London, UK (December 7, 2011)—A Martin Audio MLA system was used for the first time in London’s Royal Albert Hall recently when sound rental company RG Jones provided audio for a Raymond Gubbay Classical Spectacular.
RG Jones has handled the Spectaculars at the venue since 1993. With a production harnessing cannons, pyro and lasers in a festival type ‘Proms’ atmosphere, the events are complicated for FOH engineer Simon Honywill, who chose the system hoping it would clean up the room’s inherent reflections.
At the RAH, the two front arrays comprised 16 element MLA hangs per side, with no downfill enclosures, since the rig’s trim height was 40 ft. (from the lowest box) to accommodate the huge lighting rig. Side hang arrays of nine Martin Audio W8LM mini enclosures were balanced with a single W8LMD underneath to bring coverage down as far as possible; at the same time, a central sub-bass array of six WLX was recessed under the stage apron, which was electronically curved to optimize coverage.
Martin Audio’s Nigel Meddemmen became de facto systems engineer, walking the entire room to verify uniform sound balance. “The challenge was to match the warmth and smooth response of the MLA, a tricky task particularly on some of the operatic pieces with shrill soprano vocals, which have a tendency to really show up deficiencies in the high frequency of a system.”
Stated Simon Honywill, “The fact that it sounded so astounding is testament to the Display 2.1 software. In fact I have never heard a system [in the RAH] that sounded so similar upstairs as down. Ambrose [Thompson, Martin Audio Electroacoustic Engineer] was also able to rationalize the coverage to effectively reduce the amount of energy hitting the balcony fronts.”
The design prediction created ‘voids’ precisely where necessary––including the elimination of any stage spill, as Simon Honywill was quick to attest. “You could stand under the MLA on stage and not hear a thing. But at the same time, this is the loudest I have been able to drive a system here without the orchestra moaning!”
The program combined the traditional ‘greatest hits’ from the classical canon with new works such as Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus from The Armed Man; A Mass For Peace. The latter swings from the gentlest of solo cello to five percussionists hitting a variety of drums extremely hard and the choir adding weight to a huge sonic picture.
“We had ten mics on the choir and I found I could keep opening them up massively, with no coloration whatsoever,” noted Honywill. “We’ve never had the amount of level, definition and control––particularly with the low strings––as we achieved with the MLA, and that is what makes it sound really fat. It was a pleasure and absolute joy to mix.”