HK AUDIO ELEMENTS GALA
They say you never forget your first HK Audio system, and I certainly haven’t. My first venture into the world of HK was back in 2002, walking around Brixton with £1,500 of cash in my pocket looking for a music shop that was the only place in the UK that had stock of a LUCAS 600. I walked in and was greeted by three very gruff looking tattooed blokes with various piercings. I handed over the wad of cash and left, quickly. But what followed was an incredible relationship between man and speakers!
Since then I’ve used various other offerings from HK: the LUCAS 1000, the LUCAS IMPACT, the ELIAS and a few others. You do really get drawn in by the warm, almost Hi-Fi-esque HK sound, so when Eddie contacted me to review this system I jumped at the chance. HK will always hold a special place in my heart so I was interested to find out where they are at now.
The DJ industry is still seemingly going crazy over column-style mini line-array systems and that is what is offered by HK’s ELEMENTS Series. What sets it apart from the competition is its modular design, which means you can buy loads of different pieces, a bit like Lego, and build the exact system you need on a per-gig basis. The same E-Connect bus system is used throughout the range, which means that whatever pieces of the mid-high arrays you own they will very easily slot together.
The ELEMENTS GALA is a new addition to the series that offers a complete PA system and is therefore the perfect introduction into the ELEMENTS ecosystem. It combines four of the E835 array modules with floor stands and a brand new active sub.
The system arrives at your door in six boxes and I nearly had to crack open a tin of spinach just to shift a couple of them around because they are incredibly heavy. However, once you discard the packing cardboard, it’s not too difficult to move around. When you empty the boxes, you end up with nine pieces of hardware that all slot together to make up the system.
We’ll start by looking at the heart of the setup, the GALA Sub 15, which is an active 15” cabinet made out of MDF. It’s quite compact, to the point where you actually wonder how they managed to get the driver to fit inside! In terms of width it’s only a few cm wider than the driver and quite a bit smaller than many other active 15” subs on the market. Weight-wise it’s about 30kg, which is about average for an active 15” cabinet. For those of you who, like me, are a bit lazy and prefer to wheel your subs around rather than carry them, you’ll be pleased to know that the optional EG15BAG (MSRP £129) padded transportation bag for the GALA sub includes a wheeled dolly board.
Max SPL works out at 129dB and the frequency response is 44Hz to 130Hz, so not as low as other comparable subs on the market but it’s still no slouch with plenty of rumble. On the front there’s a full-face metal grille that matches the rest of the ELEMENTS range and it also sports two genius handles on either side that can be used to easily pick up the cabinet irrespective of how it is oriented. A lot of other manufacturers could learn from this alone. How many times have you gone to pick up a sub only to discover the handles are oriented the wrong way so lifting it is one of the most difficult things in the world to do?
Around the back it’s business as usual in the world of HK as we discover a pair of NL2 Speakon connectors for outputting to the mid/high columns. This means you’ll be putting all your eggs in one basket as the sub contains all the circuitry and Class D power amplifiers for the whole system. I’ve seen this before on the LUCAS range and, whilst it is great for portability, it does leave you in a sticky situation if the sub goes down. The good news is that these connectors work with both the E835 mid/high columns included with the ELEMENTS GALA system as well as the smaller E435 model. So if you do already own a HK ELEMENTS system, the GALA sub will fit right in! However, HK recommend that you don’t connect any other kind of passive speaker to these Speakon outputs, as you could blow up the entire system! So beware!
Other than that, connectivity is pretty simple. You get a pair of combination XLR / ¼” jack inputs and a pair of balanced XLR outputs for sending the signal elsewhere, for example to a set of powered monitors or maybe another sub (more on that later). Control wise there’s a volume knob for altering the master output for the whole system and another for adjusting the sub’s volume separately. You’ll also find an IEC power input, a power on/off switch and a couple of LEDs to show power is active and also when the limiter is operating on the mid/high columns and also separately on the sub.
For those of you wishing to save the world for the future of our children, there’s an auto-sleep feature which – when enabled – switches the amps into power-saving mode if left idle for more 350 minutes, which is almost 6 hours! I’m not quite sure why it’s 350 minutes, as that’s a mighty long time to leave a system active if it’s not being used. I would’ve thought it would be much lower, like 60 or 90 minutes for example. To reset everything back to normal you need to physically press the power switch twice so if you’ve set up the system for the speeches in the late morning and you’ve wandered off-site, you could run into a problem where the client turns on the mic and nothing happens! Thankfully you can turn this feature off to prevent that from happening but I feel that both a shorter delay and an auto-on feature would really enhance this setting.
There are also a couple of extra features which are quite neat. One of them is a selector switch offering two modes: ‘Small Venue’ and ‘Long Distance’. Depending on the setting you choose, the system’s EQ will be automatically optimized for the type of room you’re working. The Small Venue setting adjusts the frequency response for smaller rooms and long-distance maximises the ‘throw’ and ‘reach’ of the mid/high columns yet retains the system’s excellent sound quality. I tried both settings and discovered that for ‘normal’ disco (whatever that is) you would choose the small-venue setting but for applications such as background music during a wedding breakfast and also for vocal work like speeches, presentations, ceremonies and so on, the long-distance setting is your friend.
The ELEMENTS Gala system comes with two pairs of E835 mid/high columns, each featuring eight 3.5” drivers arranged in a vertical-array format. There are no wires needed to connect the columns together, it all happens internally when you connect them together using the E-Connect system.
The columns themselves mount on a pair of very heavy-duty triangular bases. Each one has adjustable feet to make the footprint slightly bigger and contains a Speakon socket for connection to the sub and an E-Connect socket for attaching the first of the columns.
You can either mount the columns directly into the bases or use the extension poles which are also supplied in the box. These extension poles are variable-height and at maximum extension raise the columns about half a metre off the floor. This is particularly useful as the columns deliver a fairly narrow vertical output so you need to ensure that they are roughly in line with the heads of your audience. Like all array systems, the horizontal dispersion is quite high when compared to a traditional speaker cabinet at around 70-degrees, so when setting up it’s important to turn them slightly inwards to direct the output onto the dancefloor.
Due to the way the E835 columns connect to each other, you can choose to have each column facing in a different direction. This could prove handy for vocal work if you’re in an awkward venue with guests seated all around. However, when it’s disco time, ideally you need them all facing in the same direction (towards the dancefloor). Luckily HK include locking wedges so that you can make sure that they don’t drift to the left and right unintendedly.
When the whole system is connected together the columns stand at around 2m tall, roughly 6’ 6”, and look pretty neat when placed either side of a DJ booth. The only negative I found when trying out the setup was the number of separate pieces, nine in total, required to put it together. This in turn means that it takes quite a long time to setup and pack this system down, a whole 15-20 minutes longer than what I have currently.
I got to use this system at a variety of events, each with different audience numbers and types of room, and can report that it’s perfect for parties of up to 120 people. The sound quality is typical HK, i.e. awesome with bright highs and warm, rumbly lows. However, the sub does limit quite early, so if you’re often playing to larger audiences, or in marquees, you’ll almost certainly want to add another. The ELEMENTS Gala Sub 15 is sold separately (MSRP: £1,299), however this means that you are unnessarily duplicating the column amps. Another alternative is the L SUB 1500 A from HK's Linear range. This is the same size, the same weight, and is essentially the same product but without the mid/high amplification and therefore available for a few hundred pounds cheaper. I would certainly suggest adding one or the other to give you plenty of options depending on the size and location of your gigs.
To conclude, I’ve always been an admirer of HK products and this system has not altered that. I do feel, though, that for the same money you can probably get more bang for your buck, but there will be some trade-offs. The ‘stick’ look is still quite popular amongst wedding DJs and, with its modular approach, the ELEMENTS Gala does carry many advantages. It’s a great looking system, it sounds fantastic and certainly comes highly recommended.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 92, Pages 72-74.