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Outline GTO startles for Stereophonics homecoming

Hardened MLA-fancying FOH engineer falls for new rig at Welsh rockers' big night in Wrexham

A recent Stereophonics outing in Wales provided some home comforts for Capital Sound’s new boxes, reports Phil Ward

In a way, PA rental house Capital Sound is more quadrophonic than stereophonic today: not two, but four speaker brands now vie for attention in the warehouse since a strategic investment in d&b and Outline to augment the Meyer and – especially – Martin Audio inventory. In a changing climate things are getting busy, really busy, for this UK rental mainstay, and when needed there have to be more options in the trucks.

Not there was much sign of climate change in the conditions endured at Wrexham’s Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium last month: FOH engineer Dave Roden summed it up best as “a cold, wet, windy and rattly old football ground” which, even in July, presents most of the usual headaches. It’s the oldest international football venue in the world and, despite many modernisations, you can still feel the cups and saucers clinking in Mrs Evans’ parlour across the road every time Welsh soccer hero Gareth Bale gets the ball.

Substitute a Bale surge with Kelly Jones’ guitar, plus entourage, and you can imagine the peril facing the Evans household’s best china. As Capital Sound’s system tech Robin Conway explains, the Racecourse Stadium is nothing if not rooted in its local community, while there hasn’t been a rock concert there since the Wrexham Festival of 1982, according to local paper the Daily Post.

“It’s really old,” he states Conway, “and tricky because of being so close to residential real estate. It’s got open corners between the stands, a condemned terrace at one end and the nearest property is about 60m! That ruled out delay towers down the pitch in line with the PA, so we split it into four smaller ground stacks: containment took precedence over ultimate audio ‘finish’.”

These were made up of 28 of Italian manufacturer Outline’s Mantas elements, complementing the main hangs of 15 GTO-C12 line array elements and a single GTO per side. A spin-off from the larger, dual-15-inch GTO cabinet introduced in 2011, the C12 generates “output power surpassed only by its larger sibling from an enclosure that is physically smaller and 30% lighter”, according to Outline.

Twenty-four GTO subs handled the LF – deployed, much to Conway’s satisfaction, “in the same that way we would MLX [the sub from Martin Audio’s flagship line array, usually Roden’s first choice]: in a broadside array. We probably would have taken less MLX, maybe 18 for this, but it would have been used in a like-for-like manner.”

This is crucial, because Capital Sound supplied the GTO kit on this occasion in the absence of any available MLA. Furthermore, it illustrates perfectly the company’s strategy of offering acceptable alternatives even for die-hard devotees of its core payload – which, when it comes to Martin Audio’s Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array, Dave Roden most certainly is.

Given the conditions, this was always going to be something of a baptism of fire for the GTO in Roden’s hands – but his faith in Capital’s judgement was well rewarded. “The day was a resounding success,” he says. “The responses from absolutely everyone – the local authority, Vanguardia, all of the bands and their management, the fans and the media – were all very positive. From a noise and licensing point of view, I was able to mix the ’Phonics show without any real compromise and still remained well within the offsite limits – at an overall show average at FOH of 99dBA.”

Roden’s more detailed analysis reveals a few understandable comparisons with his default system choice but, in facing the generic issues of large-scale events under British skies, it’s a clear endorsement of Capital’s policy.

“System-wise… it’s not MLA,” he admits. “It sounded absolutely amazing on the soundcheck day with hi-fi programme material being played through it. Big, punchy, airy and very loud, but still controlled. Perfect for a pop act – though I don’t think it performed quite as well with a live rock band in this particular environment. The low end was really good – the sub array definitely worked! In the mids, at least on this occasion, there was a hump at around 500Hz which I just couldn’t seem to smooth out, but when cut left things sounding a bit too hollow, and the 1kHz-4kHz region took a fair bit of work to get the vocal to sit comfortably without being too spikey. That said, it sounded as good as many festival systems I’ve used. I’m just being very specific.

“The main problem I had on the whole was the difference in sound at my slightly elevated mix position when compared to standing on the arena floor. At my console, if it sounded just right in the upper mids and highs, then on the deck it was too mushy so I had to accentuate that region – meaning it was uncomfortably bright at FOH but punchy enough on the floor. Obviously this is not the first time I’ve encountered this phenomenon, but it’s something I’ve become less accustomed to over the last few years given the evenness of MLA.

“The gusting wind obviously didn’t help either, and when it finally calmed down for the last part of the show the audio image did become more cohesive overall. But the C12 was very affected by the wind, which is where the larger GTO box would probably have been better in that respect.

“All in all, I think the Outline range is as good as any other system currently available – apart from MLA – but it works much better in certain environments with specific programme material. I used Butterfly in the Middle East for a few outdoor shows and it sounded absolutely stunning, but that was in smaller arenas – 8,000 to 10,000 – with very warm, still conditions. I’d certainly be happy to use the C12 again, but probably in a smaller, indoor – or warmer and drier – environment.”

Capital Sound’s new Outline inventory has been augmented by another Italian dimension: the amplification and processing package, specifically tailored to the GTO system, is based on Powersoft’s X8 amplifiers for both FOH and monitoring. Capital’s power deployment has been described by general manager Paul Timmins as “multi-purpose”, with modular, compact racks typically consisting of up to three X8s with custom PACom, NL4 patching and Dante networking.

This wasn’t the first test for Capital’s new Italian signings: there’s an ongoing tour commitment with ’40-quid’ [Four tenors – Ed] housewives’ choice Il Divo; and the classic rock Stone Free Festival, including an airing for Rick Wakeman’s King Arthur suite, took GTO into London’s O2 Arena with multiple acts. Given its obvious versatility, it looks like Outline’s GTO would find favour with most of the knights of Mrs Evans’ table.

All pix: James Cumpsty