EV's ZXA5 - Versatile and Loud.
Electro-Voice claims that their ZXA5 powered speakers are “The Most Versatile Speakers In The World.” Upon hearing that, my first thought was, “I don’t know..... the world is pretty big.”
On the other hand, I can attest with confidence that, after using a pair of ZXA5s for a variety gigs during the latter part of 010, it was apparent that these loudspeakers are true workhorses in EV tradition. For almost 80 years, it has been virtually impossible to discuss pro level loudspeakers or microphones without mentioning EV. I have personally owned several EV audio systems, but brand loyalty now being what it is (nonexistent) no company can afford to count on past successes to insure future sales. In other words, EV is talking pretty big about model ZXA5. Now let’s see if itholds up.
What It Is
Housed in a rugged polypropylene enclosure, the ZXA5 is a two-way loudspeaker with a power output rating of 1250W RMS (250 HF / 1000 LF). That’s more than ample amplification to cover the crowd in most small-to medium sized venues, or pull duty as a floor monitor for the band. If you need to cover a bigger area, the ZXA5s can be easily “daisy chained” — just connect the ins and out, and run power from one unit to the next, using XLR or 1/4” jumpers.
Inside the box there’s a DVX3150 15” LF Transducer with forced air cooling for the lows and a ND2 2” Voice Coil, 1” Exit Neodymium Compression Driver for crisp, sparkling highs. Two models ore offered 60° x 60° or 90° x 50°. Our test rig is the latter.
On the portability scale, we give the ZXA5 a solid 8, which is good for a thank you speech from any loudspeaker loaded with a 15” driver. The units are well balanced and relatively easy to move about, but with a dead-weight of just over 50 pounds, they are quite capable of knocking over a food cart or server if wielded recklessly through a banquet hall. I would have like to see a second handle on the side to make lifting them up on stands a little easier, but I can’t have everything.
On the operational side, the ZXA5s go about their business with little fanfare—You get a master level control, and a high-pass switch. The latter is provided in the event you are also using sub-woofers, but with 1000W feeding an EV 15” driver, these unit hold their own quite well, throughout the frequency range, for typical DJ and singer/musician type gigs.
Also on the back panel, you’ll find an XLR input along with an XLR output, should you be running a group of ZXA5s in series. A PowerCon connector is provided to pipe in the AC with a slave output to jump to the next unit in line. Finding a PowerCon connector was a bit unusual on a speaker with mobile application, but is befitting a loudspeaker designed to be part of a larger line array system—so again, it’s all part of the ZXA5’s design for versatility and I appreciated the fact that the line cord is substantially longer than most, eliminating the need for those pesky 3’ extension cords. The advantages to the PowerCon are that it locks positively in place so you’ll not have a cord disconnecting itself while live. On the other hand, if you accidentally leave your cords in your other van, and have no spares, you’re pretty much screwed as the typical 3 prong cords that most other powered speaker employ are totally useless with these units.
How It Works
On the road, we used the ZXA5s for several DJ jobs and then brought them back to The Live2Play studio to get to know them better.
As is typical of DJ jobs, the first evening out with a pair of ZXA5s started with the usual middle of the road mix of tunes played low and distant in the background. Whereas I usually rate a speaker by how well they sound loud, the ZXA5s sounded super even at this low volume. Often times I find that bass and dynamics have a tendency to fade into the room when the system is operating just above idle, but these speakers sounded really good. The bass was strong and emphatic but certainly not something that would blow the rug off the Father of the Bride’s head and the coverage was well-balanced from one side of the room to the other. Considering that, on average, 30% of a DJ gig is played at reduced volume, this should be a strong selling point for the ZXA5, and a merit that should not be ignored by bands using them as stage monitors or solo/duet acts who may need to play a more conservative volume to fit the house.
But how do they sound when you crank ‘em? The specs say they can deliver 133 dB Maximum SPL. That’s plenty loud. On the road, our ZXA5 pair performed flawlessly. On one occasion, a bug in one of the house AC circuits caused the power to unexpectedly cut in and out for several minutes. Fortunately, the built-in protection circuitry did it’s job and the speaker survived unscathed. While it was most annoying to be standing between two speakers, with one occasionally shutting down no fault of it’s own, the second ZXA5 covered the load nicely and no one really noticed. Aside from that little glitch, these EVs performed as I would expect them to—playing loud all night long, and barely breaking a sweat doing it.
Back in the studio, to hear how these new EVs handled different frequency ranges, I connected the ZXA5 pair direct to a Yamaha P-120 Electronic Piano and turned everything up all the way (WHAT?... I SAID ALL THE WAY!). Using just the standard Grand Piano setting, I nailed that Low A. It sounded like a barrel bomb went off—it sent a shiver up my leg that Chris Matthews would have appreciated. Not wishing to sacrifice what little auditory sensibilities I still possess, I reduced the volume to something less painful and found that ZXA5s faithfully reproduced with succinct clarity all my usual blunders from keys 1 through 88.
So what’s the verdict? Indeed, these are very versatile speakers that can certainly carry the load for DJs, solo and duet performer, and with additional units, larger bands and even concert venues. How many speakers do you need? Depends on how loud you want it. In any event, the ZXA5 has proven to me to be a reliable, high performance loudspeaker, purpose built to sound good, play loud and keep its cool.