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Choosing what PA to buy for yourself is both an easy and difficult choice. Easy because I’ve got gear from some of the world’s best brands to demo to my heart’s content. But also difficult because I know just how many great options there are on the market. So after weeks of painstaking consideration, what did I go for? The Lucas Nano 300 from HK Audio. Here’s why.
The Lucas Nano 300 comes packaged as a subwoofer with integrated mixer and two satellites – not a lot different to many other compact PA systems currently available. That, however, is where the similarity ends. Similar systems from Yamaha, LD Systems and Kam weigh in at somewhere in the 25-35kg range, whilst the Nano weighs a mere 10kg. The next pleasant surprise came when I read that the satellites not only work in various ‘wired’ configurations, (more about that below), but can also operate ‘wirelessly’ by simply slotting them in a stack on top of the subwoofer. The integrated mixer allows for the connection of a variety of devices, from microphones and instruments to ‘consumer devices’ such as smartphones, CD players and game consoles. Indeed I would quickly realise that this is a PA that will perform just as well in your living room as it will in a music venue. And then I turned the system on, an experience that I can sum up in three words: Volume. Bass. Awesome.
The inputs and outputs are located on a slanted panel at the back of the subwoofer, which allows you to see what you’re doing as well as keeping leads tucked neatly away once everything is plugged in. The controls on the mixer are just above that and consist of big, sturdy knobs and switches, a nice change from the wobbly, plastic controls I’ve encountered on many mixers. The ‘triple channel’ mixer has one ¼” jack/XLR input switchable between mic and line, one dual ¼” jack/XLR input switchable between guitar and stereo line in, and one stereo line in channel with a choice of phono or 1/8” stereo jack inputs. This makes it perfect for the solo musician, allowing you to plug in one microphone, one guitar/keyboard and a backing track. There’s nothing to stop you connecting a larger external mixer too, if required.
The mixer has no master fader – you simply set the volume required on each channel then the overall level of the subwoofer. There’s a stereo line out for recording the output of the mixer to a recording device, either from all channels mixed together or directly from channel 2. Last but not least is the Link In/Out socket, a special piece of HK Audio ingenuity. This connects multiple Nanos together, taking whatever is coming from Nano A and mixing it to Nano B, whilst at the same time taking whatever is coming from Nano B and mixing it to Nano A. The output of both mixers is amplified over both systems, meaning both mixers can be used simultaneously.
As mentioned above, the satellites can be deployed in a number of configurations, using either a couple of mic stands or one of the ‘Add-On Packages’ (see the Accessory section below). To keep things compact both speakers can be stacked on top of each other and placed on a single stand and connected with a single speaker lead. For stereo sound they can be mounted and cabled independently. On the mixer the output can be switched between ‘stacked’ and ‘separate’ to ensure the speakers are voiced properly.
When putting the Nano through its paces I was amazed by the quality and versatility of its sound. Though the system is in a lower price bracket than HK Audio’s ‘premium’ systems it still shares the same signature sound quality. As soon as the system was out of the box I couldn’t help but turn the sub up to max and plug in some dubstep. The result was earth shattering. The bass extension went unbelievably low from such a small sub, the highs and mids giving a fantastic punch to the percussion hits. I instantly thought two things; firstly, this sounds like it could be a full speaker rig, and secondly, if this were used at a house party everyone would definitely be happy (apart from the neighbours). Then I tried out some classical, and quickly found the system was not only powerful but intelligible. I could hear the individual instruments with great clarity and detail, with a pleasant warmth over the whole sound. I was amazed by how ‘immersed’ I felt listening to the system.
Trying the Nano out with some more practical applications I plugged in a Yamaha NP-30 keyboard. A piano isn’t known to be bassiest of instruments but the Nano brought out what was there with a satisfying body and warmth, the higher frequencies again very clear without any unpleasant overbearing high frequencies, as I often get from my NP-30. I quickly heard what I had been missing when playing the keyboard through a couple of standard, small driver studio monitors. The volume could be turned all the way from just above zero for practicing at home to maximum for using the system in perhaps a pub or small club – all with no degradation in sound quality.
I plugged my MacBook Pro into the Nano via my Apogee Duet soundcard and played some multi-track recordings through the system. Just as I thought, the system doubles up as a studio monitor solution. Though perhaps not the best tool for the job, (PA equipment is after all made to a different set of requirements than studio monitoring equipment), it can certainly do the job proficiently and probably a lot better than most budget studio monitors. I could balance the levels between instruments confidently, hear enough detail in the vocals to know where to comp between takes and, as long as the speakers were in studio monitoring positions, pan accurately. Most importantly I found that the mixes translated well onto other systems after I had bounced them down.
Though the Nano works great straight out of the box, HK Audio provides three useful accessory packs.
Add-On Package One includes two mounting poles, a tripod, speaker cables and a carry bag to transport it all in. This allows you to have one satellite mounted on a pole going directly into the sub with another one stand-alone on a tripod. This configuration certainly looks very smart though I should note that the satellites can be mounted on any microphone stand with a standard 3/8” thread. I got a couple of round bottom mic stands to go with the system which provides adequate stability without taking up much floor space.
Add-On Package Two includes two small round stands which slot into the bottom of the speakers allowing them to be placed on a table top or even mounted to a wall. This is a great accessory to get if you intend to use the system at home or perhaps install it into a venue.
Lastly, the Roller Bag accessory, is my personal favourite. As if the Nano wasn’t easy enough to carry already you can just place the system into the protective Roller Bag and you’re away. Anyone who needs to transport the Nano around a lot will find this an essential accessory, though I think buskers will like it the most.
The Lucas Nano 300 is very small system that sounds very big, just as HK Audio promises. That’s only the start though; I’d go so far as to say that it’s perhaps the most versatile system that we’ve had the chance to get our hands on. With so many applications it’s a sound investment since you’ll be dragging it out so often, both for work and play. Solo artists, public speakers, DJs and even those who just want a quality home hi-fi will find it great for their requirements.
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