Are line array speakers better? If you’re looking for a new PA system, you may have seen the growing market for consumer line array speakers from companies like JBL, Altec Lansing, and QSC. Why are these speakers’ good (or bad) choices for a particular setting or live performance scenario? Let’s look at it.
Dispersion of Sound
Line array systems have been used for large (stadium or arena-size) tours for a long time. Line array systems are the best way to broadcast crystal-clear sound to every seat in the stadium, from the first row to the very back. There are various reasons for this. One aspect of line array systems that boosts their effectiveness is the shape of the scattered sound. Point-source (non-line-array) speakers generate sound in all directions in a spherical pattern. However, rather than surrounding the speaker in all directions, the audience usually is more or less in front of them.
A line array system projects sound in a more cylindrical-like shape. Because of this, much less sound energy is vertically projected (to the ceiling and floor). Reduced vertical dispersion is advantageous for two reasons. One is that the additional sound energy reflected off the walls and floors interferes with the speaker’s direct sound and produces a more disorganized, reverberant sound. The other is that it wastes power by projecting sound vertically, which could be more efficient. With a line array system, you may project sound directly onto ears instead of dispersing it around the entire space.
As your facility gets bigger, it becomes more crucial to project sound more effectively, especially if the acoustics could be better. It would help if you turned your speakers up more to get clear, understandable audio to the rear of an ample, echoing space. However, doing so ends in exciting the room’s reverberant field more, which results in murky, unclear music that is difficult to listen to.
The pace at which sound energy diminishes with distance is slower in a cylinder-shaped dispersion pattern. As a result, less volume is lost as you walk further from the speaker, allowing you to project sound farther away while consuming fewer watts. This is a significant benefit since it enables more direct sound at lower, less-exciting-for-the-reverberant-field volumes, which results in more apparent music throughout the room rather than just at the front, without the need for side-fill (reinforcement) speakers. And you can do that without killing everyone’s front-row eardrums.
Line arrays have long been utilized in significant tours for these reasons, and they are also factors in the growing popularity of line arrays in smaller venues. For their compact, tower-shaped all-in-one PA systems like the L1 (shown below), manufacturers like Bose and JBL use line array technology, which is what allows those systems to fill up a small-to-medium-sized room so nicely, with relatively little wattage. However, full-size line array speakers may get the same results in medium- to large-sized arenas. To generate more transparent, more effective sound, more clubs, events, and houses of worship are likely to employ line array technology in the future as more firms provide line array models that are more complex and simple to put up without professional installation.
Buying Guide for Our Line Array
Which line array speakers are currently offered pique your interest? Check out our helpful Line Array Buying Guide, where we outline the key differences between our most popular line array models and make it simple to choose the best one for you.