Under The Hood

| December 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Dan Ferrisi

Over the last three decades, HK Audio has built a solid reputation in the European market as a designer of sound reinforcement in stadiums and arenas; installation audio; compact PAs; and more. Recently, though, HK Audio engineers thought the time was right to push sound reinforcement to a new level. The existing limits related to size and weight prevented the use of appropriate equipment in certain settings, and the engineers wanted to push back against those limitations. LUCAS (Lightweight Ultra Compact Active System) is a long-running portable PA product line that HK Audio has been selling in other markets. But what was envisioned here would be taking things a major step forward.

“Part of the LUCAS line’s USP has always been its size-to-power ratio,” explained James Sajeva, U.S. Product Manager for HK Audio, “but HK Audio engineers were determined to take that combination to a much further extreme.” Their design brief was dauntingly ambitious: develop a new member of the LUCAS family, but make it much smaller, more efficient and more versatile than even its siblings are. “It took all of HK Audio’s considerable R&D capabilities to come up with this product,” Sajeva stated. “Through 36 months of painstaking efforts, our engineers screened nearly all legacy audio and acoustical technologies, put each through a battery of rigorous tests and boiled the best down to fit a micro format. More than 30 engineers in five countries were involved in the development, which included more than 20,000 R&D hours.”

The result, LUCAS Nano, is an all-in-one, stereo, ultra-portable PA/mixer/subwoofer combination that can provide sound and performance rivaling larger systems. According to Sajeva, “It can be used in mono and stereo, which is a USP. That makes LUCAS Nano very effective for specific applications.” With regard to ideal users, those would be live performers of any kind, singers/acoustic guitarists, mobile DJs and those who require lightweight and powerful instrument monitoring.

Sajeva extolled the technical breakthroughs achieved with LUCAS Nano. “The product goes beyond conventional—and similarly priced—systems by incorporating a lightweight yet powerful subwoofer, which works with two micro-sized mid/high satellite speakers to provide loud, even, stereo coverage. The onboard mixer provides a nice balance of input options. There’s even a Stereo Link feature that enables you to combine two systems for added power and coverage; in this configuration, the mixers duplex to double the input channels.” With the satellite speakers neatly tucked away in the recessed housing on the back of the sub, the entire system is rather cubic. The company likes to compare it, in terms of size, to a beverage crate.

Perhaps the best thing of all, though, is that the whole system comes in at only about 22lb., which, to this writer’s mind, is rather remarkable. Thanks to its comfortable grips, the system is easy to carry, as well. The two satellites weigh less than 2½lb. each, and simply click-fit into a transport bay in the subwoofer’s housing.

When one thinks of a subcompact product, one might not immediately assume it would deliver very high output and great sound quality, but assumptions of that kind might be just what the folks at HK Audio anticipated…the better to pleasantly surprise the skeptics! “The first time we unboxed one and set it up, we were truly blown away,” enthused Sajeva. “It’s so much louder than its size would have you believe it could be.” The satellites are extremely small, but can push out up to 116dB because of the combination of the special enclosure design details and a completely new, custom-made speaker. Even at high volumes, the sound stays quite rounded, as opposed to getting “boomy” or shrill. Sajeva added, “The eight-inch subwoofer sounds deep and punchy, which we never would have expected by simply looking at it.”

One of the product’s really nice features centers on the diverse mounting options for the satellite speakers. “Running stereo would be the first and most widely used configuration,” said Sajeva. The satellites are threaded to connect to any traditional mic stand, and HK Audio offers custom stands, as well. The speakers can also be joined and mounted onto a pole mount atop the sub for a mono configuration and, here, the combined satellite output gets up to 120dB. The most compact configuration offered, for instrument monitoring or unobtrusive background music, would be to connect the two satellites together (there are proprietary connectors) and mount both directly onto the top of the sub via a similar connector. “In this last configuration, signal is routed to the satellites with no additional wiring,” added Sajeva.

As noted earlier, LUCAS Nano can be configured for both mono and stereo applications, and this is one of the significant benefits the product boasts. “Sometimes,” began Sajeva, “you just need sound coming from one corner of a room or stage, as would be the case with speaking engagements or when playing background music for parties. Here, the mono configuration works well. Of course, stereo would be the choice for any type of music with a wide sound image.” Between the choice to use LUCAS Nano for mono or stereo applications, the sound quality for its size and the all-in-one mixer/sub/speaker design, the product truly stands out in the market, offering a uniquely persuasive value proposition.

“There’s truly been a ‘wow’ reaction from retailers and consumers alike,” commented Sajeva. “It might look unassuming amid an array of portable options on the retail floor, but, once you hear it, you totally get it!” It would be fair to say, given the complement of technical achievements the product embodies, its immediate impact on the marketplace and the uniformly positive feedback received from both the retailer and the consumer camps, that LUCAS Nano has been living up to its tagline: “Portability. Power. Options.”
LUCAS Nano began shipping in September, and the U.S. street price is $699. HK Audio products are distributed in the United States by Korg USA.

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Category: Technology, Under The Hood