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By James Humphrey.
QSC is a well-established brand that will probably be familiar to most Pro Mobile readers. Originally known for its power amplifiers, in recent years the company has been making waves with its range of active speaker cabinets. The latest of these is the new CP Series, which comprises the 8” CP8 and 12” CP12 models. For this review I was given the chance to try out the larger CP12 version, which is ideal for mobile DJ use due to its compact size, low weight, yet powerful output.

At least in the mobile DJ world, I think it’s fair to say that QSC is a higher-end brand, which means that their flagship powered speakers are out of the price range of many gigging mobile jocks. This is something that QSC is attempting to address with the CP Series, which is intended to offer a “best-in-class powered loudspeaker solution for customers who desire QSC performance, quality and reliability at a value price point.”

Let’s be clear right off the bat, these aren’t cheap speakers. A pair will still set you back a grand, which is a serious investment for many DJs. However, they are approximately £200 each less than the comparable model in QSC’s premium K.2 range [reviewed in Pro Mobile Issue 84], which does make a big difference in terms of affordability.

The first thing that struck me when I received the two review samples was the size and weight of the boxes. They were surprisingly small and light for active speakers featuring 12” cones. Looking at the Tech Spec, we see that each unit weighs just 13.7kg – which really is low for a professional active speaker, and a whole 4kg less than the K12.2.

When I opened the packaging I was even more surprised to find that the speakers were not only well-packaged with foam but were double-boxed, so the actual cabinets were even smaller than the outer box had led me to believe. These are incredibly compact speakers, which at first glance you would be forgiven for mistaking as 10” units. In fact, I just so happened to have a pair of 10” active cabs in my lock-up and decided to dig them out to make a comparison. The CP12s were actually slightly shorter than my 10s and only fractionally wider. This has been achieved by QSC thanks to a design that sees almost the entire width of the cabinet filled by the speaker cone.

The cabinet has quite a simple design, yet still manages to ooze quality. With a moulded polypropylene construction and a slightly concaved black metal protective grille across the front, it has a very robust feel despite its low weight. The look is far from ostentatious but I wouldn’t describe it as bland, more as a professional unit that looks like it means business.

A large aluminium bar handle is fitted to the top of the cabinet, which allows you to get your whole hand around for a sturdy and comfortable grip, and the side also has a recess that serves as a second handle. Thanks to their lightweight and compact design I found it easy to carry in a pair CP12s in a single trip from my van, even when the function room was a fair trek.

On the bottom of the speaker are chunky rubber feet that allow it to stand directly on the floor or a separate sub cabinet, without any risk of slipping. There is also a 35mm pole mount socket allowing for use with any standard speaker stand as well as M8 fixing points to allow the attachment of a variable-angle yoke (sold separately) which can be used for temporary rigging or permanent installation. Finally, the cabinet is also shaped such that it can be used as an angled stage ‘wedge’ monitor when laid on its side.

Inside there’s a 1.4” compression driver alongside the 12” low frequency driver as well as a class D power amplifier with DSP that delivers 1000W (peak), split 200W for HF and 800W for LF. The speaker is capable of delivering a maximum SPL of 126 dB and offers a wide frequency response of 47Hz – 20 kHz (-10 dB) with a 75° axisymmetric coverage angle.

Around the back the layout of the inputs and controls is logical and uncluttered, while including pretty much everything a DJ is likely to need. There are three input channels, which are conveniently labelled A, B and C. A and B both feature combination XLR / 1/4” jack sockets, while C is a mini jack (3.5mm). There are then two rotary gain controls – one shared between channels A and C, and the other dedicated to channel B – while channel B is also fitted with a level ‘Boost’ switch to allow the direct connection of a microphone.

The thinking here is clearly that either channel A will be used alone – for connection of an external mixer – or channel B will be used for a microphone while channel C (or A) is simultaneously used for music. My only minor complaint about the CP12 is that it doesn’t have separate Gain controls for inputs A and C, and that channel A doesn’t have a ‘Mic Boost’ switch. With these additions, this speaker would be ideal for hosting a wedding breakfast without the need for an external mixer. Two separate mics could be connected directly, along with a background music source via 3.5mm jack, and mixed independently right from the speaker itself. I know that some DJs who host weddings use more than two mics so would need a mixer regardless, but I prefer to keep things simple and just have one for myself and a second that is passed around between the various people giving speeches.

The control section is completed by a ‘Contour’ switch, which allows easy selection between six DSP EQ pre-sets. These are: Default, Dance, Floor Monitor and Speech as well as two options for use with an external sub (Default Ext Sub and Dance Ext Sub). The Dance option increases the lower-end frequencies, however I found that I preferred the Default setting when DJing. However, I did find the Speech setting worked better when I used the CP12s for speeches.

An XLR output socket provides the combined signal from the mixer section. This means that if you do need to connect a mic and music source directly to a CP12, a second speaker could be easily connected with the mix from the first.

Mains power input is via a standard IEC socket and a rocker power switch is also included. Coloured status LEDs show when the unit is receiving power, when the ‘Mic Boost’ is active for channel B and when the unit’s internal protection ‘Limiter’ circuit has kicked in. There are also signal LEDs linked to each of the two Gain controls (one dedicated to channel B and a second shared between channels A and C).

Of course all of these tech specs and features are all well and good, but the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and therefore the proof of the speaker is in the listening! I wanted to try the CP12s at an actual function for a proper road test, but wouldn’t dream of taking unproven kit out to a paying gig. So first of all I set them up at a local church hall to which I happen to have the keys!

My first impression was good even before I played any music. There is virtually no background hum/hiss, which I have found to be annoyingly present on other active speaker models. Then, when I plugged in my controller and pressed play, I was even more impressed. The sound quality truly is superb! As is often stated here in Pro Mobile, sound is very subjective, but I’d challenge anyone not to like the output from these speakers. I found the sound to be rich and detailed, with plenty of depth. I tried a variety of different music styles and found the vocals to be consistently clear, the instrumentation bright and the low-end nice and deep.

Following this successful test run, I was more than happy to take my test pair of CP12s out on a gig. This was a wedding reception in one of my regular hotels with approximately 70 guests, which is fairly standard for my bookings at the moment. I was again impressed with the speakers, not only the quality of the sound but the incredible volume produced by these extremely compact cabinets. They were more than capable of filling the venue and I’m fairly confident they’d be suitable for 99% of the rooms I play without the need for extra subs.

I know that some DJs wouldn’t dream of going out with just a pair of 12s, but for the type of events I play – primarily weddings and ‘older’ birthdays – bass that you can feel in your ribcage and eardrum-busting volume isn’t required. Of course if you play larger venues, or for younger audiences who do want to ‘feel the bass’, QSC have a variety of powered subs to choose from.

On a separate occasion I also used the CP12s for speeches, when just a single mic was required but in a different part of the venue to where my rig was setup. They worked just as well in this scenario, with the voices amplified accurately and no problems with feedback.

As I mentioned right at the beginning, there is also an 8” variant available – the CP8 – which has a MSRP of £396. I didn’t get the opportunity to try this out for myself, but if it is of the same calibre as the CP12 I’m sure it would be a good choice for any situation where an even smaller speaker is required (for example as a monitor on a stage, as a DJ monitor, or for in-fill halfway down a long room.

To sum up – as you may have guessed – I was very impressed with the CP12. The combination of excellent sound quality and robust construction the QSC designers have managed to deliver from such a compact and lightweight cabinet really is impressive. If you’re looking for a truly portable active 12” speaker that delivers both in terms of audio clarity and volume, the QSC CP12 definitely comes highly recommended!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 93, Pages 64-66.


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