PreSonus Air12 Powered Speakers review

Your music won’t sound good if your speakers don’t cut it and the proof is the many good performances that have been ruined by inferior sound systems. All performers, and especially performing songwriters, deserve a sound system that will deliver a professional result. The latest breeds of 2-way powered speakers with 12” low-frequency drivers are easily portable, but can cover a wide variety of performance spaces. We took the PreSonus AIR12 speakers on a test drive recently to see how they would do in an acoustic performance situation.

The AIR12 is described as an ultra-lightweight 1,200-watt 2-way active PA loudspeaker. I’m not sure that everyone would consider 37.5 lbs to be ultra-light, but is certainly manageable and the speaker is a small package at only 24.5 inches tall. A personal favorite feature is the nice integral handles and physical design that make it easy to manage and mount.

We set up two AIR12s for an acoustic duo gig in a large room. The speakers have an onboard mixer with two XLR/TRS combo inputs, stereo 1/8″ input and EQ, so we could have used them on their own, but, instead, paired them with PreSonus’s StudioLive AR12 mixer to get some effects and preamps for our guitars. The AIR12’s 12” speaker gave both the guitars and vocals a big, full sound with a lot of tight low end and the 1.35″ high-frequency driver provided natural-sounding highs with very little adjustment needed. The unit also provides one summed balanced output.

We were surprised to find DSP presets built into the AIR12 that help match the speaker to the room. Audio professionals have used outboard gear for years to do just this and it saves a lot of messing with EQ on the mixer. We found that you don’t have to be an audio guru to set up the AIR12, you just select from a couple of options depending on your application. We chose ‘front of house’ to get a well-balanced sound. Other options help you set it up as a monitor or can enhance low end for DJ use, etc. There are also location presets to optimize the speaker’s performance for stand or flown installations and +/- 10dB bass and treble EQ. We especially liked the bright LCD display on the rear panel that made setup easy on our dimly lighted stage and the unit’s heavy steel grill. An interesting feature is the 35 mm pole socket’s optional 7.5˚ downward tilt to direct your sound when performing on a stage above the audience.

The AIR12 looks, feels and, most importantly, sounds like professional gear and it’s flexible for use in many different situations. The AIR12 is part of a series that also includes AIR10 and AIR15, as well as two subwoofers, the AIR15s and AIR18s, all of which may fit your particular needs. Check out the application guide online for lots of good advice about setup, too.

AIR12 Powered Speaker Street Price: $539.

David Olney: The Long Cut