Selecting the right portable PA system comes with plenty of challenges. Every performer has different needs but often one of the most important features is how easy the system is to transport and set up. In this review, we check out the Bose L1 Compact. A popular and super portable option from a well-respected brand.
Bose L1 Compact
The Bose L1 Compact is a powerhouse PA system with plenty of excellent features. Let’s check out the highlights before diving into the detailed review.
The Bose L1 Compact is an impressive PA system but it isn’t without some faults. Let’s break down where it shines and where it could use improvement.
Bose is no stranger to the speaker space. They offer a deep line of both consumer and commercial options. This ‘prosumer’ approach has spawned a legion of dedicated fans. But, does the L1 Compact live up to the hype? Yes and no.
The Bose L1 Compact does an excellent job of handling mids and highs.
The tonal range of the Bose L1 Compact is impressive. High tones are distinct and clear. Nothing irritating in the soundscape even at higher volume levels. The mids are equally impressive with rich tonality. Mids are critical for a balanced performance and the L1 Compact is up to the task. But the low-end is the weakest part of the sound quality. It’s full and smooth but a little muddy. But the main concern for some will be raw power. The 8-inch woofer can only go so far. If you play a lot of bass-heavy music you’ll likely need to complement this unit with a subwoofer.
The 180-degree dispersion is excellent. This is especially useful if you only run one system. You can be confident that both the front, sides, and back of the room will experience the same level of audio quality.
Despite a softer low-end, the Bose L1 Compact sounds excellent for most applications. Clean, clear, and rich.
Another excellent feature of the Bose L1 Compact is the rugged build quality. Bose doesn’t skimp on materials and that is evident here.
The Bose L1 Compact is a durable and dependable system.
The unit is lightweight but by no means flimsy. Every component is rock solid and attention to detail is high. The extensions offer a satisfying click when assembled which also inspires confidence. If treated with care this unit will last you for years to come.
The Bose L1 Compact offers up 200W of power. Guiding the mids and highs are six 2-inch high-frequency drivers. The 8-inch woofer delivers the low-end.
The Bose L1 Compact is quite loud despite its small size.
Despite just 200W of power, the Bose L1 Compact does pack a punch. It can reach 112dB Max SPL but stabilizes at 106dB continuous. It’s loud enough to handle small to medium-sized venues. But as you start moving into those larger spaces you’ll want a pair of these or a louder system. You can also add an additional subwoofer to the setup. The Bose Sub2 is a compatible option that will deliver plenty of extra punch and bass for larger gigs.
Read our full Bose Sub2 review for more detailed information.
Frequency range at -3dB is 65Hz – 14kHz. Plenty of depth here to tackle both low and high frequencies. But it is not as well-rounded as some more expensive systems. This is most notable in the lower frequencies where it doesn’t offer the same level of sub-bass that a more powerful unit can provide.
This is one area where the Bose L1 Compact is a little sparse on features. The built-in 2 channel mixer offers volume control for each channel. But, there is no master volume control. Further control is available in the form of a Trebel and Bass knob for channel 1.
Beyond these basic controls, the Bose L1 Compact also offers ToneMatch. These built-in presets are ideal for a microphone and guitar combo. But, I would have liked to see further presets or controls to adapt to different environments or instruments.
The only way to expand upon the L1 is to invest in the Bose T1 ToneMatch audio engine or run the L1 through an external mixer. Considering the options some competitors offer pre-built into their units I would have like to see Bose up their game here.
Bose knows design and that is on full display here. The unit looks amazing. Sleek, stylish, and modern. If you play corporate events this unit is ideal. This is also one of the reasons I like portable array systems. No tripods and no cables dangling all over the place.
Beyond aesthetics, the Bose L1 Compact also offers a clever and simple setup flow. The unit is capable of two main configurations.
The Bose L1 Compact is quick and easy to set up.
The first allows for the high-frequency drivers to integrate with the main cabinet in a compact package. A good choice for smaller events. It is also ideal for speaking occasions. Place the unit on a table directly aligned with the ears of the listeners and you’re good to go.
The second configuration is for larger audiences. The two extension components click satisfyingly into place and the high-frequency module sits on top. This whole process takes a matter of minutes. It is also far easier than lugging heavy speakers and then installing them on tripods.
Intelligent and easy-to-use design in a super attractive package.
The Bose L1 Compact takes its name very seriously. It is super compact and portable. The base unit offers a carry handle for easy transport. The extensions and high-frequency drivers pack away neatly into the provided carry bag.
The Bose L1 Compact strikes a good balance between convenience and features.
You don’t need an army of people to transport and set up this unit. At just 29 lbs. (13.3 kg) for all components, a single performer can easily handle the unit.
At 13.3″ (339 mm) across the front face, it can squeeze into narrow areas and doesn’t command a huge amount of stage space. It stands at 78.5″ (1995 mm) with all extensions. This perfectly covers the optimum listening height for standing patrons.
The Bose L1 Compact offers up a refined set of connection options. A primary XLR connection point for Channel 1 and a ¼-inch input for Channel 2.
The Bose L1 Compact is ideal for solo performers.
Further connection options are available in the form of an RCA option and a ⅛-inch TRS input. These extra inputs allow you to connect external devices like MP3 players, DJ gear, keyboards, gaming consoles, and more.
At the rear of the unit is access to both a ¼-inch and RCA connection points. This allows you to connect the L1 with other L1 units.
While not an expansive set of options there is enough versatility here to meet most people’s needs.
The Bose L1 Compact offers an attractive price point. The name Bose does come with a slightly inflated price but this unit does keep things in check.
The included cover and carry bag add to the value.
The all-in-one nature of the unit will appeal to many performers. When you couple that with the easy transport and set up it further adds to the appeal. Component quality is also high.
Overall the Bose L1 Compact offers great value for the right type of performer. Solo acts, DJs, and people needing a simple and compact system will love the L1. But for larger bands, there are more well-rounded alternatives available that offer better value.
What Others Have To Say
Plenty of positive reviews and happy customers online. But most of these relate to the ideal setup for the L1 Compact such as small coffee shops or solo performers. Others lament the lack of a deeper low-end.
Making An Impression
They say that looks are not everything but anyone who has spent any time in the real world knows that people are quick to judge. Ideally, as a performer, people would judge you on the quality of your performance. But presenting a professional appearance plays a bigger role in your success than you might like to admit.
A professional appearance extends to not only your attire but also your gear.
Certain types of gigs will require you to “look the part” as well as deliver a solid performance. For example, you’re expected to dress appropriately if you are playing at a wedding. This also extends to your gear. You don’t want to show up with battered-looking gear that looks like it just got pulled from your local landfill. No matter how good it sounds!
Presenting yourself professionally is important. Your demeanor, attire, and gear all play a role when it comes to landing more bookings. Sometimes as much as how good your performance was. While I wish it wasn’t the case sometimes looks really do matter.
There are some enticing alternatives worth considering in the column-array market. Here are a few worth exploring.
EV Evolve 50 Review
The Evolve 50 from Electro-Voice is a more expensive option but it does offer substantially more power. It’s a solid system with excellent features.
- At 127dB Max SPL the Evolve 50 is a lot louder than the Bose L1 Compact.
- Detailed tuning options with a range of useful presets.
- At 57.75 lbs. (26.6 kg) it is a lot heavier than the L1 Compact.
Read our full EV Evolve 50 review for more detailed information.
Electro-Voice Evolve 50
Turbosound INSPIRE IP2000 V2 Review
The Inspire range from Turbosound is also worth exploring. Loud and commanding it delivers excellent audio quality within a similar price point to the L1 Compact.
- Meaty and satisfying low-end thanks to the 12-inch woofer.
- Offers Bluetooth streaming and an attractive and simple design.
- Double the weight of the L1 Compact makes the IP2000 V2 not as ergonomic to transport.
Turbosound iNSPIRE iP2000 V2
Yamaha STAGEPAS 1K Review
The STAGEPAS 1K from Yamaha is another excellent column-array portable PA system. A reasonable price point and packed with features that may be better suited to your needs.
- 5 channel mixer is a better option for larger ensembles.
- Crystal clear and precise audio quality.
- Uninspired aesthetic compared to the sleek Bose L1 Compact.
Yamaha STAGEPAS 1K
Should You Buy?
The Bose L1 Compact is an impressive little unit. It offers an attractive design with solid sound quality. While not as refined as other options it is perfect for one-person performers. It is lightweight and simple to set up. If you are looking for something that can comfortably fill smaller spaces the Bose L1 Compact is a great choice.
Bose L1 Compact