PA Check: PREMIUM:PRO, LINEAR 3 or LINEAR 5 – which works best for you?
There are many questions for bands and DJs to ponder when they’re in the market for a PA, especially if their career is just getting off the ground. The biggest issue is how to strike the right balance between budget and frequency of use. A newish band that’s still busy finding its groove and voice is unlikely to have a lot of gigs lined up. It probably won’t want to make a big investment without the prospect or aim of regular gigs, the exception being those well-heeled hobbyists who simply want to enjoy a sweet-sounding setup in the rehearsal room.
Now that we’ve gotten the generalities out of the way, let’s talk about you, the musician or DJ. Budget and bookings aside, your personal preferences, tech-savviness, brand awareness and style of music are likely to be the biggest factor in your decision. The HK Audio portfolio offers all types of PAs to choose from. The company has even put together sets of recommended systems and turnkey packages to cover just about every application. The idea here is to let you treat audiences small and large to the best sound with a rig that matches your preferences, ambitions, tech skills, and level of professionalism.
This blog would be an epic if it were to cover all the options, so we’ll zero in on three product lines, PREMIUM:PRO, LINEAR3 and LINEAR 5, that serve many target groups and gigs well. Let’s see which of these PAs works best for you.
When tech nerds and more musician-minded folks get together to design a new product, the good ones do so with the buyer’s or user’s best interests in mind. Of course, market demand and the insight a product specialist has gained over the years in this line of business will steer the development effort in certain directions, so let’s examine each of these options to see what the designers intended to do and which of your purposes it will serve best.
PREMIUM:PRO was the first of these three HK Audio lines. Debuting in 2007, it was a response to demands of the day. Users wanted cabs with 12″ woofers and a horn at a price that float their boats rather than sink their budgets. That was a formula for enduring success – this very popular series remains a musician-magnet and the go-to choice for many users.
Taking a stab at explaining this line’s remarkable staying power, Andreas Mayerl, Head of Market Development, says, “What HK Audio did with PREMIUM:PRO was to make a somewhat more professional PA than its predecessors and rivals. And they looked the part with more upmarket visuals. While people often bought a box in the store with nothing but watts and price in mind, we were also keen to design a sharp-looking, premium-quality product. We decided to build a cabinet that not only sounds great and works well in various configurations as part of a modular system; it would also feature upscale appointments such as wood handles and a milled logo to reflect the quality inside.
Responding to customer demand and dealers’ feedback, HK Audio added pick-points for installing speakers. While the early PREMIUM:PRO models were passive, powered versions hit the market in 2012. Called D models for their digitally-controlled Class-D amplifiers, these bi-amped boxes served up a whopping 1,200 watts, a level of power output that the passive models had yet to match. This and the rest of its rich feature set made PREMIUM:PRO a blockbusting-bestseller. HK Audio had offered on-board controlling and limiting in a power amp before, but only in turnkey systems such as ACTOR or DEACON.
- Do you regularly gig with your rehearsal room PA, insist on getting a good sound without a lot of twiddling and tweaking, and won’t be hitting the road with a sound engineer on board? Then this could be the rig for you.
- It lets you quickly dial in the desired audio result with just a few tone controls and presets.
- With PREMIUMPR:O, you can start small before your act gets big, growing your system as gigs increase in frequency and size.
- It will get the job done nicely for audiences of up to 400 people.
- Opt for this line and you will enjoy the benefits of HK Audio’s made-in-Germany sound quality and ruggedness at an entry-level price.
The LINEAR 5 story turned the PREMIUM PR:O’s plotline around. The inceptive version of this product line was a powered system. One feature it would share with PREMIUM:PRO is the wood enclosure. A smart move, this choice of material set these cabinets apart from the competition in 2012, a time when plastic housings dominated the market for active speakers. LINEAR 5 cabinets’ birch multiplex top and bottom panels enhance stability; the MDF walls are much less susceptible to vibration.
One of the initial aims was to build the loudest cabinet in its class. That worked out, so the company followed up by rolling out a passive version. They made a splash, but LINEAR 5’s big breakthrough would come when product specialists started putting speakers together in packages.
The earlier 2×10″ subwoofer was a lean-and-mean machine with tight, snappy response, but the 2×12″ combination prevailed with the LINEAR SUB 2000’s later release. These subwoofers and package-deal systems would go on to become big sellers. Musicians loved the products, and rental companies came to appreciate the benefits of systems that scale up and down. That makes it a lot easier for HK Audio customers to answer the question of which rig is right for their purposes.
Andreas Mayerl (Head of Market Development) put it like this: “Our system-based solutions align each rig’s size and power level with its users’ audience numbers and style of music. This is one of the reasons why LINEAR 5 and LINEAR 3 are so popular – they simplify the decision-making.”
HK Audio calls these all-in-one LINEAR 5 systems packs. They’re excellent touring rigs for bands that take a sound tech out on the road. Engineers designed the LINEAR 5 systems with that in mind – to afford an “outside” specialist the opportunity to shape the soundscape and serve up an even more exciting audio experience.
- The LINEAR 5 family of systems covers a a much wider range applications. It meets the expectations of discriminating musicians and DJs who want their performance to shine with professional-grade audio.
- Technicians also appreciate LINEAR 5 as a great tool for events.
- The biggest rig, an LTS head-stacked cluster, addresses audiences of up to 3,000 people.
- LINEAR 5 lives up to its name by rendering sound sources’ signals with uncolored accuracy, affording engineers plenty of sonic space to shape sound as they see fit. In other words, you can carve out your sound with surgical precision using outboard equipment, but it does take prior knowledge and experience. And the best place to be doing this is the FOH desk.
- The petit-but-powerful LINEAR 5 rig packs a mightier punch than its larger-but-punier competition. Lots of sound pressure, smooth linear response, a long throw range paired with good near-field coverage – the LTS A gives you plenty of all that.
LINEAR 3 is a whole different bag of goods – and goodies. It serves up great sound without a lot of fussing with controls and finessing settings. You don’t need a band member with a degree in audio engineering to get great results. HK Audio released the LINEAR 3 line in 2017 as a successor to the PULSAR systems. Both its name and look are a nod to LINEAR 5 – a decision deliberately taken to set it apart from PREMIUM:PRO speakers. Whereas the latter’s outward appearance speaks softly, LINEAR 5 and LINEAR 3’s visuals say it louder and perhaps prouder.
While LINEAR 5 leaves your sound-shaping options wide open, LINEAR 3 nudges the sound in a more contemporary direction. Its sonic aesthetic caters to the modern listener’s expectations; its DSP filtering delivers sweet sound even in venues with suboptimum acoustics. You can preconfigure what we’ll call “concert sound” right there on stage with just a few adjustments made directly with the switches on the housing. While LINEAR 5 horns have a very low cutoff frequency, which can conjure a very assertive sound, LINEAR 3 serves up its sound with a smoother, gentler touch throughout the frequency spectrum. The advantage of a lower X-over tuning is that it extends the horn’s frequency range, which gives you a more directed, punchier sound. LINEAR 3 horns’ 90°x55° throw pattern is wider, but their range is shorter.
LINEAR 3 is the best choice for you if you’re
- in a band or are a DJ that likes shortish rather than epic sound-checks
- usually on the road without a sound technicia
- no newcomer to the gigging game with a little more spare change in your pocket
- You can rock an audience of up to 500 people with the biggest LINEAR 3 rig.
- Four EQ presets help you to find, in a flash, the right setting to suit different rooms and your musical style.
- LINEAR 3 always serves up powerful, homogenous sound in small-to-midsized venues. The horns’ throw patterns are wide enough to provide uniform coverage right up to the front of the stage.
The bottom line according to me:
There’s no do-or-die rule for picking the perfect PA. That’s because there so many things to consider when you make your choice. I will say this, though: If you’re in a smaller-name band that gigs regularly but doesn’t have a sound tech to tweak your combo’s rig during the gig, then you’re probably going to go for either LINEAR 3 or PREMIUM:PRO, depending on the size of your budget. If we compare components one to one, LINEAR 3 is the pricier option, but it’s also louder and ranges lower in frequency response. PREMIUM:PRO components cost less so you can buy more of them. That gives you more options straightaway, as opposed to stocking up later when you’ve saved up some more cents.
LINEAR 3 is better suited than LINEAR 5 for smaller rooms. PREMIUM:PRO also ships with a 90°x55° horn, so it’s not a long-throw system. Then again, the cutoff frequency is a bit lower and its response was pre-shaped with a lighter touch than the LINEAR 3’s, so PREMIUM:PRO’s sound is closer to that of LINEAR 5. With its remarkably balanced frequency response, LINEAR 3 is perfect for bands and DJs who want to focus more on their performance and less on fussing with their sound. It’s the go-to option for ambitious musicians who do not have a sound tech on board.
Check out this table to compare specs and features:
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