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May 2014
more... GearAmpsReviewsAcoustic AmpsJuly 2009Bose

Bose L1 Compact Acoustic PA Review

Bose L1 Compact Acoustic PA Review

Hooray! Field Trip!
I tried it at band rehearsal in my living room. I live in one of those big old houses with wooden floors, plaster walls and ridiculously high ceilings. In the room was me with an acoustic, the bass player playing through a practice amp with a 10" speaker and the drummer with full kit, playing with brushes. The Bose sounded great with a Gallagher A-70 (in DADGAD), if just a little bassy. Unfortunately, the lack of an EQ section meant I had to live with it—not good in an ensemble situation (too much bass in the acoustic plus an actual bass player made it muddy). After a few songs, I switched to a Voyage-air VAOM-1C (in Standard tuning), which sounded great in a completely different way, but lacked a little warmth in the low mids.

The lack of control over the guitar EQ was a new challenge for me, and since Bose didn’t send me a T1 ToneMatch audio engine along for this review, I ended up assembling a pedalboard with two Baggs ParAcoustic DIs and an Aphex Acoustic Xiter through a Road Rage Pro Gear TBEL, so I could dial in the tone I wanted for each guitar andmake them sound more consistent when played one after another. This eliminated the tonal discomfort I was experiencing, but added more components to pack, transport, load in, set up, and plug in—and as the L1 Compact does not have phantom power, it meant I needed another power outlet.

It was time for a field test in a medium-sized open room with auditorium-style seating and a high but uneven ceiling—fairly lively acoustics. Load-in and setup went quickly; soundcheck was another story. Once I got the guitars dialed in for the room and the vocal mic balanced against the guitar, it was time to add my bandmates to the mix. Dan had his own bass amp, and Eric was just playing acoustically in the room. Here’s where the lack of a Master Volume became critical. We quickly determined that this was not the gig for the L1 Compact, and I ended up using a different amp.

A few days later, I tried the L1 Compact at a coffeehouse-style bakery. It was a solo gig, so I had only myself to contend with. I took one guitar, the Gallagher A-70, and went direct, as Bose intended. I’m told that the Bose sounded great in the L-shaped room, and that the sound carried perfectly and beautifully through the entire place. However, from where I sat, every time I played an F# or G chord I felt like I was being pummeled in the side of the head by the bass frequency—which is interesting because that guitar usually only acts up on A if it’s going to at all, and A was perfectly smooth in the mix. My son was next to me for a while, and heard exactly what I was hearing. The single-eyebrow-raised look of vexation he learned from me passed between us.

I’ve grown used to responding to what I hear in the monitor and trusting that what the audience is getting is good. The L1 Compact is supposed to serve as both monitor and main, so this fierce bass frequency distracted me and made me change the way I was playing to compensate. However, I learned that at about 10–15 feet away the frequency was smoothed into the rest of the sound. As the crowed ebbed and flowed, controlling the sound without a Master Volume was an additional challenge.

The Final Mojo
The Bose L1 Compact is a Bose, so it will reproduce with alarming accuracy anything you plug into it. It doesn’t do much else and that seems to be by design. In the right room, a player with minimal needs will appreciate the amp’s simplicity. Its size, weight and ease of transport are beyond my wildest dreams. This is not the amp for you if you play larger rooms or rely on features like a Master Volume, EQ for the guitar channel, phantom power, an effects send/return or a built-in reverb.
Buy if...
you love light, compact, easy, fast, stylish and simple, and you can completely control the environment at every gig you get.
Skip if...
you need a truly viable and versatile piece of gear that is gig-friendly.

MSRP $999 - Bose - bose.com

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