Alto goes back!

Harbinger-HA60WAlas Alto. I was so excited to get the Alto 110w. It produced great sound; it had a small footprint; had some nice features (see my previous post) for the price. I took a while to get it all setup and was happy overall. However, I bumped into a defect. The speaker has ‘Signal Level LED’ indicator which basically should light up whenever the input sound signal is more than the circuit could handle. When this happens, you need to turn the volume of your source sound down. This is a great feature to have as in many situations, people turn up the volume without realizing the damage that can cause. Many speakers literally spew out smoke due to lack of such circuitry and a basic understanding of matching inputs to outputs. On the Alto, the light was always ON i.e., on even when the source volume was zero! I called customer service and got confirmation that it was a defective product. I could send it back to Alto and they would repair or replace it but it would take four weeks. Instead I sent it back to Amazon.com. UPS now comes to home to pick up stuff and that made it easy.

After returning, I couldn’t just sit without having completed the project. So this time, I decided I will spend some real dough and get a reliable product. Yamaha has a seven-year warranty on their active speakers and I narrowed down on the DXR8 which costs $549!! It outputs 1100W i.e., over 1000 watts. Before ordering from Amazon, I wanted to go to a store and check out the sound. Also I wasn’t sure if the 8″ speaker would do for the size of the room and if I should get a 10″ woofer.

I drove to George’s Music on Rt 63. The enthusiastic salesman when asked the question and I stated my needs (indoor/outdoor party), he said 1000W is way too much for the space – it was like driving a Ferrari to pick up milk, according to him. He suggested about 100W should be more than enough and suggested a Powerwerks 100W speaker selling about @200. The Powerwerks was a different sort of speaker called as a line array. In this kind of speakers, instead of just a 2-way woofer and tweeter, you will have more speakers to handle different ranges of sounds and hence you get a better sound output. The footprint of the speaker was just about 6″ x 6″ which was really enticing. Actually I had gone in to check out the Behringer 205D Eurolive which was very compact – it would sit on a small table and had 150W of sound. But the store didn’t have it.  I pointed out that with a single speaker you lose stereo ability i.e., you will have sound coming from one speaker/space but with two speakers and stereo sound, the sound will be more spread. He agreed on this point and also agreed the Yamaha 400i which is a portable two-speaker PA system would be great. But the Yamaha costs about $700 and that wasn’t what I wanted to spend anyway. Undecided I said I needed to think about it.

After coming back home and thinking and more research, I was convinced the EUROLIVE 205D would do the job. Though Behringer has a spotty reliability record, for $200, I couldn’t expect too much. I ordered on Amazon this Wednesday and I was expecting to get it Friday as I have prime shipping. But Amazon said Monday was the earliest date. After researching and talking to a customer service rep I was told the 205D was considered a hazardous material and hence could only be ground shipped. I settled for the delayed shipment and was ready to accept an uninteresting weekend. After dinner, it occurred to me to just get the EUROLIVE 205D at a nearby store and when I checked prices, it was the same as Amazon. So I cancelled the order and went to sleep.

Thursday (yesterday), I found out that the nearby Guitar Center in Plymouth Meeting had stock of the 205D. Eagerly drove to the place. The salesman Mike showed me a floor display and one look at it and I was convinced I did not want it. The outside was so cheap plastic that it put me off. I looked around in the live sound department and noticed a Harbinger 60W two speaker system with a mixer was $199. The system looked not very sharp because of the felt covering on the speakers. Mike had told me that he would get a Powerwerks 50W speaker from his inventory. He came back and said disappointedly that they don’t have it in stock but it is on the way.

powerwerks50wI then listened to the 205D anyway and the sound seemed sort of hollow. Maybe a lot of wattage in a small box isn’t such a good idea. The Powerworks sounded extremely pleasant with both music and vocals. It was also on sale for $149 – too good a deal to pass. Back home, setting up the HA60W was a breeze relatively. The system comes with a 4 channel mixer and an additional aux input for music directly from a CD player or an iPod. Having more than two channel input is useful when at a party you might want to microphones connected or even an additional guitar.

The only thing I wish I had done was try out the Powerwerks  50W to find out how much difference a line array speaker system would make.

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