This column PA system from RCF incorporates a digital mixer plus Softube guitar-amp modelling. Could it be all you need to take with you for small gigs?
The RCF Evox JMIX8 combines a portable mini line–array system with an eight-input digital mixer that can be controlled either from its front panel or over Bluetooth using a compatible iPhone or Android phone. With a total peak power of 1400 Watts, a frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz and a maximum SPL capability of 128dB, the Evox JMIX8 is based around a 12–inch RCF woofer with a 2.4–inch voice coil, housed in a moulded, ported cabinet; plus a short, pole-mounted line array that consists of eight RCF 2–inch drivers with 1–inch voice coils. These cross over to the sub at 220Hz. The power amps can supply 400W peak or 200W RMS for the highs and 1000W peak/500W RMS for the sub, and are built onto a rigid aluminium rear–panel structure to provide mechanical integrity as well as heat dissipation. As expected, both thermal protection and a 'soft' peak limiter are built in.
RCF have clearly tried to make this system as versatile as possible, as the mixer includes not only effects but also a choice of guitar amplifier emulations from Softube. Even if you're not in the habit of using software-based amplifiers when playing live, it's nice to know that you have a 'get out of jail free' card available if your amplifier packs up on you mid-gig, and Softube's amp models are highly regarded.
The line-array column stows in the back of the subwoofer, where it's held in place by an elastic strap, so the only extra bits you need carry are the two-section mounting pole, a power cord and the Speakon cable that connects the sub to the top. These come in a nylon carry bag, and because the total system weight is just under 25kg, it is possible to carry it from the car with one hand using its top-mounted handle. An optional soft cover or a cover with a built-in wheeled trolley is available, and this also holds the bag for the pole and cables. The use of a fanless Class–D amplifier helps keep the weight down and the efficiency up. The overall size isn't too bulky either, at 235 x 350 x 450mm, so the speaker will fit comfortably into a hatchback along with a couple of guitars and a guitar amp. Having the mounting pole in two parts makes for easy transportation but also allows just one of the pole segments to be used if the speaker is set up on a high stage.
Obviously, a single line array is only going to give you mono audio, but the mixer is equipped for stereo operation so that you can hook up to a second system or to a third-party powered speaker to get a full stereo rig. You can also opt to use an external mixer rather than the in–built one. Although the array itself is relatively short, it's said to limit coverage to just 30 degrees in the vertical plane while covering a full 120 degrees in the horizontal. RCF's FIR-based 'FIRPHASE' processing is used to linearise the phase response.
On the rear panel is an IEC mains inlet with adjacent power switch, a balanced XLR input (for use when the mixer is bypassed), and a link out for use when setting up a stereo system. A voicing switch selects Flat or Boost (smile curve) modes, and there are LEDs for the limiter, signal present and power. A further LED indicates whether the input is coming from the XLR or from the mixer. When the mixer is bypassed, the XLR output functions as a 'thru' connector rather than a second channel stereo link. A Speakon connector in the handle recess is used to connect the top.
The DSP-based mixer section, which runs at 24-bit/48kHz, is quite intuitive, and you don't really even need a manual to find your way around as all the menu page options are printed on the front panel. Basically, there's a physical level control for each channel and for the master volume, with all other functions being set using a rotary 'turn and press' encoder, a small LCD window and a pair of left/right buttons. All the mixer functions and system setup parameters are accessed from here, as is the ability to store and recall mixer presets.
The channel arrangement starts with two dedicated mic/line channels that can have phantom power applied, two further mic/line channels with no phantom power, a stereo channel on unbalanced jacks, and a stereo channel that has RCA phono inputs, but which can alternatively be used for streaming music from a Bluetooth device. Channel 4 may also be switched to a high–impedance instrument mode, and it is this channel that can make use of the built-in guitar–amp modelling. Further jacks are provided for a dual footswitch (useful for killing the effects when the performer is chatting, though there are several other assignment options) and an aux out. This can be used to send either a separate mix or a copy of the main mix to a monitor speaker, and is switchable pre/post-fader so can be used to feed external effects instead of a monitor.
Each channel has its own rotary level control, input source select buttons and a tri-coloured metering LED; a master volume control with an output button is located to the right. Channels 5–6 can be used as a mono channel by plugging into the left input only. If the Home button is pressed, the meter levels also show up in the mixer's LCD window. Above the display are the Home, System, MFX (multi-effects, applied to channel 4 only) and FX buttons. There's also a button for pairing a Bluetooth device and a USB port for handling firmware updates from a computer (a memory stick can't be used for this).
All channels have their own three-band EQ, with a swept mid control plus high and low shelving sections. On the preamp gain mixer page for the mic/line channels there's also a variable high-pass filter. A dynamics section allows compression to be applied to each of the first four channels using a single 'compression amount' fader and a choice of six preset styles, though I generally shy away from compression in small venues as it increases the risk of feedback. Stereo channels 7–8 also have access to a ducker, so that speech on channel 1 can be used to trigger a drop in level of background music. That Output button in the master section accesses further processing options described as Mastering, Master Boost, Loud & Proud or Hi-Fi. Behind the scenes, a maximiser and an exciter are used to 'enhance the sound' — again, this is something I usually turn off. There's also an 'EQLIVE' function that introduces an EQ contour tailored for live performance. The mixer setup also allows the mixer to be configured for mono or stereo use and, when linked to a second speaker for stereo, the left and right channels can be swapped. A seven–band graphic equaliser is available on both the main output and aux output, along with a mute function. To use the JMIX8 as a simple powered speaker, the mixer needs to be disabled in the menu pages.
The MFX button accesses the MFX chain applied to input 4 and, if needed, the user can set up two different chains and then swap between them using a footswitch. This section includes both the guitar and bass amp simulations, modulation effects, reverb and delay. There are 15 guitar or bass amp emulations, with access to drive and EQ settings. The Mod section then offers chorus, flanger or tremolo with variable depth and rate. The Delay page has controls for delay level, delay time and feedback. Similarly, the reverb section offers a choice of reverb types, decay time, damping and return level.
The more general effects section offers a huge choice of reverbs, delay, modulation and panning effects. The selected effect can be accessed from any channel using an effect send control to regulate the amount added.
The overall sound quality is all you'd expect from RCF, with the line-array format delivering more of a hi-fi, mid-detailed sound than most two-way box systems.
Setting up the system takes only moments, and because the sub forms a suitably weighty base, there's no danger of it toppling as there is with some other systems I've looked at. Having a physical cable connect the tops rather than an 'in-pole' connector system also makes it feel a little more robust.
Once you've spent a little time with the mixer it doesn't take long to jump between the relevant pages to make adjustments, but the app certainly looks nice and is easier on the eye. There doesn't seem to be a dedicated iPad/tablet version of the app as yet, but if you can first get it onto your phone, it then becomes available on your tablet when you sync your apps. If a physical control is moved, it updates the setting on the app. As the controls are not motorised, changing a volume level on the app won't change the knob position on the mixer, so if you then adjust the physical control, there may be a jump in level. Clearly Bluetooth has a limited range so you won't be mixing from the back of a large venue as you can do with Wi-Fi–controlled mixers, but in typical pub and club venues, it works fine as long as you stay in range.
Setting everything to flat and playing pre-recorded music reveals the focus and clarity we've come to expect from these line-array systems, and though the effects may only have basic controls, they do a perfectly fine job. Having the extra guitar–specific effects on channel 4 makes it possible to DI electric guitar in a convincing way, and, as I touched upon earlier, it also makes for a useful backup if a guitar amp goes down at a gig. Overall, I was most impressed by the guitar-amp models, and for coffee shop-style gigs, these would certainly make it unnecessary to take a separate guitar amp along. There's a wide range of tones to be had, from clean, through bluesy crunch to full-on rock. The overall sound quality is all you'd expect from RCF, with the line-array format delivering more of a hi-fi sound and greater mid-range detail than you get from most two-way box systems. The shallow coverage angle also makes the most effective use of the available power, while reducing the influence of room reflections.
Even without the app, navigating the mixer is easy enough, albeit a little more long-winded than using a traditional 'one knob per function' mixer. Thankfully, the ability to save presets means you can do most of what you need to do at a gig just by adjusting the level controls. Pretty much everything you need is on board, with a good range of effects, high–quality guitar–amp modelling, a practical EQ section and graphic equalisers on the main and aux outs, so there's really no excuse for not getting a good sound. Of course there are limitations, such as having only one foldback mix, but for the type of venue this system is likely to be used in, that should be adequate. Resistance to feedback is good, which may be why there's no anti-feedback facility built in, and while a big wooden sub might deliver tighter bass, the overall effect is well-balanced and musical.
If you don't need the mixer element of the system you can buy the J8 instead, which is essentially the same setup without the mixer built in, and which would also be suitable for using alongside a JMIX8 as part of a stereo rig. Overall, the JMIX8 is a very practical little PA system.
All the popular manufacturers seem to offer mini line arrays; at this price point, look at LD, Bose or the smaller HK Elements systems.
- Clean, punchy sound.
- Comprehensive digital mixer with compression, EQ and effects built in.
- Sensibly priced.
- Amp modelling from Softube.
- No direct way to get an iPad control app other than first loading the app onto your phone.
A compact line-array system with a sophisticated digital mixer on board, which includes guitar–amp modelling on one channel as well as delay and reverb on all channels.
Evox JMIX8 £869, Evox J8 (without built-in mixer) £695. Prices include VAT.
RCF UK +44 (0)844 745 1234.
Evox JMIX8 $1399, Evox J8 (without built-in mixer) $999.