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d&b audiotechnik XSL System

George Petersen • November 2021Technology Spotlight • November 3, 2021

Matthias Christner, d&b’s head of R&D system design, unveils the compact XSL line array

It seems like only yesterday, yet three-and-a-half years ago, d&b audiotechnik shook the sound reinforcement world, unveiling its flagship GSL line array series at the 2018 Prolight + Sound show in Frankfurt. Certainly, GSL was (and remains) a great sounding large-format line array, but what really caused heads to turn was the system’s pairing of a MF/HF section with a horn-loaded 10 cone midrange with three 1.4” exit compression drivers, along with two front-facing 14” woofers and two side-firing 10” LF drivers that couple to create a cardioid response. The directionality was accomplished via woofer geometry, an intricate series of bass ports (and a few other tricks), this not only offered precise directivity behavior — reducing low-frequency emissions behind the speaker — but as a bonus, significantly extended LF headroom towards the audience.

GSL was a hit from the start, but a double-14 line array system is hardly an appropriate choice for every venue. One answer came at the NAMM Show in January of 2019, when d&b audiotechnik debuted the next installment in the SL story — the KSL Series. The smaller sibling of the GSL products (the “K” stands for “kleiner,” the German word for “smaller”), the KSL houses two 12” forward-facing neodymium woofers, two 8” side-firing drivers and a coaxial 8” cone mid driver with two 1.4” exit HF drivers on a wave-shaping device. KSL was great for arenas, stadium shows and larger club/HOW/theater events, but still a bit much for the small-to-mid market.

The XSL family is offered in touring XSL (right) and
install-specific XSLi (left) versions

Enter the XSL

Anyone who’s read “Goldilocks” knows where this story is headed, and just over six weeks ago, d&b audiotechnik unveiled XSL, the next chapter in the SL trilogy. Like the rest of the SL-Series, the XSL versions are portable applications, while the XSLi models are intended for installations. The XSL system scales the features of the successful SL Series into a smaller, lighter-weight, more energy-efficient, package.

The XSL’s driver complement includes two front-facing 8” neodymium woofers and two side-firing 6.5” neodymium LF drivers. The mid-high frequencies are handled by a 6.5” cone mid driver and two 1” exit HF compression drivers — all mounted to a single waveshaping device. Two variants of the basic XSL are offered — the XSL8 has 80° horizontal dispersion; and the XSL12 offers a wider 120° pattern. The output capability can cover a distance range of over 100 meters (330 feet), depending on climatic conditions.

As with the other members of the SL Series, the 27.6 x 11.14 x 20” (WxHxD), 86-pound XSL has a lot going on under the hood. The enclosure is injection-molded from ABS polycarbonate, with an impact- and weather-resistant 2K finish. The fronts and sides are protected by heavy-gauge perforated steel grille backed with acoustically transparent and water-repellent fabric. A 3-point rigging system is incorporated for assembling vertical line source arrays (with up to 24 cabinets) via a dedicated flying frame. Splay angles between adjacent cabinets can be set in the range from 0° to 14° in 1° increments.

A variety of rigging and flying hardware is offered, using the SL-Series rigging method that allows rapid deployment of XSL8 and XSL12 arrays directly from the XSL Touring cart that fits within standard shipping containers and truck sizes, accommodating four XSL8 or XSL12 loudspeakers.

The XSL System includes installation-specific (the “i” suffix indicates an install version) and mobile variants for touring or portable sound applications. The XSLi for permanent installs is suited to venues with a high dependency on the clarity of spoken word, together with the need for high power, full-spectrum performance. The XSL mobile version addresses the needs of the broadest range of touring applications. Both XSL and XSLi can be deployed as a stand-alone, self-contained package, or as a delay or fill system to accompany its GSL and KSL siblings.

“X-ray” view of an XSL loudspeaker reveals the driver placements and complex porting required to achieve directional performance

The Bottom Line

Subwoofers are an important part of the XSL range, and four models are offered. The XSL-SUB/XSLi subs are equipped with flying fittings, while the XSL-GSUBi/XSL-GSUB versions are for ground-stacked use only. The bass-reflex design employs an 18” front-facing and 12” rear-facing high-excursion drivers. The woofers operate in independent bass-reflex chambers and are driven from separate amplifier channels. Their cardioid dispersion pattern reduces unwanted energy behind the system, resulting in less excitation of the reverberant field for highly accurate low-frequency reproduction. Constructed of marine-grade plywood, each sub is 27.5” wide, 22.2” high and 30.4” deep (less casters, which are standard on the touring models).

The XSL-SUB and XSL-GSUB subs extend the bandwidth of a XSL System down to 37 Hz, while increasing its headroom. The XSL-SUB shares the same 27.5” width as the XSL loudspeakers, enabling them to be easily flown in combination as a mixed array, while the XSL-GSUB has no rigging components. Both subs can be deployed in conventional left and right ground stacked setups as well as in distributed LF arrays to achieve an even venue-specific coverage pattern.

The XSL-SUB uses front-facing 18” and rear-facing 12” drivers to achieve cardioid performance

Amp It Up!

The d&b amplifier family, including the 40D installation and D40 mobile amplifiers, have been designed to deliver the power density required for high-efficiency d&b systems. The four-channel Class-D 40D/D40 devices come with advanced voltage management to bring up to 50% power draw efficiency to the d&b range. Both Milan-ready amplifiers feature analog and AES3 digital (up to 192k Hz) inputs; built-in pink noise or sine wave generators; and onboard DSP, including dual 16-band equalizers (PEQ/notch/shelving/asymmetric) and up to 10 seconds of channel delay.

The Next Step

“The performance-to-size ratio of the XSL system is unlike anything available in the current sound reinforcement market, or within the d&b portfolio,” says d&b product manager, Werner “Vier” Bayer. “For installation, the system’s broadband directivity control drastically improves the ratio of direct to reverberant sound in acoustically critical spaces. In short, it will clean up your room. For mobile, a small footprint and improved sonic performance are really valuable. It’s an enormous step. It’s really impressive.”

Matthias Christner, d&b’s head of R&D acoustics added, “Going into the design of this product we were actually a bit skeptical about whether we could achieve the signature SL-Series directivity performance in such a compact format. We’re really thrilled, slightly stunned and very proud that it works so well. I truly believe that the sound quality, dispersion, and clarity delivered by XSL will spearhead the evolution that we all expect from smaller arrays in the future.”

The XSLi installation systems, along with the installation-specific 40D amplifier have begun shipping. The mobile XSL package is slated to start deliveries in January 2022. For more info, visit www.dbaudio.com.

d&b audiotechnik XSL System

STATS

  • Manufacturer: d&b audiotechnik
  • Basic Models: XSL8 and XSL12
  • Configuration: Compact Directional Line Arrays
  • Front LF Drivers: (2) 8” neodymium LF
  • Side LF Drivers: (2) 6.5” neodymium LF
  • Front MF/HF: 6.5” cone; (2) 1” HF comp. drivers
  • Horizontal Dispersion: XSL8, 80°; XSL12, 120°
  • Frequency Response: 60 Hz to 18k Hz (-5 dB)
  • Power Handling (front LF): 400W RMS
  • Power Handling (side LF/MF/HF): 300W RMS
  • Connections: (2) NLT4 F/M
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 27.5” x 11.14” x 20”
  • Weight: 86 pounds
  • More Info: www.dbaudio.com
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