iPods, laptops, and the Bose L1

Steve from England has asked me a few questions about whether he should use an iPod or a laptop for his backing tracks. He also uses a Bose L1 system but finds it limits at higher volumes, especially during vocals. Welcome to the club for frustrated Bose L1 owners Steve! Here’s my reply:

Hi Steve

I used to use a laptop on stage for my backing tracks but after the second laptop in 3 years fell to bits I decided to start using an iPod as it was more robust, more reliable, and much more portable.

Of course the big disadvantage of using an iPod for backing tracks over a laptop is the size of the screen. But as long as you have reasonably good eyesight then I feel it’s a fair trade-off.

Being new to the iPod, you say you are still taking your minidisc with you as a backup. That’s good – it always makes sense when you’re embarking on a new way of working or using new equipment to still have your old stuff on stand-by just in case you have any teething problems.
You’ll probably find though that as time goes by and you get more and more used to using the iPod, the only backup you’ll want to have is probably another spare iPod in your top pocket!

If you do decide that you don’t like working with the iPod and you want to use a laptop, the only thing I would advise is that you choose a laptop that is well made and robust and has a good quality soundcard inside.
Personally I would avoid Dell laptops because in my experience they are cheap but you get what you pay for. I’ve had more trouble with Dell laptops and desktops than any other make of PC (and I’ve had dozens and dozens of computers over the years).

Also watch out for mains hum from the laptop soundcard – it’s a common problem on many laptops, even good quality laptops. Fortunately a ground loop isolator costing less than £20 can solve the problem of audio hum, buzz and crackle from the laptop soundcard (if you’re looking for an an inexpensive ground loop isolator, go to the Maplin website and type ground loop isolator in to the search box).

I don’t use the Bose L1 tonematch because I use two of the older L1 Classic systems rated at 750w rather than the newer Bose systems which only give out 500w. I don’t have a problem with the limiter kicking in on my Bose systems because they are both 750w each and I don’t play very large venues nowadays.
However I have tested out the 500w Bose systems and had the same results as you – limiting, especially when someone sings falsetto. The 500w systems limit even in small venues.

Robert (who works with us here at MP3 Backing Trax) asked Bose about this problem and Bose refused to admit there was any problem, saying that they had tested the 750w and 500w systems side by side and they give out the same volume.

This just isn’t true.

Robert even challenged the Bose engineer to come to one of his gigs and hear the limiting. The bose guy declined. That says it all.

An insider has confirmed to me that Bose know there is a problem but refuse to admit it. It’s such a shame they choose NOT to address this problem – I know plenty of musicians who have taken their new Bose systems back to the shop and asked for a refund because they found the limiting on the 500w bose systems so bad they were just unusable…