Bose L1 Compact Review
Bose is the smallest PA class leader with the line array stacks L1 Model 1S and Model II. The company wants to prove that the same sound can be achieved with even more compact material and presents the L1 Compact model. Bose is known for generating incredible sound with deep bass from inconspicuous speakers. I am therefore eagerly awaiting the test PA to find out whether the system is just as suitable for musicians as it is for presenters, speakers, or even mobile discotheques.
- Rapid deployment
- Very easy to transport
- Handy weight of about 13 kg
- Very good reinforcement
- High beam angle
- Universal assembly options
- Integrated two-channel mixer with a total of four inputs
- No ground lift
- Fuse hard to reach
- Sub-bass below 60 Hz is missing
- Thin transmission of the lower mids
Bose L1 Compact Details
The L1 Compact is the smallest active line array from Bose. It consists of a subwoofer, an amplifier, an integrated two-channel mixer, and a mid/high column with six drivers. This can be easily latched into the subwoofer, and positioning at the height of 1.2 or even 2 m is also possible using the two hollow columns supplied. Also included are protective covers for all components. Including the tweeter, the system weighs just 11.2 kg.
The drivers in the array are arranged according to Bose’s “Spatial Dispersion” technology. This increases the radiation radius to almost 180°, intended to reproduce sonic brilliance up close and at a distance. Bose made a conscious decision not to publish the inner values (crossover frequencies, frequency response, and amplifier power) so that the buyer judges the box by its sound and not by theoretical numbers. Only the maximum power consumption of the transformer of 200 watts suggests that the amplifiers are ready to give just under 200 watts of power.
The integrated two-channel mixer has a microphone channel with XLR input. In addition to a gain potentiometer, there is also a high and low EQ. Unfortunately, frequency information and control values are missing. A special microphone preset from Bose’s own “Tone Match” technology ensures that every dynamic microphone sounds good the first time.
The second channel has a stereo mini-jack connection, a stereo phono pair, and a regular jack socket (balanced/unbalanced). Line sources or instruments (Hi-Z) can be connected here. In addition, there is a switch for a tone match preset on the jack, now for guitars and basses. Thus, pickups should sound good and be sufficiently pre-amplified in the channel, which would still have to be checked in practice.
In addition to the power switch and the mains plug socket on the back of the base, there is an output terminal with a jack socket and a record-out in a stereo cinch. If necessary, a signal fed into the mixer can be tapped and the concert recorded. But now on to the endurance test.
The practical test begins with transporting the PA, a factor that should not be underestimated. Because the system comes with matching bags, it’s easy to carry the PA along with a guitar and microphone from the parking lot to the venue in one go. Solo artists can manage the weight of almost 12 kilos with a more delicate build, and assembly is limited to putting the box down and plugging it into the local power supply. When the system is switched on, a little self-noise can be heard, which increases slightly when the gain potentiometers are turned up. But all of this isn’t very important in my eyes.
When fiddling with the device, I notice that the classic socket with the fuse is missing. As is common nowadays, the mains fuse is located inside the housing and must be replaced by a service technician in an emergency. I wouldn’t say I like that. Because during an evening gig, the specialist staff is rarely available, and anyone who opens the device on their own will lose their warranty.
I used the cheap Samson Concert 88 wireless microphone from one of my last speech and singing tests. A notebook is connected for mobile use at the DJ event, and a bass guitar was plugged directly into the L1 Compact as an instrument. I tested the system in 20 and 30 square meters in two different rooms, sounding equally good in both rooms.
The beam angle and range of the Bose L1 Compact are enormous. The sound is just as convincing right next to the PA as it is directly in front of the loudspeaker or further back in the room. The box can be positioned in the middle of the wall or one or two steps in front of the speaker. Intelligibility for the audience is guaranteed in any case.
Lectures – presentation – language
The stand with the line array mounted as a desktop loudspeaker is placed on a table behind the presenter during the presentation. This makes it easy to entertain a seated audience. Speech intelligibility is very good, and the system carries even quiet lectures safely to the back row. The L1 Compact is also a pleasant and unobtrusive reinforcement for presentations. Because it is set up on a table, all the controls are within easy reach, for example, adjusting the volume or adding musical support without putting down the microphone. The equalizer works very gently, so don’t expect a jack of all trades. Rather a classic for slight corrections in the sound.
Bose arrays are known for their feedback robustness, resulting from the proprietary Spatial Dispersion design. This allows the individual musician to be amplified on the spot and use his PA as a monitor. In other words, the musician stands directly in front of his speaker and can still use a microphone without fearing feedback. In principle, this also works with the L1 Compact, although the risk of feedback is somewhat greater than with the larger systems.
As already mentioned, the test system has a line/instrument input with a tone-match preset for pickup-amplified, rather “low-power” instruments. I connected my bass guitar to test the whole thing, and behold, the electronic control does a great job. The bass is transmitted distinctly and fairly loudly. But unfortunately, there is no equalizer in the line channel to adapt the sound to your taste or location.
Sound – Mobile DJ-Events
The Bose L1 Compact sounds good. The sound is powerful, and the highs are brilliant, almost a bit too sharp. However, the box’s frequency response has two weaknesses: the lower mids are only very weak, and the bass range below 60 Hertz does not occur at all. But I found that the test was disturbing with dubstep and hard techno pieces built on low frequencies. This leaves enough power reserve for amplification without pumping half the energy into the sub-bass range.
As a rule, the gain potentiometers only have to be turned halfway up to achieve a volume suitable for a party. The L1 Compact manages to raise even quiet input signals to dance floor level. The two-level clipping lights indicate clipping. In addition, a limiter switches on if the system is driven into the red area. This does not work completely clean because the signal sounds scratchy and unclean. The big brothers can do that better. It is, therefore, worth keeping a close eye on the corresponding LEDs.
The handy system can be set up and dismantled quickly and takes up very little space when dismantled. All the sound equipment for mobile DJing will fit comfortably in a small car. In addition, the box looks really good when assembled, and Bose is not at a loss for design.
A mono system for sound reinforcement is sufficient for smaller events of 100 people (manufacturer’s recommendation) to 200 people (author’s opinion). You can even set up a mono stack for street festivals and similar open-air events with limited square footage. For a solid club or party atmosphere, you need two systems to run the events in stereo. This also doubles the number of possible audiences!
A shortcoming of the system is that not all styles of music can be played with the same listening pleasure via the L1 Compact. For example, extremely bass-based music such as dubstep or lowered electronics is only half as fun with these speakers. Nevertheless, this box is ideal for rock/pop/disco, singer/songwriter, and contemporary dance music.
Singing – Playbacks
For the rest of the test, I invited a female singer who performs singer/songwriter pieces and funk, soul, and disco numbers. Again, the singing is transmitted crystal clear and direct. To increase the silkiness of the voice, I even turned down the highs in the L1’s mixer. The Intelligibility and assertiveness of the vocals are excellent, although the box is still on the table. In order to entertain a larger, standing audience, the L1 Compact was unfolded and the subwoofer placed on the floor.
With the active PA L1 Compact, Bose has created a small version of its already compact line arrays that sounds good. With this, Bose complements its range perfectly and allows solo artists and small bands to play practically anywhere there is a power outlet with little ballast. In addition, the solidly manufactured and brilliant-sounding PA can be set up in no time and is just as easy to transport.
Due to the comparatively lightweight, you don’t even need to visit the gym. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a presentation, a lecture, or a smaller club gig; the Bose L1 Compact is a competent companion, regardless of whether the audience is sitting down or later jumping off their chairs with enthusiasm. Thanks to the clever acoustic design and the two empty columns, rooms with 200 people can be as long as you don’t place too much value on a subsonic bass foundation. In any case, the recommended retail price is reasonable for what is on offer.