Hands-On Review:BOSE L1 Model II System
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