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Hands-On Review: Cerwin-Vega P1500X & P1800SX Active Speakers

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DJ System, or is it suited for Live Sound too?

By Craig Vecchione
Moderator, Harmony Central

When I was asked to review the Cerwin-Vega P-Series, I had already heard that it was being marketed to DJ’s, and a quick visit to Cerwin-Vega’s web pages confirm this, with video and text firmly aimed at the DJ market. Active speakers are gaining popularity in all areas of sound reinforcement, and there’s quite a bit of competition in the P-Series’ price range. Let’s have a look at this system and see where it lies.

What You Need to Know

Cerwin-Vega P1500X Active Speaker

P1500X Full Range Speaker

The P1500X is a 2-way active speaker system with a 15” LF driver and 1.75” HF compression driver with 1” exit. These drivers are powered by a single Class-D amplifier rated 540 watts continuous, 1500 watts dynamic. The system is rated for 136dB maximum SPL.

Input is handled on the back panel by a 3-channel mixer section with levels controls on each channel. Two input channels have XLR/TRS combo jacks and XLR thru output jacks and are switchable for mic/line level input. LED’s indicate mic/line configuration, and an LED on each channel indicates signal presence and clip limiter activation.

The third input channel has a pair of TS jacks that sum to mono for a keyboard or media device, and also has a signal/clip LED. There is no thru output for Input 3.

An XLR mix output jack passes the total mix output to additional P1500S or P1800S speakers. This mix is affected by the channel levels, but not any of the “custom features” or main volume control described below.
A 3-pin remote volume jack can be used singly or daisy-chained to control additional speakers via a user-supplied 10K-ohm potentiometer.

Cerwin-Vega P1500X Rear Inputs & Outputs

Also on the back panel are the main volume control, the power, limiter, and protect LED’s, and the following four “custom features” switches:

  • Enhanced EQ – activating this switch adjusts the EQ contour. Basically it scoops the midrange. As the “smiley face” EQ contour is almost universally frowned upon in Live Sound, this feature may be welcomed in the DJ world. However, to its benefit the contour effect was very mild. I found I had to listen carefully to notice it with recorded media, and it was slightly more noticeable as a drop in presence when I used it with a soloed microphone. I think it’s worth having this control as a feedback control option if the speaker is used without any other EQ for live acts.
  • Vega Bass Boost – this feature adds low frequency gain and dynamically adjusts LF response based on volume level. For recorded media it added some punch, but at the expense of making upper bass seem boomy. I found the low end to be much clearer without it. When used in conjunction with Enhanced EQ, I felt as if the system was trying too hard to sound like a badly-EQ’d DJ setup...all boomy bass and sizzle. This might be popular for DJ’s, but probably more limited in value for live sound applications.
  • High Pass Filter – this switch engages an 80Hz high pass filter. I found it useful when I used the filter as a floor wedge monitor for vocals, where it effectively reduced stage rumble to manageable levels.
  • Front Limiter Light- Switching to ‘on’ enables the limiter indicator light on the front of the speaker.

The P1500X has a molded ABS cabinet and a stamped steel grill. It weighs 53 pounds, which I found to be near the maximum weight I’m willing to lift a speaker onto a pole. There are M10 suspension points at the end of each carrying handle and two M10 pullback points adjacent the back panel. It has handles on one side and at the top, and feet on the bottom along with a pole mount cup that can tilt 7-1/2 degrees or remain level. One side of the cabinet has two raised ridges molded into it, apparently in lieu of rubber feet or skids, for use as a floor wedge. Why Cerwin-Vega failed to use rubber feet here is a concern, as floor wedges need as much isolation as possible.

Another minor but irritating problem is that the rubber feet on the bottom are not installed at the far corners of the box. The narrow footprint combined with a slight height difference in the feet to create an annoying rock that required the “beer mat shim” to correct.

Cerwin-Vega P1800SX Subwoofer

P1800SX Subwoofer

Moving to the P1800SX, this is a single 18” active speaker powered by a Class-D amp rated 725 watts continuous, 2000 watts dynamic, and spec’d at 134dB SPL maximum output. Unlike the P1500X’s ABS box, the P1800 uses an 18mm plywood box. Casters are included which mount on the back panel, and a pair of recessed handles are on the sides. A minor point of issue here: the handles are oriented for lifting with the cabinet in its normal upright orientation. When a cabinet has casters on the side, it’s is very helpful to have “4-way” recessed handles that can be grasped with the box in any orientation. This would eliminate the necessity to tip the cabinet upright in order to lift it. I’d also be happier moving this box if two of the casters were locking, so the box doesn’t roll away during load out. Small points, yes, but this is a heavy box at 84lb., so any small advantage makes it easier to live with.

Cerwin-Vega P1800SX Subwoofer Rear Inputs & Outputs

The back panel layout is very similar to the P1500S, with two inputs each featuring a combo XLR input, XLR thru output and signal/clip indicator. The main volume control handles level. An XLR link output jack sums both input sources, without being affected by the main volume control.

The following four “custom feature” switches are described below:

  • Polarity Reverse – Useful for situations where the sub is not positioned near the mid-highs and results in LF being out of phase with the rest of the signal. This is a nice feature that makes it much easier to optimize output in these situations.
  • Vega Bass Boost – just as with the P1500X, this switch adds LF gain and dynamically adjusts low-frequency response based on subwoofer volume level. And just as with the P1500X, I found the system had more low-end clarity without this feature, but that it didn’t add the annoying (to my ears)‘boom’ when engaged. So the choice comes down to punch vs. clarity, which isn’t a bad thing.
  • HPF Thru & LPF Sub – when engaged, two filters are inserted:
    • An 80Hz low pass for the subwoofer.
    • An 80Hz high pass for Thru 1 & Thru 2 outputs.
  • Front Limiter Light – the front limiter light is enabled when ‘on’.

So How Does It Sound?

Okay, that’s a lot of information, but it doesn’t tell you how the system sounds. It’s aimed at DJ’s, but will it work for live sound too? In a word, yes. I put the system through its paces, using the P1500X alone and with the P1800SX, and was impressed. The system gets loud, coverage is good for a typical bar or club venue and clarity is above average. I found that I needed to adjust the lower mids depending on how loud the system was set to keep it from getting a little “honky”, but the high end was smooth, and the bass response was tight. It was relatively easy to get good kick drum sounds with decent punch. Overall the sound is pleasing and not fatiguing if the controls are left flat. I found no need to use the Vega Bass or contouring controls on the P1500X and could either engage the Vega Bass or not on the P1800SX. It was just as easy to control EQ from the mixer to get effective low end.

Used as a floor wedge, the extra low end of the 15” speaker was nice for hearing bass guitar and kick drum, but again the system needed some EQ in the midrange to get good vocal clarity. It wasn’t objectionable at all, and the results were good. The horn driver provided good off-axis coverage with the speaker used in wedge configuration. Feedback rejection was good using SM-57, SM-58 and e835 mics with minimal EQ adjustment. In my opinion this speaker would be suited as a drum monitor, but I did not have the opportunity to use it as one.

Conclusions

DJ? Live? Both? While the control features are obviously slanted to DJ use, this system can rock a live stage. It’s reasonably portable, the mixer features and connectivity give it enough versatility to deploy just one or many speakers, and the speakers are loud and clear. That sounds like a Live Sound speaker system to me!

Tags: PA Speakers DJ Equipment Speakers Harmony Central

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