REVIEWED: JBL PRX ONE
Column PA systems are still a bit Marmite amongst the DJ community. Some claim that what you gain in looks and portability, you lose in sound quality. I’ve had a fair few pass through my hands over the years – you’ve probably read about them in this very magazine – and now JBL has released its very own all-in-one powered column PA system: the PRX ONE.
When I went shopping for my first speaker system back in the 1990s, it had to be JBL. They were literally everywhere. Other DJs I knew had them, they were in cars, in homes, you saw them on the TV, at gigs…in my eyes they were the brand to aspire to.
My first set were the bombproof TR-125s, and whilst they weren’t the best sounding speakers in the world, I was completely smitten – I finally had my own JBLs! The company had good brand awareness too; if any punter ‘in the know’ saw the little orange badge, they knew it was going to be a good night. At least, that’s what I thought in my own little world.
Fast forward a few decades and things are very different. The TR-125s were the last set of JBL speakers I owned, but I’ve always kept one eye on the new products they put out. So, when I saw the JBL PRX ONE, I was very keen to get my hands on it and put the system to the test.
The PRX ONE is a lightweight, 2000W peak, 1000W RMS active with 130db max SPL, column PA system, featuring 12 vertically arranged 2.5” drivers powered by what JBL call their A.I.M (Array Inumbration Mechanics) technology (I love geeky acronyms!). JBL refer to this technology as “geometrically optimized array-shading technology to ensure consistent front to back technology.” This ensures crystal-clear audio in a wide 130-degree by 30-degree dispersion pattern.
Place the system in the middle of your stage and you can be sure that listeners on either side of the room will hear everything clearly, whilst the sound at the back will not be too dissimilar to what audience members at the front experience.
At the bottom of the column is a 12” sub-woofer that goes down to a bone-rattling 35Hz. The system I have now doesn’t go that low, so if you like your bass, then the JBL PRX ONE system will make your body do uncontrollable things when you stand too close to it! JBL tells us that PRX ONE’s acoustically optimised woofer delivers superior performance without DSP, reducing ‘huffiness’.
Another area where the JBL PRX ONE wins is with the built-in 7-channel digital mixer. Other active column PA systems really skimp when it comes to channel count, but not the PRX ONE. You get four mic/line channels on combo XLR/JACK inputs, two line channels on 1/4” jack inputs and an AUX in with Bluetooth 5.0. The mixer works with instruments too, so if a musician rocks up at your event, then you can smile and plug them in easily with no drama.
They could even leave their outboard effects at home, thanks to the PRX ONE’s suite of dbx and Lexicon audio effects including reverb, delay, chorus, echo, compression, limiting and gating. There’s even two channels of 48v phantom power for microphone support.
One minor irritation is the quality of the connectors; I’d really love for these to feel more expensive. This is not unique to JBL, every brand has them, but I think that reliability of connectors is a major point when you’re constantly plugging in and unplugging. The last thing you need is a faulty connector. I’m sure the extra cost of more expensive ports would extend the life of these systems and is worth the extra investment.
On the top you’ll find a little screen with the menu system that helps you control and refine the PRX ONE to your own liking. Let me just say, take the time to read the manual (not included in the box, just download it from the website). At first look the menu system will confuse the hell out of you with its massive array of options, but it’s quite intuitive after you’ve read the manual. There’s not really much you can’t tweak, so if you’re a fiddler and you love tuning systems, the JBL PRX ONE is perfect for you. If, like me, you just want to plug in and play music, then it’s still a great choice. But you really should dive in and check out what you can do.
Have I mentioned the onboard dbx DriveRack yet? When it comes to rider lists for live sound engineers, a DriveRack is definitely on there, and you’ll be pleased to know that the technology is built in to the JBL PRX ONE, so you can now enjoy things like automatic feedback suppression, 8-band room tuning and more, without having to bring a full rack of gear.
If you’ve never used a DriveRack, then you’ll be left wondering how you’ve managed without it for so long! The PRX ONE also allows you store user presets – ideal if you like to refine your settings to get the best sound for the room. You can store up to eight presets for instant recall. It’s really clever stuff.
Just when you think the PRX ONE can’t have any more features, it delivers again with a pair of USB 2.0 charging ports. If you need to leave the system playing background music, such as during the drinks reception at a wedding, then you don’t have to worry about your phone or tablet losing charge.
So, let’s run through a quick checklist. A solid active column PA system that you can set up in minutes? Check. Integrated 7-channel digital mixer? Check. Perfect for mobile DJing, live sound and speaking engagements? Check. Bluetooth? Check. The PRX ONE is ticking all my boxes.
However, there is one more thing.
These days, there’s an app for everything. Apps to control your washing machine, see inside your fridge, feed the cat… the list goes on. Now JBL has an app too. It’s called Pro Connect and it’s available for both Android and iOS phones and tablets. The app is a killer feature, giving you complete hands-on control over all the PRX ONE’s settings, but on a bigger screen. It’s not quite perfect yet – for example, when I tried muting a channel it didn’t happen instantly – but Pro Connect is very handy to have, especially in a live sound scenario. The app will also let you update the PRX ONE’s firmware, so the system is easy to update when a new version is released.
In conclusion, the JBL PRX ONE is an impressive, highly capable system with seemingly endless built-in technology and great sound. The bass response is off the scale and the mid-highs are clear and completely void of that screechy tone you sometimes find on column systems. The 7-channel mixer is a real gift, giving you so many plug-in options (probably more that you’ll ever need, but at least that makes the PRX ONE future proof). It looks great too, and the column is very sturdy, which is more than I can say for many other column systems I’ve reviewed or owned.
The system does present somewhat of a learning curve, especially if you want to get the maximum performance from your investment, but for this price, the PRX ONE is an absolute bargain. I strongly recommend checking it out at your local dealer.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 113, Pages 78-80.