REVIEWED: Peavey LN1263 Compact Array
Compact column array systems have increasingly become the PA of choice for many mobile DJs over the past decade. Their combination of portability and sonic clarity tick the right boxes for many of us. That’s why I was pleased to get the opportunity to try out Peavey’s latest offering in this category, the brand new LN1263 Column Array.
What was your car of choice as a teenager? The one you would daydream about, looking forward to the day you could step into your dream machine, fire her up, pull your sunglasses down and blast off towards the horizon, forever the coolest and best driver not yet signed by any racing team? Ok, maybe it was just me. But the car I dreamt of, worshipped and lusted after like no other car was a Porsche. With an immediately identifiable look, a price tag low compared to other supercars, German dependability, racing pedigree (particularly at Le Mans, another one of my passions), a black Porker was my vision of heaven.
For many years, Porsche had been known for one thing: superfast two-seater cars. A bit like Mexican food, the entire range was basically the same ingredients, just presented in different ways. And I’m sure the executives at Zuffenhausen watched the rise of MPVs and SUVs with an air of disdain. Not for them, surely, the market of four seats, practical boot space and chassis larger than a postage stamp?! However, I imagine that at some point, the boardroom collectively bowed their heads at the inevitability heading straight at them. One of them probably snapped a pencil in disgust. Yet here we are, the most popular model in the Porsche line up? The Macan. A genuine four seater MPV (Ok marketing team, SUV) which may yet be the first model from Stuttgart to break the magic 100,000 annual production number.
Likewise, I am sure there are still some manufacturers of PA looking on at column array speakers with an air of indignancy. Yet, one by one, they are falling to the inevitable – the market place is simply too large to be ignored. Loved by many a solo singer and guitarist, as well as lots of duos, the DJ market is also soaking up the simple, light, yet beefy sounding speakers in very high numbers. And the technology is coming on in leaps and bounds. My first simple system, bought with ceremony music in mind less than five years ago, is so outdated it’s laughable. The all new LN1263 from Peavey is so advanced, and so incredibly flexible, I can’t imagine how anyone could think of any new functionality.
As a company, Peavey markets itself very heavily towards live, and especially rock, music. The marketing for this new column array, for example, is definitely aimed in particular at the guitarist. Yet one session with the newest compact line array on the market makes me think that both Peavey, and us DJs, could be missing out. At volume, the sound produced through its no less than 12, 2.75-inch drivers and 12-inch sub, is sublime. I only got to test one system, and was extremely impressed, so would love to hear the sound a pair can produce. To be honest, I think you could get away with one in most situations, but knowing us DJs and our propensity to ‘balance’ our setup, I imagine we will want to purchase them in twos. Plus, with a pair of these systems in play, you’d have plenty of head room to spare at most, if not all, of your parties.
The LN1263 system comprises three individual units: two ‘tops’, which you can easily connect, each with six drivers, and a separate sub which houses a custom 12-inch subwoofer, the amplifier, mixer controls and an onboard LCD display to control the DSP. With 127dB maximum SPL and 1200 watts of maximum power, the system can be run in mono mode, or you can easily split the tops to provide stereo sound.
The onboard mixer features four mono combo inputs (XLR and ¼ inch TRS jack) plus two additional stereo channels. One features a stereo pair of 1/4" jack inputs, while the other is switchable between an Aux mini jack socket and wireless connection via Bluetooth. Each channel has a dedicated level control, while the four mono channels also have dedicated Reverb knobs as well as switches for selecting between Mic and Line level input, as well as an extra ‘Guitar’ optimised option – I told you this was targeted at guitarists! The final two controls are a Master level knob and a push-to-select rotary control for the large backlit LCD display screen. Through a menu-driven interface, this provides access to the powerful internal DSP processing, including seven onboard EQ pre-sets and eight onboard effects, with the ability to save and lock scenes along with an independent Sub level control.
The Bluetooth pair facility also allows connection to a custom iOS app, which can be used to mix the inputs as well as make both individual channel and master EQ alterations, and control other advanced features such as compression. It has two modes: simple or professional, providing an easy-to-use interface for less-experienced users and full control to advanced users. This makes the LN1263 perfect for situations such as wedding ceremonies; you can hook up four mics as well as a music source, and then mix everything discretely from the back of the room using your tablet or phone!
The main unit is made using multi-ply birch, while the satellites have aluminium housings. All are elegantly designed, and feel reassuringly high quality. The top units, especially, are heavier than others I’ve handled. At 35kg, the entire system is on the limits of what I would consider easily transportable by one person. There is nothing lightweight about the LN1263, but all that weight translates into a fantastic sound.
In order to put the LN1263 through its paces, I borrowed a function room at one of our regular venues. Testing a speaker is always done better in a room you’re likely to use it in, ideally with a crowd, but there are obvious reasons why I couldn’t do that. Although I did have a curious Chef, Groundsman, General Manager and Owner all visit at one point or another!
Putting the system together is incredibly easy – just place the provided spacing column into the sub unit, put the speakers on using the clever locking system, plug it in to a socket and you can start playing. It’s that simple. With Bluetooth connectivity, you simply pair and play from whatever device you have to hand. Just one wire for power in this scenario. There are also connections for leads out to the satellite speakers, should you wish to place one (or both) of the tops remotely. The ability to control the sound via Bluetooth using the LN iOS app is something I had a lot of fun with. There is a slight lag from the app to the unit, but once you get used to that it’s incredibly flexible control which will come in useful in many of the situations I could use such a speaker.
So, it’s all very clever, but what does it sound like? I’m always extremely careful to start with low volumes on the speakers I test. In fact, as a diehard hi-fi enthusiast, I don’t like to run any speakers loud for a good 10 minutes. Whether they need to ‘warm up’ or not, I just prefer to be cautious. Like all column arrays, the Peavey system doesn’t sound its best at low volume. There is a sweet spot which, once reached, is where the magic happens. And the more you turn the volume up, the better it sounds. There is a very real warmth to the low-end bass, whilst the higher tones sound incredibly tight.
From the marketing, and the way the mixer is set up, it’s obvious that the LN1263 is designed very much for live sound. Spending a morning with it, I’m pretty sure that, in particular, guitarists will love the flexibility and the fantastic sound. In my opinion, though, I genuinely believe that only DJs will get the full benefit of the remarkable sound reproduction offered by these speakers. A good house track at a high volume sounds utterly incredible, so amazing in fact that I predict a very bright future for Peavey in the DJ market. Like the men in suits at Porsche HQ, Peavey will be very glad indeed that they bowed to the inevitable!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 104, Pages 74-76.