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Review: DAS Audio Reference 15

The ‘15 + horn’ lives. Actually, it’s in rather fine fettle.

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2 February 2007

Review: Luke Kungl

The newest range of passive loudspeakers from DAS Audio is a series of five high-powered cabinets proudly titled the ‘Reference’ series. These range from the two-way RF8 that consists of an eight-inch driver with a 1.5-inch coil, to the double 15-inch and horn RF214. All have neodymium magnets for all of their transducers and two-inch titanium high frequency compression drivers of various power handling to suit different applications. All are touted as ‘full range’, and while the range’s title should not be taken to imply that these loudspeakers are reference monitors in the studio sense, as multi-purpose composite loudspeaker PA cabinets they definitely hold their own. We had a pair of the single 15-inch and horn model to listen to in detail, cunningly titled the RF-15.

THE 15 + HORN LIVES ON

If there’s one thing the RF-15 suggests upon first listening, it’s that, no, the ’15+horn’ is not dead, and there will always be a place in our hearts (and our inventory) for such a speaker. However, while some of us remain fans of this speaker format for its ability to give a gutsy pub band mix, or keep a DJ’s ears satisfactorily numb as a booth monitor, many are critics, claiming that a 15-inch speaker struggles to accurately reproduce both low frequency transients and detailed all-important midrange program when coupled with a single high-frequency driver. To be fair, this criticism should be levelled at any two-way full-range cabinet, and is the reason why three-way loudspeakers with dedicated mid-frequency drivers exist. Regardless, this 15+horn prejudice did lurk in the back of my mind ready to rear its head when I first received the RF-15s, but as I played around with the speaker this prejudice quickly disappeared.

The RF-15’s full-range information is very impressive, with a surprising amount of midrange detail for a 15+horn, even at very high power handling. It’s every bit as detailed as a Nexo PS15 or JBL 4892 for example, and every bit as powerful – pushing over 700W program and 130dB SPL. That’s a fantastic amount of power. There’s also the popular ‘passive full-range/passive two-way’ switch on the back, which bypasses the internal crossover for one of your own, allowing you to squeeze another 50W into it. In short, run it at its limit at your own peril, and that of everyone else in the room!

The RF-15’s cabinet is a decent size too, as one would expect, and just under 30kg, so it’s not the lightest in its class, but by no means the heaviest either. The wide dispersion pattern on the Reference series also makes it a sensible choice for this type of loudspeaker, and although not all models can rotate the horns (because there isn’t really the room to), the 15-inch has a 100° x 90° dispersion – that’s ample for most situations. The spread is smooth end-to-end and the high frequencies shine without stabbing your 4k receptors, as so many high-powered horns can.

A FLYING 15

All DAS Reference models have built-in stand mount and rigging points, although these are limited to 16 M10 eye-bolt anchor points – more suited to permanent installations, as getting the perfect angle on a regular basis might get annoying. The omission of an Ancratrack (or similar) incremental rigging track may be to keep the cost down or perhaps just for aesthetics – there again, in the age of the compact line array we tend to avoid flying complex hangs of smaller composite cabinets anyway. This is hardly a criticism, given the otherwise excellent strengths of the box, and probably the only area the box could be improved. Let’s just say that there are so many other applications where one needs a high quality, loud and yet small composite cabinet, if you did need to fly it, there are enough points to make it work well.

The full-range models in the Reference series are constructed of solid six-ply Nordic ply rather than particleboard and the finish is as good as any I’ve come across. And, of course, thanks to the RF-15’s sound, I have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone looking for a first-class full-range ‘15+horn’.

Not much is left to be said, other than to try them for yourself – personally I look forward to having a run with the rest of the range – who knows, DAS, with its R-214, may well prove to me that the double 15+horn isn’t dead just yet either! Rock on, it seems.

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