When we first saw and heard a prototype of the StudioLive AI Series powered speakers from PreSonus at an event just prior to Winter NAMM 2013, we were impressed and very anxious to get out dirty little claws on some. It has been a few months now since we got them and we are still impressed, but more on conclusions later.
We put the StudioLive AI Series powered speakers through the ringer with several gigs over 10 weeks in three states with three different sound guys running them, and for very different kinds of gigs. Jamie Rio first took the 328AIs (the Rev.’s personal fave) out on a corporate spoken word gig in L.A. It was a conference for 50 business big wigs and the audio has to be perfect and every word loud and clear.
Next, The Rev. took one of the SL18AI subs, two 312AIs and a pair of 328AIs on a series of bar gigs in the Las Vegas area, and finally Paul Overson drove out from Orem, Utah to Vegas and picked up the whole system and used it on a series of gig ranging from a parade to a family-oriented music festival to a pair of musical events put on for inmates at the state prison.
Like I said, a wide range of gigs. Let’s take a look at the family before we head out on the gigs.
SL18sAI = an 18 inch subwoofer with an internal amplifier rated at 1000 watts. This thing hits like a truck, and after lifting it in and out of the back of my Chevy HHR, I felt like I had been hit by one.
SL312AI = a triamped box that contains a 12 inch woofer, an 8 inch coaxial mid and a 1.75 inch compression driver. The low frequency woofer is driven by two 500W amps bridged for a total of 1000w. The mid and high frequency speakers each feature a 500 watt amplifier. A super-solid and really good sounding top box that matches really nicely with the sub.
SL328AI = a three-way box that contains an two 8-inch woofers, a 8-inch coaxial mid and a 1.75 inch compression driver. Each driver is driven by a 500 watt amplifier. I can’t say enough good things about this. And i am not the only one, it was used as a monitor by an ultra-A-list engineer who liked it a lot. And no, we can’t tell you his name. Politics. But the list of folks he has mixed in the pop and rock world is a thing of wonder. And no, that is not a hint. The list really is one of those OMG moments to take a gander at.
There are a few things that make the StudioLive AI speakers stand out. First, freature the same DSP design use in the StudioLive AI-series mixers. The speakers are then tuned using Dave Gunness designed TQ algorthms. Presonus DSP design coupled with loudspeaker genius Dave Gunness’ algorthms puts the overall sound of the AI series above anything else we have heard to date in this price range.
Additionally, the DSP is not just stuff happening “in the box.” Each speaker is capable of wired or wireless networking through a Wi-Fi LAN adapter, for wireless a router is required. Via a wireless router, you can even make just one speaker wireless and then daisy chain Ethernet to all of the others and still control the whole system via a laptop (Mac or PC) or an iPad. You get alignment delay, an 8 band parametric EQ, and 8 notch filters for controlling feedback. You can also remotely monitor EACH SPEAKER for thermal issues, driver over-excursion, or input levels that are too much for the onboard A/D/A converters.
There are some other DSP features that are available either through StudioLive Room Control or via controls on each speaker. These include “mode” setting on the top boxes for normal or monitor use and a high-pass filter that can be turned on when the sub is being used and off when it is not. There is also a mode called LBR which means “low bit rate” which claims to make the audio artifacts in low-resolution audio files like MP3s less audible. None of us have MP3s on our mobile devices so we were not able to confirm that. Sorry, AIFF only on the Rev.’s iPod. On the 18sAI sub, there are controls to flip the polarity on the sub and an “extended low frequency” mode that adds a sub-harmonic synth to the party for those EDM gigs.
In general, we were not nice. They got dropped, not all of them but a couple top boxes fell more than once, all survived to get loud again. One of the subs did appear to be DOA out of the box which we are chalking up to these being very early production models. PreSonus sent a replacement right away. All three of us are pretty much enamored of the 328AI. It is just pristine like a good studio monitor and gets plenty loud for small to mid-sized gigs. I would kill for a pair for my band’s gigs (this is the Rev. at this point, input from the others soon…), but these have to go back home to PreSonus’ new digs in Baton Rouge very soon. I may cry.
Let’s move on to the gigs.