Performing your original material is often so much about getting your sound right. Since 2003, Bose Corporation has offered the L1 system, a great portable PA package that’s ideal for the singer-songwriter. What’s so great? In addition to their portability and outstanding sound quality, the L1 systems essentially eliminate the need for monitors in most venues. How they do it is a bit of audio engineering science, but the effect of having an array of small speakers arranged to deliver wide dispersion is that the room coverage is very even—up close, far off, even to the sides you get the same full-range sound.
The latest addition to Bose’s L1 line is the Model 1S with accompanying subwoofer (B1 or B2 model). Our test unit featured the B2, a ‘big brother’ model targeted at the performer who needs a bigger sound and more bottom end. If your songs need to shake the room, this is the sub for you. I’ll discuss more about that in a minute. First, let’s talk about the system’s overall size. Bose likes to describe the size of their L1 models by how many people you might have in the audience (100, 300 or 500), which gives you a feel for what venues the system might be best for covering. You’ll also want to consider what kind of original music you are performing—acoustic solo, singer with tracks, full band, heavy synth sounds, etc. – to pick the right L1 system for your music.
There are some interesting differences between this system and the other models, but it is essentially the same technology. The clean look of the L1 vertical “stick” is the same across the models, but this unit sports twelve array speakers (as compared to twenty-four in the larger model and six in the smallest L1). All the units boast impressive sound coverage with 180-degree dispersion. The two-piece ‘stick’ assembles quickly and easily into the base unit with no wiring required. In fact, the only wires that are needed for the system are the power cord, a Neutrik-style connector to connect the B2 sub to the base unit, and a proprietary cable that connects the ToneMatch module (Bose’s mixer/EQ unit) to the base. The system has a base unit with retractable legs that makes it very sturdy, and easier to pack and transport. The base unit has one analog input, trim control and signal/clip LED for line-level analog input via ¼” TRS phone cable. This allows easy access for other instruments, mixers or typical audio sources, like DJ mixers, MP3 players, computers or DVD systems.
If you’ve used the L1 systems with a sub, you know that the sub provides a smooth bottom end and makes the unit a true full-range system. It’s an amazing sound for the size and weight of the systems. The new B2 bass unit, at about twice the size and power of the B1, provides the extra ‘kick’ that is needed where your music includes sounds like bass drum or tracks with bass and drums. It’s a little more weight to carry to the gig, but well worth it for songwriters who are playing with tracks or whose music counts on a strong, driving bottom end. The B2 has a three-position switch that allows you to tailor the sub to your needs. Since the Bose systems can be sensitive to where they are located (in corners for example) or characteristics of the room, this can be a useful feature. By the way, you can add a B2 or other L1 components to older L1 systems, as Bose makes individual pieces available for purchase separately. However, you will want to check with Bose technical support as set-up can vary per model.
If you don’t need a lot of channels, Bose’s T1 ToneMatch audio engine provides four, fully-independent input channels in a very compact package. It’s a great little mixer with equalization and some interesting features. For example, there are more than 100 customized presets for a variety of popular microphones and instruments to get you quickly to the sound you are looking for, along with very clean effects and processing. A small piece of mounting hardware allows you to attach the tiny mixer right on the L1 system at a good height for making adjustments and viewing the lighted display. This versatile mixer is one of the new breed of digital mixers, so there aren’t rows of knobs for adjusting levels and EQ, but that is the trade-off for the small size.
The bottom line is that the L1 Model 1S system supported by the B2 subwoofer works well for larger venues or when your music calls for a big sound or just more bottom end. Bose says that their L1 systems allow you to focus more on your music. For performing singer-songwriters that’s certainly true. You’ll be impressed with the sound.
Avg. Street Price with B1 subwoofer (complete package): $1799.95
Avg. Street Price with B2 subwoofer (complete package): $1999.95