Having reviewed the novel 'Look Ma, no cables' HK Audio Elements PA system in August 2011, we decided to take the 'two subs, four tops' system out for some more gigging. We used it with both a band and a duo over a six-month period to see how it coped with various venues and to check on its reliability.
You may recall that our review system was comprised of two 10-inch subs that include all the amps and crossovers, plus four slim line-array cabinets, each one housing four small speakers capable of handling the mid-range and high frequencies. The telescopic support poles between the subs and tops include an integral stereo jack connector, which eliminates cabling. Having used the system now for several months, I can say that this connection system is one of the main benefits of the Elements system, allowing for an extremely speedy setup. However, it could also be a cause for concern, because if the connector system in the pole fails, for whatever reason, there's no practical way of connecting the tops using conventional cables. Having said that, other than exchanging a faulty pole right at the outset, the system proved to be very reliable, and it certainly lived up to its claims regarding ease of use.
My usual PA is a Fohhn Linea 100 line array teamed with a single sub, a pretty costly system, but with portability and sound to match the price. Our regular sound guy feels that the Fohhn system, which also incorporates a conventional tweeter for the extreme highs, still wins on overall clarity. He did, however, feel that the HK Elements system is a big improvement over the usual 'box type' systems in typical smaller venues, and that the quick setup times were beneficial.
I also got great results using the Elements system at West Fest 2011 in Malvern, handling the acoustic acts in a large marquee. It delivered a very natural sound and I've used it for a number of my own duo gigs, too, mainly in pubs. The use of multiple small drivers provides more clarity in the important mid-range than a typical 12-inch woofer plus horn, while also directing more of the sound where you want it to go.
With a line array, the vertical dispersion angle is much smaller than the horizontal dispersion, so you get wide audience coverage close to the front, while not spraying excessive amounts of sound onto the floor or ceiling. I found this usually translated to more level being available before feedback, too.
In the type of venues we play, some of which are very cramped, the narrow format of the speaker is also a huge advantage. The subs have a much smaller footprint than a typical tripod stand, while the tops don't impede the view of the band. I found that the power handling of the two 10-inch subs belied their compact size, and when we needed reinforcement for the bass guitar and kick drum, they had no problem.
Overall, then, it's a thumbs-up for this deceptively compact system, which really can be set up and broken down in just a couple of minutes. Its modular nature means you can take fewer boxes to smaller gigs, even using just a single mono speaker and sub setup where appropriate, or building right up to four tops and four to eight subs.
E435 top £315$399; E110SA active sub £885$1,099. Amp and passive sub also available. Prices include VAT.