Opinions Are Like… Well, You Know…
These kind of reviews are always my favorite kind to do (said no one ever). Any review that is based in opinion and not it a provable fact is always a hard thing to do. You have people who just want to tear apart everything that you said and you have people that are waiting to read your review so they can rush out and buy whatever one you say is the best. Either way you're screwed. I'm going to do my best to give input from the system tech point of view. So now that you know that, here we go.
I'll start with the compact array's, we had two. First up VUE AL4this particular array was small but the cool part was that we had a cardioid array of subs flown with it. There's nothing hard about flying an AL4, the wittle guy only weighs about 16 pounds. VUE makes it pretty easy their V4 system engine (their proprietary amp) comes loaded with a preset for everything in the VUE garage that can be run by it. Simply call up the appropriate preset, plug in a source, and turn it up. The AL4 is one of the most surprising little boxes I've ever heard. I have nothing more to say about than they are small, loud for their size, and easy to use. SystemVUE (VUE's control program) networks very easy with Amos and gives you a few controls. My personal opinion is that the program workflow is is hard to get around and the program has very few controls so you end up doing most of the control on the front end.
DAS Aero8/LX218DASnet, this one also considered a compact array is a very easy to use PA as well. Relatively light and powered which makes it very versatile. I have a fair amount of personal experience with this rig and it sounds very good, gets loud for its size, and has a few user controls on the back that give some group EQ. No network ability but with a rig that size I can't knock it. DAS also has the DSP4080 for front end/zone control. It's a rebadged XTA controller so if you're familiar with XTA you'll fit right in. DASnet control has quite a few great features but with an Aero8 the only thing DASnet is good for is the DSP4080 and in this case the DASnet compatible subs.
Moving on to the mid sized arrays we had a VUE AL8/AL4 combo rig with HS28 subs. A very sizable rig for that matter. As with the AL4 rig the system is fairly light so flying isn't too hard. The only drawback here is that the amp is only rated down to a 4ohm load which makes for a lot of NL8 going up in the air. It starts to get heavy as gear arrays get bigger. The HS28 is a unique hybrid sub in that it has front loaded 18 as well as a band pass 18. Very full and musical sound with great punch up close and at distance. The V6 System engines are just like their their baby brother in that the y come preprogrammed with everything that they will run. The difference between the 2 amps are a V4 is a 4 channel amp and a V6 is a six channel amp. I'll say the same comments about SystemVUE here it's very easy to network but once up it doesn't do a whole lot as far as function but it does give you the ability to monitor the system. So again you are doing most control on the front end.
The RCF TT33/TT56 rig (my favorite of the shootout) is a little rough to fly. I would say the same for any PA that flies vertically from a cart. I'm not a fan of this but most companies transport their PA on carts to save space. So it is what it is. The RCF is a powered system which does require a little extra cable up in the air. For whatever reason they chose to put the signal input and the power input on opposite sides of the speaker which makes for a mess with cabling. The input section of the amp module is Bang and Olufson and the power section of the amp is Powersoft. Super dope!!!!!!! Plenty of power and headroom. Once up the RDnet software takes over and you a good amount of control over each module on the PA, which from a systems perspective is very nice. Our venue for the day was big and for smaller mid sized box it filled the room with ease. Now the TT56 subs will be forever known as the ministers of low end devastation. They are a very powerful powered double 21" sub that are also controllable through the RD software.
DAS Aero40 yet another powered PARA. As with RCF they chose to put power and signal on opposite sides of the box. So again messy cabling. Unlike RCF a they have signal and control going over the same line so there is a bit less cable going up there. Once up you have all the control that you'd ever want at your fingertips with the DASnet software. Each box is controlled individually but through the software groups can be made to control areas of PA together. As with the Aero8 I have experience with the Aero40. I really enjoy this rig. It is very easy to tune. Also doesn't take a lot of correction to get it in the ballpark. Phase traces are very coherent which make for a much easier time getting the PA to translate what we are trying feed it. The individual control of each enclosure lets you really custom tailor the rig to the venue.
Lastly we are on to the large format arrays. First up we have the Outline GTO. It was also a combo rig. It had GTO, GTOC12, and GTO Downfill in it. I really wanted to love this PA but it was very hard. The crew had their rig up in the air within minutes which is awesome Powersoft power and Lake control don't suck either. When I stood in one place the PA sounded great but the transitions between each of the different elements was not that good. I also thought that the PA was limiting far too early it that's my opinion. Again when in the path of one particular element the PA sounded great. All in all great system with tons to offer.
The last rig up was the NEXO STM. What a sight to behold. If looks could kill the STM is a murderer. The STM sub was also something to behold. Just a devastatingly loud speaker. As with the GTO the NEXO rig didn't seem to sound the same form place to place. When I stayed put it sounded awesome. Due to the fact that the angle of the PA is set by a tension chain after the rig is in the air the whole array flys out flat which makes it super easy to fly. The idea of the STM is awesome in that anything in the family can hang at any place in the array. And you can scale the array to fit literally any venue that you can dream up. The amp racks are also awesome with the intelligent panels on them. I mean they have programmable speaker output panels, how sweet is that. Everything about this system from the amp racks to the speakers is so scalable and adaptable I feel as though you could do any event with a variation of the rig.
To sum it all up no manufacturer these days make s crummy PA. Each of these systems sounded good, had high points, and had low points. This is where I'm going to get harsh for a minute which isn't usually like me. Each system that was offered was a very respectable system coming from a reputable company but that's about where the good ends.
Sadly I think each of these companies kind of shot themselves in the foot with the way that the systems were prepared. Each was put together by a rep or a sales person, they were also tuned by these same people. Not to say that these guys can't do that kind of work but why not have touring system guy come out and set your rig up and tune it for you. I think every rig left a lot on the table because of this and this bums me out. I wanted to be super impressed with some of these rigs but was instead frustrated because I could see that they were just poorly teched.
Please don't think that I'm being mean but as a systems guy I do my best each time out make sure that the PA is the best that it can be and these were definitely not at their best. But that being said each PA was good in its own right and any one of them would certainly get gigs done.