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Bose Professional S1 Pro Multi-Position P.A. System

by Bill Evans • in
  • August 2018
  • Road Tests
• Created: August 14, 2018

Okay, Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for the Dark Ages. No, not those Dark Ages, but the late ‘70s…

‡‡         A Little History

In that long-ago era, I was studying hard to be “the guy in the band who owns the P.A.,” which eventually led me into pro audio. Back then, we had our first “real” sound system — a custom-built 16-channel mixer in a road case that was about the size of a small car. This was paired with Altec horns and Cerwin-Vega folded horn bass enclosures that were bigger than any car that anyone in the band drove. Except me. The “guy in the band who owns the P.A.” always drives a truck. We purchased that rig from a guy who lived in one of the long-razed bungalows in the shadow of the Hollywood Bowl. He said he needed money to go to England to see his guru. (I told you it was the ‘70s.) He even threw in a pair of Shure Vocalmaster columns, which we proceeded to turn sideways, built kickstands for and used as stage wedges.

Given the bulk of that system, we lusted for something more compact. On the Mormon stake dance circuit we played on, two bands had found some magic way of being able to purchase Bose 801s — the Holy Grail of compact P.A. in the late ‘70s. Those 801s were da bomb. And those bands got more good work than anyone else, because their stuff looked and sounded better than anyone else’s. It probably also helped that they were way better than any of us scrub bands, too.

The 801s succeeded because they did what needed to be done and nothing else. Back then, these were small gigs, and the P.A. was there really just for the stuff that needed to be miked — vocals, kick, snare and maybe some congas. That was about it. Of course, this was before the whole “kick drum is more important than lead vocal” phenomenon.

My only other experience with Bose stuff was an interview with Robert Frazza for this very magazine when he was mixing monitors for Todd Rundgren, which led to Rundgren emceeing the Parnelli’s one year. Frazza was using Bose F1 columns turned on their sides not unlike those old Vocalmaster columns and was using them as “wedges” as well as having a few around as sidefills. They worked great for that, and it reminded me of my long-ago sideways Shure columns, but I was impressed with his ingenuity.

‡‡         Back to the Present

This year, when Bose Pro started shipping its S1 compact P.A. speaker, I was curious. It’s cute. And small and light. It’s set up like many of the myriad speaker-on-a-stick boxes that have become something that every sound company needs in its inventory, However, there are a couple of key differences that really put the S1 in more of an MI market core. Those differences are the inclusion of a lithium-ion battery pack and Bluetooth receiver for totally untethered use.

The S1 features a three-channel mixer with two XLR /TRS combo inputs on two of the channels, with the third sharing the aforementioned Bluetooth and a 3.5mm minijack for going direct from a mobile device’s headphone output. There is also a TRS line out for daisy-chaining boxes. Each non-Bluetooth channel has a simple, two-band EQ and control for the built-in reverb as well as a three-way switch for engaging the Tone Match circuit.

Tone Match is Bose Secret Sauce that does a good job on things like acoustic guitars and vocal inputs. Bose doesn’t say what is going on, but it seems to be some kind of EQ curve and perhaps some phase wizardry going on as well. Bottom line is that, as preset EQs go, the Bose version is one of the better ones I’ve heard.

The speakers can be repositioned for use as monitor components.

There are numerous setup options. You can pole-mount it like any speaker on a stick. You can also put it on something like a tabletop, either at a slight angle or flat, and it can be turned on its side like a very small wedge. There is an internal sensor that “knows” it’s on its side, and it kicks in a different EQ curve.

The S1 was clearly designed for the MI market, mainly for non-technical folks who want to maybe amplify an acoustic guitar and a mic for a small gig. If the line out were selectable between a flat pass-thru and whatever is set per channel in terms of EQ, reverb and Tone Match settings, the S1 would be useful. But on the pro side, it would be nice to have something like the S1 in the truck for those “just in case” scenarios that inevitably crop up.

‡‡         Checking it Out

When I first tried the S1, I wanted to hear something pure. I have both a Yamaha thin-line nylon-string acoustic-electric and a Taylor with the whole Expression mic system installed. They both sounded outstanding just plugged in with everything flat. Engaging the Tone Match circuit made both instruments, but especially the Taylor, just jump out of the speaker like you always want an acoustic guitar to do but can rarely get to happen without feedback. Speaking of which, when Mr. Frazza showed me those F1s all those years ago, he pretty much shoved an open vocal mic right into the thing just to show me how little it “wanted” to feed back. And the same thing was true here. I had to really try to make the guitar start to howl.

Sticking with the guitar theme, I plugged the output of a Line 6 Helix into the S1 and strapped on an Epiphone Riviera with three P90s and dialed in some very saturated lead tones. Had to switch out the Tone Match, but, again, that’s really voiced very specifically for a steel-string acoustic. How did it do as a guitar monitor for a direct rig? Good enough that I used it that way for about two weeks.

I finally got to use it in a band situation. I’m back in the every-five-years band rebuild mode and had not been doing regular rehearsals until a few weeks ago. It was in a new room with a P.A. set up for rehearsals. I suffered through the muffled tone and feedback so typical of systems set up this way by musicians for about an hour. Then I pulled out the S1 and had the singer plug her mic (a Heil PR20) straight into it. It was like a guitar amp for a vocal mic, which is one of the suggested uses of this thing. I put it behind her. In other words — the worst possible place for feedback. And it didn’t do so. In fact, it sounded way better than the big E-V speakers on sticks that were installed in the room. Way, way, way better.

I’m in a playing situation now where everyone except that singer is on IEMs, and if that line out were flat and unaffected, I would probably run her mic direct into it and let her have all the grease she wants. The on-board reverb is nothing special, but it’ll do the job for a singer who just has to have that bit of wet in a monitor. If it was $100 cheaper (street price is $599, I would probably buy one just to carry it to every gig as my “insurance.” And that is high praise for a box that was obviously designed for the MI market.

While the S1 is, undoubtedly, intended with the aforementioned user in mind, it has a plethora of uses for all kinds of smaller pro audio gigs. Like that wedding where all of a sudden, the best man want to give a toast out on the 13th green and expects you to make it audible. Or the company gig where someone remembers at the last minute that they need to be able to hear what’s going on onstage in the air-conditioned remote room where the CEO is hanging out. The small size, light weight and the whole battery thing make the S1 a really good-sounding option for those kind of “oh crap” moments.

At a Glance

Compact, Lightweight, Versatile

 Though intended for MI applications — a lithium ion battery pack and Bluetooth receiver for untethered use are included — this compact, lightweight versatile speaker also fills a niche in the pro sound reinforcement market. Compact and lightweight, the unit is also versatile — you can pole mount it, set it on a tabletop or turn it on its side for use as a small monitor wedge.

 

Bose Professional S1

PROS

Great sound

Small, lightweight

Battery and Bluetooth operation

 

CONS

EQ and reverb in the line out is non-defeatable

 

Stats

Frequency Response: 62 Hz – 17 kHz (±3 dB)
Dispersion (HxV):
120° x 50°

Maximum SPL @ 1m: 103 dB (109 dB peak)

Weight: 15.7 pounds

Dimensions (HxWxD): 13 x 9.5 x 11”
Price (street): $599

Manufacturer: Bose Professional

More Info: http://pro.bose.com

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