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Bose PAS and Zendrum: First Impressions


Hello ZenFam,

I wanted to let everyone know about the Bose PAS (Personal Amplification System) and my impressions of it in use with the Zendrum...I was really looking for some advice like this before I decided to buy mine, so hopefully this will help someone else.  Keep in mind these are my FIRST impressions...I have only had them a few days and have never left the house/garage with them.  I will update whan I have a gig with them, which will probably be Friday.

I have been playing electronic drums very nearly as long as I have been drumming.  I have owned several amps and speaker systems; always moving up, but never satisfied.  It either didn't have enough wattage, or sounded too boxy, too harsh, too midrangey, etc.  I have tried powered speakers, powered subs, amps and cabinets, full PA systems, everything.  I have often heard Inspector 109 make reference to the fact that once the Zendrum was invented, we then had to wait until the modules caught up (which I think many of us agree has finally come to pass in the Receptor).  Well, I feel the same way about amplification.  If your Zendrum rocks, your playing rocks, and your module rocks, but your sound reinforcement sucks, what do you have???

I looked at the Bose stuff long ago when it came out, and was highly skeptical.  Just didn't seem like ANY speakers could live up to the hype, let alone a freaking POLE for crying out loud!  I dismissed it for the time being.  But I was watching the positive reviews stack up on music retail sites, and people were saying "believe it!"  Finally, a family member got ahold of Bose's demo DVD for the system and I watched it.  I was then EXTREMELY curious...so I bit the bullet and bought a used system (well, 2 actually) on eBay.

My dual system is a pair of L1's (poles with amp stands) with 2 B1 subwoofers each...2 poles and 4 subs total.  I did this so that I could run my stuff in stereo, and so that a rock trio I am in can use the whole setup as a PA.

When I first hooked them up, I had both positive and negative reactions.  The claim that the system is MUCH less directional (more "radiant") than conventional speakers is true, and was immediately apparent.  This is one of the main key points for me...think of hitting a snare drum.  If you could see the soundwaves, you'd basically see a sphere.  Now think of seeing the soundwaves from a speaker...you'd see a cone. With the Bose, you would see half a cylinder radiating forward out of the pole.  Much more usable in recreating drum sounds.

Also, the volume was nice...not too harsh, but PLENTY loud.  It won't take paint off your walls, but how often do you need scary volume?  (I don't very often, and if I do, there would be a big front-of-house system anyway).

I was a bit disappointed in the tone at first.  It seemed artificial and not very "full"...bright, but without much substance.  I was immediately disappointed.  But later, I read the manual (DUH!) and came across instructions for proper level setting.  I used different cables so I could pass my Receptor's signal through the XLR mic inputs and cranked up the trims a bit more than I would have guessed, and BAM!  I was playing drums!  Seriously, I was totally blown away...the depth and realism were fantastic, and better than I had EVER heard before.  And the volume at half was as loud as it had been all the way up before.

The stereo setup makes a HUGE difference over a single one.  I am sure the volume would work out of just one, but in stereo the sound stage is very 3D.  Even my non-musician wife had a "Holy Cow!" reaction to the difference.

Without any B1 bass modules, it really just doesn't work for drums, in my opinion.  If you were playing strictly percussion like congas and bongos it may work for you, but as soon as you get below 80 hz or so (bass drum/floor tom) you just lose the lows without at least one sub.  Even 2 subs is a little shy for my taste, but for the record I like it THUMPIN'.  With 2 poles and 4 subs, I am very happy.  Of course, I could use a LITTLE more, but I think I would always say that!  Basically, the bass is nice and even, but to be honest, isn't quite as punchy as I would like overall.

One thing I had never read but that I think is important: the tone changes a lot when you turn up the volume past halfway.  It sounds nice and even across the freq spectrum, maybe a little dull, at extremely low volume.  It gets more and more even as you turn up.  Then, at about 40-50% it sounds KILLER.  Up past 12 o'clock, it starts to really smack...a little harsh for my taste.  Keep in mind, this volume level is quite loud...almost unbearable at close quarters.  Also keep in mind that my extreme volume test took place in my garage, which, although large, has every hard surface you can imagine and is definitely a harsh space anyway!  Grain of salt on that comment...and more to come after I gig with them.

Overall, these are definitely the best sounding speakers I have played through.  They are indeed pricy but I do not regret it a bit.  I really hope they live up to my expectations on stage, because right now I think they are about perfect for me!


Michael Render:
Thanks for the review. I keep hearing more and more good things about the Bose system. I am trying to talk them into displaying a setup at FutureDrum so we can all hear it.

I just haven't been able to justify the cost and ease yet.  The system is small when its just a pole, but start adding those required SubWoofers, and the system starts getting bigger and heavier than a standard PA and full cabinets.

I have been using the bose stick since it first came out and now have upgraded and bought the bose model II with the T1 "
mixer  input unit" All I can say is WOW!  First thing. It is modular so you carry it in in smaller easier to carry sections. It is a mono speaker system but some drumers have used 2 in stereo although I have not and some of the little places we play you really don't need stereo. It sounds fine with just one although it takes a little getting used to it .  The stick has 24 speakers in it and is 2 parts so each one is light and easy to carry. The subs are also modular in that you can use 1, 2, with a packlite amp you can add 3, 4, depending on how big a room you are playing.You can also use a 3rd party sub with this if you so chose . The bose is so easy to carry and set up you may never go back to a conventional PA Total set up time including carry in may be 20 minutes or less  and what you hear 1-2 feet away from it is the same more than 80 feet away. You set it up behind you and it is your monitor as well as your mains.  It gets plenty loud for me when I need that kind of volume , but out in the audience it is not painful, just clean sound. The T1 has 5 inputs that now you can have multiple setups for mics, edrums, ipods, guitars and each channel has multiple effects that can be added like delay,reverb,eq. Zeq as well as chorus, flanger. If you are interested you should go and read the bose musicians forum it has much information. It is preety expensive, but what it replaces and the sound that you can get out of it is worth every penny. How much is your back worth to you ? Just for that reason you should check the bose out  I hope that this may help some of you. THUMPER

Well, I have now logged 5 gigs and 2 rehearsals (and a ton of "tweak" sessions) on the Bose system, and have more info to share.  For new readers: my setup is 2 L1 poles and 4 B1 bass modules, which I sometimes switch out for 2 Mackie 15" powered subs.

First of all, it kicks butt, plain and simple.  I have used one pole with 2 subs, 2 poles with 3 subs (I was missing 1 sub cable initially), 2 poles with 4 subs, and 2 poles with my Mackie 15" subs instead of the Bose B1s.  Each setup has had its own unique sound.  I have used them in the garage, the living room, a small bar, a medium-sized bar/grill, and outside.  It has worked well in all situations.

Overall comments:

-For a really rockin' drum sound, the Bose subs just aren't for me.  When I hooked up my Mackies instead, it was night and day different...BOOOOOOOM.  For tiny gigs and jazz stuff, the 2-subs-per-pole setup is great (and smaller and lighter!)

-Geo, I hear you...I was thinking the same thing: carrying and setting up lots of little stuff is just as much work as a couple big speakers and a PA rack.  BUT, I can easily get the whole thing in in 2 trips, and setup time is NOTHIN'.  Seriously, I have my Zendrum rig AND the PA set up before the guitar and bass guys are done with theirs!

-I stand by my previous comment: when the volume gets really loud, it starts to become more harsh.  I would guess this is universally true, but I wish it weren't.  I will be working on this problem with EQ and will post results.  However, I think you don't NEED to be crazy loud, when "pretty darn loud, but CLEAN" is available.

-Bottom line: I sold my 4 beloved AccuGroove speaker cabs (which are AWESOME, by the way) and 2 QSC power amps, a setup which I have been bragging about for years, on eBay this week.  'Nuff said.



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