Hands-On Review:BOSE L1 Model II System


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The ultimate high-fidelity PA system

By Jim Gault
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer

 

What would the perfect PA system be like? First and foremost, it  would produce clean, clear, high-fidelity, full-range sound with plenty  of volume. Secondly, it would be consistent in all acoustic  environments. It would also be easy to set up and use. And it would be  easy to transport and not overly heavy. All of these sound like  reasonable expectations, but taken together they represent a wish list  that has remained difficult to achieve. No single system has yet managed  to meet all of these requirements sufficiently. That is, until now.  There is one system that has come close to perfection on all scores: the  BOSE L1 Model II system.

 

The first L1

 

The first-generation system, the L1 Model I, was born of an ambitious  desire to conquer the myriad problems of traditional PA systems. The  main issues for these systems have always been excessive reverberation  from directional sound in close-room acoustic environments and excessive  volume on and near the stage. BOSE tackled these head-on with their  innovative Cylindrical Radiator speaker—the L1 Model I system—which  went a long way toward resolving both issues. The L1 produces an  ultrawide dispersion and balanced sound pattern that projects evenly. As  a result, levels drop off more slowly, less volume is required, and the  problems of feedback are greatly reduced. The L1 also eliminated the  need for separate mains and monitors, since musicians could perform in  front of the L1 system and hear the same sound as the audience—the ideal  monitoring setup.

 

The original L1 system was a real breakthrough in live sound but, of  course, BOSE was soon itching to upgrade it. They wanted to make it  easier to use, increase the tonal balance, improve overall sonic  performance, and make it even more portable. The L1 Model II system achieves these goals with a number of clever design refinements.

 

First of all, the Model II system is configured somewhat differently  than the original. It consists of three main components: the L1  loudspeaker and power stand, the B1 Bass Module, and the T1 ToneMatch audio engine,  which is the system’s mixer. The first two components are sold together  in the Model II configuration, and the T1 audio engine is sold  separately but should be considered an integral part of the system  rather than an option.

 

Playing it again, only better

 

The new L1 is not radically different from the original and it has  all of the original’s likable features. It sets up and breaks down  quickly and easily. Each component comes packed in its own fitted and  protective gig bag.

 

The first big improvement made in the L1 Model II loudspeaker was  simple. Inside its grille, every other driver is angled either left or  right for better coverage. It may seem like a small change, but the  difference is remarkable. The sound is wider, and stays fuller and more  defined throughout the sound field. It is also even less inclined to  produce feedback than is the original system.

 

Another improvement in the L1 Model II system is a much smaller footprint. This is due to the size of the base for  the Cylindrical Radiator speaker tower. Where the old system’s base  housed the mixer, the new base has a separate ToneMatch unit. This  allows more convenient placement of the mixer. It can be mounted on the  side of the tower at a height that makes it easier to use and also  allows the base to be much smaller. To maintain stability the base has  four legs that fold out for use, and fold in for transport. The legs are  also spaced so that the B1 bass box (more on that in a moment) can sit  between two of them, further minimizing the onstage space needed for the  system.

 

The B1 is the one component that hasn’t changed, but with its 250W of  power and two high-output, high-excursion 6-1/2" drivers it adds big  bottom impact to the system’s sound. It connects to the L1 base with a  single cable and additional B1 units can be chained.

 

A tonal power tool inside a mixer

 

On the L1 Model I system,  the power stand base included a four-channel mixer and introduced the  ToneMatch concept, but they have taken it much further in the Model II  system. In essence, the ToneMatch audio engine delivers all-in-one  mixing and effects processing with presets for the instruments you play.  For musicians without a dedicated sound man, it is a potent ally in the  quest for good sound. It ensures that every time you take the stage,  you get the best sound possible without the tedium. It all happens  automatically.

 

The presets are optimized for the instruments and microphones  musicians use onstage: guitar, bass, keyboard, organ, drums, accordion,  harmonica, upright bass, violin, and wind instruments. Certain  manufacturers such as Taylor, Ovation, and Takamine guitars and Audix  mics have worked with BOSE to create settings for their particular  products, and more companies such as L.R. Baggs, Lakland, Rickenbacker,  and others are in the process. These and other updates will be available  on the BOSE website and downloadable via the Tone1’s USB connection.

 

The USB port also allows the T1 to serve as a computer recording  interface letting you use its preset sounds and high-quality effects.  The effects include reverb, modulation, delay, and dynamics processing,  which are assignable individually across all four channels. The T1 audio  engine attaches directly to the L1 tower at about waist level or can be  attached to a mic stand with a special bracket that is available as an  option.

 

Putting the pieces together

 

Unpacking and plugging in the BOSE L1 Model II system is so quick and easy, and the sonic results so spectacular, that you  will feel grateful for it each and every time you perform. The sound  quality really is remarkable, and the design makes it incredibly easy  for you to hear what your audience hears. With its hi-fi sound and easy  setup, it leaves you free to focus on your artistry.

 

Features & Specs


L1 Model II system:

  • Cylindrical Radiator with Articulated Array
  • 2-piece, interlocking design
  • Integrated power amplifier in power stand
  • Analog line-level TRS input
  • Trim control
  • Signal/clip LED
  • Bass module output
  • ToneMatch port
  • Bass line out for B1 bass module
  • Retractable legs

B1 Bass Module:

  • Compact, lightweight enclosure
  • Fits between legs of power stand
  • 2 - 6-1/2" bass drivers
  • Line out for additional B1 connection

ToneMatch audio engine:

  • ToneMatch presets
  • EQ and effects processing
  • Chromatic tuner
  • Large backlit display
  • Audio input mixing capabilities
  • +48V phantom power (Ch. 1-3)
  • ToneMatch single-cable connection to L1
  • Mic/line inputs (1–3)
  • Line inputs (4/5, L/R)
  • Trim controls
  • Signal/clip LEDs
  • Balanced TRS preamp out (1-3)
  • Aux output
  • USB port
  • Balanced TRS master out