Review: QSC CP12 12-inch Compact Powered Loudspeaker

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Review: QSC CP12 12-inch Compact Powered Loudspeaker

Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

QSC CP12 | Technical Audio Group (TAG) | RRP $1549

The QSC CP12 serves varying PA purposes, as well as being a stellar solution to amplifying amp modellers. QSC are no strangers to providing solutions with plenty of power, great balanced sound for a variety of needs and environments. An increasingly common environment is a gig without old-fashioned guitar amplifiers, instead replaced with amp modellers. Modellers can, with startling accuracy, replace your pedalboard, patch cables and amplifier, instead being a one-stop-shop for shaping and distorting your tone before it’s finished off with an amplifier. Sometimes sent straight to the front of house system (hopefully QSC branded as well!) with a simulated speaker cabinet, one thing that modellers can’t imitate is the air being pushed from the speaker cone.


One such solution is to use an active speaker on stage, allowing players to harness the best of both worlds: the convenience of an amp modeller and the air being pushed from a speaker cone. And with traditional guitar cabinets generally having two or four 12” speakers in cabinets, what better way to amplify your sound than with a 12” speaker like in the QSC CP12?

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The CP12 from QSC is a two-way active powered personal speaker, with 1000 Watt peak power from a Class D amplifier. The main low frequency transducer is a 12” speaker, with a high frequency transducer 1.4” compression driver. It features a frequency response from approximately 50Hz up to 20kHz with a maximum rated SPL of 126dB.

Controls-wise, the QSC CP12 has two gain controls for the two inputs which are XLR/jack inputs, and a 6-way Contour Selection Switch to subtly begin to shape your tone.

There’s also a handy 3.5 mm TRS (Stereo Input) for auxiliary sources, and the second input has a Mic Boost (+25dB) to switch the second input from Line to Mic if needed! SIG LEDs are available for both inputs, denoting when there’s incoming signal, and a global LIMITER LED lets you know when the QSC CP12’s internal limiter is kicking in to protect the amplifier and speaker. There’s a Mix Out via XLR, allowing you to send signal elsewhere if needed for recording, monitoring or otherwise! If the CP12 seems like overkill, QSC also offer the smaller 8” model in the CP8.

As a guitar modelling amplifier, the QSC CP12 excels for a few reasons. As mentioned before, the 12” speaker isn’t unlike the speakers usually loaded into traditional guitar cabs. The gain control also allows you to dial the overall volume back, with little effect on resulting sound thanks to the Class D amplifier. Drive the ‘tube amplifier’ emulation on your modelling unit as hard as you like, but bring it back to bedroom rehearsal levels.

Modern and vintage guitar sounds

My experience with the QSC CP12 was unlike any other speaker I’ve used. Routing my signal through to the CP12 provided crystal clear sound at any volume. It’s unlike traditional head and cab setups, where the sonic character of the amplifier changes depending on volume. This is especially true for tube amplifiers, the input volume impacting the preamp tubes and the master volume pushing the power tubes harder, the CP12 allowed me to use the very best ‘tube’ emulations, pushed to saturated perfection, at any volume. The addition of the contour selector switch allowed me to shape and shift the overall tone further, to my ears moving between more traditional ‘vintage’ and ‘modern’ style guitar sounds, regardless of my amp tone.

Amplifier emulators are an increasingly popular solution to touring, writing, gigging and performing, while their convenience makes a good case for them overall, they lack the air being pushed out of a speaker. Traditional guitar cabs have provided that air, but require a power amp and are at the mercy of the subtle shifts in overall colour and tone of the sound as the power amp and speaker are pushed harder. These subtle shifts can undo all the hard work you’ve done to perfect your tone! What’s more, the clean, clear nature of the CP12 allows you to recreate your sound more accurately night after night on tour, all the while being the same sound you’ve practised with at home and in the jam room.

The QSC CP12 ties a lot of this together, providing loud, clear and clean amplification via its Class-D amplifier, with 200W for the HF driver, and 800W LF driver. The unit responds with everything from approx. 50Hz up to 20kHz, much more than a standard guitar cabinet. While we’ve extensively discussed guitar-focused use of the CP12, it’s equally useful as a powerful PA speaker, so you’re getting two very practical products in one!

If the CP12 is more powerful than you need, QSC offer the CP8 with an 8” speaker instead of a 12”, harnessing all the same functionality of the CP12. QSC are in the business of solutions, and the CP12 is no different. It helps to bring together the practicality of amplifier emulators and the feel of blasting yourself and your adoring fans with sounds from a powerful speaker.

For local QSC enquiries, visit TAG here.