The JBL PRX900 Series takes professional-powered PAs to the next level with advanced drivers: super-efficient power packages; comprehensive DSP, including dbx DriveRack technology; and JBL Pro Connect app control. The line, which includes three powered two-way loudspeakers and two powered subwoofers, has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of JBL’s most sophisticated acoustic innovations, adapted from our flagship touring technologies.
We sat down with Brandon Knudsen, JBL’s Portable PA Product Manager, to learn about the next-gen technologies driving these powerful, scalable sound-reinforcement solutions.
How does the PRX900 Series align with the JBL PA portfolio?
From a portable PA standpoint—portable being the key word—PRX is the flagship line. Our SRX Series is an introduction into touring technologies. The SRX series is more complex; it’s not for typical users. It has weight and girth behind it that doesn’t make it truly portable. With PRX900, we’re putting the most power we can into the system while keeping it a portable solution.
The series is aimed at very broad applications. Who is a typical customer?
Customers of PRX900 in particular are using these speakers to drive revenue. One example would be a professional band that makes its primary living playing gigs. This isn’t a weekend warrior type. Now, those customers certainly do use these products, but I see PRX900 customers as making money on these systems: rental houses, production facilities, touring, event entertainers. So, wedding DJs, people who are out every weekend, multiple days a weekend; sometimes Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. They’re putting these systems to heavy use.
This system was designed from the ground up—or, as we like to say, “from cones to cabinets.” What kind of tech innovations were you able to take advantage of?
We spend a lot of effort on R&D for tour and stadium solutions and those products are a bit more expensive. Once you’ve done that research, you learn how to scale that research and make it more affordable and more powerful in a smaller footprint.
Anytime we design a new PA, we start with acoustics. And that isn’t just woofers and tweeters, it’s also cabinets, and capacitors, and DACs and ADCs, and all of that.
The PRX900’s 2408H-2 compression driver features a 2.5-in poly-annular diaphragm, which translates to crisp transients and wide dynamic range. It’s a very popular compression driver that just needed a solid partner in the amplifier package. Once we designed that, it really began to sing and got to a point where we actually had to limit what it was capable of to ensure no matter how far you push it, it’s going to sound great.
We reconsidered the entire form factor. Previously we were using wood boxes, and we wanted to move to plastic boxes. That’s really what the market is wanting in this space. The challenge was finding a way to redesign a cabinet that can get you the acoustic performance of wood, but out of a significantly less rigid material in polypropylene.
Check Out the PRX900 Product Walkthrough Video
These systems have really beefy amplification. Can you talk about the advantages of the new amp design?
There’s a saying in audio: Your audio output is only as good as your audio input. When we built this amp, we wanted it to get along well with our acoustic solution; we wanted to make sure that we never ran into power compression and we had solutions in place to prevent any sort of thermal issues. So we started with really high-quality components.
Our DACs and ADCs offer near-lossless audio conversion. And we also have designed a circuit that helps us reduce our overall system noise. We’ve done everything we can to ensure that those roads are well paved, if you will. The path is clean, there are no hiccups, and there’s nothing that would cause a degradation in the overall quality.
All the work we’ve done on the electronics package has allowed us to reduce our noise floor so low that these speakers, even if you crank them, don’t have hiss. They’re very, very quiet. And the system has less than one millisecond of latency, where most competitors in the space are in the six- to seven-millisecond range.
That’s before we even begin to talk about the power. This is a 2,000-watt peak power amp, but that’s just what we’ve limited it to. It’s capable of getting all the way up to 3,200 watts, but we clearly don’t need that much. We just really focused on the overall electronics design and making sure that it was the highest quality it needed to be.
How does that translate to coverage and venue size?
This system has a wide headroom range to cover multiple scenarios. The needs of a café/bar are much different than the needs of a 2,000-seat performance venue. The needs of wedding DJs and bands are different. We wanted to make sure that throughout a venue or throughout the performance of the speaker, systems sound the same at 70% as they do at 100%. When you’re running them full tilt, you’re not hearing any coloration.
What that gets you in a venue is predictability of performance. As you test these speakers, when you turn them up, the sound is not going to change. It’s going to be very near in voicing, acoustic performance, and response. We’ve generated EASE files to integrate these speakers into fixed installations. All of this is free material available on the JBL Pro website.
These systems are incredibly scalable. How did that inform the design process?
Because these systems are used by people using them to make money, we want them to be able to fit that solution. If you’ve got a sound reinforcement business model, then you’re always looking at scale. We want a rental house to be able to buy 200 of these speakers to be able to use them as its primary rental fleet. That starts with being comfortable with the operation of the speaker. But in addition, we’ve put a ton of speaker management features into these boxes that help you make them get along more cohesively. Things like speaker delay, which allows you to time-align very large systems; and DSP, which allows you to build solutions to your needs as you go along and control everything with the same interface.
In this class of PA, system control features are so much more sophisticated than they used to be. The PRX900 Series offers advanced functions like speaker delays and 12-band parametric EQ, but also has system presets. How easy is it for someone who’s new to system optimization to access these features and grow with them?
Really, if you can turn up a knob, then you can use these speakers. The JBL Pro Connect app has a lot of presets built in that you can access at the touch of a button. Those are also in the menu system on the LCD, but really it’s just two knobs. You turn one up to get your channel going and another one to get your mains, and suddenly you’ve got clear, crisp sound.
Say you’re a DJ, for example. You can select a preset that’s going to give you that typical DJ boost that DJs have become accustomed to. And then if you want to go beyond the presets, you can use that 12-band parametric EQ to really tune the system to your needs.
The Pro Connect app lets users control multiple speakers or integrate PRX900 speakers with other JBL PAs. Can you give me an example of a scenario when someone might combine PAs?
The Pro Connect ecosystems allows you to control multiple speakers in one scenario. An example of that would be, I’m a wedding DJ and I have my two mains and two subs in the dance hall room, and I configure those how I want them. I’m running my subwoofer presets, I’ve got my crossover selected, my main room is sounding great.
The one thing that grinds my gears is when you hear different audio in room A and room B. Let’s say I have a cocktail lounge right off of the main room and I want to be able to support music over there; I can very simply run a cable over and set up another system; maybe it’s a PRX ONE or an EON700.
I run some speaker delay so that as I’m walking out of the dance floor room into the quieter cocktail lounge, I am able to actually hear the same music at the same time. Now I’ve got this two-room solution that’s time-aligned and clear and concise.
Say I’m the audio head at a house of worship, and I have multiple rooms that I want to run speakers to, but I don’t necessarily have the budget to fly and run all my embedded cabling. I can run solutions in that fashion, where I can have multiple speakers in multiple rooms, depending on my budget. That’s an example of running maybe three to four systems, but you really begin to think about how the possibilities would be endless.
All of this is supported by a secure connection feature that allows you to pin-encrypt control to a single device. So if you’re a bar owner and you’ve got a band on stage, you can put a tablet behind the bar so that if it’s getting too loud, you can pull it down one or two notches from the bar.
JBL’s stress testing is legendary. How do you make sure these boxes are ready for the real world?
We have what we consider to be industry-leading test and validation protocols. We will put a woofer into a test chamber and whatever its highest specification is, we hit it as hard as we can for 100 consecutive hours. It’s so loud in there that you have to sign a waiver to go in. In these chambers, it will literally vibrate your internal organs. We deliberately try to blow up everything so that we can make sure that nothing blows up in the field. There is nothing worse than being mid-gig and suddenly one of your speakers goes out. We want to prevent that at all costs. And the only way to get in front of that is testing and having the most stringent test processes possible. The result is a great-sounding, stable system you can rely on, night after night, in any scenario.
Dive into our PRX900 support resources to get complete details, specifications, videos and more:
- Details and Specifications:
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