Bose L1 Model 1S Portable Line Array System

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Bose L1 Model 1S with B2 sub and ToneMatch engine.

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Bose put the “personal P.A.” on the map with the original L1, which despite being greeted initially with skepticism has proven itself as a brilliant, effective design. However, there’s been a hole in the product line between the high-end L1 Model II with its 24-speaker line array and the L1 Compact system, with a six-speaker line array. The L1S splits the difference with a 12-speaker line array and coverage for venues holding around 300 people—perfect for coffeehouses, gyms, churches, and the like. But overall, L1 Model 1S system leans more toward the Model II than the Compact, particularly as it can drive either the original B1 sub or the new, more powerful B2.

The Bose Paradigm The L1 Model 1S system consists of one or two bass subs, a line array column that connects to a powered stand sans cables (the combination weighs about 50 pounds), and a ToneMatch port that connects to the optional T1 ToneMatch audio engine. As with other Bose systems, the P.A. goes behind you, not in front, so monitors aren’t needed; its claimed 180-degree dispersion (and my experience bears that out) is exceptional, but so is the projection—level dropoff with distance is considerably less than expected.

The system’s only input is a 1/4" analog balanced/unbalanced input with trim control, so the ToneMatch engine with its digital four-channel mixer is an extremely useful accessory. It features more than 100 presets for specific instruments and mics that tailor their sound to Bose systems, as well as effects (five global reverb algorithms, along with per-channel effects like delay, modulation, dynamics, and EQ); these settings can be stored as scenes. It even has a chromatic tuner.

Enter the B2 A single cable (included) connects the heavy-duty NL4 cable connector to the sub. (The Model 1S can drive a single B2, while the Model II can drive up to two B2s when used with the optional Packlite amplifier.)The B2 features two 10" woofers for serious bass—excellent for DJs and bassists. It weighs 45 pounds, compared to the B1’s 25 pounds (and is somewhat bigger), but remains portable, and the extra low end is worth it. Subjectively, it seems the B2 actually gives more lows than stacking two B1 cabs.

A three-position switch tailors the B2 for various applications: maximum bass for DJs, normal for bass and kick, and less bass for singer/songwriters or background music. (Note that L1 Model II systems with updated powered stand firmware can also use the B2, and with its switch in the normal position, the B2 also works with the older Model I and Classic systems.)

Bose on a Budget I’ve been using Bose systems for years, including use as a guitar amp. (It’s great.) Frankly, once I switched, I never looked back. They’re easy to set up, compact (my entire live rig fits in a 2000 VW Beetle), sound more like a loud hi-fi system than a P.A., give the audience a sonic treat, and have been 100% reliable. The L1 Model 1S brings those advantages in at a lower price, while still offering exceptional performance—and now, the option for bigger bass. I expect to see these populating a lot of stages in the years ahead.

Convenient and compact. Great sound and dispersion; easily fills venues of intended sizes. B2 sub pumps up the low end. ToneMatch is very useful. Small footprint. Includes carrying bags for all elements.

Only one input without ToneMatch.

Price varies with system; for example, about $1,799 with B1 sub, $2,299 with B1 sub and ToneMatch engine, $2,499 with B2 sub and ToneMatch engine