Kanguro Tested By Performing Musician U.K.
This article was originally published in
Performing Musician magazine, September 2008 edition.
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the prior written consent of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers. Outline Kangaroo
Powered PA system
This high-quality PA system comes with a unique space-saving feature
during transportation and storage. It is ideally suited to the gigging
band needing a portable system able to provide good coverage over
medium-sized venues where audio quality is a top priority.
Paul White
O
utline may not be a familiar name
in the UK PA market but this Italian
company has been in business for
35 years; they started in hi-fi and then
worked up via disco to professional live
sound, with current high-profile users of
their systems including Brit Row of London.
Their range covers speakers, amplifiers
rated up to 6000 Watts RMS per channel
(PWM models), digital processors and
mixing desks. Though PA is often thought
of as a very ‘bread-and-butter’ area, the
company have invested heavily in R&D
with innovations including their ‘Unimetal’
compression driver, which incorporates
the suspension, coil and diaphragm in one
piece; their T Series amplifiers, which offer
up to 6000W per channel in a single rack
unit, and the ingeniously executed ‘Russian
doll’ concept behind the Kangaroo system
reviewed here. It often occurred to me that
as loudspeaker cabinets are mainly boxes
full of air interrupted by the odd driver and
chunk of electronics, it should be possible to
make a system that somehow packs up into
PerformingMusician
Musician
Outline Kangaroo £5499
The stacking concept is conceptually
simple but beautifully engineered to save
on space without sacrificing performance.
Kangaroo’s sound quality is hard to fault
and its advanced features, such as the
programmable DSP processing and
mounting facilities, add to its versatility.
Though costly, this is a thoroughly
professional system designed to provide
many years of service, and should appeal
to serious performers who need to
combine sound quality and power with
transportability.
Outline UK +44 (0)1778 420330
www.outlineuk.fsnet.co.uk
www.outline.it
66
September 2008 | performing-musician.com
a relatively small size for transit. Indeed, back
in the days when huge bass bins were de
rigeur, I experimented with a few ideas to see if
rigeur
a mid-range unit could be stored inside a bass
bin for transport, but my woodworking skills
weren’t really up to the task at the time.
Outline have cracked the problem in a very
elegant and beautifully engineered manner
with their Kangaroo system, as the mid/high
passive speaker does indeed stow inside the
active bass bin for transit, yet the whole thing
weighs 42 kg, which is no more than one
of my Mackie bass bins on its own. If you’re
wondering where the name came from, by the
way, think how a Kangaroo carries its young.
The Kangaroo comprises two separate
units — a passive, two-way satellite and
a subwoofer housing all the power amps —
but as the satellite stows inside the bass bin
during transit, and because of the tapered
shape of the bass cabinets, a pair of units
will sit side-by-side in a typical hatchback or
estate car. Despite its compact size, the system
can project a peak level of 132dB SPL (128dB
in full-space conditions) at one metre with
a frequency response from 37Hz (-10dB, or
47Hz at the -3dB point) to 16.5kHz. One reason
for the relatively modest weight is the use
of the two Class-D pulse width modulation
(PWM) amplifiers built into in the sub,
which work in conjunction with a passive
crossover in the satellite cabinet to create
a three-way system. A 500W amplifier
feeds the sub driver with a second
amplifier feeding the passive crossover
in the satellite. This then splits the signal
between the mid-range driver and the
HF unit.
The Kangaroo system’s subwoofer
comprises a braced, ported, 15mm birch
plywood enclosure with a trapezoidal
shape and overall dimensions of 55 x
55 x 60cm, though the cabinet is only
23cm wide at the rear, so a pair of
cabinets side by side (one facing forwards
and one facing backwards) can fit into
a 78cm-wide space. Its 15-inch woofer,
protected by a steel grille and powered
by a neodymium magnet, is rated at 350W
RMS (or 1400W peak), and features a massive
three-inch voice coil. Slot-shaped reflex tuning
ports are sited both above and below the
driver. Four integral handles are cut into the
cabinet to ease transportation, but a neat
touch is that there are optional protective ply
boards that fit over the front of the speaker
via two aircraft-type fasteners (using a pair of
captive keys that stay fixed to the board) and
this is equipped with large industrial castors to
aid wheeling the system around. Despite the
relatively low system weight, the fact that both
of the speakers pack into one does mean that
you need two people for a comfortable lift,
and the handle placement reflects this. One
person can lift a speaker into the back of a car
but you need to be careful. Protective covers
with accessory pockets to hold the cables are
also available and can be left in situ during use
if required, as all the relevant panels on the
sub can be accessed via Velcro’d flaps. These
provide excellent protection during transit and
are clearly made to last.
The satellite, also built from 15mm birch
ply, stows in a hinged hatch mounted on the
bottom of the cabinet, which is opened and
closed by means of a T-shaped, square-ended
key (which comes supplied). This is a bit like
a large radiator key but if you happen to lose
it, a small adjustable spanner or even a pair
of pliers might get you out of trouble — as
long as you remember that it turns clockwise
to unlock. A felt gasket around the hatch
provides a good seal and prevents rattles
when the speaker is in use, while the locking
mechanism itself is extremely sophisticated,
employing multiple, retracting, tapered, flat
bolts around the hatch lid rather like those
that run the length of a double-glazed door.
These physically pull the hatch tightly closed
when locked. The internal guides for the
satellite stowage are lined with felt and foam
so there’s no chance of scratching or shifting
while in transit. An M20 thread pole socket
is fitted to the top of the woofer and there’s
a 35mm pole socket to the base of the satellite
for easy setup. The driver placement is such
that the system is correctly time aligned when
the speakers are pole mounted.
Inside the satellite cabinet, which looks
like a smaller version of the bass bin, is
a 12-inch, neodymium mid/low driver with
a 2.5-inch voice coil, again in a tuned-ported
cabinet, with a power handling of 200W RMS
(or 800W peak). The reason the cabinet is
ported is to provide a reasonable amount
of bass extension if used without the sub.
At the top end is an Outline OUT4 1.75-inch
compression driver rated at 50W RMS (200W
peak), which uses Outline’s proprietary
Unimetal construction, which is based
around a thin aluminium/magnesium alloy
membrane. This feeds a rigid glass-fibre
horn flare with a one-inch throat producing
a dispersion angle of 90 degrees. The system is
optimised for short-throw applications where
placement close to an audience requires
a wide dispersion characteristic. According
to the spec sheet, the frequency response
is very linear with a phase response ±45
degrees from 500Hz to 16kHz. Where bass
reproduction isn’t required, the satellites can
be fed from a suitable amplifier to function as
a stand-alone system.
Each satellite cabinet is fitted with two
integral handles cut into the woodwork for
transport and for lifting the unit out of its
Ingeniously, the Kangaroo system makes use of
all that space inside the subwoofer by using it to
house the satellite when in transit.
presets optimised for various types of music,
and these can be stepped through using
a rear panel button, but to create custom
settings you need to hook up the system to
a Windows PC using Ethernet and run Outline’s
proprietary software editing package. Using
this software the user can adjust the sub and
satellite gains, configure a 10-band equaliser
“What I appreciated most was the apparently
effortless way in which a really high-quality
sound was projected at realistic performance
levels…”
home in the bass bin cabinet. It is also worth
mentioning that the top panel incorporates
Outline’s Stack Align system (a screw-in stud
that locates into the pole socket of the upper
unit) to ensure correct alignment when
stacking two satellites. This narrows the
vertical dispersion angle giving the system
more ‘throw’. Both cabinets are finished in
a tough, black textured paint. The 12-inch
driver is protected by a steel grille, and though
this rings rather alarmingly when you tap it,
it doesn’t seem to have any adverse effect
during normal operation. By contrast, the grille
protecting the sub driver is very well damped.
Further metal grille material covers the reflex
ports, which are located either side of the horn
flare.
Controls
What isn’t immediately obvious is that the
system includes DSP signal processing,
allowing adjustment of delays (up to 7.5ms)
and EQ settings in more complex setups or
installations. A flat response plus three further
tailored response options are available as
with variable Q and centre frequency (plus
a further three-band EQ for the sub), and a pair
of shelving filters that can be applied to the
satellite.
Pretty much all the controls are located
on the metal rear panel of the sub, which is
sensibly recessed. This panel also contains
a grille for the small cooling fan. The line
input is via the expected balanced female XLR
socket, though this links directly to a male Thru
XLR socket so you can feed it with a female
XLR if you need to. To the right of the input
section are the Ethernet socket for connection
to a PC and a button for stepping through the
presets, indicated by a row of four LEDs. The
factory presets (which are really variations on
the usual frown and smile curves for speech
and music) can be overwritten using the PC
software. Oddly there’s no power switch, just
a status LED that shows you when the unit is
active, with an adjacent temperature light to
warn of overheating. If run with this light on
for extended periods, the internal electronic
amplifier protection may intervene. A separate
stepped rotary level control switch sets the
performing-musician.com | September 2008
67
Outline Kangaroo
Powered PA System
In use
The system comes with protective covers, which
have accessory pockets to hold the cables. These
can be left on during use if required, as all the
relevant panels on the sub can be accessed via
Velcro’d flaps.
sub level, and this sits alongside three status
LEDs, where Prot shows if the amplifier
protection becomes active, Clip flashes when
the internal limiter is being forced to operate
due to excessive input signal peaks and Signal
comes on to show that a signal of some kind is
being received.
To the right of the sub section is an area
of panel dedicated to the satellite speaker,
which again has its own stepped level control,
Prot, Clip and Signal LEDs. A Speakon socket
provides the feed to the satellite via the
supplied Speakon cable. Power comes in at the
bottom of the panel, but the designers have
elected to use a Powercon mains connector
(a mains version of Speakon) rather than the
more usual IEC inlet, as it is capable of handling
more current, which may be important if you
use the power linking facility. Technically
this makes perfect sense, but if you lose your
Powercon mains cable and only find out next
time you try to set up, you’re stuffed if you
don’t have a spare. This has happened to me in
the past with another system and I was lucky
to find a friend who could lend me one, as
none of the music stores within 70 miles had
even heard of a Powercon cable, let alone carry
stocks! Personally I’d prefer to take my chances
with an IEC cable any day as replacements
can be picked up almost anywhere, so be
warned and order a spare mains cable. A Thru
Powercon connector is fitted next to the
inlet, which enables mains connections to
be daisy chained between pairs of systems
using male-to-female Powercon cables. As the
satellite is passive, there are no controls — just
a Speakon input socket.
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September 2008 | performing-musician.com
The optional trolley boards are
highly recommended as they
provide reliable protection
for the sub speaker grille and
also make wheeling around
a doddle, though they add
an extra 14cm or so to the
length of the space you need
to pack them into your car or
van. Removing the board is
simply a matter of twisting the
two rather firm captive keys, but
although the key that opens the
hatch to gain access to the satellite
speaker has a storage space and
clip built into one of the handles of
the sub to keep it close to hand, it
is a separate item so you have take
care not to lose it. A single square peg
must be turned using this key to release the
hatch cover, which hinges back to allow the
satellite to be lifted clear using one of its inbuilt handles. The hatch must then be closed
and locked before setting up the system for
use. After that, you screw in the pole, hook
up the Speakon cable between the sub and
satellite, plug in the power and you’re ready
to feed signal. Extracting the satellite from the
sub takes only moments, so for very little extra
setting up effort, you save yourself a useful
amount of space.
Tested first at low levels with commercial
music and with the sub and satellite gains
set the same, the sound comes across as very
listenable, with the presets offering subtle
but useful alternatives to a flat response.
Many commercial PA systems actually sound
While the trolley boards are optional, they
do provide reliable protection for the sub
speaker grille and also make moving
the system around a doddle.
Tech Spec
Kangaroo
• 15mm birch ply cabinet.
• Frequency response: 47Hz - 16kHz
(±3dB).
• Phase response: ±45º (500Hz - 16kHz).
• HF dispersion: 91º x 47º.
• 500W + 500W ( ♠U) Class-D PWM power
amp.
• Satellite max SPL: 129dB (peak @ 1m).
• Subwoofer max SPL: 131dB (peak @
1m).
• Dynamic range: 120dBA.
• Ethernet port for configuration via PC.
• Onboard DSP for time delay (max
7.5ms), 10-band EQ and shelving filters
(plus three-band EQ for sub).
• XLR input and Thru sockets.
• Speakon connection from sub to
satellite.
• Dimensions (WDH): 550 x 60 x 550mm.
• Weight: 42kg.
pretty unimpressive when reproducing
music but this one combines clarity, punch
and, very importantly, mid-range integrity,
so that it’s more like listening to a big studio
monitoring system than a PA setup. What’s
more, the horn sounds pretty sweet given its
power capabilities, without the aggressive
squawkiness of some systems I’ve tried. The
sound also holds up very well, even quite
a long way off axis, with only a little high-end
drop-off, so providing broad coverage in a pub
or club shouldn’t be an issue. Preset One gives
canned music a welcome presence lift but the
flat setting should work fine for most gig work,
especially if you have
decent mixer EQ or
a graphic EQ to
iron out the
worst of
the
The rear panel of the subwoofer features XLR input
and Thru sockets, separate gain controls for the
sub and top, a Speakon output, Powercon input
and output sockets and an Ethernet port, which
allows you to configure the system using a PC.
room problems.
To avoid room problems compromising
our tests, we ran the system for an outdoor
live music event, again with the sub and main
settings the same and with the flat response
selected. Right away we got a great vocal
sound with no EQ. Miked electric guitar
sounded more ‘right’ than through many
of the systems I’ve used, where the bright
upper mid many designers seem to build
in tends to make the guitar sound rather
aggressive. The kick drum also sounded well
defined and solid, without the ‘one-note’
character that some lesser subs exhibit, so
once again the result was rather more hi-fi
than I’ve come to expect from this type
of PA package, and reminded me of the
sound of my own somewhat smaller Fohhn
system. The sound from the sub definitely
integrates well, providing the necessary
bass extension without drawing attention
to itself.
The wide dispersion really paid off at
this particular gig, as the audience were
wandering around the grounds rather than
staying put right in front of the speakers
— the coverage was excellent and we
achieved more than adequate level while
running the system well below its maximum
capacity. Brief tests at a higher level confirmed
that the system could indeed play very loud
for its size, but what I appreciated most was
the apparently effortless way in which a really
high-quality sound was projected at realistic
performance levels. There was also little sound
projected from the rear of the cabinet, which
makes setting up stage monitoring less of
a challenge.
The only practical comment I have to make
on the design is that some form of pole clamp
for the satellites may have been useful, as the
cabinets can tend to turn on the poles when
rigged on slightly uneven ground. Other than
that relatively minor observation, the system
worked as well as anything else I’ve used of
a comparable size; it was very easy to set up
and it took up relatively little space in transit,
which was important for us as we all use our
cars for gigs rather than a single van — though
I wouldn’t want to have to handle it on my
own because of the weight. Of course you can
take the speakers to your vehicle separately
and then pack them there, in which case the
subs are very manageable.
Inevitably the system is quite expensive
— not overly so considering its quality and
innovative features, but it may well be beyond
the budget of the typical weekend pub band.
Competitors would include the likes of Fohhn
and the more sophisticated HK Audio systems,
which also command high prices, so this is
definitely a system for musicians who need
high quality and get enough gigs to pay for it.
Personally I loved it and will be sorry to see it
go back.
performing-musician.com | September 2008
69
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