QSC K12 Review & Road Test

Today, we’ll review and discuss the very popular QSC model K12 powered speaker.  American Musical Supply  As you may be aware, the K12 has been on the market for over 7 years and is regarded by many as today’s standard in powered speakers.  Since its introduction, many other manufacturers’ similar offerings have passed through dealer’s shelves, but none have stood the test of time like the K-Series.  Products in the series include the K8, K10, K12 and KSub.  But for now, we’ll concentrate on the K12.  Why?  I am a K12 user for over 2-years and a fan of most QSC products.  If you have time, checkout QSC K12 Info  and take a look at the many quality products they produce.

I’ll spare you most of the product spec details, but a few are worth listing…K12 rear panel

  • Powered, 2-way design (12″ woofer, 1.75″ compression driver)
  • 1000watt continuous, Class D amplifier design
  • Heavy-duty, ABS Plastic Enclosure
  • Unique pole mount socket allows standard or tilt-down stand mounting
  • DSP operation enhancements
  • On-Board input source mixer

Like I mentioned earlier, I use the K12 for gigs and thought a true, real-world review would be helpful to anyone considering the purchase of a powered speaker or system.  As a performing musician, I tried and tested many similar products from EV, Turbosound (nice as well), Line 6, Mackie and JBL because of their combination of features, performance, reliability and cost.  To be sure, you get what you pay for in life and powered PA speakers are no exception.

To give you a little background on my rig that I’ve married to the K12 speakers, I drive them with either a Soundcraft or Allen & Heath mixer, but have plugged mics and guitars straight in with fine results.  While the K12 does not have individual rotary EQ controls, there are switches that activate the on-board DSP allowing EQ mode configurations for both Low and High frequencies.  As an acoustic guitarist and singer, I typically leave the switches “flat” and do most of my EQ’ing on the mixer channels.  I think this is typical of most users.  I’ve gigged with the K12 in indoor and outdoor venues of various sizes using both single and multiple speaker setups with great results.  Additionally, as a local provider of Rental AV equipment and productions, I have used the K12 in many other situations for music reproduction and simple voice reinforcement.

On my first use of the K12, I was performing at a local Farmer’s Market on a very hot and humid day.  I was concerned about the K12 operating in the extreme weather and overheating, as I knew the sun was going to be hitting the unit for almost 4-hours.  I can tell you that after that gig and many others like it, my worry was unnecessary.  The K12 performed well at moderate volumes during the gig and sounded great.  Connecting mixers and gear is easy as well.  With combination 1/4″ line and 3-pin XLR inputs, balanced XLR outputs (for connection to additional K12 speakers or other appropriate gear), stereo-summed RCA inputs, the K12 is connection ready for most anything.

What could be improved upon..?  Well, we all hate lifting and loading our gear and wish it all could weigh less; the K12 is a little heavy for my old bones.  While it’s made of impact resistant ABS plastic and utilizes a Class D amplifier, I would guess the speaker drivers are what is beefing up the load.  My only other complaint would be that the K12 has an automatic stand-by mode which puts the unit to sleep when not in use.  While this can save on electricity, I’ve found that it sometimes takes a little more than a tap of the mic to wake them up.  But for me, this obviously wasn’t a deal breaker.

So, you’re wondering how they sound?  While not Hi-Fi or home-theatre perfect, they sound great for pro-audio reinforcement, the gigging musician or DJ.  The high-end is smooth, sibilant and disperses well, while the low frequencies are surprisingly strong and tight.  When originally testing some of the K12 competitors, I found those units to be sonically fatiguing and often floppy in the low-end.  It’s clear that QSC did their homework when developing these products.  While other manufacturers seems to have products that have a user-interest of about 4 years, the QSC K-Series is approaching 10 years old, and is still the go-to product in its class.

Lastly, the K12 just looks cool.  Good work to the QSC design team for a great looking product that still looks years ahead of its many competitors (sorry Mackie).  But as they say, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”.  So give the K12 a test drive.  They are easy to find in brick & mortar stores or at many on-line retailers.  Keep in mind that prices for these speakers are pretty firm, so don’t waste your time searching for a great deal.  Though pricing can vary when purchasing multiple units or when packaged with other products, with most stores offering a 30-day window to return a product you’re not happy with, how can you go wrong…?  American Musical Supply