Meet Alto Professional: Live audio, low price point, a decade growing
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-05-30)
"Our mission is simple: create products for use in live performance that literally blow away the competition, in terms of accuracy, power, durability, portability, and price. Every product we design, every component we select and every manufacturing process we use is in service of that simple mission." So says the front page of the website for live audio gear company Alto Professional, a company I hadn't heard of until just a few days ago. The Florida based company has been in the market for over 10 years and recently expanded their line greatly into a much wider market, which seems to be why us non-Floridians and non-Asians are only hearing about them now. I'll take a look at two of their offerings that I found intriguing: the Live series of MIDI controllers, and the MixPack protable PA systems.
Live MIDI Controllers
Most keyboard controllers are better suited for the studio than the stage, thanks to their plastic and thin-sheet-metal bodies, along with their general penchant for having lots of pads and buttons for programs like Pro Tools, Logic, or various composing programs like Finale or Sibelius. Not so with the LIVE series. The Live Series controllers, which come in 25-, 49-, 61-, and 88-key flavors, are stripped of any unnecessary weight or connections and built for the rigors of touring, the best and worst of being hauled around in the back of a van with everyone else's gear. The chassis is made of a rugged aluminum to hold to the lightweight and tough credo. I also noticed that of what buttons there are, the main control knob is well recessed and the rest of the buttons don't stick out in the slightest apart from the modulation and pitch bend wheels. There aren't that many buttons in the first place either.
A road-ready keyboard controller can be built like a tank, but it doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't feel great to play. So Alto Professional put in a semi-weighted key action. These are in general meant to satisfy both sides of playing, whether you're a Jerry Lee Lewis-style player who really digs in with both full fists, or you've got a light classical grace, a semi-weighted keyboard is a nice, much cheaper alternative to a weighted, graded action. In this price range, having a semi-weighted action is hardly a strike against the Live series boards.
The LIVE performance keyboard controllers offer both traditional 5-pin DIN and modern USB MIDI connectivity. As a result, they can drive whatever MIDI gear you’ve got, from an old rackmount synth module to the latest virtual instrument running on your laptop. On the downside, they really don't have very many buttons. I was hoping for at least a few programmable pads to work with, but alas.
Mixpack Portable PA Systems
Being a keyboard player and a singer, having a portable, easy to set up PA system is huge. Being a piano player, it's also very important that that PA system can handle the full frequency spectrum without thinning out in the high end, bottoming out in the low end, or distorting either way. It's no surprise that this is the first issue Alto Professional's product website addresses. "All three MIXPACK systems boast impressive frequency response and wide dynamic range, and provide superior clarity when compared to other all-in-one portable PA systems." To be honest, I'd be more than happy to see this happen, because the competition isn't the greatest either. The Fender Passport systems, probably the most well known "competition," tended to be underpowered, although they were wonderfully lightweight.
Power is one thing Alto Professional isn't skimping on though. The smallest of these comes with a whopping 350 watts through two 10-inch speakers, all the way up to the Mixpack Pro, which sports 1000 watts into two 6.5" speakers and a 15" sub woofer. 7-band graphic EQ comes standard to help you shape your overall sound, and onboard digital effects (courtesy of Alesis) provide that little extra to help you sound your best. Both medium and large models feature the additional sub woofer.
Their packing imprint is quite small, and they all clip together into one self-contained unit. The small and medium sized ones even come with a microphone and cables for everything. The smallest one is clearly set up for a singer/songwriter or a small duo, with only a few inputs; just enough to get vocals and an instrument or two, maybe an iPod. The medium sized one steps it up right away to a full 8 channels (and 600 watts), enough for a band and backup singers if need be. After that it's 1000 watts and 10 channels. The larer two of the three also include speaker stands that fold just as easily into the main case, maintaining a single-unit setup and takedown process. These guys really know how to cover the full spectrum. Effects by Alesis, plenty of headroom, graphic equalizer on all of them, portable package, small footprint...you could say the Mixpack mixers by Alto Professional have a lot going for them. But I only say this not having heard them yet, and I don't know the price range. More on that soon hopefully.
Alto Professional hasn't yet released pricing or availability information for the Live Controllers or for the Mixpack Portable PA systems. You can find their full product line on their website, www.AltoProAudio.com.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured in and around the Pittsburgh area, at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College.
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.