REVIEWED: LD Systems ICOA 12A BT
The new ICOA 12 A BT from LD Systems is an active speaker that features a horn-loaded 12” woofer packed into a versatile and easy-to-transport polypropylene enclosure. With in-built DSP and a host of features, it is squarely aimed at the mobile DJ market.
As predominantly a mobile wedding and party DJ, I was immediately interested to look at and hear this new speaker model. Then I did a little bit more research and found that not only does it include the option of Bluetooth connectivity, but it is also available in both black and white, which really got me thinking… ceremonies performed indoors or out, background music for wedding breakfasts… these could really come in handy.
I’d never really taken much notice of LD systems in the past, so knew little about them, but a brief history of the company will tell you they really do know their stuff! In 2002, the disco and MI equipment distributor Adam Hall (which was originally founded in 1975 here in the UK as a manufacturer of high-quality flight case fittings) unveiled its first own-brand PA systems under the name LD Systems. Within the space of just ten years, this evolved into a remarkable pro audio brand with a product range that covers the full gamut of speaker cabinets, wireless systems and mixers.
I must say, I was pretty pleased when the Pro Mobile guys approached me to try out a pair of ICOA 12 A BT speakers a few weeks into the COVID-19 lockdown. What better time to review these than whilst stuck at home trying to avoid those DIY jobs my girlfriend keeps reminding me about every 5 minutes!
Although for this review I got to try out the Bluetooth (BT) active version of the ICOA 12, there is also an even more affordable version without Bluetooth available as well as a passive model. The ICOA series also includes 15” models – active (with or without Bluetooth) and passive – and, as I mentioned earlier, there are also white versions available (although currently only of the passive models).
On receiving and unpacking the review speakers, my first impressions were of the build quality: it’s superb! The cabinet is made of a high-quality black textured polypropylene with a metal front grille in gloss black, so it also looks amazing and has a very modern feel. It’s evident there’s lots of thought gone into this when it was designed.
The cabinet is fitted with carry handles on the top, bottom and both sides. These are all made from aluminium with a rubberised cover. So not only is the speaker easy to carry, the handles are extremely comfortable on your hands. There is a metal 36mm dual-tilt stand attachment that allows the speaker to fit to a pole or tripod at either a 0° or 5° tilt angle. The speaker can also be used as a stage monitor and is designed in such a way that it will naturally sit at a 55° angle when positioned on its side.
At 20kg, it’s a tad heavy, however that’s down to the high build quality. I’d prefer it to need a bit more muscle than have it feel light and flimsy. After all, if you’re anything like me, it’ll spend most of its life in and out of the back of a van, so it needs to be robust and that takes weight.
Unlike most of the speaker cabinets on the market today, the ICOA models all have a coaxial configuration. This means that the CD horn is mounted directly in front of the 12” woofer (instead of above it). The result is that the sound from both speakers radiates from the exact same point, resulting in better directivity, a smoother frequency response and improved clarity.
In addition, the horn features Adam Hall’s BEM-optimized high-frequency waveguides to provide precise control of vertical dispersion in order to ensure consistent sound distribution, even in acoustically difficult environments. What’s more, the low-frequency performance is enhanced by four bass reflex ports that are aerodynamically optimised to minimise low-end energy loss.
Another innovative feature is that the horn – as well as the ‘LD’ logo on the front grille – can be easily rotated by 90°. This means that the 90° x 50° dispersion pattern can be retained when the cabinet is mounted horizontally.
On the rear of the speaker you’ll find a nice clean and simple layout that is very easy to use. Two combo XLR / ¼” jacks, each with independent level controls, provide the main input connections, while an auxiliary input is provided in the form of a 3.5mm jack. The final connection is an XLR output that can be used to pass the mixed combination of the inputs to another powered speaker.
The rest of the unit’s features – including the DSP with 4 pre-sets, 3-band EQ, a delay function and configuration of the Bluetooth wireless audio input – are accessed via a sizeable LCD display screen with a menu-driven interface. This is navigated using a ‘push-to-select’ rotary control that doubles up as the main Volume dial. Again, all of the knobs feel well-made and are rubberised, which makes them smooth to the touch.
Anyway, enough of the technical stuff, you really want to know what it sounds like, I’m sure… The answer is AMAZING, truly amazing. I defy anyone to find a better 12” speaker under £500 with these features. The low end is superb, while the mids and tops are punchy and crisp. If you wanted to use this for a mid-size function in front of 150-200 people you could comfortably do it without the use of a sub, the low end is that good.
Obviously, at the time of this review, we are all in isolation, so I couldn’t road test them at a venue in front of guests. However, I can tell by holding and hearing them that these are quality speakers. While I didn’t get to try them at a gig, I did put them through their paces at home whilst doing one of my online live-streamed shows. After giving fair warning to the neighbours, I really cranked up the volume and the result was fantastic. I also tried them with my vinyl set up and, again, the results were VERY impressive.
The LD Systems website states that the amplifier delivers 1200 Watts peak and 300 Watts RMS for a maximum SPL of 126dB. Having tried them for myself, I believe that this amp is a true 300W RMS (we all know that sometimes these figures have to be taken with a pinch of salt) and I found there to be plenty of headroom, allowing any nasty clipping to be avoided.
In summary, I would say this is a fantastic PA for mobile work. Some of this speaker’s many plus points are its: price, build quality, great low-end sound, punchy mids and tops, convenient handles and general versatility. Negatives? In a word: none. I honestly cannot find any negatives with these speakers, they are truly amazing, especially for the price, well done LD Systems!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 101, Pages 70-72.