A new benchmark in portable
By Gino Robair
|The HK Audio Elements modular PA system is available in various configurations.|
Portable PA technology has been a lifesaver for
mobile DJs and bands playing small venues. But
like most audio products, you get what you pay
for when it comes to sound quality.
HK Audio takes the high road with Elements,
a modular sound-reinforcement system made
of up to six parts that you can mix and match—a
600W power amp, a 600W powered subwoofer,
a 250W passive subwoofer, a 150W passive line
array of speakers, and a special speaker pole and
base. While HK Audio’s power amps alone are
more expensive than many low-end portable
PAs, Elements offers excellent audio fidelity and
is configurable for venues ranging in size from
coffee bars to moderate-sized houses of worship.
Look Ma, No Cables The first thing you’ll notice
with Elements is the lack of cables. The audio and
electrical connections between amps and speakers
are embedded within the poles using the company’s
E-Connect technology: Simply stack the speakers
onto the power amp and poles—each speaker
array has a connector on the top and bottom of
the unit—and you’re ready to go. You’ll still need
to patch a cable from your mixer to each power
amp and plug the amp’s IEC cables into the wall.
However, E-Connect makes the Elements
system easy to set up.
Each Class D power amp can deliver 600W
at 4 ohms. The EA600 ($599) can drive four
E435 Mid/High ($399) passive speaker arrays,
two arrays and an E110 passive 10" subwoofer
($699), or a pair of the passive subs. The E110
Sub A ($1,099 street) active subwoofer has
a 10" speaker and can power two E435s or a
passive sub. Both power modules have a hole
in top that accepts the EP1 pole ($99), while
the powered sub also has an E-Connect hole
on the side, so you can lay the sub horizontally.
Each power amp includes a 1/4"/XLRcombo
input, a through-port for routing the
input to additional power amps, a Speakon
speaker output, a –10/+4 input sensitivity
switch, and a built-in limiter with indicator
light. Considering their output, the amps are
lightweight—the EA600 weighs a mere 6.1
lbs. while the E110 Sub A is about 42 lbs. The
remaining system part is the EF45 bass ($179),
which can hold an EA600 power amp and
several speaker arrays.
The review system included two E110
active subs and four E435s, allowing me to
set up a dual mono or stereo configuration.
Each E435 holds four 3.5" speakers and weighs
5.2 lbs. Its overall frequency range is 140Hz
to 20kHz, with a 12dB/octave crossover at
140Hz. The powered sub has a frequency
range of 45Hz to 150Hz.
Assembling the review system took five
minutes. I placed the EP1 poles into each
subwoofer, making sure each locking button
was aligned, then I stacked the speakers on
top, aligning each of their locking buttons.
Next, I powered up the subs, plugged in my
audio source, and I was in business.
The pole’s usable length is 34 to 60 inches
once it’s inserted into the sub, allowing you
place the arrays over the audience to reach the
back of the room. With the pole fully extended,
the final height stretched 9 feet from floor to
the top of the second speaker array. You can
swivel the speakers about 45 degrees in either
direction without damaging the interior cables.
The arrays are more directional than the Bose
systems I’ve heard, but I prefer the narrow
directionality, which resulted in less feedback
at high volume.
The resulting PA tower is very stable and
light enough to move if you need to adjust its
position. The upright subwoofer is 11 inches
wide, so the entire setup takes up much less
space onstage than a system with tripods.
And it looks more elegant because there’s less
exposed cabling in the system.
The only issue I had with setup was getting
the locking button on one of the subs to go
into the hole of the pole. However, the audio
and electrical connections were secure, and it
didn’t affect the system’s performance.
Crankin’ Cabinets I used the review
system to rehearse a rock band, as a PA for
an acoustic group in a small club, and as
sound reinforcement for an exercise class.
Whether it was amplified acoustic guitars,
vocal mics, or CD and MP3 playback, the
sound was clear and well balanced, without
the excessive midrange I’m used to hearing
from inexpensive portable systems. Even
with a considerably high input level from my
mixer, the system sounded great. And for a
street price just shy of $2,000 per channel, it
The inputs accept balanced and
unbalanced 1/4" cables, so if you don’t
have a mixer, you can just plug your linelevel
media player in directly. However,
you’ll have more control over the sound
using a mixer.
The E435 and E110 Sub A are easy to lift
and carry, but the speaker arrays are somewhat
vulnerable. To protect them when traveling,
HK Audio offers soft cases that hold four of the
units and one pole. Cases and covers are also
available for the power amps.
Hit the Road As a modular system, Elements
lets you create a PA that meets your exact
needs, while allowing you to add modules as
the size of your audience increases. And it’s a
system worth considering if sound quality is as
important to you as portability.
STRENGTHS: Powerful for its size.
Lightweight. Excellent sound quality.
LIMITATIONS: Pole locks may
require a bit of finessing to lock
Components start at $399