I always like it when I’m assigned a Yamaha product to review. No matter what the product is, I know I can count on it being interesting, in some ways exceptional, and worth telling the world about. Yamaha makes good stuff and that makes my job easy.
That proved to be the case in trying out the new STAGEPAS 500 compact PA System. I’ve never been very impressed by compact, portable PA systems. Most seem designed for schools and businesses to use mainly for spoken presentations in classrooms or meeting rooms. They usually are too limited for professional music performance, so I was interested in what Yamaha would bring to the table.The STAGEPAS 500
I was unfamiliar with the StagePas, but learned that a prior model, the STAGEPAS 300 is highly regarded, and that the new 500 version is essentially the same but beefed up with more power and larger speakers.
When I pulled the STAGEPAS 500 out of the box, I was immediately impressed. It looks serious and is definitely compact. It consists of just three pieces—two speakers and a powered board (plus two cables)—but it packs up as just two. The board fastens into a well on the back of one of the speakers and the cables stash in the other. One person can pack the entire system, with a speaker cab in each hand. The total weight is just 53 pounds, so you don’t have to be a muscle man to carry it.
The speaker cabs are molded polypropylene enclosures, which keeps the weight down. The molded-in handles are positioned so you can carry the speaker without it hitting your leg. Each houses a 10" woofer and a compression horn with a 1" throat. The cabs are set up for pole-mounting. The board itself can be left attached to the speaker, or easily detached for more convenient placement. Another nifty feature allows the mixer to be mounted, with a special adapter, atop a mic stand so you can have it right next to you as you play.
Setting up took me about two or three minutes. I took the board off, put the speakers on stands, plugged in the two speaker cables, plugged in a couple mics, and turned it on. It’s that simple. It is a great system for the solo artist who doesn’t have a roady or a large car. He can pack it himself, set it up in a jiffy, and sound great.
It doesn’t matter how easy a PA is to pack to the gig if it doesn’t do the job once it’s there, but the STAGEPAS 500 proved an excellent sounding system. It has both the power and the sound quality for musical performance. It is perfect for small groups, especially those who perform vocally over acoustic instruments and in venues that are small to medium in size. With 250W per side, it has plenty of power, and the speakers produce especially clear, full-range sound. Mounted on speaker stands, they are capable of playing to quite large rooms. The reverb is excellent: 24-bit quality and very natural sounding. The STAGEPAS 500 is what I would call a singer’s system, able to produce smooth, rich vocals.
Wondering how feedback prone it would be, I had to crank it way up before it started to feed, and then a tiny adjustment of the low EQ knob cured it. Apparently the solidness of its speaker cabs and the flatness of its response make it feedback resistant.
I was especially pleased with the mixer features and layout. Extremely easy to use, it has six channels (four mono and two stereo) to accommodate whatever you want to plug into it. Each of the four mono channels have a mic/line switch that toggles between the two inputs: a balanced XLR and a balanced 1/4" jack. The fifth and sixth channels have left and right 1/4" and RCA jacks for a stereo output instrument such as a keyboard or a CD player so it can keep music happening during your break.
Each channel has a single volume control and a two-band shelving-type EQ, the LOW knob in command of the 100Hz range and the HIGH in charge of the 10kHz range. There’s also a switch on each mono channel for the onboard 24-bit digital reverb. Another set of switches—comp/limiter switches on channels 1 and 2—are very handy when it comes to taming unruly vocals.
The master section has LEDs to keep you informed of the sound situation. Speaker level is controlled by a single knob and monitored by an LED. Another pair of LEDs inform you of power status and limiter activation. You know instantly if you’ve lost power or if you are pushing the system so hard the limiter is activating to prevent your horn coils from frying.
The output section has a special Music/Speech switch. Because the system is likely to be used by presenters as well as musicians, this switch sets an appropriate EQ curve for either use. It boosts the lows and rounds the curve for music; and flattens the overall response, rolls off the lows, and ups the gain a little for speaking use.
The STAGEPAS 500 lives up to Yamaha’s reputation for quality and smart design. It’s the first really portable system I have ever seen that has it all. It sounds impressively good, fits in the back seat of a Volkswagen, sets up in minutes, is easy to operate, has ample power and high-quality reverb, and is very musical in the overall quality of its sound. It’s a PA any performer will appreciate, both on the way to and during the gig.