Live2Play ON THE ROAD with Cerwin Vega Active Series Loudspeakers

When you have been doing this music thing for as long as I have—both as a musician/bandleader and sound guy—you work with a whole bunch of gear and countless numbers, types and brand of loudspeakers. So, it is nice to see one of the brands that defined live sound from the beginning reclaim that pedigree after some time wandering in the wilderness.

My first set of pro PA speakers featured Cerwin-Vega bottoms—huge folded horn enclosures that I bought USED in ’78. Since then, and for a long time after, Cerwin-Vega was synonymous with providing the bands and DJs with plenty of “thump for the buck.” So, given that my previous experience with Cerwin-Vega had all been pretty much “low-end based” I really did not know what to expect from the new Active Series. What I got was a very pleasant surprise.

What It Is
The Active series consists of three different sized powered subs (an 18”, a 15” and a honkin’ 21”) and the CVA-28 top box, which was a real revelation. This compact box is a three-way design with dual 8” speakers and a compression driver mounted in the center of the top woofer in a concentric configuration. Even though it is small, it is beefy, weighing in at 48 lbs. It’s considered a full-range box with the ability to go down to 70 Hz. It has integrated fly-points for mounting, as well as accessories that allow you to put two or three on one pole above a sub, so you have myriad of options for coverage. This review will actually be in several parts. This intro will concentrate on describing the gear and use one gig as an example—a mid-sized outdoor gig with a five-piece band for about 150 people. In the coming weeks we will add reports on using it in a much smaller restaurant setting and end with an outdoor gig featuring several bands for about 500 people.


The CVA-28 is powered by a 400-watt amp and is capable of some serious SPL. A “sub/no sub” switch rolls off the lows so the enclosure is really efficient when used with a sub. A contour switch takes some of the edge off for high-volume situations allowing you to get loud without is getting harsh and painful. Nice touch.

 We used the middle sub in the line, the CVA-118, and again it is all about flexibility and scalability. A master/slave output allows you to daisy-chain subs without multiple long cable runs. The 700 watt amp is fed by an internal crossover that allows you to set the crossover point for the tops at 65, 85 or 130 Hz and it is matched to a continuously variable low-pass filter with the same range. The addition of a polarity switch on the sub gives you plenty of tools for shaping the overall sound.

How We Used It
We received four CVA-28s and a pair of the CVA-118 subs and took them all to the gig. It was total overkill. We could have easily gotten away with half of the system. The system was fronted by an Allan&Heath Zed mixer and we used no EQ except what was on the board.

Sometimes it is the small stuff that makes the difference and CV provided a couple of cool little things that made it all easier. A small bag contained short AC and XLR “jumpers” to connect one CVA-28 to the other which made for a much cleaner setup. One XLR from the mixer to the sub, a shortie to the first CVA-28 and the jumpers to the second kept it all looking good with no cable spaghetti at the bottom of the speaker stands.

Set up was quick and easy with one exception. With two CVA-28s on the pole adapter, it took two strong guys to raise the stand up to an appropriate height. Two top boxes on the adapter plate weigh right at 100 lbs. These WILL take some abuse but they ain’t light.

As soon as we turned the system on with some canned music we knew we had way too much system. We turned off two of the CVA-28s and had each sub running at about 25% of capacity. Like I said, we could have done it with half the system and since each sub has both left and right ins and outs, one sub would have been plenty.

The band was a five-piece blues act that I work with regularly so I know what they sound like through various systems and they know that if I am on the gig they will be keeping stage volume to a minimum and allowing the system to do its job.

So how did it go? The last system I u

sed with this band was a similar “sub plus top box on a stand” system that sounded great. It also lists for $26K for two subs and two top boxes. You can get into this two-subs and four top box system for less than a quarter of that price. And is appropriate for everything from small acoustic gigs to rehearsals to full-blown gigs.

Stay tuned for updates on the other gigs as they happen and video of each gig and the set-up process.