Replacing a Mackie PA system with a Bose L1

Jed from Australia contacted me asking advice about replacing his Mackie PA with a new Bose L1 system. Here’s my (rather lengthy!) answer:

I’ve read the reviews posted by Kenny Campell with great interest.
I play in a duo using a Mackie PA 450w per side. Would the model 1
replace this system or should I try to get my hands on the classic?
I normally have 2 vocals, Strat Guitar, and mp3 backing tracks (via
computer). Look forward to your advice.

Hi Jed

If you are using two Mackie 450’s then you’re current PA gives a maximum output of 900w. To achieve the same volume with only ONE new Bose L1 (500w) would be a struggle. So, I recommend you buy TWO L1’s with 1 bass sub on each to replace your old Mackie PA.

However, if you could get a hold of an older L1 classic (the 750w model) then it would give you enough to replace your 900w PA (yes, I know it’s 150w less than your old PA but the Bose disperses the sound more efficiently so will fill your venue with just as much sound).

The reason I say this is because many musicians have found a volume capping problem with the newer Bose L1 system (which Bose seem to think doesn’t exist)! On one hand you have musicians out there in the field telling Bose that there’s a problem with their new model 1, and on the other hand Bose technicians saying that there’s no problem!

This is because the newer L1 has TWO amplifiers inside it (2 x 250w = 500w), while the older L1 classic has THREE amplifiers inside it (3 x 250w = 750w). Bose claim that both give out the same volume (they say they’ve tweaked the new 500w version to squeeze the same volume/loudness out of it).

However I and many other musicians have found this NOT to be the case when playing at live gigs. The 750w L1 constantly achieves greater volume than the new 500w model in our experience. You notice it particularly when playing loudly at a gig , especially near the end of the evening when the volumes up and the audience are a bit noisier. This happens because when you reach the maximum volume of any L1, it has signal processing which kicks in and limits the volume to prevent any damage to the unit. We’ve found (as have countless other musicians we’ve spoken to) that the limiter in the 500w model kicks in at lower volume levels than the 750w model when being used at live gigs.

Robert who works with us here at MP3 Backing Trax raised this issue with Bose. Our local music shop is the sole supplier of the Bose L1 in our area and they sent out an engineer to test Roberts 500w L1 to make an A/B comparison and to see if it was faulty in any way. He tested both L1 systems, 500w and 750w side by side inside the music shop (hardly ideal conditions if you ask me – we’re live musicians who play in real live venues for goodness sake!). He concluded that ,to his ears, he was in agreement with what the Bose lab people say – both models give out the same volume/loudness.

So, what can we make from that?

Well, in my opinion, if you’re going to play gigs in a laboratory or in the middle of the sales floor of your local music shop, the 500w Bose L1 will give you the same volume as the 750w (according to the Bose guy)!

However, if you’re like me and millions of others out there who are real, live, gigging, professional musicians, playing in real venues, in real live music situations, the 500w Bose L1 is not as loud as the 750w Bose L1 and you’ll notice it at your gig when you push the system to it’s maximum and the limiter kicks in.

Please don’t let this put you off buying the L1. It’s an amazing speaker system and will give you a much, much, much better quality of sound than the two Mackies you’re currently using. Just make sure that if you buy the 500w version of the L1 you buy two of them…