Every once in a while, a piece of professional musical equipment is released that is a milestone in technology and practicality. The Bose PAS L1 Series 2 is such a device. I had desired one of these systems for a long time, but I had heard that the Bose PAS L1 Series 1 was being superseded by the Series 2, which had far more advanced features, as well as being lighter and smaller than its predecessor.
In late October 2007, the Bose PAS Series 2 arrived in Australia and I was literally one of the very first people to purchase it. The component prices were:
The total price of my Bose PAS with ToneMatch, an optional extra bass module, carry cases and cables was $4885. This sounds quite expensive, but you have to realise that this is a full PA system with amazing speakers, powerful amplifiers and a mixer that can perform the most incredible functions in a tiny form factor. A good conventional PA system with mixer, amplifier, speakers, stands and foldback wedges can easily cost a lot more than this and break your back carrying it around.
For a complete PA system, the components of the Bose PAS are very light
What has bugged me the most in this business was lugging heavy equipment around, especially into venues with steps and no ramps or flights of stairs and no elevator. My previous rack containing a Mackie mixer, QSC power amplifier, drum machine and other bits and pieces weighed around 35kg, nearly as much as the entire Bose PAS Series 2 PA system, let alone the EV speakers and stands. Actually this was fine with my system on a trolley on a flat path, but when confronted with a flight of stairs, I felt like turning around and going home. But the heaviest single item in the Bose PAS is the bass module, being only 11.4kg, so getting this PA up a flight of stairs is effortless.
The lack of weight is the really cool thing about the Bose PAS, but the best part happens once you've got it into the gig. Usually when you drag your PA inside, you've got to set it up and connect everything. Here is a comparison between setting up a conventional PA system and the Bose PAS.
This takes time and most solos and duos take at least 15 to 20 minutes setting up, with cables and bits and pieces lying all over the stage.
Believe it or not, this whole setup procedure can be done in a minute or two. It takes about the same time to break it down. The only cables are the ToneMatch data cable, the very short bass module cable and the power cord.
But the best part of this whole business is what you DON'T need any more:
So apart from the lightness and compactness of the Bose PAS, which means no more backbreaking lugging, you can also eradicate all those cables, stands and bits and pieces that you are carrying around now.
Here are some of the ways that musicians can use this remarkable PA system. For all scenarios, I would prefer that each performer has his own Bose PAS and ToneMatch audio engine, unless the gigs are small and fairly quiet. A Duo playing a small quiet gig could get away with using one Bose PAS, but for big and loud gigs, a Duo should ideally use two systems. I have found that for nearly all gigs, one bass module is more than enough, however I purchased an extra bass module to use on really big gigs, just in case, because I play my guitar through the Bose PAS. Click on a diagram to open it in a new window.
The Bose PAS is ideal for band use. Instead of a band carrying around musical instrument amplifiers, PA mixer, PA amplifier, PA speakers, speaker stands, foldback wedges, bags of cables and all the other bits and pieces, each band member could have his own Bose PAS, through which he would not just sing, but would play his instrument. A typical quartet could use three Bose PAS systems, or four if the drummer wanted to amplify his kit and sing through his own PAS. The musicians would not need to bring separate instrument amplifiers, just their individual Bose PAS and instruments.
Band members would arrive on the gig, set up their Bose PAS in a few minutes and be in total control of their instrument and vocal mix, without needing foldback or a sound engineer. It's an ideal arrangement, because each musician would hear everybody else as well and tweak his sound settings to suit and select his own effects, such as delay, reverb and other parameters built into the ToneMatch. There would be very little stage clutter or cables lying around. In fact, because the ToneMatch mixer can be mounted on the microphone stand, the microphone of each musician would be plugged directly into the ToneMatch, as well as his instrument, so the only cable from the front of stage to his PAS at the rear of the stage would be the data cable and nothing else.
The ToneMatch audio engine is very hard to describe because it is amazingly clever. It is about the same size as one of those very tiny Mackie or Behringer 4 channel mixers. But this interface has literally everything that a musician, solo artiste or duo needs for any gig - balanced and unbalanced inputs for three microphones or instruments, all with individual digital setups with full equalisation, reverb and delay effects, gate, compression on each channel and other tricks, plus a stereo input for audio, such as a drum machine, laptop PC or minidisk for backing tracks. The ToneMatch even has a built-in instrument tuner. But that's only scratching the surface, because this device can do so much more.
A fantastic feature is the array of factory optimised presets for most equipment on the market. Bose went to the manufacturers and asked them to produce the best settings for their particular equipment and then Bose stored them into the ToneMatch so that users could instantly load the best settings for their gear. For instance, my current solo performer setup consists of a Shure WH-20 headworn microphone, Fender Stratocaster guitar, Beyer M-88 handheld microphone if needed, a Roland TR-626 drum machine and a small minidisk player for background music. There are factory installed presets for the microphones and guitar and additional factory presets can be downloaded to the ToneMatch from the Bose website.
One of the most interesting and unique features is the Scenes memory function. This allows you to store the settings for a particular style of performance. Once the presets have been loaded and adjusted to suit, the entire setup can be memorised to a Scene that has a unique name. The ToneMatch retains the last used Scene in memory, so every time you work as a solo performer, you can just instantly switch the system on and you're ready to play. But if you then work in a Duo, you can load a different Scene and you are instantly set up again. Then when you revert to the next solo gig, you just load the solo Scene. You can alter each channel's settings on the fly to suit yourself for a particular gig.
The Bose PAS L1 Series 2 is the most impressive PA system I've ever used so far and that's no small statement. My friends know me as a tech-head and that I don't praise equipment lightly. But when I used my Bose PAS on a gig for the first time, I was amazed at the clarity and depth of the sound and the fact that I didn't have to push the system very hard to fill the rather large room with a very rich and full sound. My guitar sounded terrific, as if it had been plugged into a dedicated guitar amplifier and my headset microphone sounded perfect. Since I have had the Bose PAS, many audience members have made very complimentary comments about the terrific sound.
For those performers who are humping around heavy PA systems, lots of cables, taking ages to set up and break down at gigs, this is definitely the answer. If you want to try out the Bose PAS, Brian Kirby (ex Executives showband member) is handling Bose professional equipment in Sydney and he's got the Bose PAS set up in his showroom at Kirby Productions. Of course you are always welcome to come to one of my solo gigs and see a real performance using the Bose PAS, as opposed to testing the system in a showroom. Check my Gig Guide.
What price do I put on improving my health, stop wrecking my aching back, getting rid of a pile of heavy equipment and the ease and cutting down the time setting up and breaking down a PA at gigs? To me, spending a tax-deductable once-only $4885 for the rest of my performing career to make my life so much easier and better is a bargain.
The amount of research that Bose conducts for all its products has always impressed me greatly and ensured that I'm a big admirer, but the Bose PAS L1 Series 2 just shows what can be achieved when smart people set their minds to finding a very clever solution to the heavy PA problem without sacrificing any sound and quality capability.