Review: Alto Professional – Busker portable PA speaker

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Review: Alto Professional – Busker portable PA speaker

Alto Professional Busker
Words by Andy Lloyd-Russell

Alto Professional - Busker portable PA speaker | Electric Factory | RRP $699

With the plethora of new battery powered PA speakers hitting the market within the last five years, it’s refreshing to see a reputable brand such as Alto Professional offering something both high quality and affordable for the mid-tier market.

Alto Professional – Busker portable PA speaker

Alto have built a solid reputation in the entry level to mid-tier PA category offering great bang for buck in their respective lines of PA speakers. The latest offering in the brand’s portable PA range is the Busker, a compact yet robustly powerful 200-watt speaker system. Pumping a maximum 106dB SPL from its 6.5” woofer and 1” tweeter with a frequency response of 60Hz – 20kHz, the Busker caters to a wide variety of potential uses. Ranging from (as you’d likely have guessed) buskers through to gym instructors, events such as weddings (catering for live music performances, celebrants during ceremony and even the DJ), small venue or cafe style gigs and education use – ideal for sports carnivals and alike, the Busker is unassumingly versatile.

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The well featured three channel mixer is incredibly simple to operate and offers a plethora of connectivity, with combo XLR/1/4” jack inputs on channels 1 and 2 and a 3.5mm jack and Bluetooth connectivity on channel 3, as well as a link button – used for connecting to a second Alto speaker wirelessly. Channel one is easily switchable between mic and line level sources, whilst channel two can switch between instrument and line level signals. As for outputs, an XLR mix out connector is available for physically connecting Busker to another speaker, and the RCA outputs are ideal for capturing performances to an external recording device.

Alto Professional Busker controls

The USB-A connector allows for devices such as phones, tablets and alike to be conveniently changed, a great feature found on the Alto Professional portable PA range. Visual feedback on the mixer is wonderfully immediate, with LED’s clearly indicating battery life as well as the speaker use status. Options include being used with a subwoofer, when it is pole mounted, monitor oriented or used via the Alto app. With each channel on the mixer providing rotary encoders for controlling volume, the speaker use section also cleverly doubles up as a LED indicator of individual channel volume, with each channel LED illuminating red to indicate which channel’s volume is being display – a nice feature for quick visual feedback without the need to open up the app (more on this shortly). 

The effects section of the mixer features Alesis DSP processing and is rather packed with numerous effects to choose from. Control of FX to channels 1 and 2 is simple with a rotary encoder controlling more or less of the chosen effect to that channel. Effects range from reverbs (including, rooms, halls and plates), two delay options, modulation (chorus and flanger), a rotary setting and two combined chorus and room sounds. In my testing these effects were really quite good, suitable for a wide variety of gigs and performance styles.

Battery powered PA speaker

Whilst not Alto’s first battery powered PA speaker, the Busker introduces some rather nifty  new features not seen on their other portable PA models. One such feature is the introduction of the Alto Professional app, compatible with iOS and Android devices. Whilst some of these types of apps can be a little clunky, I found the Alto app to be very intuitive to use and easy to navigate. There’s the expected control over volume for all channels, speaker mode selection, FX volume and mute and controlling the stereo link mode. The EQ section is well featured with a high, mid and low gain available for each of the three input channels, with a +- 6dB range. The master EQ section offers a lot more control with a fully parametric six band EQ available for board or narrow EQ adjustments. Settings can then be saved and stored if required.

The battery life of Busker is solid, being stated to offer up to 90 hours in ECO mode, up to 30 hours in standard mode, with up to 24 hours of playtime when in Eco mode –  with this mode taking the peak power down to 50-watts. Total charge time is 12 hours. 

I was immediately impressed when firing up the Busker for testing. It struck straight away with its overall sound, which is pretty substantial for a speaker of its modest size. I found it to be voiced rather nicely, providing a full sound with punchy bottom end and great top end detail. Both live instruments and streamed playback sounded natural, full and clear with plenty of definition, requiring no additional processing in my tests – very much a plug and play design that actually works! The ease of use of the mixer made getting sounds going incredibly quick and easy, making me more than confident to take it out to a gig or an event myself or to be used by anyone else – secure in the knowledge that it both sounds great and is wildly easy to use.

Busker PA speaker

The new Alto Busker portable PA speaker strikes the balance of connectivity and simplicity, with a feature set that covers all the bases for a speaker of this type. Not only does it sound great but is easy to use straight off the bat and, for those that want to dive a little deeper the Alto app offers that extra bit of control. Its ability to be orientated both vertically (floor standing or pole mounted), tilted horizontally (with the rotatable Alto logo to match), used in conjunction with a sub or paired to another Alto speaker makes the Busker equally as versatile as it is elegantly simple to use. Offering great bang for buck as expected with Alto Professional, the Busker is absolutely worth a look for those in the market for an affordable, portable battery powered PA speaker.

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