We try out Yamaha's first entry to the portable column PA market.
There's been no shortage of mini line–array PA systems in recent years, so I was a little surprised that Yamaha waited this long to develop their own take on the concept. The benefits of compact line arrays are portability, clarity of reproduction — especially over the vocal range — good resistance to feedback, wide-but-shallow dispersion and minimal disruption to sight lines in smaller venues. A system like the Stagepas 1K won't be for everyone, as it probably won't move enough air to satisfy a loud rock band, but for solo artists, duos, and bands working in smaller pubs and clubs who need a PA mainly to carry vocals and the odd acoustic guitar or keyboard, such systems are often ideal. The maximum SPL for the StagePas 1K is a healthy 119dB at one metre. A single system is of course mono, but that isn't a serious limitation for most real-life applications and it is possible to add a second system if you need stereo and/or more power.
Powered by a total of 1000 Watts of Class‑D amplification, fed from a 240Hz active crossover, the speaker line-up sees 10 1.5–inch drivers handling the mids and highs, teamed with a 12–inch ported sub in the base unit. Because the line–array drivers are so small, no tweeter is required to reach those high frequencies so there's no mid/high crossover to cause problems. The total system frequency response is quoted as 37Hz to 20kHz at the -10dB points.
All the mid/high drivers reside in the top third section of the column, the lower section being essentially a two-part spacer and conduit for the connections. It is possible to use just one or even no spacers if required, as may be the case when the speakers are set up on a high stage and you need to keep the drivers close to the audience's head height.
All the column sections have integrated connectors so no additional cables are needed. The lowest three drivers in the array are stepped back to modify the distribution pattern, which in this case is specified as 170 degrees wide but just 30 degrees in the vertical plane. This makes the best use of the available sound energy and also helps keep sound away from reflective ceilings.
A further benefit of line arrays is that they have a longer 'throw' than traditional boxes, as the wavefront they produce is closer to cylindrical than spherical, meaning less level drop-off as the distance increases. A short line array such as this is something of a compromise, as you'd need an extremely long speaker array to generate something close to the perfect cylindrical wavefront, but this arrangement still manages to direct the mids and highs far more effectively than a traditional box. Of course, the more conventional sub's distribution is wide anyway, as bass tends to get everywhere!
The lightweight design of the columns puts most of the system's total 23kg weight in the sub, which makes the whole system very stable once set up, and if you have a bad back there's an optional dolly that allows you to wheel the system into venues. The Stagepas 1K comes with a heavy–duty fabric cover as standard, which in addition to protecting the sub, has sections to hold both the spacers and speaker array, plus further storage pockets for microphones and cables. There's even a velcro flap on the top to allow access to the carry handle. As all the connections are integral to the hardware, the only cables you need are for mains power and for inputs to the mixer.
The moulded ABS subwoofer cabinet has a textured polyurea outer coating and houses a 12–inch driver as well as the mixer, PSU and amplifier pack. Yamaha have incorporated their Twisted Flare Port system into the moulding to reduce port noise. A slot-in recess for the lower column spacer is set towards the front edge of the cabinet top, and between that and the mixer is the moulded carry handle. A perforated steel grille protects the front-facing sub driver, and quiet fan cooling is provided for the electronics with vents on the back panel.
Though the speaker section has a metal grille giving protection to the front and sides, the enclosure itself and the two spacers are surprisingly light, being moulded from a tough plastic. They locate in a very positive way, but as with pretty much all the sub-mounted mini line arrays I've reviewed, I don't think the column would survive a heavy collision with a drunken reveller — and we see enough of those when playing pub gigs. Nevertheless, Yamaha's connection system is very well thought out and if you do manage to break a spacer, which is no more likely than with any of the competing systems, you can continue the gig using just one. Maybe electrified razor wire should be offered as an accessory?
In common with some other mini line arrays, there's a built-in digital mixer, in this case with a total of five input channels (three mono mic/line and one stereo line), and also the option to control the system from a phone or tablet via Bluetooth using the free Stagepas Editor app. A built-in reverb/delay section based on Yamaha's established SPX technology means you don't need to patch in additional effects to get a polished vocal sound, and there's the option to bypass this when chatting to the audience using a third-party, non-latching footswitch. There's no phantom power, so if you want to use active DI boxes or capacitor microphones, you'll need to plug in a separate mixer.
All the mixer controls are on top of the sub for ease of access, and all connections, other than the 3.5mm mini jack, are on the rear panel. The IEC mains inlet and associated power switch are located near the bottom of the rear panel. Channels 1 to 3 have combi-style XLR/jack inputs (channels 2 and 3 can also be switched to high–impedance mode for use with instrument pickups), while the stereo channel can be fed from the two jacks on the back panel or the 3.5mm TRS jack on the top panel. There's also support for Bluetooth music playback via the stereo channel, and you can set a passcode to prevent anybody else breaking into your system. Finally, XLRs provide access to the in and out Link connections and for the Monitor output.
We tried the system at a couple of gigs, one a smaller pub and the other a large dining hall, both times with impressive results.
Ease of use appears to have been a major design consideration, so instead of a full range of EQ controls there's a single–knob EQ for each channel that adjusts multiple parameters at the same time. That one-knob EQ is slightly unusual as turning anti-clockwise thins out the lows for speech use while turning it clockwise from centre adds more bass while also dipping the mids to produce a smile curve to keep DJs happy — but the panel graphic makes that clear. The mixer also offers a choice of three reverb presets and one delay preset, with channels 1 to 3 having separate reverb send controls and input-switching buttons. All channels have rotary level controls with clip LEDs for the mono channels, and the Bluetooth pairing button is located in the stereo channel strip. At the top of the mixer are buttons for selecting Bluetooth Control and for selecting mono or stereo operation (the latter mode is for when two systems are linked). While the three main input channels will always be in mono, the stereo input and effects can benefit from the stereo operation.
The continuously variable Mode knob affects the overall output, with Speech to the left, Music in the Middle and Club to the right. We're told that Mode changes the settings of a multiband compressor, which also changes the EQ balance. A master section rotary control split into four segments selects the reverb type from Hall, Plate, Room or Echo and also controls the decay time, above which is a reverb bypass switch. There's also a master level control with an adjacent Limit LED that lights if the system limiter is provoked into action. A Monitor level control feeds the Monitor output, which is essentially the main mix, with effects, taken before the master level control and before the Mode processing.
The free StagePas Editor app for iOS (v11 or later) or Android provides remote control of the mixer via Bluetooth, which has enough range for mixing from the stage. Settings can be saved as user Scenes, which can be called up again when needed. The Editor app reflects the layout of the mixer but, to save space, tabs switch between EQ, mix and Scene views. The app can also let you access your media files for music playback — as long as you give it permission. Once Bluetooth is paired, you need to use the Bluetooth Control button on the mixer to hand over control from the panel to the mobile device, and there's an LED to let you know this is working. Using the app, I can report that the controls respond smoothy, with a choice of linear or rotary movement as a user preference.
Sonically the Stagepas 1K delivers a clear sound unless pushed too hard, at which point the sub starts to get a little boxy-sounding in the lower mids — which is to be expected given the relatively high crossover frequency. The system covers the vocal range in a nicely detailed way, and though the sub is ported to bolster LF output level, the bass sounds reasonably tight and punchy at typical playback levels. Music playback also sounds more 'hi-fi' than through most small box PA systems. If you have a voice that always manages to sound a little dull over a PA, moving the Mode knob towards Speech and turning the channel tone knob anticlockwise to lose a little low end soon balances things. The effects are well suited to adding a bit of wet in drier-sounding venues as long as you don't over-use the longer reverb settings. In Delay mode the time changes as you move the control through the Delay segment with feedback maintaining a sensible value.
We tried the system at a couple of gigs, one a smaller pub and the other a large dining hall, both times with impressive results. We put miked cajon, acoustic guitar, vocals and some electric guitar (from my amp's DI out) through the Stagepas 1K and I was impressed by the clean reproduction. Resistance to feedback proved impressive and it is possible to work a metre or so in front of the speaker at a decent volume before feedback starts to make itself known, as long as you stand slightly to one side of the speaker column rather than directly in front of it.
For duo work, placing the Stagepas 1K between the performers allows both to hear the system clearly with little risk of feedback, and it also helps avoid contact with the aforementioned drunken revellers. In smaller venues you can easily manage without monitors — we managed fine without monitors at each gig — and if you need a bit more coverage without investing in a second system, connecting a small powered speaker such as a Yamaha DBR10 to the Link or Monitor output will help you get sound into the far reaches of an L-shaped bar.
Though there are several similarly priced systems with similar capabilities, the Stagepas 1K is very portable, it packs down into a single bag, and Yamaha have a great reputation for reliability. If you play at modest volumes and want more of a hi‑fi sound in a compact format, the Stagepas 1K has much to recommend it.
The list of alternatives continues to grow with Bose, LD Systems, JBL and HK Audio being just a few of the names that spring to mind. The new Mackie SRM Flex also looks interesting, and we'll be reviewing that in due course.
- Clear, punchy sound with good resistance to feedback.
- Compact and fairly light.
- High–quality cover included.
- Can be tablet or phone controlled via Bluetooth.
- Useful mixer with effects built in.
- No phantom power.
- I still worry about what might break if somebody stumbled into the column during a gig.
It is good to see Yamaha offering a compact, mini line array with facilities well suited to solo artists, duos and smaller bands.
£886 including VAT.
Yamaha Music Europe +44 (0)344 811 1116