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This article was originally published in issue #49
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British newcomer Bishopsound is one of the first in the live sound market to take the bull by the horns and is offering seriously well specified PA gear direct to the public at very attractive prices.
Sounds very good
Easy to operate
You’ll have to buy one to try one
Manufacturers selling direct to the public is a useful way of keeping prices down - and it's a trend that is likely to grow as people get ever more confident of buying off the web. British newcomer Bishopsound is one of the first in the live sound market to take the bull by the horns and is offering seriously well specified PA gear direct to the public at very attractive prices. Bob Thomas tries a pair of beefy 15 cabs to see if the gear matches up to the billing.
Bishop Sound is a relatively new British PA manufacturer, but one with a fair bit of experience behind it. Founded in 2016 by the eponymous Andrew Bishop, who built his first speaker cabinet in 1972, the company sells its products direct from its website to the end user and offers a 30-day money back guarantee and free delivery as an added enticement.
One of its latest releases is the Orion 15A active PA loudspeaker, a 350W (RMS) Class D, 2-way, bass reflex system equipped with a 15” bass driver. A 1” titanium high-frequency driver that sits in a 90°x60° elliptical horn to ensure an even dispersion pattern for the higher frequencies in the Orion’s 45Hz-20kHz output . The Orion 15A ups its usability by providing not only a connection for streaming audio from a Bluetooth-equipped tablet, smartphone or computer, but also gives you an mp3 playback with file and transport control via USB.
The Orion’s cabinet is injection-moulded in strong, lightweight, polypropylene and features a foam-backed metal grille, an integral top-hat stand mount, hanging points and three rubberised handles. Additionally, the bottom rear edge of the cabinet features two “suitcase” wheels, making it very easy to wheel across an even surface. The sides of the cabinet are angled to allow you to use it as a floor monitor and the back panel houses the control panel and display that seems to be de rigueur these days for an active loudspeaker.
The control panel itself is clearly laid out and, even if you’re only slightly familiar with Bluetooth, mp3 and connecting up audio cables, you should find it very intuitive to operate. The top section of the control panel is where the Bluetooth and USB functionality reside, and is equipped with a small screen that displays track information for the connected USB drive and also helps you set up the Bluetooth pairing between the Orion 15A and your device.
Below this you’ll find the two input channels, each with its own volume control and individual set of input sockets, and the 5-band graphic equaliser that helps you tailor the Orion 15A to the room that you’re using it in. Channel 1 has a balanced microphone XLR connector (dynamic microphones only) and a line-level ¼” jack input. Channel 2 is line-level only and carries a balanced XLR connector plus the L/R RCA and mini-jack connectors that are down-mixed to mono internally. The control panel is completed by the line out XLR and jack connectors and by the separate controls for mp3/Bluetooth playback level and overall master volume.
The Bishop Sound Orion 15A is delightfully easy to use - once you realise that the mp3 Play button acts as the panel’s Enter key. With that sussed, the rest is easy. The Orion 15A powers on in USB and encourages you to insert a USB device. When you do, it looks for mp3 files and you can move around them using the skip keys. If you want to switch to Bluetooth, press the Mode button – at which point the Orion 15A becomes discoverable and tapping the connect button on your device connects it to the Orion. On my iPhone, connection was almost instantaneous – most impressive.
Bluetooth playback is noticeably more compressed than either mp3 playback or sound originating from a live mic or mixer, but it is a very convenient facility if you have an online library or streaming service that you want to use for interval or background music. On the Orion 15A, high bit-rate mp3 playback sounded most excellent, with low, mid and high frequencies being very clear and well-defined, which means that, used as intended in a live PA, it should give an excellent level of performance.
The Orion’s 350W (RMS) of Class D amplification can deliver a fair punch, giving you 700W of programme power and a whopping 1400W of peak power to make sure that rapid transients are faithfully reproduced. A bit of response sculpting from the 5-band equalizer can also make a big difference, depending on the room, and having the ability to cut back the bass a bit when you’re using the ORION 15A as a monitor wedge is most useful indeed.
The Bishopsound Orion 15A is a typical modern-day, active PA speaker - relatively compact despite its 15” woofer, relatively light weight (19kg) thanks to its Class D amplifiers and lightweight polypropylene body and capable of delivering a high level of performance with a considerable amount of volume if required. With Bishopsound’s direct sales model making the Orion 15A very price-competitive in its market sector, there’s a lot to like about this loudspeaker and you could add the optional covers and stands to a pair without feeling too much of a pinch. The Orion 15A is definitely one to consider if you’re looking at active PA speakers at around its price point.