If you’ve read my earlier review of the Bose L1, you will know that I use an L1 compact and Alan, our keyboard player, uses an L1 model II. You will also know that I was a little disappointed that the L1 compact has so few inputs and no reverb.
After seeing what Alan’s Tonematch can do, I decided to pull the trigger and get a Tonematch for myself. Now they are eye-wateringly expensive for what is essentially a 4 input mixer, but I have to say it’s made a really big difference.
It has built-in shaping for a variety of microphones, instruments and so on. You can add echo, reverb, chorus and other effects to each channel, and/or to the overall output.
I have to admit I did actually read the manual first but, once you have a rough idea of what to do, it’s not that difficult to find your way around – although it could take a while to experiment with all the options.
I tried a few pre-sets for acoustic guitar and microphones till I found the ones I liked best and then added just a little “pixie dust” reverb and echo to the vocal channel. To be honest, I haven’t really bothered with adjusting the parametric EQ – the presets pretty much nail it.
I was then able to save my settings as a “scene”. I have three so far:
Solo – vocal mike in 1, acoustic guitar in 2 and iPad (for backing tracks etc.) on 4 – a stereo channel.
Yellow Dog Blues Band – Bass guitar in 1, vocal in 2, head mike in 3 and 2nd keyboard in 4
Dave Barry Jazz Band (I sing with them) – all mikes – mine is Senneheiser, the others are Shures.
So, when I set up in any configuration, I just load the scene, and the individual settings are all there – no more fiddling during set up other than master volume.
I have used my L1 compact for playing bass through, and it does a decent job provided I don’t overload it. I use a bracket to attach the Tonematch to my mike stand, so I can change things on the fly if I have to without turning round.
I found the “Active Jazz Bass” setting did exactly what I wanted to shape the sound, and also found the combination of the “mute” button and the tuner function really useful to check the tuning during a gig without upsetting everyone.
No – it won’t shake the earth like a big rig, but it’s a really classy sound and fine for small venues.
We now link our two systems together. My Tonematch daisy chains into Alan’s and his auxiliary output (with all channels) goes into my Compact over on one side while his main out goes into his Model II on the other. That way we can increase the overall volume if we need to and still hear what’s going on, even if we’re next to the drums. The two L1’s are at the back, and everyone can hear everyone else – just like an acoustic gig, only louder. What we hear on stage is a nice, even sound, the same as it is out front. We can fine tune our balance and sound as required. I’m sure it is no coincidence that we all felt our sets to be “tighter”. We were just having fun playing, without having to concentrate to hear what others were doing.
Overall, I’m becoming quite a fan of the Tonematch and the Bose systems, even if they are expensive. They give a good quality sound simply and with minimum fuss.
I’m sure all gigging musicians will have been in situations where they can’t really hear what everyone else is doing, and sometimes even what they are doing themselves. The usual remedy is a seriously expensive rig, with backline going into a pa, and fed back into monitors, and a sound man twiddling the knobs. Compared to that, the Bose system is simple and cheap!
One word of warning – you can find the early L1 model 1’s occasionally on eBay, and they are noticeable cheaper than the model II’s. Sadly, there’s a reason for that – Bose are no longer able to repair them due to lack of availability of parts. So, if you buy one and it goes wrong, it’s pretty much junk. I believe Bose are rumoured to offer a deal on a model II replacement, but you can bet it won’t be as cheap as a repair!
It will be interesting to see how the new F1 powered speakers perform too. As far as I can see, one of those is not much different in price to an L1 model II, although Bose expect you to buy a couple. It will be interesting to compare the two. What it needs now is an 8-16 channel Tonematch, controlled by an iPad. I wonder if I can get a mortgage to cover that?!