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Author Topic: update: PA system for acoustic music questions... (LONG review included)  (Read 1975 times)
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« on: November 30, 2007, 10:57:17 AM »

I thought I'd share this information with anyone that is interested in live sound reinforcement for small/medium rooms...

This past September I purchased a PA system to use for my own solo/duo type music presentation.
With a lot of consideration and some advice from members, members and personal friends, I bought a Carvin system.

I purchased the following equipment...
an XP880 mixer
a pair of LM15 cabs for mains
a pair of LM12 cabs for use as monitors
also included with my purchase was a kit containing (really nice) speaker stands, cables and a couple of mics...

I have to say that I am extremely impressed with this purchase.
The sound quality is incredible, it is very user friendly, and I cannot believe how lightweight the entire system is.... INCREDIBLE!

It's really great to have these forums to be able to receive and to give valuable opinions and information on, really, any topic that we bring up.


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The following is the original post of a thread that I started on Carvin's discussion boards to critique the system and a follow-up post that I posted after using the system a few times. The entire thread can be found... HERE

I just received my new set-up.
I purchased an xp880 powered mixer with a pair of LM15s and a pair of LM12s.

My goal was to create an extremely versatile setup that was both great sounding and easy to transport. (read... lightweight)
I plan to use the 15s as mains and the 12s as monitors, with the option of using the 12s as mains and a single 15 for a monitor if the room is small. The tri-amp design of the xp880 makes this set-up nice as there is no need for powered speakers to be used for monitors. Everything gets it's power from the xp880.

I have never used Carvin equipment before, so I purchased this without any foreknowledge of its capabilities or sound quality other than the (very) sparse reviews that I could find on the Internet and on this forum. I was a sound-man for a band for several years using console mixers, power amps and some very nice mains and subs, so I do have some knowledge of sound engineering and mixing.

Currently, I play acoustic music, guitar/harmonica, as a solo performer and occasionally as a duo. I am preparing to host an "acoustic friends" type of regular gig at a local coffee shop and wanted to have a nice set-up to get a good sound in the mid sized room that it will be set up in.

I had the opportunity to set up the system for a barbeque party that had a 5-piece bluegrass band performing and me playing as a solo performer. The group used their own non-powered mixer (for their 10 microphones) and ran their mixer's outputs into the xp880 which powered the LM15 mains and the LM12 monitors.
The sound was very impressive. The LM15s gave a very full, natural sound. The bandleader played acoustic (stand-up) bass which was very tight in the mix, not boomy at all. The guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo had a very pleasant "ring" to them. The vox cut right through the mix and were clear and natural. The mix was very clean with a nice separation of the instruments.

It was a joy to be able to hear someone else play through my new equipment and to be able to critique it personally. I had set it all up at home in a 24'X32' building (woodshop) and it sounded great on the performer's side of the monitors, but it's really impossible to hear the full sound from the mains. Having the group play through the system was a great opportunity to really hear, personally, what it sounded like.

For my purposes, the xp880 has plenty of power. The bluegrass band played at a good level and the 1st lights of the meters were just coming on with plenty of control left over. The mixer was barely half way up at each stage of gain-staging.

I found the effects to be adequate. With 2 banks of effects, it would have been nice to be able to "double up" the effects on each channel like on the RX series. On my solo playing, I just use some reverb, which does sound nice when you get it dialed in, but it would be great to have the option of adding another effect in the chain like a little delay or chorus added with the reverb on individual channels.
The controls on the xp880 are pretty straight forward. No problem getting a good sound.

I found the LM15s and LM12s to be quite impressive. The polypropylene enclosures have a great look and feel to them. They are not "brittle" feeling like most other cabs that I have looked at. I was actually very impressed with them when I pulled them out of the boxes. At 31lbs and 26lbs respectively, these things are feather-light! No problem carrying them around or lifting them up onto the stands. I considered the LS1503s for quite a while, but after considering that they are 58lbs apiece, I felt that it was more than I wanted to lug around by myself. I am not disapointed in my decision.

For my purposes, solo/duo acoustic performing, the xp880/LM15s-12s combination is everything I would want in a PA system. Great sound, portability, versatility and straight forward controls make this a very desirable system.
I would not recommend the xp880 for a rock band type setup, as you would be limited on inputs and may find it a little lacking in power if you were playing in a larger venue.
If you're an acoustic player/group, you will have a hard time finding a nicer system than this in this price range. I am very pleased with my purchase and look forward to trying it out in the coffee shop this week!

*************************and the follow-up post...

I just got home from a little gig at a local coffee shop in my hometown.
The coffee shop in located in a very old building that has a lot of consignment shops in it. There is an area in the middle of the building that is about 25' X 80' (a rough estimate) and that is where I set up to play.

I have set up the system there twice to date using the LM15s as mains and a single LM12 for a monitor. I am using a Shure sm58 mic for vocals and plugging my guitar straight in. I have a Larrivee L-19 acoustic with a K&K Pure Western Mini pick-up that I installed. (the guitar really sounds fantastic.) I also mic'd the guitar the first time I set up with a Shure BG4.1 condenser mic just to see how it would blend with the K&K. I was using a little reverb on the vox and K&K and a touch of delay on the condenser and would just "lean in" for occasional effects.

With this solo set-up, I had the gains, levels, and the mains all right at "5" or just below.
For my application this seemed to be a good volume for the room considering the type of music I play; singer-songwriter/troubadour/acoustic blues type stuff.

I have to say that I think this set-up is fantastic. The LMs are dead silent until you play. The sound is very clean and clear. I had a few other people playing my guitar and singing through this set-up so I could listen. The quality of the sound is excellent, through the full range... tight lows and crisp highs... a very balanced sound.

I have not tried the system with the LM12s as mains. but depending on how big your set-up is, I think that they would sound awesome. I considered purchasing just three LM12s for mains and a single monitor, but went with the two LM15s and two LM12s to make the system more versatile. I would not hesitate to take my set-up into any room and not feel that I couldn't get a good sound. A large venue with a duo or trio (or more) could easily get a great sound with the two 15s as mains and the two 12s as monitors. The smallest rooms could be covered with the two 12s as mains and a single 15 for a monitor as a solo/duo act.

Of course, I would recommend the LM15s as mains for any type of "band" situation, only because I've heard them. (color me impressed!) But I'm sure that you could get a very nice sound out of the LM12s also. Though I honestly think that the initial investment of the extra $40 apiece for the LM15s would save a lot of regret down the road...("man I wonder how the 15s would have sounded".) LOL. I also realize that a budget is very important, too. The current "free shipping" deal is quite a savings, also!

I would strongly recommend a pair of the LM12s for monitors if more than 2 people are playing. As I stated, I have only used a single monitor while doing the solo stuff, but I used both when the bluegrass band played through them. (see my initial post) They covered the 5-piece band wonderfully.

I have received nothing but high praise for my set-up from everyone that commented on it. There were a few serious players, (acquaintances of mine) that really checked it out and had nothing but praise for the sound, appearance and perceived quality of the rig. Much of the conversations were focused on how versatile the system is... "You can play anywhere with this...!"

...forever on the never-ending quest for TONE!!!
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