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Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System Review

This this cost-effective and compact PA system has plenty to offer, especially where price is a consideration.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System
(Image: © Harbinger)

Our Verdict

Packing plenty of useful features, more than enough volume for small venues and plenty of headroom to go farther, the MLS1000 delivers versatility and great sound that belie its budget-friendly price.

For

  • Plenty of input options and power
  • Onboard effects
  • Able to link to a second unit
  • Rugged construction
  • Good value

Against

  • Could have better definition for vocal and acoustic performance

When portable line array sound systems first arrived on the scene, their compact size and quick setup made live performing easier. Thanks to their breakthrough speaker designs, players immediately enjoyed better sound quality. The smart integrated design of these systems has made them a staple at small and midsize venues, where space is a valuable commodity.

And while pricing initially wasn’t far from traditional systems with powered speakers, more channels and effects, more designs have been introduced in recent years, giving players a wider range of options.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System

(Image credit: Guitar Center)

Among them is the new Harbinger MLS1000 (opens in new tab) PA. It boasts a larger sub than its predecessor (the MLS900 (opens in new tab)), an impressive list of features, serious power and an attractive price tag.

Naturally, we were curious to know if this cost-effective and compact system could compete in the quality department, too.

First, it’s important to note that the design of the little Harbinger MLS1000 checks all the right boxes for a compact PA. It offers a built-in mixer that supports up to five sources at once, including Bluetooth audio. It has built-in reverb, chorus and two-knob EQ per input, as well as sound-optimizing DSP selections, transparent limiting for system protection, a 10-inch subwoofer, and a six-speaker vertical array of 2.75-inch neodymium drivers that are articulated for wide, 150-degree dispersion.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System

(Image credit: Harbinger)

The entire system breaks down to three pieces that go into a bag and slip cover that can get you into a venue in a single trip. For larger venues, two units can be linked with Harbinger’s Smart Stereo capability.

The mixer, easily accessible on the top and back panels of the sub unit, provides five input channels that include two XLR/1/4-inch TRS mic/guitar/line combination inputs, a stereo 1/4-inch TRS input, a stereo 3.5mm TRS and controls for stereo wireless Bluetooth audio.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System

(Image credit: Harbinger)

Adjustable reverb is available on channels 1 and 2, while channel 2 also provides acoustic guitar-friendly chorus. The MLS1000 offers two-band EQ on all four channels.

The mixer section is very straightforward, with dedicated controls for every function, all logically labeled, of reasonable size and thoughtfully laid out. A DSP switch provides four useful voicings: Standard, Live Band, Dance Music and Speech. Note that only switches and input clipping indicators are lighted, so be prepared in low-light situations.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System

(Image credit: Harbinger)

The MLS1000’s physical design and appearance are in line with other line array systems. There’s a base unit for the sub that accepts two columnar sections that raise the level of the mid/high speaker array to a height that will effectively cover a small to midsize room.

Some notable differences include the sub/mixer’s shape and weight. At 30 pounds with its 1.2 mm steel grille, the sub is a little heavier than similar units. But while every pound counts when you’re hauling gear around, this unit’s weight and cube-like dimensions provide a very solid base for the system. The design offsets the sub’s weight with the addition of a centrally located, large handle located perfectly in the center of the sub and rubber-backed for comfort.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System

(Image credit: Harbinger)

Unlike similar systems where array units “drop” in to connect, the MLS1000’s array pieces have a front-to-back locking system with thick polypropylene guides that make the connection very secure. The array pieces have a similar and substantial build quality as the base with a steel grille and polypropylene enclosure.

The MLS1000 also comes with a nicely fitted padded cover that slips over the sub, with a flap for easy access to the handle, and a padded shoulder bag for the array pieces, all of which will be appreciated by anyone who regularly moves equipment.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System

(Image credit: Harbinger)

Playing program music samples from an iPad showed the MLS1000 was a capable, full-range system. System DSP settings worked as expected, with the Standard and Live Band settings proving most useful for live performance.

As expected, the Dance Music setting added significant bass, while the selection Speech rolled off bass in favor of mids to improve intelligibility. A Shure SM58 connected to channel 1 proved that the system (in DSP settings Standard and Live Band) did a good job of rendering vocal tonalities and intelligibility.

Reverb was of reasonable quality, and the Mic setting on channels 1 and 2 offered plenty of headroom. Confident that an acoustic guitar with built-in active electronics and vocal mic would work well, we set up the MLS1000 for an afternoon songwriter workshop and acoustic house concert.

Harbinger MLS1000 Portable Line Array PA System

(Image credit: Harbinger)

The system unpacked and set up quickly, and we connected a guitar, keyboard and vocal mic. Bluetooth made it possible for each artist to stream their recorded music between sets, and its connectivity could be locked out during the performances.

In terms of volume and dispersion, the MLS1000 easily covered the room without getting too loud in the front seats or becoming lost in the back.

While other more pricey systems might offer better definition and tighter bass response to flatter vocal and acoustic performances, the MLS1000 fared well at our small venue, proving that it had plenty to offer, especially where price is a consideration.

Packing plenty of useful features, more than enough volume for small venues and plenty of headroom to go farther, the MLS1000 delivers versatility and great sound that belie its budget-friendly price.

SPECIFICATIONS:

  • INPUTS: 2x XLR/1/4” TRS mic/guitar/line combos, stereo 1/4” TRS, stereo 3.5 mm TRS, stereo Bluetooth audio
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 40–20 kHz
  • MAX SPL: 123dB
  • DRIVERS: 6x 2.75” HF, 1x 10” LF
  • POWER OUTPUT: 500 watts RMS/1,000 watts Peak
  • CABINET: Polypropylene, with rubber surfaced handles and feet
  • GRILLES: 1.2 mm steel
  • DIMENSIONS: (Assembled) 16” D x 13.4” W x 79.5” H
  • WEIGHT: Sub with cover, 30 lbs. Columns in bag, 13 lbs.

Visit the Harbinger website (opens in new tab) for more information.