WHEN WE EXPERIENCED THE FIRST-GENERATION Bose L1 system a while back, it was like a small and groovy miracle. The wide, almost psycho- acoustic dispersion of sound was awesome, the footprint of the system was slimmer than a supermodel, it was portable enough to cram into a Mini Cooper, and the whole shebang set up in under five minutes. For small clubs, you could even use the L1 towers as both mains and monitors, delivering enough volume to keep fans and musicians rocking— and all without being pummeled by aggressive volume or constant feedback. The only downer about the system was its high cost. Otherwise, we couldn’t imagine club musicians not crawling all over each other to put an L1 to use.
Now, the Model 1S is out, and it’s more of the same (which is good), but better (which, duh, is obviously even more of a benefit). We tested a system with a 12-speaker line-array tower boasting 180-degree sound dispersion, a B2 bass module loaded with two 10" drivers, and the ToneMatch four-channel digital mixer. Pricing for a system remains on the tuxedo side of the street, with the 1S/B2 combo going for $1,999 street, and the ToneMatch coming in at $499 retail. But, once again, that’s the only “gulp” moment for musicians on a budget, because the L1 Model 1S absolutely rules.
Our test system is recommended for audiences up to 500 fans, and given its clear, transparent sound and massive headroom, it can definitely fill a small club if your band is loud and rocking, and perhaps even a medium to large venue if your backing is acoustic instruments and percussion. The single B2 module does a great job of delivering full, meaty lows to backing tracks, keyboards, drum modules, and percussion, and if your bassist forgot his rig, he or she might be able to get by plugging into the system if the stage volume is kept relatively low. (There is an option to link other modules if you’re a bass-heavy act.) Even using the 1S in a crammed rehearsal space, we were able to crowd three vocalists near the speaker tower and still produce enough clean, feedback-free volume for all the musicians to hear the vocals. Pure magic.
But the real star of the new system just might be the ToneMatch module. It seems as if you can do, like, a trillion things with this baby, and control all critical aspects of the live-sound game. You get three XLR and balanced ¼" inputs and a balanced ¼" stereo line input, as well as an Aux output (for sending an independent submix to a recorder) and a USB jack (for streaming audio from your computer, backing up data, and loading system updates). The unit’s digital goodies are crazy: 100 presets, three delays (digital, analog, tape), five reverbs (plate, small, medium, large, cavern), modulation effects (chorus, flanger, phasers, tremolo), dynamics processing (compression, limiting, deessing, noise gate), comprehensive EQ, and the ability to store custom scenes (snapshots of your mix settings). Operating everything is super simple via edit buttons, a parameter knob, and an easy-to-see (even on dark stages) LCD display. Bose even thought of handy Mute buttons for each channel— which got a lot of use when tweaking sounds, hunting feedback, and setting vocal blends.
Once again, the L1 concept proves itself to be a useful, flexible, portable, great-sounding, and near magical option for club-level live-sound applications. Adding the ToneMatch massively ups the bliss factor, making this system a smash hit for those with the budget to invite it into their band.
CONTACT Bose, bose.com
KUDOS Brilliant concept. Great sound. Portable. Versatile.