Maybe I’m getting old, but these days I find myself becoming more and more enamoured with the banal practicalities of the audio caper. High quality mic stands, padded gig bags and amplifiers under 20kg - this is where my enthusiasm lies these days. It was with this mind that I was particularly excited to be reviewing the new Expedition XP312w Portable PA System from Samson for this month's Mixdown.
Having seen some photos upon release and casually glancing at the spec sheet, I instantly knew we would be friends. No assembly required, wireless integration straight out of the box, castors, retractable handle, Bluetooth streaming and all of it coming in well below my 20kg threshold - more than enough to satisfy the curmudgeon in me.
On a visual level, perhaps the main thing that caught my eye was just how easy it looked to move around. With its retractable handle and castors, you can literally wheel it around like a suitcase. Ask a flight attendant or anyone who travels a lot for work and they will tell you there is tangible value in that. It’s a simple notion but one that cannot be overstated. When you are moving from gig to gig, date to date, party to party these little things add up; they start to nag; you get a wireless setup, then an amp modeller, then you sample the guitars in Ableton and tour with nothing. It’s a slippery slope. Being able to pack down in less than 30 seconds is an incredible luxury.
This kind of simple practicality is definitely one of the XP312w’s strong suites. It’s a product that will no doubt encourage continued use for years to come based on practicality alone.
While this portability and convenience is definitely enough to bring a wry smile to this reviewers face, it would all be remiss if it were at the expense of proper musical functionality. Luckily the XP312w more than delivers on that front; It’s 4-channel mixer and bundled wireless setup are good enough to rival anything in the broader portable speaker market and the XP312w’s impressive throw and thunderous max SPL mean that it shouldn’t be too difficult to drown out rival buskers or street performers should the situation call for it (and believe me, it sometimes does.)
Perhaps the biggest test for a portable PA of this nature (and possibly one of the XP312w’s crowning achievements) is its ability to extract adequate low end without compromising overall portability. The XP312w is definitely a more than capable box in this regard. It’s light enough that it can be wielded with relative ease and it’s 12” woofer and 300w power amp provide ample bass at a remarkable clip (especially when you factor in that the XP312w can sustain this kind of power output for 12 hours between charges). That's some efficient amplification by anyone’s standards and even if you are the kind of person who forgets to charge things, those Lithium ion cells should always give you a little something in the tank, just don’t completely drain them!
If there was one gripe that might be worth bringing it up, it’s probably the lack of a mid-control, but I found these limitations could be worked around relatively easily with better mic technique and using the onboard eq of whatever you plug into it (and in retrospect, could I even be bothered notching out 300hz anyway?)
All in all, the Samson Expedition XP312w is a sonically pleasing 2-way speaker with supreme portability and convenience on its side. Just at home behind a fitness instructor as it is in a jam room, this multipurpose PA is versatile enough that it will always come in handy, be it for music or other. The inclusion of the Concert 88a Wireless system adds even more value to the package. It definitely gets the tick of approval from this grizzled, old chunk of coal.
Hits and Misses
Extremely portable and convenient
Good projection/dispersion properties
No Mid control
Only a single XLR input