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Review: Bose RoomMatch Array Module & PowerMatch Amplifiers

A ‘revolutionary’ new class of curvilinear array or just another PA? AT investigates.

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28 October 2011

Review: Gareth Stuckey

Whenever a new PA system is released it’s almost par for the course that the manufacturer will tout it as a ‘completely new’ product line, ‘a revelation’, or ‘something we’ve never seen before’. But as we all know, in reality, most ‘revolutionary systems’ are usually only a slightly different take on something we’ve already used many times before. So, to be honest, I wasn’t all that excited when I got wind of this new Bose RoomMatch Array system. But after mixing on it for a few days all that started to change.

The RoomMatch Array system looks like a pretty standard line array at first glance, but there are several aspects of the design that are different. The boxes can be used individually, (like a point-source speaker), or in an array of up to eight elements. It’s targeted at the ‘pro sound’ end of the install sound market: churches, performing arts centres, sports arenas and so on. It’s a bit of a re-entry product for Bose… into a market from which for many years it had been conspicuously absent.

THREE ON THE TREE

The company had identified three design goals that it wanted overcome with this new product: to reduce phase interference seams found in point source arrays (overlapping); seam ‘gaps’ in line arrays with splay angles (when splay angles are too wide the array ceases to act as a true line source); and side wall reflections in indoor venues.

I agree with Bose that all these problems need to be addressed if possible, but in the install market, I can’t help but thinking that there are also the even more basic concerns of coverage and speech intelligibility in difficult situations that are worth solving.

ROOM TO MOVE

The RoomMatch product line consists of 15 full range modules – that’s right, 15 – and a sub module. The array module is a two-way externally bi-amped configuration (more on the amps in a moment), with a full range performance down to 60Hz. The optional sub takes care of 40-80Hz, and can be ground stacked or flown. That all sounds pretty standard, right? Nothing revolutionary there… But this is the cool part: the 15 different models all provide different horizontal and vertical coverage patterns – from 55º x 5º through to 120º x 60º, and 13 options in between!

The Bose Modeler software allows you to specify the room you want to cover, how many modules you want to use, and from there the software can choose the most suitable components for the job from the many different dispersion patterns available in the range. This allows the coverage to be tailored extremely accurately. For example, look at how tight and even the coverage pattern is in the example below:

Coverage is very even from front to back, with virtually no spill onto the side walls. Even more impressively, the second scenario (below) shows us how you can change the coverage pattern to follow the seating angles by using the different boxes for the different sections, and end up with next to no spill. (Obviously another two hangs of PA would be required to complete this system.

CHOOSE YOUR AMPS

Another added bonus is that the system can be driven with basically any amplifier, allowing you to potentially replace only the boxes in a refit scenario, or use amps from your existing inventory if you’re a production company. Having said that, for this review I simultaneously demoed the RoomMatch system with Bose’s newly created PowerMatch 8500 amps. The 8500 is a Class-D amplifier that Bose claims has the reliability and sound quality of a Class AB unit.

The design boasts some very clever technology. Firstly, the PeakBank power supply delivers power to whichever amp channel needs it most, drastically improving efficiency and transient response. Even better than that is what Bose calls its ‘Quad-Bridge’ mode. This allows the user to set up the amplifier as needed, resulting in any system that you build only requiring a single model of amp to drive it – power can be allocated in different ways depending on the system requirements. In a nutshell, there are 4000W of power available, and up to eight outputs per amp. This allows you to configure the amp as a stereo 2kW beast, four 1000W amps and so on. That’s not only a fantastic facility, it’s downright convenient – one amp can act as two 1000W channels plus four 500W channels and so on. Perfect for powering the whole system!

All eight in and outs on the amp have DSP for setting up a system, including presets for all the Bose range (old and new). They can also be configured from the front panel, or through USB connection to drive any loudspeaker. Wow.

FLEXIBLE & POWERFUL

Bose has been very smart in allowing such flexibility – the end-user can choose, if they want, a complete system, or just new boxes that can be driven with previously installed amps.

But onto the real test – what did it sound like?

The system I was mixing on for demo purposes had five boxes per side, and a further centre cluster of three boxes. As I usually do with any new system, to familiarise myself with the RoomMatch Array I put on my iPod of familiar tracks and had a good walk around the room. The L/R system sounded pretty awesome – extremely smooth in its response. The main thing I noticed (or didn’t) was that from the front to the back of the room the top end was extremely consistent. I sometimes find with line arrays that the tops can be almost too directional – you can find yourself walking out of the coverage of one box before entering the pattern of the next. There was none of that going on here. Front to back it was impossible to say which box you were listening to – the system sounded like a single element rather than the sum of four. Bass response was very solid and powerful right down into the nether regions. Kick drums and bass were fully reproduced, and the top end extremely smooth. It didn’t sound like a horn at all, more like a dome tweeter. The midrange was very clear and defined, however, if I was to be critical at all I would say the system lacked a little ‘crack’. It was all there, and certainly not missing anything tonally, but snares and guitars didn’t leap out at me. Having said that I find this to be the case with lots of line array systems – I sometimes miss the directness of a point source box.

NEED TO KNOW

  • PRICE

    RoomMatch Modules: $4995 each
    RMS215 sub: $4195
    Powermatch 8500 amp: $4995
    Powermatch 8500 amp (networked version): $5495

  • CONTACT

    Bose
    1800 023 367
    sales_australia@bose.com
    www.pro.bose.com

  • PROS

    • Configurable to pretty much any room
    • Simple product line (one array box, one amplifier)
    • Excellent gain-before-feedback
    • Configurable with any amp system
    • Competitively priced

  • CONS

    • Once it’s installed that’s it – any room/venue/use change might see the current installation become outmoded
    • No weather rating – can’t be used outdoors

  • SUMMARY

    A great line array system at a very competitive price, with options that allow the designer to very carefully match dispersion patterns to the room requirements. The flexibility of the amplifier means very little ‘wastage’ in system design and continuity throughout the system (not to mention a truckload of power from one 15A power circuit!).

RoomMatch comprises 15 different models, all provide different horizontal and vertical coverage patterns – from 55º x 5º through to 120º x 60º, and 13 options in between!

SHOWTIME

So – on with the show – I spent the next three days mixing on this system. A number of presentations featured both headset and handheld mics, there were demos of pre-recorded music, and a live band. I noticed particularly with the presentations that gain-before-feedback was excellent, due in no small part to the very specific dispersion patterns of the system and hence the reduced reflections back to the stage area. These presentations were done with just the centre cluster providing coverage to the entire room. Pre-recorded music was very accurately reproduced as already mentioned.

The live band meanwhile was a standout example of what the system could handle. With a full band on stage consisting of grand piano, keyboards, two guitars, bass, drums, sax and two singers – it was certainly a full mix. Everything sounded how it should without too much work. I was particularly impressed with the size (width, depth and realism) of the grand piano. Occasionally grand pianos seem to shrink when you mic them up, but not so in this case. Again, I noticed excellent gain-before-feedback on this sometimes troublesome instrument (especially in the low end – an even better indicator of the directivity of this system).

PROBLEM SOLVER

One thing that really stood out during the three-day demo was the excellent imaging of the system. Even though there were no in-fills or front fills, no matter where I sat in the theatre I felt like the sound was coming from the stage. There was none of that ‘PA way up there’ feeling that can happen with some array systems. This was especially noticeable with the presentations on the centre cluster. I felt right there, in the space, like I was listening directly to the person speaking. Not bad at all in a 700-seat venue.

After putting the system through its paces in a variety of ways, I can confidently say that Bose has achieved its design goals. No one is suggesting we should think of this system as a V-DOSC killer – that’s certainly not what it’s meant to be. What it is, however, is a great tool for system designers around the world. I can see the RoomMatch Array being used in all manner of situations where budget would otherwise have precluded an array system – say a small regional theatre or church, or a large-scale installation where an expensive concert system simply wasn’t required, but would have been the only option available.

After the demo my mind started to imagine all the possible scenarios where the RoomMatch system might benefit troublesome venues, and my first thought went to the extremely expensive refit of Sydney Town Hall: a very difficult reverberant, reflective room – long and narrow with a second level of seats that cover the entire perimeter. The current system is a centre hang of D&B J-Series, but with no products available to ‘narrow’ the throw to reach the rear seats, or ‘widen’ it to get to both the floor and the raised seating nearer the stage, a number of point source boxes have had to be utilised slung underneath the main system for in- and out-fill. The result is less than perfect, and certainly doesn’t contain the coverage to help with the already difficult reverb times. I can’t help but think that the flexibility of this Bose system would have allowed for a more tailored coverage pattern, and hence a better end result. For a Town Hall that likely only sees corporate speeches, school presentations and the odd government function, this system would have suited perfectly and likely cost significantly less!

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