When I first started playing and mixing live shows, I used to pack my car with equipment – 4 x 12 guitar cabs, bulky powered speakers with 15″ woofers, and every guitar pedal in my arsenal. Now that I am more seasoned and play an average of five nights a week, I’ve adopted the “less is more” approach.
The Electro-Voice ZXA1 compact powered speakers are certainly in line with this approach. Their small frame and weight (19 lbs.) combined with a high-powered integrated amplifier (800 watts) make these enclosures an absolute godsend. Out of the box, I was actually worried that these things wouldn’t cut it as my main PA for the shows I was doing. After reading the specs (123dB SPL max, 800-watt amp, etc.), I was confident enough to put them through their paces at a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, ON.
It was a nice change to effortlessly carry in both speakers at the same time using the built-in handles. I set them up in a wide stereo field and raised them to about 6 ft. on speaker stands and created a quick guitar loop. I then walked the entire venue to listen for quality of coverage. These speakers sounded great and the coverage was excellent. I was also impressed at the low-end response, considering the fact they only have 8″ LF transducers. I was very confident in my sound with these speakers, which always results in a good show.
I wanted to throw these boxes into as many applications as possible, so on my next show, where I was actually drumming and singing along with an acoustic guitarist, I brought one along as a stage monitor. They have a sloped angle making them suitable for this kind of application. I loved having such a small monitor with such a loud and clear output. Drumming and singing is probably the most difficult of all my gigging scenarios so having great monitoring goes a long way to ease the burden. The ZXA1 was great both in sound and practicality; you can stick it almost anywhere.
I really wanted to see if these things could hack it as mains against a loud drummer and electric guitar setup, so I brought them into a pub show with my electric trio. In a venue that holds roughly 140 people, we set up a 4 x 10 bass rig, full drum kit and Orange Rocker 30 guitar combo and put two ZXAls up on poles and started the show. Our drummer is a hard hitter and we cover some heavier rock bands (like Led Zeppelin) and these speakers still sang above everything. They performed admirably without even being pushed too hard, and I actually received compliments on the sound from the venue owner.
As a final live performance test, I wanted to see if I could get away with bringing only one ZXA1 to a show and using the integrated mic and line inputs on the speaker, avoiding a mixer or any outboard equipment. With my acoustic guitar, a Shure Beta 58, and the single ZXA1 in tow, I headed to the Hard Rock patio. I set the ZXA1 up close to the street side and angled it in slightly to get maximum patio coverage. I adjusted the main volume and mic volume accordingly to reach a loud yet suitable balance between guitar and vocals and began to play.
It was a definite success but immediately made me think of some slight modifications that Electro-Voice could incorporate to tailor these speakers to solo acts. At any length, having a portable PA solution under 20 lbs. seemed to be a moment of clarity for me. In the summer season, I play an average of eight patio shows per week, and this kind of rig dramatically lightens the work load and cuts down on man hours in terms of set-up and tear down time.
In conclusion, I think these are excellent speakers and will actually consider purchasing them for their ease of use in combination with performance. Onboard EQ and line level volume control would be a plus for solo artists such as myself but that is the only room for development I can think of. EV has done an excellent job creating a product that is overwhelmingly practical while at the same time excellent in terms of value and performance. I can envision these popping up in a wide array of applications in the not-too-distant future.