London venue, EartH, is the first European music venue to have a permanent installation of L-Acoustics L-ISA, and it recently held the last show of Johnny Marr’s latest UK tour.
Marr has hit the road again with his fourth solo studio album, Call the Comet, having developed a solo music career since his debut album came out in 2013.
The show at EartH was Marr’s front of house engineer, Russ Miller’s, first time using L-ISA: “I was blown away by it,” Miller said. “The separation is unbelievable, without it feeling like it’s separate sources. At sound check our backline techs were amazed, it sounded the same from front to back and side to side.
“You can’t be afraid of new technology,” Miller stated. “I say just get involved and see what it can do.”
L-ISA immersive hyperreal sound technology uses spatial audio processing to position up to 96 sound objects in three dimensions inside a performance space. The EartH L-ISA frontal system comprises five hangs of seven KARA and a central sub system of four KS28 flown in end-fire configuration, in front and above the central Kara hang.
Ten X8 enclosures are positioned along the stage lip for front fill. 12 Syva make up the surround system, mounted along the left, right, and rear walls. An overhead system of eight ceiling-mounted X8 complete the installation.
Miller elaborated: “We’ve got the two-channel show to a point where, input-wise and processing-wise, I have the kick, snare, bass, and lead vocals in the centre of the mix, with specific effects to give the lead vocals more width. I then push the guitars and ‘keyboard’ elements out to the side and use delay cabinets where the precedence effect happens, in order to clear space for the central elements. This creates a stereo illusion without the old ‘disappearing guitar problem’ and allows for mono compatibility, even when the speaker stacks are far apart.”
Miller was impressed by L-ISA’s spatialisation, taking advantage of the fact that sound objects reflected their actual physical location on stage: “Switching to L-ISA and not having to jump through hoops to get the separation was amazing. With L-ISA, if you put the vocals in the centre, they’re in the centre, not a phantom centre.”
Miller also utilised L-ISA’s three-dimensional processing for a psychedelic moment during Marr’s set. “Johnny has a song on the new album called ‘New Dominions’. It has a break-down section in the middle that comes down to just bass and drums, and when Johnny comes in and there are delay throws, I change the delay time so it creates a pitch change,” Miller explained. “It’s an old trick, but it works for this.”
At EartH, Miller took the stereo delay output and sent it to the house console where they could ‘play’ the L-ISA pan, width, depth, and elevation parameters: “I said let’s go crazy and throw it around – send it over people, to the back, all around. Johnny always said it should be trippy and psychedelic. It worked incredibly well.”
Marr’s tour used DiGiCo SD11 consoles, sharing SD Rack I/O. Miller’s FOH SD11 connected to EartH’s in-house DiGiCo SD12, and DiGiCo consoles now have integrated L-ISA source control functionality, so Miller was able to pan from the console.
Miller felt that a significant benefit of L-ISA was the inherent sound quality achieved with minimal effort: “It was balanced, yes, but felt full range. It didn’t feel like the subs were tacked on, it felt deeper. There’s articulation down there, so it’s easier to separate bass and kick; you can pinpoint things that you just couldn’t hear before.
“After only about four minutes of putting stuff through the PA I realised that this system is a solution to a very old problem,” Miller concluded. “It’s a big move into bringing down sound levels so you’re not smashing people in the face, but you’re still producing something that excites and intoxicates the audience. This technology is amazing, it’s not going away, and it can only become more popular.”