My, things have really changed on this site since I was last here - for the better, I may add. Congrats to the guys at Northern Sounds for continuing to refine this excellent resource.
I'm on the lookout to buy a small/medium size pa to amplify either myself playing solo piano (using Post gigasamples) or the same acccompanied by an upright bass player and brushes drummer (a sort of light dinner jazz context).
I'm guessing that it's the mid range I need to watch as my piano is the priority here. I have heard that the Mackie SRM450s are good (although I haven't auditioned them myself yet and don't know how they fare in the mid-range frequency area.) However, there seem to be a lot of possibilities - Mackie, Peavey, Yorkville etc to name a few. I'm thinking in terms of 12' woofers (active or passive - I don't mind) with something like 300-500w per side. The PA will be used in hotels, pubs and small halls and must sound as clear as my HR824s as possible. Is that possible?!! Perhaps that's wishful thinking.
I would appreciate any advice from any fellow musicians.
I'm afraid you're going to be dissapointed, because even the HR824's won't sound as good in a diner room as in the studio, let alone PA systems. Real rooms have real dirt. Unfortunately.
Also the mixing with real instruments is a problem. Although most people like the SRM450, I'd say your better of with an amp with real character. It will color the sound, but it will do so naturally and the end result will blend much better with the sound of the drums and bass. PA systems are more suited to amplify the total stage sound, not to become an instrument themselves, which, I think, is best for instrument amplification.
I've owned an modern Roland keyboard amp and got to hate it. I don't know what it tries to sound like, but I think it is made for modern dance-pop-music; not for jazz. It emphasizes things I don't want to be emphasized and it spreads the sound very badly, especially the tweeter.
I'm now giging with a Yamaha P80 through an old Roland Keyboard Cube (leaving my laptop at home) and it's the first time I'm not frustated after playing digital with my piano-guitar-bass jazz trio. Not that the sound is beautiful, nor detailed or high-fidelity, but the cube blends with the others (partly due to its spring reverb) and the Yamaha has such a nice key-response it translates most of what I'm trying to put in the music.
I am looking for a better amp though, since the cube's sound is not really great (aside from its blending, spreading and not overemphasizing). The AER cx8 has my attention. It has a wooden cabinet (more character and more accoustic than plastic) and has a dome tweeter, which is much more high-fidelity compared to the horns found on most PA speakers. [And it looks better and weighs only 26 lbs.] It IS more expensive though.
Oh and I personally do not see any reason to go stereo on stage (if you were planning to do that). Only you will notice stereo. [just like listeners don't conceive live played real pianos as stereo.] Adding speakers is for getting better spreadage and to go louder, but you don't want the audience on the left hear the left channel of your samples and the audience on the right the right channel.
The SRM450s look ideal to me. I haven't heard them, but the specs look great.
My daughter has performed a couple of recitals at a local church that uses Mackie SR1530s. I've heard them playing CDs, vocals and reinforcing the mic'd grand piano. They have enough color to give a good thump, but they're not so hyped that they sound unnatural on female vocal music with piano ranging from pop to gospel to jazz to arias.
If the 450s are half the speakers that the 1530s are, they're winners. I'd think that the heft would be worth it. Then again I like a strong bottom end, and don't mind hefting speakers to get it.
When I play small-to-medium jazz quartet gigs, I play mostly Post piano samples on my laptop running Gigastudio through a stereo pair of old Roland 60w Cube amps. For their size and weight the Cubes do the job. I haven't heard anything newer that's really any better and similar in size/weight/price. They project pretty well if they're up off the floor on chairs. If we're playing medium-to-large gigs, I run the keyboard sound through a PA and turn the Cubes back at myself as monitors. But I doubt you need that sort of power for your gigs. We rarely do.
If I was playing only acoustic piano sounds I don't think I'd bother to run in stereo. But we do some tunes where I need chorused pad/synth sounds, and they're much richer in stereo. Just don't overdo the stereo and pan too much stuff hard right/left or it may sound worse than running in mono to the audience that's not in the stereo sweet spot.
I love my Mackie HR824s (indeed most Mackie gear), but I was surprisingly underwhelmed by the SRM450s. I think they would be overkill for your situation anyway. Most small PA speakers with large horns have a harsh and gritty midrange, but that's the tradeoff for throwing the sound out a long way. The Barbetta amps sound great and can double as PA speakers in a pinch. They don't sound as harsh but they don't toss the sound out as far as purpose-built PA speakers. For PA speakers we all liked the FBT MaxX4A speakers much better than the SRM450s. They're about the same price but with better low end, and builtin EQ so they're more flexible for use without an external mixer if needed. I think they're even a little lighter. Worth checking out if you need that kind of horsepower.
A little unconventional maybe, but I used my Mackie 824's as PA speakers in a big tent, maybe 75' by 100', for a birthday party at a country club. Power to spare, I was quite surprised. For mono-piano in a smaller venue, one of these would surely do the job, and give a very clean, natural sound.
I've never seen any of these FBT speakers down this way (in Texas) but thanks for the tip. I'm always keeping my eyes open for better portable solutions.
I'm surprised that the SRM450s were underwhelming to you, though. I was using EON-15s before getting the SRMs, and the difference was night and day on piano sounds. They just sounded horrid through the EONs...the SRMs are so much cleaner and nicer sounding (and will definitely punch it out).
My situation may be different, though, since I also play Reaktor and other synths live...I find that I really need the headroom, especially stuff that has subsonic content, etc. I'm also not playing in a traditional group, though. Very improvisational trio, with no real assigned roles except for the primary percussive role of the drummer. Then again, he's just as likely to pick up a cello.
So my "need for power" may be unique to my situation. I have actually (in times long past) taken a pair of JBL 4412 studio monitors and a Marantz Model 15 (about 65 watts per channel) out on a keyboard date, and had plenty of volume to spare (those Model 15s have ridiculous headroom). But not the kind of rig you can toss around. I got the idea from Chick Corea, who used 4412s as stage monitors. Gorgeous sound, if not exactly convenient.