Australia (April 25, 2007)–In the U.S., UK R&B stars Simply Red had a handful of hits, but for the rest of the world, the act, led by belter Mick Hucknall, rode through the Nineties on a string of blockbuster albums, selling out stadiums and arenas across the globe. While things have calmed down for the act since then, it can still draw a crowd, as evidenced by a recent festival date Down Under.
A Simply Red festival gig in Australia was the first live event to use EAW’s new UX8800 digital processor. Held in an open-air setting outside the Australian town of Margaret River, the Leeuwin Estate Summer Concert is an annual occasion featuring top musical artists performing over two consecutive nights for crowds in excess of 14,000, and this year’s event with Simply Red found the band being heard through a system featuring brand-new SR technology.
As it’s done over the past several years, Audex Concert Sound of Northbridge, West Australia, deployed a rig headlined by EAW KF750 loudspeakers, but this time they were aided and abetted by the first-ever live use of EAW’s new UX8800 digital processor. System engineer Tim Millikan of Production Audio Services, based in Blackburn, Victoria, was on hand to support Audex and Simply Red FOH engineer Gary Bradshaw in addition to overseeing the debut of two UX8800s that provided all loudspeaker processing.
The concert site at Leeuwin Estate, a respected Australian winery, is a largely “natural” amphitheatre, offering a main stage positioned in a large clearing in the surrounding woods. The coverage area is wide, measuring over 1,600 feet, with depth in excess of 400 feet. To cover it, Audex employed a dozen KF750s per side in four by three configuration, stacked on scaffold towers, and low-frequencies were bolstered by 10 proprietary Audex horn-loaded subwoofers per side.
Power amplification was Crown Macro-Tech, housed in portable racks right behind the PA stacks, with MA-2400s on HF, MA-3600VZs on MF and LF and MA-5002s on the subs. An XTA DP448 joined the two UX8800 processors in the system drive rack, with a Midas Heritage 3000 console at FOH for Simply Red as well as a Midas Verona for the opening acts. Dual Yamaha M7CL digital consoles were devoted to monitor mixing.
The new wrinkle this time were the UX8800s–each unit was a four-input by eight-output digital system processor and controller that makes use of EAW’s Gunness Focusing alignment and driver processing algorithms and protection technology. The unit provides product-specific, locked-down Gunness Focusing settings for crossover, equalization, alignment processing and limiting for various EAW loudspeakers, and a specific model can be selected for each input channel. Output channels are assigned for each of the loudspeaker’s separately amplified subsystems (2-way, 3-way, etc.). By entering the gain and maximum voltage ratings of the power amplifiers being driven by each output channel, the UX8800 calculates the correct output limiter settings. According to EAW, this tailors and fine-tunes the limiters to the specific parameters (such as excursion and power handling) of the individual drivers, in an effort to improve overall loudspeaker performance and longevity.
Millikan noted that the two Leeuwin Estate shows went without a hitch, even with the first-time deployment of new technology in the mission-critical live realm. “I didn’t get a chance to tell Gary (Bradshaw) that he was the first sound professional in the world to use Gunness Focusing with a live PA; there just wasn’t time,” he recalled. “But his comment at the end of the gig was ‘very tasty, very nice–thank you.’ For any system engineer, myself included, it doesn’t get any better than that.”