Electro-Voice Evolve 30M
Has one trip from the carpark ever sounded so good?
Portable Powered Column Speaker System
As time goes by, fewer people remember the column speakers found in school gymnasiums and old town halls, but the idea lives on. Electro-Voice’s well-named Evolve 30M is a thoroughly modern design that combines the venerable line array principle behind the old wooden columns, with everything that opens and shuts circa 2020.
The Evolve 30M evolved from EV’s successful Evolve 50 column system but doesn’t replace it. Both boast 1000W power but the Evolve 50 is more of a general purpose system, slightly bigger, heavier and louder with 8 x 3.5-inch speakers in the array and a 12-inch sub. The on-board four-channel mixer has the usual couple of mic/line XLRs and a pair of RCAs but the system is more likely to be run from an external mixer.
The Evolve 30M is the sleeker sibling. Trimmed to 6 x 2.8-inch speakers in the array and a 10-inch sub, it’s more focussed on the needs of solo performers, duos or DJs and it aims to provide the most PA you can carry in one trip from the carpark to the venue. In the old days, that wasn’t much (maybe a power amp), these days you get a complete full-range system with enough power to fill a small venue. One trip. The sub in one hand, the array in a backpack and your guitar in the other hand. Shut the boot. Done.
It’s not obvious what the Evolve’s ’30’ represents but the M in the name stands for mixer and it’s worth featuring. Supplied by sister company Dynacord, the on-board eight-channel digital mixer has four XLR combi mic/line inputs (one with a separate Hi-Z option), two line inputs on combi XLRs or RCAs, and stereo Bluetooth. Mix and aux outs use XLR sockets.
EV’s QuickSmart DSP runs the show. It starts with broad environmental presets for Music, Live, Speech and Club to cover the common uses and gets you going quickly. For finer control there’s three-band EQ on the system output plus an additional seven-band graphic EQ if needed. The mixer uses a smallish LCD screen and one-knob, push-and-turn control to change parameters. ‘Select’ buttons access the channel controls and holding down the Channel 7/8 button activates Bluetooth pairing mode. It’s unusual to use a digital desk with a Select button but no Mute button, the channels are live when you plug them in so best to make your connections before powering up.
New in the Evolve 30M is the inclusion of a separate aux output channel to drive an external monitor, floor wedge or IEMs. This, combined with the three-band EQ/dynamics on the input channels and high-quality on-board effects, gives the performer all the tools they need to put on a professional show. Settings can be recalled, there’s phantom power and handy metering for input levels, master levels and limiting.
The Evolve 30M sub/amp/mixer is only 15.8kg but the cabinet is built from 15mm plywood and it feels solid. It has distinctive EV family looks from the front; a convenient and secure handle on top; and a recessed panel on the back to shelter the screen and control knob. The composite array is surprisingly light at 2.7kg and the whole thing doesn’t look very serious until you put it together. Like any good puzzle it only goes together one way and it needs both aluminium pole pieces to work so the overall height is fixed. The poles snap into place with the help of magnets and the wiring is all hidden inside the poles so it’s very neat. The array has an attractive shape to it and a big handle on the back. It’s sleek and modern; you could take it anywhere.
And I did.
I’ll admit it: I thought the Evolve 30M might be a toy when I opened the box but couldn’t stop using it. I had it inside and outside at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine [where Mark runs sound]. It made a stylish replacement for the speakers on stands the DJ uses out the front of the venue on a nice evening; and in a café setting, the smooth looks match the smooth, even sound. When Busby Marou played in the main room, their crew bought in an iPad mixer and couldn’t play house music easily, so I set the Evolve 30M up beside the merch desk for pre/after show music.
I tried it with a local solo singer in the courtyard out the back and he had the thing rocking in no time, happily using the mixer and one-knob DSP without much instruction. It wasn’t loud music but he was singing right in front of the system without getting close to feedback. I was expecting to need to drop the sub level for the live show but the Live preset did the job for me. The presets make a noticeable difference, so they need to be correct for the specific application, if they are, it really is a plug and play system. The effects are impressive: the reverb especially has depth and character and it was a big sound from a system you had to strain to see.
NEED TO KNOW
All the functions of the onboard mixer can be controlled by the QuickSmart Mobile app. I’m old-school and like a fader, but this is clever modern technology and ideal for events and shows where you set the sound rather than actively mix. Up to six Evolve 30Ms can be controlled from one smartphone for complex setups. The screen layout is clean and inviting, it won’t frighten new users, the controls react as you’d expect, and feel good to use in their own virtual way.
I did a birthday party, with a band, in a local hall, with my black box PA. The band finished, I put the Evolve 30M in front of the stage pointing at the dancefloor and let the birthday boy choose the tunes. The Bluetooth was easy to pair and the tunes were ok but the best thing was the way the system filled the room. It was a small hall (maybe 100 peeps max), and we cranked the system up near to full throttle but it was great, instant disco, and it meant I could pack up the big PA while they partied on. When they ran out of puff, I was ready to load out. It saved an hour at least.
At the kids’ footy training, the coach had a little home hifi system out on the ground; he was trying to punish the youngsters with a beep test and needed more sound. I had the Evolve 30M in the car, asked him to hold my beer while I set it up and impressed everybody. The footy club wants one now. It’s a great system for sports clubs and the like, as it can be set up inside for speeches and music playback or moved outdoors for training and game day. Maybe overkill, but it also makes an awesome home TV speaker.
WHAT YOU CAN & CAN’T DO
It’s worth noting these were all done with one speaker and that’s part of the appeal. The Evolve 30M’s coverage makes a second speaker unnecessary in a lot of situations, especially in smaller rooms. A solo performer with one of these can set up in a corner and they won’t take up much real estate or need to worry about the health and safety implications of speaker stands. Outdoors or wider settings may benefit from a second speaker, it’s still only two trips, and, of course, you’ve then got the option of stereo (the mixer’s Inputs 5/6 are set up to accept stereo XLR or RCA inputs and play them in mono or stereo, the settings are accessed via the DSP).
The EV Evolve 30M is at the high end of the small column speaker market and inherits the Evolve 50’s sound quality. The DSP is vital but it’s an impressive engineering feat to get that much sound out of those little speakers. Small line array-based systems have advantages over traditional point source/horn-loaded speakers but they have limitations as well. They sound good but not in an audiophile way. Their strength is in their ability to focuss sound energy over a wide area rather than provide accuracy or detail up close. They’re well-suited to music playback, especially if the files are okay, and preferably not Bluetoothed (I know it’s convenient but it doesn’t do the speakers’ fidelity any favours). And they don’t like raucous live bands very much. The little arrays lack the horn-loaded bite and power handling in the low-mids needed to keep live vocals in front of a band, unless the band levels are very well controlled. So not recommended for studio monitoring or hard rock. Everything else; no worries.
There’s always some compromise between height and safety with portable systems. The middle of the 30M array is 1.7m high — a good height for most applications, although not quite high enough for playing into a packed dancefloor. There’s no option of another (filler) pole section and it would be too high sitting on the narrow sub anyway so better to raise the whole system if possible.
The Evolve 30M is also available in white, for art galleries, smartphone product launches, and the like. Reminds me of an argument I had with Men At Work’s singer in Darwin, probably 1983. He wanted the PA painted white to match the stage set pieces we carried around, I wondered what it would look like after one trip in the back of the eight-tonne truck. It escalated as things sometimes do a couple of hours after a show in the steamy jungle conditions of Darwin. In the end, I said I’d still mix if someone were to paint the PA white but it wasn’t going to be me. I digress. These are unlikely to travel in the back of a truck but they inevitably will get knocked around despite best intentions. To keep the EV 30M protected it comes with a custom backpack to carry the array and poles but only an optional padded rolling case for the sub.
The EV Evolve 30M is super portable and filled with the latest tech, it’s also easy, versatile and fun to use. The convenient and quick set up combined with the comprehensive mixer give it wide appeal and should make it attractive to all sorts of live acts and DJs, as well as hire companies and corporate event producers.