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Review

JBL EON ONE PA system

Issue #43

JBL is one of the biggest and best-known manufacturers of PA loudspeakers and amplifiers known to man, with a heritage that stretches back over seventy years. The company’s EON range of compact, portable PA loudspeakers and mixers, the first models of which were introduced some twenty years ago, has become yet another JBL success story, evolving continuously over the years by leveraging technological advances to meet the needs of musicians (and others) who perform live in smaller venues.

Up until now the powered live music loudspeakers in the EON range have been based on the conventional (and highly-successful) approach of two-way powered enclosures that could either be mounted on a loudspeaker stand or placed on the floor as foldback monitors. However, ever since the Bose L1 “line-array” loudspeaker was released in 2003, its tall, stick-like, slim column plus bass sub, form-factor has become extremely popular with users and other manufacturers alike, due in no small measure to it being visually unobtrusive and simple to set up.

Making a good, slim, line-array column loudspeaker and bass sub isn’t simply a matter of bolting a few small loudspeakers together in a line and mounting the result on a box with a sub inside it, otherwise we’d all be doing it. In reality, getting the best performance from such a setup requires research, knowledge and experience. JBL has a stellar reputation in line-array technology, its VRX, VTX and VerTec ranges being leaders in their markets and the new JBL EON One Linear Array PA certainly seems to have benefited from that experience.

Design

The EON One follows a trend, first seen (I think) in the Bose L1 Compact, of dividing the loudspeaker column into three equal parts, two of which are simple, transducerless spacers and the third carrying all the mid/high frequency loudspeaker drivers. This simple structure means that the height of the driver section can be easily altered to suit the size of the room and the placement of the loudspeaker.

In the case of the EON One, the driver section contains six 2” drivers arranged in JBL’s patent-pending Directivity Control Geometry, the spacing and curvature of which is designed so that the EON One will provide the same soundfield to listeners sitting slightly above, directly in front of, or slightly below the loudspeaker array.

The EON One’s sub base is physically quite imposing but is amazingly light, considering that it carries the 10” bass driver, the Class D amplification and incorporates a simple mixer that features Bluetooth audio streaming. The porting in the bass enclosure incorporates JBL’s “slip stream” technology that enhances bass response and reduces port noise and distortion. Amplification is Class D, delivering 250W to the bass driver and 130W to the high frequency array. This power enables the system to deliver a maximum peak SPL of 118dB, which is loud, very loud!

The EON One sub’s recessed, rear-facing integral mixer is a relatively simple affair and, in fact, is virtually identical - apart from its Bluetooth audio streaming connectivity - to that fitted to a much smaller compact JBL PA, the EON 206P. On the input side, Channels 1 and 2 are switchable between microphone and Line levels and are fitted with combination XLR/¼” jack connectors, however phantom power is not supplied, so you are limited to dynamic microphones unless you own or purchase an external phantom power supply of some kind. Both these channels are fitted with a 2-band (Treble & Bass) EQ, a send to the switchable onboard, fixed length digital reverb and a volume control. Channels 3 and 4 are presented as a stereo input and share a common volume control. However, since the EON One is a mono system, at a push you can also use either its two RCA phono or its two ¼” jack inputs as additional inputs.

Channels 5 and 6 have a similar stereo to mono configuration, but in their case the inputs come from either a stereo mini jack or the Bluetooth stream from an IOS or Android mp3 player, phone or tablet. Since these channels are not equipped with a volume control, you will have to use your device’s volume control, so it’ll be worth making sure that you’ve turned the master volume down before you connect to these channels! Bluetooth pairing is simply a matter of pressing the EON One’s Bluetooth Pair button and pairing your device with it - there’s no password or anything like that - at which point the Bluetooth indicator LED stops flashing and lights up solid.

On the output side, there’s a Monitor Out on RCA phonos with its own volume control for connection to another EON One system or a recording device etc., and a Master Volume control with its associated yellow Limit LED to let you know when you’re pushing the level just a little too far for the system DSP’s comfort. Just above the Limit LED lies the Power on LED.

One of the useful design touches in the JBL EON One is that the base unit provides secure storage space for the three column sections, making the whole system an easy, one-hand carry.

Performance

Assembling the EON One is simple enough. You can set the system up with two, one or no spacers depending on how high off the floor you need its loudspeaker array. With both spacers in place, the height of the array is approaching the 2m mark, which is fine for floor-standing but wouldn’t be so successful on a high-ish stage where you’d probably use either one spacer or none, depending on the seating rake - or lack thereof.

The Bluetooth pairing and audio streaming of high quality mp3 files from my mobile phone worked perfectly and demonstrated convincingly just how well the EON One can perform across its 45Hz to 18kHz frequency response range. The crossover from the bass driver to the array happens at 200Hz enabling the EON One to deliver a tight deep bass when the music demands, whilst maintaining a solid midrange and a crisp treble.

Although I’m a bit bemused by the absence of phantom power, the two mic/line channels do sound good and their EQ, with 12dB of cut and boost on each frequency band, is effective without being over the top. The reverb on these channels fulfilled its function of adding a sense of space but, although there’s an on/off switch on either channel, I would have liked to have seen the option of also using a footswitch. There is nothing worse (to my ears) than an artist talking to an audience with vocal reverb running and it would be a bit of a pain to have to walk across to the back of the EON One at the start and end of every song to switch it off and on again.

Conclusion

The EON One is a class act whose overall performance justifies its premium price tag. Having a 10” bass driver definitely benefits the low end and the Directivity Control Geometry in the mid/high loudspeaker array, coupled with the flexibility of height positioning using the spacers, ensures an even, controlled coverage across an audience, seated or standing.

As well as the obvious application of a solo or duo playing in small clubs, bars and restaurants, the JBL EON One should find favour with AV companies, houses of worship and the like where its easy portability, quick setup and simple operation will be major benefits. The Bluetooth connectivity gives user the option of not only playing back mp3 files stored on portable devices, but also of streaming audio from the web, whether it be music from a streaming service, a podcast or an internet radio broadcast.

If you’re looking to purchase a new PA of this size any time soon, you really should check out the EON One at your local JBL dealer. If you haven’t played through a linear array system before, the EON One is a good place to start.

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Issue #53

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