I purchased a PAS system a couple weeks ago to evaluate it and see if it was worth the money, or if I should just go with a regular P.A. system. Just playing through it alone with Bass/Vocals or Acoustic Guitar/Vocals, I was immediately blown away with the clarity and ease of use of the system. Using the custom settings for an SM57 and an acoustic guitar pickup, I thought it sounded as good or better as any open mic I've been to. Both my (passive) Fender jazz and my (active) Warwick thumb bass sounded clearer than I've ever heard them. Still, in the back of my mind was the expectation that it wouldn't possibly keep up with a loud band.
With time on my return window running out, I decided to pack it up and take it to rehearsal last night, to see how it would perform there. We play in a small room (around 8' x 10'), and currently play through a Mackie system, with 3 2-way powered speakers. When I set up the PAS (man, was that easy), the main vocal mic was only 3-4 feet from the system, and my backing mic was on the other side of the room, backed almost into a corner pointing towards floor toms and ride cymbals (when I wasn't directly in front of it). No instruments were plugged into the PAS. Just before I turned it on I had a strong premonition that this wouldn't work at all, and we'd have to quickly switch back over to the Mackie.
Man, was I ever wrong. Although we were playing too loud for our own good that night (and coming from a drummer, that means we were LOUD), the PAS was perhaps louder and definitely clearer than the Mackie stuff ever was. And while with other systems we were constantly fighting with feedback, we didn't hear a bit the entire night. What's more, everyone could hear the vocals evenly, not just those placed directly in front of a speaker. I could really hear my backing vocals perhaps for the first time ever, and our singer said that for the first time he could ‘understand’ every syllable of what he was singing. Even people hanging out in the next room easily noticed the difference.
Add to all this that I feel like I could pack it up and host any open mic night or DJ event and produce top-notch sound with my barely over entry level mixing knowledge, and I don't see how I can pass it up. Especially since the cost of the 3 Mackie 2-ways without any mixer would be close to the cost of the PAS system (I have 1 bass module).
On the downside I just have a few potential difficulties. First, the cover on the base looks like it could break off rather easily and could be made of stronger stuff with a better hinge. Second, although you can retract the piece of metal that joins to two sections of the tower by loosening screws and it IS made of stronger stuff, it is a tough fit in the bag if you don't want to take the screws off, and seems like it has a (very) small potential for getting bent.
Congrats to Bose for really pushing the limits of amplification. I don’t know about professional systems, but I’ve played in a lot of bands with a lot of practice P.A.s (some of them rather expensive, at the very least), and I’ve never been this impressed with a piece of amplification equipment before. In fact, my whole band was blown away and I wouldn’t be surprised if our singer sells all his Mackie stuff and gets his own PAS by the end of the month.