Overview: JBL Professional VTX Series
VTX A Series has changed many minds about JBL as a purveyor of a primo concert touring rigs.
VTX has rehabilitated JBL Pro’s name in the upper echelons of the pro touring market. VerTec was loud but there weren’t too many fans of its sonic signature. Meanwhile, VTX sounds good: detailed and balanced.
VTX has been around for a few years now but Australia has been somewhat of a hold-out. Being a comparatively small market, with the top end dominated by a few select PA rental names, it’s been hard for VTX to break into that exalted company and truly show its wares.
Overseas is a different story. VTX is a popular rig, showing out at festivals, tours and top-draw installations.
MadisonAV has taken over the distribution of VTX in Australia. MadisonAV — a key player in the commercial AV/Installation market — has no real previous exposure to the concert touring market but regardless, and somewhat incredibly, staged one of the best pro audio product launches anyone in Australia has experienced.
Taking over the Event Centre of The Star, the MadisonAV and Harman Asia Pacific team introduced VTX to over 100 Australian audio and AV heavy hitters, with listening tests and a hot live band.
JBL Professional VTX Series
MEET THE FAM
VTX is comprised of A Series (its array loudspeakers, including the A12, A8 and A6); the B Series (‘B’ for ‘bass’, including the B28, B18 and B15); M Series (‘M’ for stage ‘monitors’); F Series models for fill; and associated software (including the Line Array Calculator prediction software; Performance Monitor, the tuning, amp control and configuration package; and Array Link, a nifty app for crew to have the rigging details on their smart device). Crown I-Tech amps power the system as part of a VTX package. As you’d expect, the range has a full complement of rigging and accessories.
VTX isn’t brand new, but the baby of the range, the A6, is. The launch was the first time the A6 had been sparked up as a system in Australia, but more than that, it was the first time most had heard VTX at all, certainly not a side-by-side comparison of the complete A Series range.
All three mid/high boxes adhere to the same design principles. The A8 has 6dB less output than the A12, and likewise the A6 is 6dB down on the A8, but they share the same sonic signature. You can pair any of the mid/high boxes with any of the subs. The B15 is designed to be flown in a A6-based array, but an A12/B15 rig is entirely possible.
JBL’S RACE CAR
VTX represents the best of JBL Pro; packing its latest transducer and loudspeaker design technology. Or, as JBL’s Director, Product Management – Line Array Systems, George Georgallis, describes it: “VTX is our race car”.
I’ve pulled out the various standout technologies of VTX in box items but it’s worth dwelling on the HF drive unit, which does more than anything to differentiate VTX from previous JBL line arrays.
The main thing we wanted to improve over the VerTec was the the high frequency character of the system
George Georgallis: “The main thing we wanted to improve over the VerTec was the the high frequency character of the system. The majority of a line array’s performance is derived from the high frequency section, both in terms of output, the sound character, and also how well it works as a line array — how well it sums for the long-throw situations. Which is why we invested a lot of R&D time into the high frequency section of this product.”
JBL has the luxury of being a transducer manufacturer and was able to develop a brand new HF unit from scratch. And the first thing you notice is the waveguide is built into the HF unit — it’s all one assembly.
The next big departure: the diaphragm of the compression driver isn’t metallic it’s a composite, proprietary material, losing any characteristic harshness you can get from a titanium- or aluminium-based design.
George Georgallis: “Compression drivers tend to be influenced by the materials because not only do we hear the direct sound, but also the material sound, especially when we start getting to the break-up modes of the materials, and if those materials are metallic, as they’re moving and breaking up, they introduce that character.”
The diaphragm isn’t dome-shaped either. It’s shaped to match the waveguide geometry. George Georgallis: “Compression driver exits are historically circular to mate with a horn, which provides coverage in the horizontal and vertical. That doesn’t make much sense with a line array’s waveguide, in terms of manipulating what’s coming out of it to create a flat wave.”
MadisonAV and Harman really showed out and provided VTX with the best possible conditions for Australian JBL fans and sceptics alike to appreciate what the system is capable of. More important than a flashy launch, MadisonAV has invested heavily in demo stock and has appointed a product specialist (Peter Kubow) to connect with the rental market. VTX is already being specified into significant audio installation projects in the region, and is well suited to those kind of applications (performing arts centres, exhibition centres, houses of worship etc) but the question mark is around its appeal to mid- to larger-sized PA rental companies. A VTX package offers good value but is in no way a thrifty choice, and VTX doesn’t yet have the same brand name cachet as the Euro incumbents. But the VTX performance and versatility can’t be questioned. It’s a comprehensive, solid system with equally solid local support behind it.