- by George Petersen
in Road Tests
I have to admit, I have always had a fondness for compact, 8- and 10-inch two-way speakers, because they are so useful in so many applications. Certainly, there’s no denying that self-contained, two-way 12- and 15-inch are far more common, but in a lot of rental and production applications, those provide way more audio than the job entails and are visually more noticeable, which always seems to be an issue with some event planners. So earlier this year, when RCF unveiled the second generation (Mk II version) of its ART series 708-A active speakers, I was curious as to how these multi-purpose newcomers would perform.
Bring on the 708-A Mk II’s
Housed in a diminutive (19 by 11.5 by 11-inch, HxWxD) package that weighs in at less than 22 pounds, the 708-A Mk II combines an 8-inch ferrite woofer with a full size, 1-inch exit ferrite compression driver with a titanium dome and a 1.75 inch aluminum voice coil. A 90-degree (horizontal) by 70-degree (vertical) constant directivity horn offers controlled dispersion.
The cabinets are molded in a tough, anthracite gray-colored polypropylene composite material that’s designed to dampen vibration even at maximum volume settings. As with all the Mk II models, the reflex porting has been resized for greater efficiency. The 708-A Mk II is fitted with an ergonomically designed, forged aluminum top handle with a rubber-coated handgrip. For installation purposes, an optional “U” bracket can mount to the top and bottom M10 threaded fly points. A 35mm pole mount socket is also standard.
Under the hood, 400 watts (300 + 100) RMS of Class-D bi-amplification feed the woofer and HF driver. The crossover point is 1,500 Hz, and overall response is stated as 60 to 20k Hz (-6 dB). The rear panel has a large (and highly effective) aluminum heat sink for the onboard amplification. Audio connections are a combination of male and female XLRs and a 1/4-inch TRS jack; wired in parallel, these can function as either inputs or link connectors to feed another speaker. Also on the back are LEDs to indicate signal presence, status or operation of the built-in protection limiter, along with a rotary volume pot, switches for mic/line input sensitivity or flat/bass boost mode an AC switch and standard IEC AC power socket.
Over a period of weeks, I used the 708-A Mk II’s in all sorts of applications, including background music playback, vocal reinforcement for a lecture, music and speech in a 40 by 60 foot church hall, and as onstage wedge monitors.
The first thing you (and your back) will notice about the speakers is their light weight, and that 22-pound weight is a real plus compared to putting 40 or 50 pound speakers on a pole for those speaker-on-a-stick applications. Besides, in a lot of the typical everyday, bread-and-butter gigs most sound companies deal with — such as the proverbial “sound for city council meeting” jobs — a 12 or 15 two-way system is overkill. That said, the 708-A Mk II’s really deliver and had plenty of punch on smaller applications, where more often than not, I was asked to turn it down.
The speakers do have a +4 dB bump around 100 Hz, which makes them seem slightly bass heavy, which is not quite what I expected from an 8-inch driver. The back panel also has a bass boost switch, which could be useful for low-level background music play, but this is unnecessary in nearly any other application.
The 708-A Mk II’s mic input was useful on a “set and forget” lecture gig, where all I needed for the assignment was any dynamic mic (in this case, a tried and true SM58), a mic cable and the speaker/mic stands. The plus here was I could easily explain the system “turn the volume knob if you need it louder,” rather than leaving a mixer all day on an unattended rental setup.
The rear panel mic/line input switch is recessed (a plus) and easy to find, but the graphics marking the switch are somewhat confusing in terms of which way is up. The silkscreened legend makes it seem that the “up” position means mic (and vice versa for line), while the opposite is true. Simply having just the words “line” at the top and “mic” at the bottom would actually be clearer.
Lately, the trend in smaller speakers is to incorporate a small LCD panel for access to the DSP settings. These are typically just EQ settings, but also include any other number of functions, such as input sensitivity, polarity, etc. While these may be useful to some, in most cases for me, these are a pain in the neck, especially when you arrive at some gig and the first thing you do is have to figure out is how the speakers were set by the last user, and then remember how to reset them. This usually takes place when the speakers are up on a stand on a dark stage — or worse, outdoors in bright sun where the LCD is barely visible. And 99 times out of 100, if I want to EQ the speaker, I can use a drive rack or console to do the job. So for me, the 708-A Mk II’s lack of such “frills” was a welcome change — just plug and go!
The Bottom Line
The audio performance of these compact powerhouses was impressive, with a smooth response (other than that slight 100 Hz bump), fast transient response and plenty of headroom. And the off-axis response — beyond the edges of the 90-degree horizontal dispersion — was very good, with no edginess at all.
At an MSRP of $729 (MAP is $519), the 708-A Mk II’s are an affordable, flexible and versatile solution in any number of sound reinforcement applications. And my back really appreciates that 22-pound package. Definitely.
RCF updates its ART 7-series line with a high-power, high performance workhorse.
RCF ART 708-A Mk II
• Solid construction
• Smooth, even sound
• Fast, plug-and-go operation
• LF bump at 100 Hz
• Odd graphic on mic/line switch
- LF Driver: 8” ferrite
- MF/HF Driver: 1” exit ferrite
- Crossover: 1,500 Hz
- Power: Class-D, 400 watts (300 + 100) RMS
- Dispersion: 90 x 70 degrees (HxV)
- Maximum SPL: 127 dB
- Frequency Response: 60 Hz to 20 kHz (-6dB)
- Dimensions: 19 x 11.5 x 11”
- Weight: 22.5 pounds
- Street Price: $519
- Manufacturer: RCF
- More Info: www.rcf.it