Review: Bose F1 Flexible Array Loudspeaker System

I review quite a lot of live performance and studio speakers, but nothing has impressed me so totally as the Bose F1 Flexible Array Loudspeaker System.
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I review quite a lot of live performance and studio speakers, but nothing has impressed me so totally as the Bose F1 Flexible Array Loudspeaker System. This is a thoughtful product from an innovative company, and much the same way as the Bose L1 system revolutionized live sound for solo artists and small ensembles, “thoughtfulness” and “innovation” are apparent in every element of this magnificent portable P.A. system for bands. Basically, Bose took the concept of huge touring—or installed venue—systems and developed a P.A. that’s easy to set up, modular, powerful, and small enough to fit into one of those hotly anticipated Tesla Model 3 sedans. Oh yeah, the F1 also sounds fantastic, and is louder than the devil himself—a “must” for being a viable solution for rock bands.

Deep, Right?

A fully loaded band configuration consists of the mixer of your choice, two Bose Model 812 flexible array speakers ($1,199 each, street price), two F1 subwoofers ($1,199 each, street price), and the usual cables and microphones you’d need for the musicians. It’s called a “flexible array” because, instead of having two or three speakers and a horn inside the main cabinets in a fixed position, the Model 812 has eight high-powered mid/high speakers mounted in a flexible baffle that can be configured into four different coverage positions:

• Straight Designed for when the band and the audience are on the same level. The Model 812 surface is flat, with all speakers level to the front, and basically pointing at the heads of the audience.
• C Now, the audience is arranged in a rakedseating position where the listeners in the front are at the same level, or a bit lower, than the band, and the rear listeners are seated further back and higher.
• J This pattern is perfect for when the stage is raised above the audience, who are seated on the floor.
• Reverse-J Another raked-seating solution. This time, listeners in the front are seated directly in front of the band, while the rear listeners are higher up.

Now, “deep” doesn’t even come close to describing this. Not only do you have the option of transforming your main speakers to fill four different audience patterns, the system automatically re-voices the EQ spectrum to optimize performance of the chosen speaker array. Wow. Talk about set-and-forget.

Connectivity & Construction

Bose F1 Flexible Array Coverage Patterns

Each Model 812 cabinet has two input channels. Input one has a Volume knob, a signal/clip indicator, TRS/XLR connections, and a mic/line switch. Input two has a Volume knob, a signal/clip indicator, stereo RCA inputs for DJ gear and other line sources, and a 1/4" connector for instruments. There is also a System section that contains a power/fault indicator, a limiting indicator, an XLR output, and a switch that essentially converts the 812 from Full Range to With Sub (where a high-pass filter at 100Hz is engaged). The F1 subwoofer is set up in a similar manner with dual inputs and a line outputs, a Volume knob, a polarity reversal switch (Norm and Rev), and a Line Output EQ switch (Thru and HPF).

Each speaker module—the Model 812 and the F1—delivers 1,000 watts of power. Add up those numbers for our band system—two 812s and two F1s—and you’ll get an idea of how much signal level this beast can pump out. You’d have to suffer through a guitarist with a wall of Marshalls, a drummer with John Bonham-like swack, and a vocalist with an extremely soft and relatively inaudible voice to stump the Bose F1 Flexible Array Loudspeaker System.

One of the hippest elements of the system is how the 812 and F1 modules lock together to present a stunning—and extremely professional-looking—silhouette. The F1 has a built-in stand that pulls out and holds the 812 in place. (If you want to wait on purchasing the F1, the 812 has a bottom-mounted pole cup for utilizing most any speaker stand.) My first thought was, “Okay, that’s a cheesy connection,” but the stand doesn’t budge and it held the 812 securely when a road case smacked into the tower. Impressive. In fact, the modules are made with a scratchresistant polypropylene material that’s as tough as a Panzer tank. All carrying handles are ergonomic and comfortable—a nice touch as the 812 weighs 44.5 lbs and the F1 57 lbs. Neither cabinet is as deadly as wrestling a 70+ lb Vox AC30, but it’s still much appreciated to be able to transport the modules with ease.

In Action

I used the Bose system throughout four months of rehearsals, as well as some shows. We’re a loud band—very loud, in fact—and we haven’t found a portable P.A. system that we couldn’t stress out to the point of breakdown. The Bose system didn’t flinch, falter, or fail. It handled every oddball show we did—from theaters to clubs to art galleries—and filled the venue with clean, clear, and dimensional sound. Vocals were clear as a bell, and could be heard all the way to the back of the venue. The bottom is thick, fat, and distinct—chest thumping! Everyone had the same critique—this is an awesome sound system.

Just Get One—Any Way You Can!

The only uncomfortable part of loving the Bose F1 Flexible Array Loudspeaker System is that it will cost you around $4,796 (street price) to construct that optimum “band system” of two Model 812s and two F1 subwoofers. But, trust me, this system will be worth every penny you put into it. It can handle practically any venue, it’s loud and clear, it’s portable, it sounds fantastic, and it’ll make your act look like the most professional thing to ever drop before an audience. Figure it out, make it yours, and go out there and thrill your fans!