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Topic: Review of Anchor AN-130 PA system
Message: Posted by: sethb (Sep 25, 2008 09:57AM)
Our public library recently purchased an Anchor AN-130 PA system for use with lectures, presentations and background music for children’s activities. Since I already own a PASO ProCast 50, I thought it would be helpful to review the Anchor unit and compare it to the PASO, which is somewhat similar in power, size and function.

The AN-130 is a 30-watt PA unit with a 16-frequency wireless receiver. It comes with your choice of a handheld wireless mic or a bodypack transmitter fitted with a lapel mic, collar mic or ear mic. It has a 4.5” speaker and a separate tweeter, with bass/treble and volume controls. Street price, with a carry bag, was about $700. It’s available in white or black, which might be a better color choice if you want the unit to be less visible.

The Anchor unit is an A/C only system. The PASO runs on either AC or DC and has a 2.5 amp-hour sealed lead-acid rechargeable battery that provides about 5 hours of runtime. Since the library expected to use the PA unit infrequently, perhaps once a month or less, we saw no reason to get a cordless rechargeable system, which might have been more trouble to maintain than it was worth. The PASO will also run on AC alone, but the adapter/recharger is a little bulky and clunky to use. So we went with an AC-only unit.

The Anchor unit is small, about 10” square and 6” high; it weighs only 8.5 pounds. That makes it easy and convenient to carry around. The cabinet seems very tough and durable, and its pebble-grain finish should resist/hide scratches pretty well. However, the unit itself has no carry handle, which could be inconvenient (the manual does mention an optional carry handle, but I couldn’t find it listed on the Anchor website).

The unit has a good assortment of input and output connections (phono jacks or RCA plugs) and will mix down a stereo input to a mono output, since the PA only has one speaker. The unit is magnetically shielded, and so is compatible with other simultaneous audio-visual uses. Patching an MP3 player into the unit is a breeze, and you can regulate the volume of the music separately from the volume of the mic line (there is a separate volume control knob just for the wireless mike on the rear of the PA).

Our library is 5,000 square feet in size, and the area used for programs is about 50’ by 15’ and only holds about 50 people maximum. I would say this unit would be sufficient for that use, but I think Anchor’s claim that it “reaches crowds of 100+” is a bit optimistic. Bass and treble controls are good, although there is obviously going to be limited bass response with a 4.5” speaker (then again, this system is designed primarily for voice reproduction, not music). Reproduction is clear and clean, no distortion even at fairly high volume levels. I believe the PASO is about the same as far as performance goes (it is also a 30-watt unit, even though the PASO literature claims it is a 50-watt unit. But that’s 50 watts RMS, which means a momentary peak sound level while “red-lining” the amp, and is not indicative of ordinary long-term use). PASO also claims its PA unit will reach crowds of "500 or more" -- draw your own conclusions about that one. Once again, I think 50 people is more like it, maybe 75 on a good day when the wind is blowing away from the podium.

The Anchor bodypack is small, light and easy to operate. There is no “mute” switch, just an on/off switch. My main concern is that the on/off switch is a slider mechanism that’s much too easy to accidentally activate (or deactivate). There’s also no LED on the bodyback to indicate when it is on. There is an “RX” light on the rear of the PA that lights when it is receiving a signal from the bodyback, but that’s not quite the same thing, and it also may not be visible from a performance position. This problem could easily result in a dead battery (if you left it on overnight or in storage) or a dead mic (if you accidentally switch it off in performance).

By comparison, the PASO bodyback has a separate recessed pushbutton on/off switch that must be held down momentarily, and is thus much less likely to be accidentally switched on or off. The PASO unit has an LED that lights when the unit is on, and blinks when in “mute” mode (there is a “mute” switch that cuts transmission from the bodypack, but doesn't turn off power at the pack itself). The Anchor bodyback does have a “low battery” LED warning, which the PASO does not (it just dies when the batteries die). That’s why it’s probably a good idea to replace the batteries after every other performance, it’s cheap insurance.

The standard $50 Anchor carry case is heavy canvas duck, which is scratch and tear-resistant, but probably not water-resistant. It’s also not large enough to carry much more than the unit, the bodypack and mic, a few spare AA batteries, and perhaps a MP3 player and patch cord. There is a larger $60 carry case -- for another $10, that might be a better option if you have more audio items to carry around. Although sturdy, the Anchor case is not padded. The PASO carry case is padded and made of Codura nylon fabric, which is probably more prone to scratches and tears, but would be more water-resistant. There are also three large exterior pouches on the PASO case, with ample room for patch cords, batteries, bungee cords, an MP3 or portable CD player, even a small spare wired mic that comes standard with the wireless PASO unit. The PASO case seems to me to be a much better and more practical design.

In my opinion, either of these units would be fine for small birthday parties, parlor shows, Svengali Pitches, and similar applications where the object is primarily sound reinforcement and not amplification. I think any venues bigger than these would really need something larger and more powerful, to properly project and amplify the sound. Whether you need cordless operation (a rechargeable battery) really depends on your own venues, needs and preferences.

Sorry for the length of this post, and I hope it is helpful. SETH
Message: Posted by: sethb (Sep 25, 2008 03:08PM)
Just realized I meant 50 watts PMS and 30 watts RMS.

I think these abbreviations are right, but am not sure. Anyway, I'm supposed to be a magician, not an electrician. SETH