Set Up for Yourself
Download the F1 App