The venerable QSC are back with a low-price option to add to their already wide range of loudspeakers. Alex Wilson looks under the hood to see how much bang you’re getting for your buck.
Speakers are often a trade-off between quality and size. The smaller you get, the less good-sounding volume you can juice out of the cabinet. If you want that big, clean sound, you normally need to pay for it, bothwith bucks and backbreaking effort shifting your speaker around.
QSC’s very new range of CP speakers aims to get around this conundrum. Quilter Sound Company has been around for 50 years now, and have mainly made their name in sophisticated live sound, cinema and systems products. While the company has been going strong since starting in California in 1968, the CP series seems to be part of a relatively recent push towards smaller and simpler products that aim to preserve the brand’s serious reputation.
Interestingly enough, company founder Pat Quilter remains at QSC as chairman of the board, while simultaneously starting another brand that bears his name. Quilter Labs is his new venture that creates high-end, small-scale solid state amps. Worth a look if that’s your bag, as they continue Quilter’s tradition of high-performance design.
LOW FREQUENCY, HIGH QUALITY
But back to the CP series! While we’ve got the version with the eight-inch low frequency driver, there’s a similar version boasting the same speaker in a 12-inch configuration. The first thing you’ll notice when you pull the CP8 out of the box is how light it is. Even noting its streamlined design (CP stands for Compact Powered) it weighs in at a slim 9.5 kilos.
Right off the bat, this is good news for anyone looking to buy a portable speaker. It’s going to punish you less when you’re lugging it around than similar products may. The edges and contours are cleverly designed. As well as being able to be pole‑mounted, the angles of the housing mean it will face a performer well if being used as an instrument amplifier or a foldback wedge.
There are also options to add an extra yoke mount and buy covers and bags if transport is going to be a common occurence.
In terms of the sonic specs, there’s 1000 watts on hand. That’s a decent amount of grunt and enough room to turn a busy mix up loud. Drilling down into the numbers, you can get up to 124 decibels SPL (sound pressure level) out of the CP8, with the frequency response covering 47 hertz to 20 kilohertz. The sound projects far and wide as well, with the dispersion offering 90 degrees of coverage.
Getting away from the theory for a moment: the loudspeaker sounds really good. QSC have a reputation for high performance audio gear, and the CP8 is no different. In practice, I found that meant that the low-end on this little box was unexpectedly formidable.
There’s a dynamism and clarity to the bass response that is crucial in creating pro-level sound. Additionally, there’s a Contour knob on the back that allows for some additional DSP processing.
There are presets for dance, floor monitor setup and speech, with additional options that allow a subwoofer to be attached in standard and dance mode. Although some users will undoubtedly prefer an EQ with more precise controls, I think there’s a lot to be said for the ease and immediacy of this system.
PACKING A PUNCH
Where I think the CP8 really shines is in the input stage. There are three available inputs: one line, one mic/line with mic boost and a stereo 3.5-millimetre mini-jack input. All three can be run simultaneously and have separate volume controls.
Ultimately, what this amounts to is that a simple mix of up to three channels can be done directly on the unit itself.
Say you’re a busking vocalist and guitarist that plays to a backing track off your iPod. Your whole mixer and speaker system can be handled by the CP8. It’s a simple setup offered by QSC here, but it’s well-considered enough to be truly valuable. Especially when combined with the portability of the CP8, this flexibility makes it a great option for any player working outside a band context.
Finally, the CP8 is priced very reasonably. It’s not the very cheapest option one could buy, but you get a lot of value for money at a relatively low price point. QSC are a company renowned for high-quality products, and in this case they’ve maintained that level without passing that much extra cost onto the punter.
THE BOTTOM LINE
QSC’s CP8 loudspeaker delivers excellent performance in a surprisingly compact package. The Class D 1000-watt amp delivers an impressive amount of volume relative to the CP8’s lightweight frame. The portability and sound quality alone make a strong case for purchase, and when you combine that with the well-considered I/O design, the newly-released CP8 lands firmly among the best in its class.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• 124 decibels SPL between 47 hertz and 20 kilohertz
• Wide dispersion with 90 degrees of coverage
• Three inputs with separate gain controls
• Contour switch for useful DSP options
• Portable design
• Excellent price point
• Contour preset EQ lacks detailed controls
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