Over the last month, I’ve had several opportunities to get better acquainted with the KW152s in a variety of challenging venues—so, what do I think?
For my initial review, “QSC KW 152, First Time Out,” I included a video clip of our QSC KW 152 powered loudspeakers at work in a small-medium sized party room. I admit, it wasn’t much of a challenge for such a capable loudspeaker. Over the last month, however, life at Live2Play/SPL for the KWs has not been so cushy. First, it was a September evening in huge, damp, open party tent (when we managed, for the first time, to ignite the “Limit” lights) followed by a 7 hour stint in a large, open, beautifully appointed party room with acoustics not unlike a 55 gallon drum.
Few things beat being the DJ for a wedding a reception on a clear New York, late summer evening, outside, under a tent. But as dusk sets in (on about the 4th hour of the open bar) dampness and drunkenness become the rule. What was plenty loud a couple of hours earlier, has become “C’mon, Crank it!” With most of the tent open, the sound from the speakers has acres and acres to roam. Suffice it to say that the KWs could be clearly heard 1/10th of mile away and beyond. Well, being that our job is test the limits of this gear, we ran ‘em full-tilt until (during a track with extremely heavy bass) the limit lights* kicked on. I admit that I was a bit concerned to see those red lights come on, but it ultimately was a non-event, noticed only by me. (All K Series and KW Series speakers from QSC include sophisticated amp and transducer protection—Given that the fan never spun up and the units stayed cool, my guess is that we had triggered that either the excursion limiter or output overcurrent. We backed he gain down ever so slightly, and things returned to normal.) Fearing that I had reached the limits of the loudspeaker, I asked QSC for additional detail on how the limiter works and was told: “The clip limit indicator light comes on at the onset of the engagement of the protection system (GuardRail™) – the same system that is found in K Series, the KLA Line Array as well as the GX Series amplifier. Although the circuit is engaged, it does in no way indicate that you’ve reached maximum output. The circuit is very dynamic and allows for a considerable amount of headroom above and beyond when you first see the light. However, if the light remains in a constant lit state, you’re fully limited.”
For the next test event, we took the KWs, along with one KW181 subwoofer, to one of the larger (in terms of cubic feet of air space) party venues in Rochester, NY (see video). As the Blues Brothers would say “This place is a barn.” The KWs were well up to the task, blasting away at full-tilt for most of he evening without a whimper. I was impressed.
Did I mention…
The KW Series features four models: along with the KW152 and KW181 sub is the smaller KW122 (12” 2-way) and the larger KW153 (15” 3-way). All K Series and KW Series feature the same, proven, 1000 watt Class-D amplifier modules, capable of 2000 watt peaks. Inputs are provided for Mic/Line (channel A) and Line Only (Channel B) with gain controls. While this is somewhat lost on DJs, solo/duet musical performers, especially when using a keyboard, will find that they can connect a mic to A and keyboard (or guitar) to be and be ready to go. If you need to run the mix to second speaker, just use that handy “Line Out” XLR port. An additional welcome feature on the KWs (except the sub) is that the push-button “mic-line” switch on the A channel has been replaced with a sensitivity selector. At the tent gig, where we really needed the extra headroom, we tweaked the switch from the “0” to the “12” position which provided plenty of additional juice (and may have had something to do with the limiter kicking in…. do ya think?).
Another face-melting feature of the K and KW models is the built-in Digital Signal Processing. For the lows, you have the option of filtering out some of the low-end when you are using an external sub; selecting an all-purpose, full-range, “Norm” setting; or switching the to DEEP™ setting which will give you a nice kick in the bass while still protecting the speaker from self-destructing. We made several attempts to record onto video a comparison of how the sound changes from position to position, however the added bass just drove our camera’s audio circuits into clipping. An in-person demo at your local dealer is recommended. On the high side, you can run flat, or switch to the “Vocal Boost” position.
So, in conclusion…
While we’re still not quite done pushing the envelope with KW152s, the verdict at the moment is that these are the “swiss-army knife” of loud-speakers that musicians and DJs who play small to medium sized venues will whole-heartedly embrace. When you need to take it up a notch, look to the KW153s, and if you are doing a lot of school dances, add an extra sub (or 2 or 3). For this old hippy who still enjoys rockin’ ‘em on the dance floor, the KW152s are the perfect compromise of power and (thus far) reliability. At 67 pounds, they are quite manageable. The integrated handles are well-placed and balanced so you don’t bash the side of your head or pull a muscle when lifting them on to a stand, the 16 gauge grills are as strong as the ones on an old Jeep, and the texture painted birch enclosures are easy to touch-up when the need arises. M10 rigging points are standard on the full-range models, and the KW181 sub rides on it’s own heavy duty coasters.
While it may seem that in this day of high tech materials and composites, “Birch” would be about as old school as you can get. In reality, however, “It’s the wood that makes it good” (apologies to Kenny Rogers) allowing QSC’s lab-coated engineers to create a series of loudspeakers that has the strength to be durable, and still be light-weight enough to lug and lift without first attending a weight training.
*(In the first part of this review, I had mentioned that I use an Ashly Compressor/Limiter in my rig. My main purpose in doing so is to aid in leveling out gain variations in digital files and not to protect the speakers. At the request of QSC, the C/L was not used during this segment of the review.)