Simon Allen puts these high-powered active speakers to the test…
I’d heard the Pro Audio division of Pioneer had started venturing back into loudspeaker design and manufacturing via some colleagues of mine. Developments started a few years ago with their XY series; a passive solution aimed at high-end club installs. Now they are presenting an active solution for either fixed installs or mobile events called the XPRS range.
The XPRS range, otherwise known as the express range, consists of the; XPRS-10, XPRS-12, XPRS-15, XPRS-115S and XPRS-215S. As the model names suggest, there are three full range boxes with a 10”, 12” or 15” woofer respectively, and two subs with either a single or dual 15” driver. For the purpose of this review, I was sent the XPRS-15 and the XPRS-215S to try out. In this ever-growing market of portable active boxes, I was keen to find out what this highly-respected digital entertainment equipment manufacturer had developed.
Before we get into any specifications, performance or what these new speakers sound like, I have to discuss the build quality. Manufactured from 15mm birch hardwood ply and coated in an impact-resistant textured finish, these are solid cabinets. They are completed with heavy duty handles; two on the full range boxes and four on the dual 15” subs. The subs also come fitted with castors, which is a relief as you won’t be carrying them far.
There is a trade-off of course; having all this dense material does impact the weight of these boxes. While the XPRS-15’s are manageable at 28.5Kg each, they’re not the lightest solution available. Although these are a speaker designed for mobile use, they’re not the most compact either. Therefore, it’s apparent right from unboxing, that Pioneer have gone for quality over form. I’d say that’s a promising start from a brand that’s more commonly found squeezing electronics inside compact cases.
The notable build quality doesn’t stop there. While many manufacturers are adding LCD screens on the back panel, or even networking and Bluetooth technology, the XPRS is more old school in it’s design approach. Only simple select switches and hardware level controls are present, alongside an intelligent offering of connectivity options. I think this is a smart approach that should prove reliable and easy to use in many scenarios.
Another practical feature I like is the dual 35mm mounting socket on the underneath of the full-range cabinets. This is something we’ve seen before on competing products, but very useful in the real world. It allows the speakers to be pole mounted straight-on, or with a seven degree tilt. The XPRS-215S subs sport an M20 screw socket for a spacer pole. Couple this with M10 rigging points on the full-range boxes, and these boxes are clearly ready to go straight onto the professional stage.
After excusing the weight issue, there are clearly many design features that have been considered here. While this is a new page for Pioneer, it certainly isn’t their first chapter. I would like to see one pair of handles in the subs installed in the other orientation for easier handling, but that’s a minor point. The wedge shape of the full-range cabinets is neatly delivered, sitting at a good angle when used as a floor monitor while not appearing oddly shaped when mounted upright. Depending on the usage, you will need to take off the front grill to rotate the horn, which delivers a 90 x 60 degree dispersion.
Internally, the XPRS-15 contains a 15” ferrite low-frequency cone driver and a 1.75” titanium diaphragm neodymium compression driver. The bass reflex cabinets sport what Pioneer call an AFAST acoustic tube. This is a tube inside the cabinet that has been designed to reduce standing waves.
Amplification is delivered by partner brand Powersoft. With the kudos of Powersoft being literally on-board, it’s another nod to the live world that these are professional units. Inside the XPRS-15 there is a Class D amp delivering an impressive 2400W peak / 1200W continuous of amplification. Powersoft have produced this amp so that it can handle a range of AC supplies while being very efficient. Only 175W of power consumption is quoted thanks to Powersoft’s Power Factor Correction (PFC) system.
Built in to the amplifier module are several protection features to protect the drivers and the amp. These include; thermal limiting, output overcurrent, DC offset removal, stationary high-frequency protection as well as input and output voltage limiters. The units will also protect against power surges with their AC mains over-voltage protection.
I set up the pair of XPRS-15’s and the pair of XPRS-215S’ that Pioneer sent me, with standard spacer poles as a typical LR setup. Firstly however, I tried using the XPRS-15 full-range cabinets by themselves. i.e. without the subs. I set all the controls to zero, Flat EQ and left them in full-range mode.
My initial impression was consumed by the amount of low-frequency output. It wasn’t just the level of bass that was striking, but also the depth. It’s common to find a bump in point source boxes like these, somewhere around 60-100Hz. Here however, my ears were drawn immediately to the 40-60Hz region. I even had to double check I hadn’t accidentally left the subs connected. I’m not sure how this would translate to the 10” or 12” models, but users of the 15” will probably get away without needing a subwoofer more often.
Although the EQ presets do what they say, I doubt live engineers would use these boxes in anything other than Flat. The “BASS+” preset is fairly gusty, but might be useful in outdoor scenarios for example. Before connecting the subs, I listened to the XPRS-15’s in “EXT SUB MODE” as well as full-range. The built-in high-pass filter felt very high, so unless extreme output levels are required, I believe a selectable HPF would have been useful here.
With the subs connected, the low-end was very deep. Although these units sport dual 15” drivers, the result is much lower and less “note-like” than you would expect. If I had to describe the sound from this system in one word, it would be “prominent”. There is a lot of power on tap which seems to project with ease. This can be very useful but I think live sound engineers and musicians will typically soften the sound slightly with EQ. However, club installs, mobile dance events and party-style event promoters will be drawn to the solid output of these boxes.
There’s clearly been a conscious effort to shake any preconceptions that these speakers wouldn’t be fit for pro audio. Everything about the way these speakers have been built is aimed at the professional stage. Heading straight for the pro market, focusing on function over form, I believe will prove very smart for Pioneer. There are many aspects to this new product line that will impress even the most experienced touring engineer.
My personal taste in sound is for higher fidelity, but if you’re looking for some boxes with a pronounced sound, the XPRS range might be for you. There is a lot on offer here, evident from the ground up. With significant input from Powersoft, Pioneer have managed to deliver an active PA solution that will sit boldly alongside the competition.
– Powersoft Class D amps
– AFAST acoustic tube
– 4 EQ modes
– Flexible connectivity
SRP: XPRS–15 – £1,199
XPRS-215S – £1,469
Simon Allen is a freelance internationally recognised sound engineer and pro audio professional with over a decade of experience. Working mostly in music, his reputation as a mix and FOH engineer continues to reach new heights.