After reading the first instalment in this series of blogs on the Line 6 M20d smart mixer, you’ll hopefully have managed to pick up your jaw off the floor. Sure the M20d is ‘only’ a mixer, but its features are so advanced yet intuitive and useful, that it’s surprising someone else hadn’t made something similar before now. But to Line 6’s credit, they recognised this and in true Line 6 style, are the first to the party.
In this 2nd part of my series of guitarists point of view blogs on the Line 6 Dream Stage, I’ll be looking closely at 2 similar products: The StageSource L3t and L3m. The two actually share some of the same features, with the L3t having a few extra features over the L3m, such as built in FX, EQ and dedicated instrument/mic inputs, plus an additional £100 price tag (£849 online for the L3t and £749 online for the L3m).
A lot of PA speakers claim to be FRFR, or Full Range Flat Response. The reality is that most PA speakers don’t sound exactly the same, so aren’t all truly FRFR, but try to be as close to FRFR as possible. The interesting part about the L3t/m speakers is that they have several modes of operation – called Smart Speaker Modes. There is a reference/PA mode, which does claim to be flat response, and in that mode the spec sheet shows the frequency response is full range. As this is the way most other PA speakers work, you would normally use full amp models and a studio/direct output mode on your POD HD. Of course you can choose other output modes, and the preamp only amp models, but in reality those won’t sound as they should through a full range system.
Interestingly when you connect a POD HD (like the HD500 or HD Pro I tested with) to an L3t/m using an L6Link cable it sets that smart speaker mode to electric guitar for you, and also sets the POD HD output mode to combo poweramp to give you the best setup for using preamp models in your POD HD. With that in mind, I did a little experiment at rehearsal to compare against L3t/m reference/PA mode when using full amp models and studio direct output mode on a POD HD500 vs L3t/m electric guitar mode, and POD HD preamp models and combo power amp output mode. There is a slight difference in tone, but its actually hard to decide which I prefer. One thing that did surprise me was the sheer amount of bass available from these L3 series speakers. Getting back to the point though: I didn’t feel that running in reference mode compromised the guitar tone, despite it not being the default that Line 6 obviously believe is the best audio config. But of course when gigging it may be necessary to set your StageSource speakers to reference/PA mode when using them to amplify multiple different instruments, so it’s comforting to know that this wont cause me any tone headaches.
One feature that is really at the cutting edge is being able to daisy chain StageSource speakers. For anyone else that has setup a live PA like I have, you will know what a pain it is to run a separate cable from the PA amp to each FoH speaker or stage monitor… With Line 6 StageSource speakers, that’s a thing of the past. L6Link can carry multiple digital audio channels along a single cable. So all that’s needed is a single L6Link from either an M20d smart mixer, a POD HD, or from the first StageSource speaker to the subsequent speakers. When using an L3t and its built in mixer and DSP driven FX, you can simply use additional L3m speakers to further amplify that pre-mixed and effected signal. They will even auto select which is left and right when you connect 2 or more together. Further more, a feature that Is awesome, is the inclusion of orientation sensors, which means that any L3t/m thats setup on its side as a stage monitor is recognised as such, and receives a left and right summed to mono signal. That all makes for a very flexible speaker system, and a cost effective setup.
As I just mentioned, the L3t/m can be used as a monitor, and comes with 2 predefined ways to achieve that. There are 2 kick stands for one monitor angle, and the fold away carry handle can give you an alternative angle. I found one would be ideal if you’re standing over the monitor, and the other if you are more than 2 metres away from the monitor. The orientation sensor doesn’t stop there though! It recognises when it’s floor standing upright, and employs some clever beaming technology to aim the sound slightly upwards towards your ears rather than straight ahead at your legs. It works too, it’s not like standing near a closed guitar cab, and setting your amp, only to find the sound is totally different when you move back and the sound is directed more at your ears. The L3t/m beaming is disabled when you have the speakers mounted on a pole mount or mounted on the ceiling, as it is assumed in those cases that the speakers are already pointing where they need to be.
The built in mixer on the L3t has some great features, such as the reverb, which worked well when I tested it during a gig at a small venue. While the acoustic simulator does a great job of livening up piezo equips electro acoustics, it didn’t quite do enough to my electric guitar sound to make it a convincing acoustic, but it did a passable job for the one acoustic track in my set. Sure that’s not really what it’s meant for, but to call it an acoustic simulator, when its only meant for use with electro acoustic guitars is a little misleading. Perhaps ‘Electro Acoustic Enhancer’ would have been a better name.
Another interesting feature of the mixer on the L3t is feedback suppression, and so I decided a Rowbi style super test was necessary to test this out: Let me give you a brief description of my test setup… A Shure SM58, connected to an L3t, with the mic gain up at 90% and the master volume at 35%, and the mic moving from a few feet away to an inch away from the L3t speaker grille. Sure I got a bit of feedback when the mic was right next to the speaker, but certainly very little with the mic 3 feet from the speaker. In a live situation, you would never be that close, nor would you be trying to encourage vocal mic feedback as I was in this test. Test passed with merit 🙂
Overall I think Line 6 has done a great job with the design and manufacture of these StageSource speakers. They’re easy to use and setup, provide useful features to help get the best from the PA and leave little room for wanting more. The fact that I would like to buy some to replace the units that Line 6 kindly loaned me to review should speak for itself… I am a guitarist after all, so tend to prefer actual guitar amps.
Road ready construction and good handles for moving around, HUGE specification list with multiple innovative features, optimised electric guitar mode with default auto config for POD HD users, L6Link daisy chaining, orientation sensors, intuitive….. The list goes on. Good value compared to similar alternatives.
Acoustic simulator is more like an electro acoustic enhancer, quite heavy but ok with the ingenious handle design, high price point for anyone looking for just a simple PA.
Some smaller venues/bands may prefer the L2t/m for less weight and lower price.
Rowbi’s rating: 9.5/10 Audible Awesomeness.