Column speaker designs are created for that perfect storm. When the right conditions are present, they provide a solid solution that promises to perform in some of the most challenging venues.
In beautifully reverberant spaces with the trade-off of low intelligibility, or spaces that have poor acoustics, this design may provide a way to save thousands, if not tens-of-thousands in treatment. This is due to their limited horizontal pattern ranging from 10 to 30 degrees. This allows the speaker to be placed somewhat low in the room with its flat but wide coverage shooting through the listening area, therefore not stimulating the room as much as conventional designs. Much like a line-array, the vertical alignment of drivers also provides much more even coverage front to back. Well-designed column speakers can also give you excellent gain before feedback. With many of the designs you can turn up a hand held and get huge volume standing right in front of them.
Many manufacturers have been refining column technologies over the past decade making them worth considering in specific situations. Renkus Heinz for instance is known for pioneering the vertically steerable column. Their advanced processing allows the columns to be placed in a larger range of positions and can be steered to avoid problem horizontal surfaces such as balcony faces or reflective walls. Several others have been entering the market with fixed pattern columns. Danley Sound Labs introduced the SBH series columns with Paraline Horn-Loaded, multiple 5” coaxial drivers that yields 133db of powerhouse while still sounding smooth. The LF model goes well into the subwoofer’s range. We have installed these products with great results. They remain leaders in this technology.
Along comes Syva from L Acoustics. With all of the same principles and benefits, we now have one of the premium loudspeaker companies introducing a unique, high- powered colinear solution in a column form factor. With a horizontal pattern of 5 degrees up and 21 degrees down, it’s ideal in flat-floor spaces such as ballrooms. The colinear source design provides higher energy towards the back of the room making them good for up to 114’ of depth. Most of these types of speaker designs are between 90 and 120 degrees wide. Syva reaches all the way out to 140 degrees wide. They even sound awesome when you are at the outside edges. If you like the classic, smooth high frequencies that have always come from the L Acoustics DOSC waveguide you will appreciate the silky top end of this system. It really is quite incredible.
They are designed to work in conjunction with the Syva Low cabinets for a full range impact as low as 40hz. They even have a magnetic mating system with built-in connectivity to the low cabinet. With both cabinets, they also win on the loudness scale at 137db peak power. They are sexy, proud and loud. With the controller (processing amplifier) for the pair with the lows, you are at about $30,000 retail. Nevertheless, when compared to full PA systems in that same price range, you rival many of the six-figure PA characteristics for a fraction of the price. When we consider what kind of installed sound system you can buy at that price. It quickly becomes an awesome value.
L Acoustics also offers 2 additional Syva Subs for each side, which requires another controller. This allows the system to reach into the 20’s with about 12db of low contour increasing the output to 142db.
Keep in mind that, as a main PA the Syva solution must have the following perfect- storm conditions in place to be the right box for the right room.
1) The room must be somewhat flat or have a very slight rake. This is due to its 5 up 20 down vertical pattern. If this is the case, you should greatly benefit by keeping sound away from possible ceiling issues such as poor reflections and resonant ringing spaces.
2) It also performs best in spaces that utilize its wide pattern, often cutting back the number of speakers needed to go wide.
3) One must also consider site-lines. While they are thin and sleek, you have to be able to have them in an ideal position for sound without being too visually intrusive for seating areas. You can separate the Syvas from the Syva Lows and rig them but the crossover in the preset is vastly different as it requires the Syva tops to cover a lot more of the mids and lows. Their factory preset for this arrangement provides a great starting point. In our testing however, we found that there were some benefits to the low-end punch and performance when they are together. This is the case anytime you couple speakers together for better time alignment and phase response.
4) You must also consider the content being reproduced. If you are mixing anything classical, jazz, or even a typical contemporary band, you will have the best results money can buy. If you have a high volume requirement with a harder rock band and want that aggressive low-mid range, you will need a larger driver set to put that low mid-range in the face of the entire room. Simply put: bigger speakers. Even so, for as compact as this setup is, it will certainly exceed your expectations.
We have placed Syvas in several venues now including Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. A pair of Syvas and Syva Lows was added to one of their Sprung structure venues. We immediately heard the benefit of keeping sound out of the ceiling. Aaron Ruse, the Tech Director attests, “They sound great, and are even enough for our youth band”. We are now seeing Syvas being implemented as side-fills. L Acoustics used them as part of the newly updated Hollywood Bowl installed system.
With such a wide array of choices and price ranges, column speakers these days are performing at a whole new level. All you have to do is look for an opportunity to take a listen. If you are suffering from exposure to the elements we described, you owe it to yourself to get out of the storm.