Q: Some powered speakers I’ve heard seem to get louder more quickly than the StudioLive AI loudspeakers. Why is that?
A: The gain structure of the StudioLive AI loudspeakers was designed to optimize the dynamic range of an entire PA system. Most other powered speakers in this price class aren’t. Professional mixers output from 22 to 26 dBu — for example, StudioLive mixers output +24 dBu — and for optimal performance, the speakers should match that level.
Unfortunately, many powered speakers in this price class start to clip well before a professional mixer’s optimum output level has been reached. For example, a QSC KW122 will start to clip at around +12 dBu. This means that it reaches its full output potential (about 122 dB SPL) at a relatively low input level, so you’ll have to keep your console’s main fader well below unity gain to protect your speakers and to keep them from distorting. However, at this lower level, you aren’t maximizing your mixer’s dynamic range. The result is a less open, less natural sound. In contrast, StudioLive AI loudspeakers won’t start to clip until +24 dBu, allowing you to operate your mixer at unity and take advantage of its full dynamic range. The result is a bigger, fuller sound and, in the case of the StudioLive AI speakers, a higher SPL reading (126 dB).