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This article was originally published in issue #32
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HH Electronics, once the mainstay of gigging bands in the 1970s and '80s, is back. Aimed right at the market leaders in the ultra portable PA speaker market, the HH RED-12a is up against some very stiff competition.
For any musicians who were gigging in the UK and Europe in the '70s and '80s, the mention of the HH brand will conjure up memories of the PA systems and combos that seemed to be everywhere you turned, not to mention the V800 power amps that were the stalwart of the larger PA rigs. From their base in Cambridge, the company was at the forefront of solid state technology and produced high quality and affordable equipment, most notably the MA100 PA mixer/amp and the VS Musician combos used by guitarists and keyboard players alike.
Over the years the HH brand changed hands a couple of times but is now part of the Laney Amplification stable, the West Midlands based amp manufacturer that has been around since the 1960s. Relaunched with the familiar red logo, the HH brand now has a full line-up of PA products once more, of which the powered speakers we had on test were just one example.
We'd been hearing rumours about HH's determination to return with a bang and were intrigued when the company offered to lend us a pair of active 12” plastic box speakers. This is hotly contested territory - who doesn't offer a speaker in this format? - so we had to assume that HH thinks it has something special to offer.
The rugged, moulded ABS cabinet is everything you need for continuous gigging and the use of modern Class D amplifier and advanced speaker technology has made this a very lightweight unit indeed, so much so that carrying two at the same time would be no problem at all, using any of the three heavy duty handles, one on each side and one at the top. The sides of the cabinet are angled, so the RED-12A can also be used as a floor monitor and there are also rigging points to hang the cabinet as part of a permanent installation. For regular PA use, there is the standard 35mm pole-mount fitting with securing screw.
The front sports a rugged mesh grille (with recessed ‘HH’ logo) to protect the Kevlar reinforced 12” driver (or 15’’ on the RED-15A version), with two ports underneath at either side, to help project the bottom end. Above the woofer is the HF horn with a 1” titanium driver.
All connections are on the rear, with two combi jack/XLR connectors for line/mic level, each with its own volume control, a mini-jack input for Mp3 player or AUX line in (this has no volume control, so needs to be set on the input machine) and a MIX/Link output on XLR. This is a mix of both inputs and aux in, which can then be sent to another cabinet or monitor etc. There are two LEDs, a green for POWER and red to alert you to any clipping or distortion of the internal 400 Watt amplifier. Should you be travelling abroad with your system, there is a voltage select switch with a mains power switch and IEC mains input.
There is no EQ section as such, but a handy pre-shaped curve circuit, which boosts the bass and treble frequencies and applies a small cut to the mids. You can definitely hear the difference when this is engaged, but there is an associated LED next to the button, should you be in any doubt that the circuit is active. This doesn’t increase the overall volume as in a ‘loudness’ type effect, but adds a gentle ‘smile’ EQ curve. In use, I found that I left this on permanently, rather than having to add any additional EQ to microphones from the mixer. Due to the physical size of the cabinet and the 12” driver, it helped to add a little more bottom end and remove any harshness (especially effective at louder volumes). N.B. This circuit is not present on the XLR mix out, so it would need to be activated on all subsequent cabinets.
In use, I found that the RED-12A sounded exactly how I thought it would. That’s NOT a negative comment, as I am still astounded how much volume manufacturers can get from a small and light powered enclosure like this. In this context, it’s all about managing expectations and choosing the right cabinet for the job - I would have no hesitation in using a couple of these for a small band gig/acoustic set, or even to recommend them for a presentation, or bar/club install. Kept within the amplifier’s limits, the RED-12A sounded balanced and focused and gave a good spread across the frequency spectrum. If you want to put bass, or kick drum through the PA, then a subwoofer would definitely be the way to go here (HH has some interesting offerings in its range) leaving the RED-12A to handle the rest.
A couple of these, a small mixer and handful of leads and you’ve got a great small gigging set-up on your hands. I, for one, am happy to see the HH flag flying again and we look forward to seeing more from this revived manufacturer. How good is it? Good enough to suggest that if you are looking for a 12” active enclosure you should definitely audition a pair of these against the market leaders like Mackie or Yamaha. That's clearly the sort of company HH is aiming to keep - and we think they've succeeded.