EV’s latest rig takes the column PA format and adds a host of thoughtful extra features.
The Evolve 50M from respected makers Electro‑Voice is described as a ‘compact column loudspeaker system’. It builds upon an earlier model (the Evolve 50), but this latest version incorporates a few new tricks in the mixer and control department. Various manufacturers produce outwardly similar ‘all‑in‑one’ systems, and the convenience of having a single unit containing mid/high speakers, subwoofer, power amp and mixer is something most gigging performers appreciate. The top section of the speaker system is in the form of a vertical array, and that brings with it the advantages of compact dimensions, very wide coverage and a high degree of inherent resistance to acoustic feedback. The Evolve 50M components require no interconnecting cables — all you need is a mains lead and whatever is being plugged into the input stages.
The Evolve 50M is made up of two active parts, the subwoofer and the vertical speaker array; the sub contains the mixer module and power amp stages for both speaker sections. The column array is formed from a composite material and contains eight 3.5‑inch neodymium drivers mounted on waveguides that result in very wide 120‑degree horizontal coverage, and the curve helps it to deliver a tightly focused 40‑degree vertical coverage, which aims the acoustic output where it’s needed (the audience) while not wasting energy on the floor and ceiling. The overall tuning is assisted by four ports at the rear of the column.
The subwoofer section is made from 15mm wood and houses a single 12‑inch driver mounted in a vented enclosure, and is also home to a Class‑D amplifier module rated at 1000W, as well as an eight‑channel programmable digital mixer that provides for various combinations of mics, line inputs, stereo inputs, high‑impedance and Bluetooth sources — we’ll take a brief look at some of these later, but all the fine detail is available on EV’s product page (better still, download the user manual and read at your leisure).
Both speaker sections are well‑balanced and easy to lift and carry, and the array module has an integral handle that’s large enough for both horizontal carrying and vertical placement or removal. Black steel grilles finish the package off nicely and should protect the speaker components against most pre‑apocalyptic hazards.
No matter how good they sound, compact all‑in‑one systems are a bit off the mark unless they are neat and unobtrusive when in use, and quick and easy to assemble and pack away; the Evolve 50M scores very highly in both these categories. The two sections are designed to travel as two components and the speaker array is supplied in a neat, high‑quality carrying bag with a shoulder strap, so it’s quite possible for one person to carry the whole system. EV supplied a pair of systems for this review, so I tried carrying both by myself, with a sub in each hand and a ‘top’ bag over each shoulder. It is indeed possible... for a while!
The carry bag houses the speaker array itself and a spacing section or pole that sits between sub and top speakers. Putting the three pieces of the Evolve 50M together is extremely easy — it takes longer to unzip the carrying case and remove the array and pole than it does to connect them together. I particularly like the magnetic assist feature, mainly because it obviated the need for any heavy‑duty mechanical or electrical coupling which, on some systems, can present problems when trying to pull the pieces apart. The EV system works really well and it’s hard to imagine an easier method that would actually work. As far as I can tell, the array section can’t be coupled directly to the base unit, so the spacer pole has to be used. I believe that a shorter section is available as an optional extra, and this would be useful in some applications, for example if the Evolve 50M were being used as a close‑up monitor for say, piano, or for small‑group AV applications. All in all, assembling the Evolve 50M is about as clumsy‑proof and easy as it gets, short of having a built‑in robot pop out of a little hatch and do it for you.
The mixer and control section of the Evolve 50M fits neatly into the back panel of the subwoofer and contains everything you’d need for a modest combo performing live. The mixer has eight inputs: four mono mic/line channels plus two further stereo channels, making up the eight. Channels 1 to 4 have standard balanced XLR or TRS inputs with phantom power permanently enabled, and these have sensing and protection features to detect when anything not requiring power is plugged in. Channels 5 and 6 operate as a stereo pair with a choice of balanced XLR, TRS, unbalanced RCA and even stereo...