Electro-Voice has a stellar reputation for loudspeakers, and the ZXA passive model proved to be a huge success. In this review, we check out the powered version of this popular loudspeaker, the ZXA1, to see what this compact and lightweight speaker offers.
The EV ZXA1 is an appealing option for DJs and performers that need a portable 8-inch loudspeaker that still delivers powerful sound. Highlights are below before we go on a deeper dive into this speaker.
The ZXA1 from Electro-Voice has a lot to offer. While smaller loudspeakers tend to have fairly niche use cases, this speaker is a surprising all-rounder making them one of the best small DJ speakers on the market.
8-inch loudspeakers can often come across as a little underwhelming, whether that is due to volume levels, clarity, or low-end fullness. But the ZXA1 performs much better than its compact and lightweight form factor would lead you to believe.
I’ll start with the low-end, which is usually the area of most concern for 8-inch loudspeakers. Here the ZXA1 proves its worth with a satisfying and rich bass response that puts several other options at this size to shame.
That’s not to say that the ZXA1 won’t benefit from a subwoofer. To be fair, all 8-inch speakers need some help in the low-end. But as a standalone unit, it can deliver enough punch to handle smaller gigs without feeling thin in the low-end.
Moving into the mid-range highlights great depth and clarity. Both instruments and vocals sound great, and there isn’t a hint of muddiness in tonality. The smooth transition between lower tones and mid tones is a real highlight.
The top-end maintains a high level of clarity and precision. Sometimes clarity can lead to brittleness or sharpness towards the top end, but the ZXA1 doesn’t exhibit any of these issues.
Smooth and satisfying throughout, the ZXA1 is a capable and dependable loudspeaker. Plus, with an entry-level price tag, there is little to complain about.
The EV ZXA1 also offers a high level of build quality for a cheap loudspeaker. Straight out of the box, the low weight might throw you off and make you think the unit will not be able to withstand the rigors of frequent use, but you’d be mistaken.
Durable speaker at a low price.
The rigid ABS cabinet is durable and able to take some punishment. It will inevitably succumb to scratches and knicks if you’re rough with it, but it’s a lot more resilient than other plastic cabinets I’ve come across.
The 18GA steel grille with black powder coat is equally impressive and helps protect the drivers. I appreciate the shift for most professional speakers to feature a full grille, and I’ve seen far too many woofers and tweeters fall victim to rogue hands during a party.
The back is clean and unassuming, with a range of connection points. All are secure, and the knobs are equally great. This is impressive for a speaker at this price point and punches well above what you might expect.
Diving into the numbers also highlights some impressive features. The most notable is the high Max SPL rating. This speaker comes in at 126dB. It’s no slouch and can deliver big powerful sound. For a small venue, you’ll have plenty of headroom available. It will struggle in larger spaces, but it is just an 8-inch loudspeaker.
Plenty of power and headroom.
It’s not surprising how much output this little speaker delivers when you dive into its power configuration. An 800W Class D lightweight amplifier balances the output and supplies enough gas for this loudspeaker to reach its full potential. A built-in limiter also ensures output remains smooth.
The driver combination is an EV8L 8-inch woofer and a 1-inch DH2005 Titanium Compression Driver. Coverage is also broad, with 90 degrees horizontally and 60 degrees vertically.
As for range, the ZXA1 offers 48Hz-20kHz at -10dB with an overall response of 60Hz-20kHz at -3dB. Vast range and response to deliver satisfying lows and crisp highs.
This is one of the few areas where the ZXA1 disappoints. You’ll have next to no flexibility to adjust output. Other options in the space will offer various selectable modes or detailed tuning options to sculpt and shape sound without needing an external mixer.
With the ZXA1, you can access a 100Hz highpass for pairing the unit with a subwoofer. The decision to make this a button that requires a pen or paperclip to activate is also a little baffling and not the most ergonomic way to activate it. And beyond this one feature, there is no other way to tweak the output.
It is worth keeping in mind that this is a cheap loudspeaker, so I don’t expect all the bells and whistles. But some manor of flexibility would have been nice, even if it was just a simple low and high EQ knob. It is also worth mentioning that the ZXA1 was released a while back, and the lack of features alludes to its age.
While the tuning options might be a little dated, the design and appearance have stood the test of time. The aesthetic is clean and refined and has a professional aura that makes it suitable for various events. Great as part of a DJ setup but equally slick enough for corporate events.
An all-black cabinet is always a safe choice, but the ZXA1 still offers some personality via the unique shape of the steel grille. The logo isn’t overly large and doesn’t light up, allowing it to blend seamlessly in dark environments. A slick and stylish option.
The ZXA1 works great in the monitor position.
Looking beyond its appearance, the ZXA1 also offers a range of other design decisions that make it a practical choice. The angled cabinet opens it up for monitor applications with some protrusions to keep it from laying directly on the floor. The angling could be a little better, but unless you are over 6ft tall, you should be able to get these pointing directly at you.
Mounting options are also available via a pole mount connection point. But there are no fly points on the unit, which restricts its flexibility.
While the execution is fantastic overall, there is one design decision I can’t get behind. As opposed to having a dedicated handle, the ZXA1 has a groove for your hand. At first glance, it’s a well-integrated design, but in practice, it falls short.
The loudspeaker is lightweight, so you can lift it comfortably with the hand slot but introduce any amount of moisture like sweaty hands, and it becomes an unwieldy beast. I would have preferred a more traditional hand grip to eliminate this issue.
One of the appealing elements of the EV ZXA1 is the compact form factor it offers. Lugging speakers to and from gigs can be challenging, so having a speaker this compact is excellent. It comfortably fits in a car, making it a great choice for a mobile DJ tight on space in their vehicle.
Lightweight and compact.
Adding to the portability is a low weight. At just 19.0 lb (8.6 kg), this is a lightweight speaker that won’t place undue strain on your back. This low weight also makes it easy to lift to place on stands.
The EV ZXA1 offers a refined set of connection options that, for most, will be ample. But it does lack some of the flexibility and modern options that are becoming increasingly popular.
You’ll have one primary input at the back via a combo jack that supports XLR and ¼-inch TRS. This is usually enough to cover most pieces of gear you would want to connect, and I appreciate the focus on balanced connections.
Simple yet effective input options.
There is another XLR input available for a microphone. The dedicated volume control for this input is also a welcome inclusion. This allows the speaker to comfortably handle solo performers and is equally great for duos. Plug and play with ease.
Finally, you’ll also have an XLR out for daisy-chaining speakers or to connect the ZXA1 to a subwoofer. This Master Out will sum both the Mic In and Line In.
Where the ZXA1 falls short is in supplementary connections. It doesn’t offer an RCA choice, which is not a dealbreaker but a restriction worth considering. There is also no AUX input, and it lacks modern connectivity like Bluetooth.
It’s a no-frills approach that focuses on the core connectivity that most artists will need. But if you need some extra bells and whistles, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The EV ZXA1 provides superb value. This capable loudspeaker ticks many of the right boxes to achieve quality sound for your gigs. But it doesn’t do this via a massive price tag. It’s an affordable option and makes owning a pair an attractive proposition. Plus, with the addition of a subwoofer, it can easily handle various gig types.
There are cheaper loudspeakers out there, but few will be able to match up to the performance this little powerhouse offers. And lined up against other speakers at this price point, it is easily among the best.
Buy What You Need
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for new gear, and it’s a big part of why I have reviewed so many products. But when it comes to being a performer, you need to take a step back and sometimes treat it like a business, as much as that may go against your creative philosophy.
Don’t burn your money on features you don’t need.
I see it all the time, the new hotness is released, and people clamor for it despite potentially not needing the new features it provides. Understanding what you need your gear to do is critical to saving money and an important way to avoid overspending.
The EV ZXA1 is a perfect example of a loudspeaker that doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles. But what it does offer, it does to an impeccably high standard. If it ticks all the right boxes to meet your needs, you don’t need to spend more on features you won’t use. Invest in your gear wisely and upgrade when necessary.
Selecting the right loudspeaker for your needs is not always a straightforward proposition. Below are some other options that might be better suited for your needs.
EV ETX 10P Review
Keeping within the Electro-Voice family, the ETX 10P is a superb upgrade from the smaller ZXA1. While losing some portability, you’ll gain a raft of extra features.
- Exceptional sound quality with plenty of depth in the low-end.
- Stylish appearance with many modern features like DSP control.
- The high price tag will keep this out of reach for budget-conscious buyers.
QSC K8.2 Review
QSC is another well-respected brand in the loudspeaker market. The K8.2 is an excellent 8-inch option with plenty of power and finesse.
- Balanced sound profile that features fantastic clarity and warmth.
- An effective range of presets allows you to customize the output.
- The low-end is decent but not as punchy as the ZXA1.
EV ETX 12P Review
The last option worth contemplating is the 12-inch version of the ETX line from Electro-Voice. A refined loudspeaker with lots of features, the bigger 12-inch woofer also delivers a punchier and deeper low-end.
- A loud and bombastic sound profile that is clear, refined, and satisfying.
- Extensive tuning flexibility to adapt to various gig types.
- At 52 lbs. (23.6 kg), it is substantially heavier than the ZXA1.
Should You Buy?
Despite a few missteps, the EV ZXA1 has won me over. I was not expecting such refined performance from an 8-inch loudspeaker at this price point.
It packs a serious punch and is an ideal choice for smaller gigs or as part of a 2.1 setup with an appropriate subwoofer. It’s also great as a monitor adding to the flexibility it offers. An affordable yet powerful choice that is well built and looks the part. Two thumbs up from me.