As every musician knows, lighting is important. It won't turn a rubbish band into stadium headliners on its own but it can make a tremendous difference to any performance - even in the smallest venues. But it's expensive, slow to set up and take down, often quite complicated to drive and, well... it's just not an option for most. That is until now. The British-based Studiomaster company, which has been in the audio business since the 1970s, has taken a long cool look at the latest developments in LED technology and has come up with an ingenious all in one system which mates a pretty conventional band active powered PA enclosure with a surprisingly powerful LED array which you can use as stage lighting and sound in one fell swoop. Oh, and it also doubles for monitoring, too!
Though a while in gestation (they were first sneak-previewed at the 2013 NAMM show) the Starlight series, as these unique innovative enclosures are known, come in 12 and 15” powered versions. GI was privileged to receive one of the first production systems for this review, a 12” version - the 12L.
The Studiomaster Starlight 12L delivers 250 Watts for the front of house via a single 12” speaker, while a second 50W 4” speaker located on the side of the enclosure (there are left and right versions available as a matching pair) functions as a handy side fill monitor. The integrated stage lighting comprises a strip of six large LEDs mounted adjacent to the side fill driver, and these are adjusted by a dedicated set of controls on the enclosure’s rear panel.
The build-quality seems fine for the (often pretty demanding) needs of semi-pro bands, who are likely to be dragging these up stairs, loading and unloading in all sorts of weathers and rattling them around in small borrowed or hired vans. The enclosure is made of heavy-duty ply finished in the carpet-like material found on many PA enclosures. It has to be said that although despite looking very smart when new, this material has the habit of attracting dust and debris like a magnet, so maybe keep a small vacuum cleaner handy if you want your speaker cabinets to remain in good condition and treat it with a bit of respect!
The main driver is well protected by a perforated steel grill while a smaller domed grill helps to shield the side fill driver from accidental damage during transport. Mounting the speaker is easy thanks to the standard 35mm cup on the bottom of the enclosure will accept any standard speaker tripod stand.
The rear control panel features a user-friendly two-channel mixer with dedicated XLR inputs for either channel that are both linked to a global three-band EQ and a master volume. A single XLR link output sends a summed mix of both channels (when both channels are in use) to a separate monitor enclosure, if used.
The controls for the built-in lighting enable the user to choose between 13 different lighting patterns, including seven different static colours, sound to light mode and a choice of fade-to-change modes; all in there is plenty of choice available to create some very powerful and dramatic lighting effects. The LED's brightness can also be adjusted, which is handy because they are rally surprisingly powerful and we were genuinely impressed by the effects they can create.
Soundwise, The 12Ls we reviewed certainly sound very capable, although we’d suggest that bands that regularly like to mic up the bass drum are probably better off with the 15” versions, due to their greater ability to reproduce bass frequencies. 250 Watts, meanwhile, might not look like much on paper but armed with pair of these and a decent powered floor wedge monitor and you’ll have a system that is easily be loud enough for typical small club or pub-sized gigs.
No, these new Studiomaster Starlights won't deliver the sort of stage lighting you'd expect to see at a Van Halen reunion gig, but it will look pretty impressive in a local bar or club and help you deliver a show that your audiences are more likely to remember and enjoy. They are also very well priced, we felt, costing less than some similarly rated enclosures that offer nothing but a comparable sound quality but without the Starlight's all-important lighting!
This is an idea that is likely to expand once people see the Studiomaster Starlight system in action and we can see the company developing bigger rigs more suited for larger bands as time goes by. Well done, Studiomaster!