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Hands-On Review: Kustom KPC Powered PA Speakers & Monitors

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You can believe your ears

By Jim Gault
Musician's Friend Staff Writer

Kustom PA KPC12P 12-Inch Powered PA Speaker

"You'll want to hear this," said Andrew, our Live Sound Products Specialist, inviting me to the parking lot at Musician's Friend. Outdoors he had a small rack holding a CD player and a mixer. He plugged in a 12" floor wedge that stood at its feet. Then, with a grin and a bit of ceremony he pushed Play. Instantly, the entire parking lot was filled with music. It was a sound that was impressively crisp, clear, and complete. "This," he said, "is Kustom's new 12" powered floor monitor."

He then proceeded to demonstrate the other powered KPC Series PA speakers, from the smallest 10" to the largest dual 15" and I was impressed with each in turn. All are honest two-way boxes in floor wedge or main PA cabs, and loaded with Class AB amplifiers with power ranging from 50 watts to 200 watts. Though they appear to be completely conventional cabs, they are remarkable because of how well they achieve two things: sound quality that is astonishingly good and a price that is astonishingly small.

But playing program material outdoors isn't a true test for speakers, so I gathered up a set to try out on a live performance by my band. I chose a pair of KPC15Ps for mains and a pair of KPC210MPs for monitors. The venue was an event room at a motel complex and its acoustic challenges included a high ceiling, an expanse of carpet, and some thick, sound-dampening drapes. The stage was a fairly low riser, only a foot or so higher than the floor. I put the mains on stands to project the sound over the heads of the dancers and figured I would need to brighten the mix a little with the EQ. With a total of 200W for the mains and 200W driving the monitors, I felt confident we would have enough power to fill the room adequately.

The powered KPCs didn't let us down. To start off, EQing was relatively easy, and once we were underway, the crisp sound of the monitors gave us the clarity we needed to sing on pitch. I liked the way the double tens allowed just two monitors to cover three singers, and judging by the positive audience response, the mains did a great job all night long.

Kustom PA KPC210MP Dual 10-Inch Powered Monitor Speaker

Engineered for low prices

How such low-priced speakers could be this good is in itself a story. Kustom wanted speakers that would rival the competition with the highest sound quality and lowest price. One way they accomplished this was by manufacturing the active KPCs at Kustom's factory in China. This factory had been producing the passive KPC speaker series for years, had the process down, and thus could minimize startup costs for the new line. Even bigger cost savings were achieved by installing amps and new connections in the existing passive KPC cabinets. These cabs had already undergone years of refinement—design work that didn't need to be repeated.

Other ways of keeping costs low included avoiding cosmetic frills and options that added cost without true benefits. For instance, most powered speakers these days have a minimal mixer section built in which gives each box standalone capability. Kustom felt that this feature was too seldom used in a band PA context to be worth the added cost, and so kept it simple with XLR and balanced 1/4" TRS connectors for plugging in an outboard mixer. Besides the cost savings, using an outboard mixer would likely give better sound from better-quality mic pres, more control, and easier integration of system components. As a result of all of these approaches, Kustom was able to price the KPC powered speakers so far below competing models, you may think the prices are misprints.

Engineered for quality sound

The second goal was to make the powered KPCs sound impressive. One approach to achieving this while still keeping prices down was to employ higher-quality components already in use in other Kustom products. This resulted in the use of upgraded connectors, corners, coverings, grilles, and drivers without the attendant costs of sourcing them.

Kustom primarily achieved the sound quality of these speakers by carefully voicing each unit. Each model was analyzed using sophisticated digital processing and analysis equipment and then many hours were spent tweaking the EQ and crossover points while listening to various kinds of program material to arrive at an optimal voicing for each box. As a result, the monitor wedge models have a crisper, clearer overall sound with less low-end frequency rumble. The front-of-house models are voiced to fill space with a fuller, rounder sound.

The results

These new Kustom powered speakers have the same durable build as their passive counterparts. They cost less than any powered PA speakers on the market. And they sound as good or better than many costing twice as much. If your band has a tight budget, the Kustom KPC powered PA speakers offer you a way to get your sound together at a low cost without sacrificing sound quality.

Features & Specs

  • Class AB power amplifiers ranging from 50W to 200W
  • Kustom woofers ranging from 10" to 15"
  • Piezo tweeters on wide-flare horns (KPC215HP has a 1" compression driver)
  • Precision-tuned crossover
  • Balanced XLR input jack
  • Balanced 1/4" TRS input jack
  • 1/4" TRS line out jack for daisy-chaining
  • Volume control
  • Built-in pole mount (except on the KPC210MP)
  • Heavy-duty corner protectors
  • Heavy-gauge speaker grille

Tags: Monitors Speakers PA Systems

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