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DAS DS108

Passive PA Speakers
By Mike Crofts

The extremely portable size and shape of these neat little PA speakers make them suitable for a range of more unusual sound-reinforcement jobs, plus those awkward gigs in tiny venues...

A few weeks ago, I needed something new for a particular PA job — a pair of very compact speakers with an eight-inch LF-driver size, or thereabouts, and an integral 35mm pole-mounting socket. Most full-range cabinets of this physical size seem to be provided with wall brackets or some kind of external stand adaptor, rather than a proper pole-mounting socket, so after some time spent web-surfing and telephoning I was pleased to come across the DS108, which appeared to tick all of the boxes.

DAS DS108Photo: Mike Cameron

The DS108 is part of the 'Dynamics Series' range of speakers from Spanish company DAS, who may not exactly be a household name in this sector of the PA market, but who have been established for more than 30 years and have an extensive product range. The moulded DS108s are intended for use in small-to-medium portable and installed sound systems, and as auxiliary speakers (infills, etc) as part of a larger system. The DS line, which consists of full-range models, includes 8-, 12- and 15-inch LF driver sizes, plus a subwoofer that could be used with any of the speaker models in the range. The speakers can all be either stand-mounted or rigged by means of additional fixing hardware.

First Impressions

These are neat little speakers, with a pleasant rounded design and a subdued grey finish ('anthracite', to be exact) that should blend easily with most surroundings. As with all the equipment I've ever used from this manufacturer, they have a good-quality feel about them straight from the box, and they are well finished, with no rough edges or leftover traces of the cabinet-moulding process.

Turning to technicalities, the DS108 is a two-way, vented, passive design that incorporates an eight-inch main cone driver and a high-frequency compression driver. Power handling is 150W RMS, or 300W 'program', with a peak power-handling rating of 600W. The DS108's frequency response is quoted as 52Hz to 25kHz, with a nominal impedance of 8Ω.

This speaker, like the others in the range, is made from moulded polypropylene — according to the specifications, it's "high-density mineral-loaded polypropylene" — and a neat, flush-fitted steel grille covers the low-frequency driver, which in this case is an eight-inch device built with a 1.5-inch voice coil and a cast-aluminium chassis. The high frequencies are handled by a one-inch-exit compression driver that uses a two-inch titanium diaphragm. The cabinet design incorporates a constant-directivity horn arrangement that forms part of the front surface of the enclosure itself and gives a 90-degree (horizontal) by 45-degree (vertical) HF coverage pattern.

The connections on the rear of the DS108 consist of a pair of four-pin Speakons (NL4), connected in parallel and wired using 'pins 1' (see box, right), which means that everything should be fine if you connect any two or four-pin Speakon connector or commercially-available speaker leads.

Speakon Connectors

The Speakon was developed as a mechanically and electrically superior alternative to quarter-inch jacks and XLRs in high-powered loudspeaker applications. Invented by Neutrik and now a de facto industry standard, the Speakon uses a high-current, multi-pin connector with a large contact surface area, a keyway on the housing to ensure correct orientation, and a twist-and-lock mechanism to prevent accidental disconnection. The connector is also fully insulated, eliminating any risk of accidental shorting or electric shock from high-power audio amplifiers.

DAS DS108Speakons can now have up to eight conductors, but the original four-pin format is the most common, and many of these connectors will actually use only two of the four pins. The wiring protocol dictates that a positive signal on a '+' pin will produce a positive-going waveform from the speaker (ie. the cone will move outwards) and that lower pin numbers should be used for lower frequency bands. So a single, full-range speaker output should be connected across Pin 1 +ve and Pin 1 ­ve. If the cable is carrying a second channel, the second pair would be wired across Pin 2 +ve and Pin 2 ­ve. But if the signal is divided into high- and low-frequency feeds by a crossover, low-frequency drivers should be connected across Pin 1 +ve and Pin 1 ­ve, while high-frequency drivers are connected across Pin 2 +ve and pin 2 ­ve. This format permits a reduction in the total number of cables used to feed speaker stacks, as parallel connectors on the cabs and link leads can take care of distribution amongst a number of cabinets. Speakons utilise solderable or screw-down solderless connections, making in-the-field maintenance easy, and chassis connectors are airtight, eliminating cabinet losses where parallel connectors are left unterminated.

Physically Speaking

The DS108 cabinets are very easy to pick up and carry, weighing just 9.4kg apiece, and the built-in handle is perfectly situated at the top rear of the unit. They stand securely upright on their flat bases and are boxy enough in shape to sit securely and not roll around when loaded into a vehicle. Transporting them face-down is probably the only position to avoid, as the slightly convex front grill would be vulnerable to scuffing.

Having a 'proper' top handle is a really handy design feature, because not only can you lift the speakers straight up off the floor or out of a box, but they are also much easier to get through doorways, as they take up very little room sideways, especially if you've got one in each hand. There are no sharp edges or corners, which is a good thing in the case of portable speakers, as general wear and tear is minimised and they're much more user-friendly to handle.

As mentioned earlier, a standard 35mm pole socket is provided at the base of the enclosure, and rigging points are also built into the cabinet. It should be difficult to find an application where this enclosure wouldn't easily fit!

Sound Check

I first used these speakers in a conference setting with an audience of about 100 people. I found the speakers very well-behaved and extremely good with speech. In fact, the intelligibility was good enough for the overall sound level to be kept well down, giving a very nice, natural sound during the presentations, which is exactly what the organisers wanted. At this early stage they had already achieved their original objective of being as unobtrusive as possible, in terms of sound and visual appearance.

DAS DS108The next assignment was a band rehearsal in a small studio, where I used the DS108s for vocals only, just above head height, on stands and aimed back at the band. Despite the fact that the drums and backline were at an 'enthusiastic' level, the vocals sounded crisp and clear and were certainly an immediate and very noticeable improvement on the previous speakers I'd used in there. The band rehearsed for a good three hours and the sound never became fatiguing, even when we pushed the volume quite a bit.

Road Test

Having got used to the DS108s in conference and rehearsal modes, an ideal live test presented itself in the form of a gig in a small/medium-sized bar, with two bands performing a mixture of acoustic and electric material. Space was, to say the least, at a premium, and the owners of the establishment were very keen not to have an intrusive setup, in terms of both look and sound. I simply brought along the rehearsal studio system and aimed the speakers at the audience rather than the band, with vocals and two amplified acoustic guitars through the PA. Although it was a venue that was new to me and there weren't a lot of speaker placement options available (well, none, actually), I managed to achieve a most acceptable result in a matter of minutes, with everything set flat on the desk EQ. The vocal sound of these little speakers is very clear, and even against a high background noise level (most punters had apparently come to drink, eat and chat with each other) the PA sounded sweet and clean, with plenty of crispness to vocals and guitars.

When you come to the end of the gig and all that's left is the packing up, I can tell you that small and light is indeed beautiful. You can simply unplug these speakers, pick up one in each hand and carry them out to the car. As it happens, I was carrying an extra passenger and was therefore using the car instead of the van, so I can also tell you that a pair of these will fit almost anywhere in your average runabout, except perhaps in the glovebox. They will also fit neatly in your house, and this particular pair survived for almost a fortnight in my hallway before attracting the attention of the management.

Conclusion

The DS108s are engaging little speakers that have a pleasing appearance, are really easy to transport and use, and sound very good, especially on vocals and acoustic instruments. Ideal for a small act, for vocals, or for installation in a smaller venue, they do the job very well indeed. I'll definitely be buying another pair, as I have several gigs in mind where these will be just the ticket. 

Pros

  • Good sound quality, very clear on vocals.
  • Quality design and build.
  • Compact and lightweight with excellent carrying handle.
  • Integral pole socket.

Cons

  • None so far.

DAS DS108

pros

  • Good sound quality, very clear on vocals.
  • Quality design and build.
  • Compact and lightweight with excellent carrying handle.
  • Integral pole socket.

cons

  • None so far.

summary

Great little speakers, offering good sound in a very portable and highly practical package.

Information

£285 per speaker including VAT. Also available in a powered version for £645 per speaker.

Sennheiser UK +44 (0)1494 551551.

www.sennheiser.co.uk

www.dasaudio.com

Published June 2006