If you need a well-built, no-nonsense PA for small and medium-sized venues, HK Audio's revamped Linear 5 series will serve you well.
You can always rely on HK to offer practical, workhorse PA speakers with models to suit most budgets. The L5 112 XA comes in the middle of their Linear 5 series of PA speakers — a range we've looked at before, but which has been given a boost in terms of performance and control layout. This particular model combines a 12–inch driver (with a 2.5–inch voice coil) and a one–inch, horn-loaded tweeter driven by a 1.75–inch voice coil. These are all housed in a tough cabinet constructed from both MDF and birch ply. There's a top handle formed into the woodwork and a single inset side handle. The overall weight is 21.1kg and the cabinets measure 370 x 670 x 300mm.
The cabinets are fitted with M8 suspension points and HK's own Duo Tilt pole mounts to allow the speakers to be angled downwards at three or seven degree to optimise coverage in smaller rooms. This does works well in such situations, but I always find myself wishing for a 'straight ahead' option in larger spaces! A perforated metal grille backed by a thin layer of acoustic foam protects the drivers, and the cabinet is finished in HK's usual hard-wearing textured black paint. The constant-directivity horn gives 60 x 40–degree coverage and can be rotated through 90 degrees, allowing the speaker to be optimised for floor-monitor use, which the cabinet shape facilitates.
Tell You Watt
With 1000 Watts of Class–D power run from switch–mode power supplies, the speakers are capable of a maximum SPL of 136dB. Their frequency response, measured between the -3dB points, is 100Hz to 18kHz (or 72Hz to 20kHz at the -10dB points). As you'd expect, the drivers are bi-amped via an electronic crossover (1.65kHz, fourth order) and extensive protection is included: under-voltage, thermal, short-circuit and over-current conditions are protected against, and there's a subsonic filter operating at 24dB/octave, plus a peak limiter.
The rear panel doubles as a heatsink and a control panel, and the input section is actually a two-channel mixer. The inputs are on balanced 'combi' XLR/jacks, and each input has its own gain control. Input A can be set to work at either mic or line level, with up to 30dB of mic gain available. There are two 'thru' connectors on XLRs, and lower down the panel is a master gain switch for selecting either +4dBu sensitivity or 'L5 mode', for use with other Linear 5 components (in which case the input gains should be set to their mid positions to ensure the correct balance between the components). There's also an EQ switch offering a choice of High Power or Small Venue voicings. Apparently, the Small Venue EQ setting "lends the cab great depth and transparency to rival that of big studio monitors". This suggests a slight smile curve has been implemented to create a sense of loudness.
A dual-colour LED shows green for power on and red for limiting (flashing on peaks) or when an error occurs. These speakers enter standby mode as soon as a mains cable is connected and consume 0.25 Watts until turned on, so it is wise to disconnect them from mains power when not in use. Power on/off is handled by a button rather than the usual rocker switch, and the IEC inlet is a V-Lock type compatible with a Volex locking mains cord (though standard non-locking IEC cables will also work fine). At the bottom of the panel is a mix out XLR, which carries a mix of the two inputs.
Even without a sub, these speakers managed to deliver a decent punch from the percussion section and there was plenty of level in hand.
The speakers were tested as a pole-mounted pair at a medium–sized venue, without a sub. I found the placement of the handles allowed me to wrestle the speakers onto a pole mount single–handed without too much trouble. Instead of conventional drums, both bands used cajon–style instruments, one of which was played using a kick drum pedal and was pretty punchy when miked up. Even without a sub, these speakers managed to deliver a decent punch from the percussion section and there was plenty of level in hand.
As in most modestly sized venues, acoustic feedback from the vocal mics rather than the capacity of the speakers set the maximum performance level, though susceptibility to feedback is no worse than from other speakers of the same type. While the mid-range clarity isn't quite as pristine as you get from a miniature line array such as the HK Elements system, voices and acoustic instruments come across clearly and with detailed highs. Pre-recorded music is also handled sympathetically and the solidly engineered wooden cabinets seem to help keep the sound 'in focus' more effectively than most plastic box systems.
For a band using the PA mainly to carry vocals, guitars and maybe keyboards, a pair of 112XAs will cope with typical pub and medium-sized club gigs without further help. Add one or two subs, and you have a PA that can also handle drums and bass and which can cope with larger venues or even modest outdoor events. Those demanding a little more low–end wallop without wanting to add a sub might opt for the 15–inch version, which has a different form factor not suited for monitor use. Overall, the Linear 5 112XAs maintain HK Audio's reputation for delivering well–engineered, good–sounding loudspeakers at a sensible price, and they don't take up too much space in a typical hatchback. I would recommend investing in the optional speaker bags though.
The list of two-way, 12–inch PA speakers is seemingly endless, but in the same price range you could also look at RCF, QSC, Mackie, Yamaha, LD Systems or Electro–Voice.
- Solidly engineered.
- Well–balanced sound.
- Sensibly priced.
- No 'straight-ahead' pole-mount option.
These are solidly engineered, good-sounding speakers that use good components and suffer from minimal coloration thanks to their wooden cabinets.
£949 per speaker, including VAT.
John Hornby Skewes +44 (0)1132 865381
$1149 per speaker.