Last year, Bose introduced a new system that they label Progressive Directivity Arrays, or RoomMatch. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Bose=suck. “No highs, no lows, must be Bose.” And while it may be be true that a lot of less than optimal Bose systems have been installed in churches, I was really curious to hear the RoomMatch system—if for no other reason than my friend Duke said it sounded good enough to put into his home church. And Duke’s a big Meyer guy, so there had to be something to this.
A few weeks ago, I finally got to hear it. Bose put together a demo day not far from here and we were able to hear the system in a church setting. Now, to be fair, we only heard CD music through it, not a live band. So I’m reserving full judgement until I hear it with a live band. Still, I’ve listened to a lot of speakers and have to say that the RoomMatch system sounded good. Really good.
It is not a small system, either. The boxes are all “full-sized” if there is such a thing in line array type speakers (dual 15” drivers and 8 mid & high drivers). One of the unusual features of the system is that there are 15 models of boxes to choose from with horizontal coverage ranging from 55° to 120° and vertical coverage from 5° to 20°. They developed their own wave guide in-house that creates those patterns physically, no DSP trickery involved. In fact, we heard a system with virtually no DSP engaged; just a few minor EQ filters.
There were two parts to the demo. The first was a sampling of various musical styles while we sat and listened. In the second part, we heard another sampling of music and got up and walked around the room. A few things became apparent right away.
First, there is some significant low-end coming from these boxes. In the beginning, they left the sub boxes off completely, and we were all impressed by how much low-end there was—and it was clean. The four-box array we heard didn’t really have the mule kick to the chest that some like, but there was plenty of bass to make it sound rich and full. The main boxes extend to 70 Hz, so in some settings, subs will be unnecessary.
UPDATE: My friend Duke reminded me that the main boxes extend to 55 Hz, not 70, so in many settings, subs will not be necessary. This explains the solid low-end, even without the sub boxes. END UPDATE.
Second, the mid-range was very smooth. This is where most speakers either make it or break it for me. I can’t stand harshness in the 1-3 KHz range, but I also want clarity. These boxes were not harsh, but the vocals sounded smooth and clean. I may have tweaked the EQ a little bit, but overall, I was happy. The high end also had a nice sparkle without being too much.
We also noticed that the pattern control was excellent. Two things are significant here: First, when you walk out of the pattern, you are out of the pattern. It is really a 1 or 2 chair transition. Second, while the high end drops off considerably out of the pattern, there is not a significant tonal shift to the sound. Out of the pattern is not great, but it doesn't sound like different speakers, either. So if you have to cheat a little bit on coverage, the last seat of a section is not the penalty box. This tells me they have their phase alignment dialed in.
When we got to the subs, no one was really super-impressed with them. The output was OK, but they didn’t have the thump of other boxes. I’m told new ones are in the pipeline. I personally found them a little (OK, a lot) loose and lacking in definition. That could have been partially because they were sitting on the deck of a plywood stage in a cardioid pattern, or that they just don’t sound that great. They are made to be flown with the array, so perhaps that is their best use.
Finally, we got to some interesting news; the price. Each box lists for about $3,000 each. That may sound like a lot if you’re pricing out EV LiveX speakers, but in a large-format array, it’s roughly half the price of other options from the major competitors. Do offerings from L’Acoustics, Meyer and D&B sound better, yes, they do. Do they sound 2x as better? Hmmm, that’s a tough one.
Put another way, we did some quick napkin math and figured out that a system for our room would cost somewhere in the $60K range, which sounds like a lot of money, until you compare it to the quote we have for closer to $120K for a D&B rig. Would the D&B rig sound better? Arguably so (and I say arguably because I’m not entirely sure how many people in our congregation would be able to tell). But, here’s the real test: I’m not going to get $120K to replace the PA in our room any time soon, and probably never. It’s just not in the cards for my church—as much as I would like it and as much as I can demonstrate the need. However, could I get $60K? Maybe. That seems within the realm of possibility.
If you remember my 90% Principle post from a while back, this is what I’m talking about.
So, RoomMatch, the bottom line—I think it’s worth considering. As I said, I was impressed with the sound, and it’s very cost-effective. There is a lot of technology going on here, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the design benefits of having all those models available. Nor have we talked about the amps. Maybe we’ll do that next time.