REVIEWED: Bose L! Pro8
If you speak to the average person on the street, most will have heard of Bose. They are what I would call a ‘trusted brand’. A brand known for quality build, quality sound, and a brand whose speakers you aspire to own, even if you have to pay that bit more.17 years ago, Bose burst onto the PA scene with their innovative L1 range – a collection of tall, thin speakers that really broke the mould of traditional speaker design. They were aimed directly at musicians because they were easy to carry around and didn’t take up much space, allowing the focus to remain on the performer, rather than the PA system. It wasn’t long before DJs too started buying L1s and using them at their gigs.
Towards the end of 2020, there was an exciting announcement from Bose with the launch of a new range in the L1 Pro series. Over the coming months we will see all new models, the L1 Pro8, the L1 Pro16, and L1 Pro32, with a choice of two subwoofers, Bose Sub1 and Sub2. Out of these new additions to the L1 line-up, the L1 Pro8 is the baby, designed to be the speaker of choice for portability. But is it any good?
Bose’s L1 Compact legacy system is a smart little unit that consists of an 8” bass speaker, two risers, and a small array of speakers at the top. A great product for performers, but DJs too saw the benefit of having a small, discreet system for use at weddings, during ceremonies and for vocal work. It was, and still is, a fantastic product.
Fast forward to late 2020 and here we have, as part of the new L1 Pro systems, the Bose L1 Pro8. It retains the simplified setup, ‘one-trip’ portability and discreet look of the original speaker. It’s around 4kg heavier but still small enough to carry around in a Porsche, not known for having loads of spare space. When put together, it also stands at the same height – around 2m – but its thin design enables it to blend into its surroundings.
The L1 Pro8 builds on the tried-and-tested modular design of the original with a built-in oval (‘racetrack’) subwoofer, mixer, and a C-shaped line array featuring eight articulated 2” neodymium drivers. There’s no official RMS figure – in fact I don’t think Bose have ever given official figures with any of their L1 kit – but to be honest, it’s not important.
Starting at the bottom, the integrated high-excursion subwoofer is powerful. Bose say that the new oval design easily rivals the performance of a conventional 12” woofer, but with a much smaller footprint. The carry handle on top makes it easy to move the subwoofer around and there’s plenty of space around the handle to store a phone or dedicated MP3 player.
The built-in mixer on the L1 Pro8 is much improved over the L1 Compact.It offers increased connectivity thanks to a pair of combo XLR-1/4” jack inputs, which can be used for both instruments and microphones (these also offer switchable phantom power), a further 1/4” and 3.5mm auxiliary input, and finally Bluetooth streaming. You’ll also be pleased to know there’s an XLR balanced line output that you can use to send audio to another L1 Pro system, mixer or audio interface.
Three illuminated rotary knobs give you control over volume, reverb, tone and bass, through an innovative system that allows each knob to have multiple functionality. It’s really very cool – you just press to adjust any of the different settings. Mute buttons for each channel allow you to quickly silence any audio signal and there are built-in presets for live music, recorded music and more. If you want more inputs and control, a dedicated ToneMatch port allows you to plug in a Bose T4S or T8S mixer. There is also an L1 Mix app for your smartphone or tablet, giving you complete wireless mixer control and access to all ToneMatch EQ presets. This really is a ‘smart’ speaker in the truest sense of the term!
A plastic extension riser slides easily into the subwoofer and the speaker array goes on top of that to complete the look. As previously mentioned, the eight, articulated 2” neodymium drivers are arranged in a C-shaped line array. This positioning allows the L1 Pro8 to deliver true 180-degree horizontal coverage, which is fantastic.
Sound-wise, the L1 Pro8 is true Bose. The bass is powerful, it drops down nice and low, and it still makes you wonder how such a small enclosure can produce that kind of sound. The line array looks the business and sounds it too, delivering a very clear and well-defined sound wherever you are in the room. The tall and thin design will still attract some confused looks in relation to the powerful output! Meanwhile, the Bose logo at eye level is instantly recognisable. At the beginning of this review I mentioned brand trust; it really is everything. People see the logo and instantly link it to quality, which, in turn, makes you look more professional through association.
Bose include a carry bag for the speaker array and plastic riser, and there is a separate carry bag for the subwoofer available. They also offer a very smart whole-system bag, available at £175, which allows you to carry the subwoofer, riser and speaker array in a single padded case with shoulder strap. In terms of protecting your precious Bose speaker for the rigours of the road, the latter looks to be the best option.
So, is the Bose L1 Pro8 worth just over a grand? In my eyes, it’s a definite yes. If you do a lot of weddings and events where you may need a small, discreet PA system for background music or vocal work, without doubt, the L1 Pro8 should be your new best friend.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 105, Pages 82-84.