Review: JBL IRX One
JBL perfectly balances simplicity, portability, usability and high quality sound.
Review:/ Christopher Holder
JBL takes its stick PA offering seriously. At the upper end, JBL’s PRX One is the ‘bells and whistles’ option. In fact, the mixer section is so well featured (with effects and processing on every channel) that it’s bit of a pain to operate without the app — which is excellent. PRX One is a serious all-in-one PA suitable for anything up to a three or four-piece band in a medium-sized space. Then there’s the EON One Mk2. One of the standout features of this system is it can be battery powered (whoever at JBL came up with the tag line: ‘bring your power chords, not your power cords’ deserves a raise). It’s a ‘desert island’ portable PA combining an array of eight two-inch tweeters and a 10-inch sub.
Now coming into the market under the EON One Mk2 is the thrifty IRX One.
The first thing you notice about IRX One is just how portable it is. The ‘stick’ part of the PA is stored into the base unit, making for a true all-in-one transport solution. And it’s lightweight – at 15.5kg, most high schoolers’ backpacks are heavier. What’s more, the industrial design is ingenious. The way the stick elements store, and how the ‘lid’ fits over the top providing a sturdy handle for transportation, is really clever. It’s a genuinely portable option for just about anyone to handle.
LET’S STICK TOGETHER
Piecing together the IRX One is a doddle. The ‘stick’ is in three pieces. Once you pull the pieces out of the enclosure, simply pop the two ‘spacers’ into the slot and place the loudspeaker portion at the top. If you don’t need the extra height, just use one spacer.
You’ll need an IEC power lead, of course, but otherwise everything is entirely self contained (hmm, wonder if a slot could be provided for the power lead? I wrapped mine in and around the handle mechanism).
The mixer section is designed for simplicity. First thing you’ll notice is there’s no LCD – what you see is what you get. That said, the mixer has some very handy easter eggs.
There are three channels. The first two accept mic or line signal and phantom power is available. The third channel takes a mono jack for line/Hi-Z sources. There’s no stereo input, which is hardly an issue when the output is mono. Each channel has a signal present/limit LED. Each has a gain pot (55dB for mic level, 48dB for line); two-band EQ (with a centre detent on the control) and a level pot. The level pot has a pleasing degree of resistance – there’s not much chance of bumping it and wearing the consequences.
The master/main section of the mixer includes the power button and larger main level knob. A Bluetooth (BT) button allows your device to discover the IRX One. The AFS (automatic feedback suppression) button engages that particular feature, as does the Ducking button (IRX One will detect mic input activity and duck music from the Bluetooth source).
A six-position Preset dial allows you to click between EQ presets (Flat, Speech, DJ, KTV, Cafe and Bright).
A limit LED rounds out the section, while a Mix Out jack rounds out the I/O.
JBL IRX One
Lightweight all-in-one design
Easy to use
No onboard reverb
IRX One is perfectly pitched as a simple, lightweight, portable PA that sounds good without any technical know-how. Its wide and even dispersion means just about everyone is in the sweetspot. Ideal for small- to mid-sized spaces and anywhere you need portable audio.
IRX One is such a lightweight/portable, no-brainer PA that I must admit, my expectations of the audio performance weren’t sky high. But as soon as I connected my phone via Bluetooth 5 I was greeted by a pleasing rendition. First things I noticed: ‘wow, hasn’t Bluetooth audio quality come a long way in the last 10 years!’; ‘the sound is quite relaxed and open – nothing is poking me in the eye’; and, ‘gosh, the sound is very even back to front and side to side’.
I had the EQ preset set to Flat and was running the system at about 50%.
I was also grateful the Bluetooth connection provides an additional input and doesn’t take up one of the three channels. Admittedly, that means you need to control the mix balance from your device but that’s no biggie.
Turning the PA up, I was pleased to hear that the sound held up right to the point of limiting. The eight-inch sub isn’t designed to fill a large space and the electronics ensure it doesn’t go flappy in places that it shouldn’t.
it’s lightweight – at 15.5kg, most high schoolers’ backpacks are heavier
Next, Preshan and I plugged in a microphone, acoustic guitar and a keyboard. It’s almost impossible to get this PA to misbehave. With the AFS button activated you can sing with your mic and face hard up against the grille of the column. Admittedly, at this point you’re hearing the DSP working but it’s not feeding back. There’s sufficient gain and control to quickly achieve a nice balance of multiple inputs. We both felt that with the keys and the vocals, IRX One provided space and separation without worrying about using the onboard fixed band EQ, which isn’t intended for finessing or sculpting your sound. I did wonder if there was some hush-hush automatic gain control/compression going on to add another level of failsafe level control.
The EQ presets are a nifty feature. I couldn’t find any reference in the manual to the EQ contours it’s imposing. In fact, I still don’t even know what ‘KTV’ on the dial stands for. No matter, they’re really a ‘suck it ’n’ see’, ‘if it makes it sound better to your ears then use it’ feature.
The lack of any reverb in the mixer is the only thing that IRX me (sorry). For performers, this is fairly easily remedied by an in-line reverb pedal. I’m aware that JBL has done its best to ensure the mixer can be operated by anyone, and the lack of ’verb is a design choice, and probably the right one. But a one-knob Lexicon Hall would really be the icing.
IRX One is a remarkable PA. To say it’s ‘versatile’ is a huge understatement. In fact, I can’t think of an institution (or even household) that wouldn’t benefit from having an IRX One handy. Quite literally, anyone, can haul it out and make some noise or plug a microphone into it and, quite literally, no one, can stuff it up – it’s as foolproof as any all-in-one PA ever could be. (I guess the only ‘training’ you might need to do, is to have that awkward conversation about the difference between gain and level.)
What’s more, it sounds good. The design of the 6 x two-inch column array is highly effective and it’s easy to get a ‘produced’ sound with little effort. The 160° horizontal dispersion is very even and means non-technical operatives hardly even need to point the PA in the correct direction — everyone’s covered. That’s not to say the IRX One can break the laws of physics and produce audio miracles but for small to mediums sized spaces (or even larger spaces where only speech reproduction is required) this PA won’t disappoint.
- C-shaped array of six two-inch tweeters
- 8” woofer with bass-reflex design
- Frequency response: 40Hz – 20kHz
- Built-in 3-channel mixer
- Fixed bass and treble control, Automatic Feedback Suppression (AFS), phantom power, and system tuning presets
- Soundcraft Easy Ducking automatically turns down music when speech is detected
- I/O includes ¼-inch and XLR inputs with included 48V phantom power and ¼-inch balanced mix-out
- Bluetooth 5.0 audio streaming
- Column spacers and array cabinet conveniently fit into back of base unit
- Speaker automatically adjusts tuning depending on how many spacers are used
- Easy to carry with one hand
- Ergonomically-optimized carry handle minimises wrist strain
- Road-tough, lightweight cabinet
- Complete three-year warranty