A virtual press conference from Sound & Video Contractor

MLA Compact Debuts With Chris Rea

The first UK rental company to purchase Martin Audio’s MLA (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array), RG Jones Sound Engineering was also the first to debut the scaled down version of this groundbreaking technology with the new MLA Compact.

“I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new system,” admits Simon Honywill, who seized the opportunity to mix Chris Rea’s sound through the MLA Compact on the closing dates of the recent European and UK tour.

Honywill, largely responsible for driving RG Jones’ investment in the MLA platform, instigated a seamless PA switch, ably assisted by system engineer Mark Edwards in time for the last two tour dates—at the Pavilions in his home town of Plymouth, and HMV Apollo Hammersmith, where the system had been formally launched a few months ago.

While the system performed admirably in Plymouth, Honywill and Edwards, along with Martin Audio’s R&D Director, Jason Baird, repurposed the system for the larger Hammersmith show where Simon Honywill described the impact as “unbelievable”.

He reported that the vocal clarity had been incredible, even at high levels, and the separation of the drums and cymbals, even in excess of 106dBA had to be heard to be believed. “The drum sound was massive,” he said, “very dynamic and very exciting.

“When you wind the system up, it just gets louder, but nothing changes in the character of the sound, which is beautiful.”

While the optimization at Hammersmith was nothing unusual, with the balcony being notched out in the software to remove unwanted reflections, Simon Honywill explained: “Mark and Jason worked on the EQ curve and played with the sub alignment so that the system was everything I had hoped it would be.”

“In Plymouth we used a broadside array of 12 DSX subs in four cardioid cells under the stage apron, but this isn’t possible in Hammersmith so we went for a left/right cardioid stack of six subs a side and tweaked the crossover between the subs and the MLA Compact to get a really rich, smooth low end with real punch.”

Deploying a ground stack of four Martin Audio W8LM Mini Arrays under the two main PA hangs of 12 MLA Compact enclosures, they were able to draw down the image at the front while substantially decreasing the physical profile of the stacked system.

“In the past the ground stacks have looked a little imposing with the subs and W8LC, but the ability of the system to generate seamless coverage from wherever you tell it to start and finish allowed us to get the energy we wanted into both downstairs and upstairs––the groundstacks are just to keep the sonic image down on stage for those at the front,” says Honywill.

“The system produced a fantastic impact but the overriding feeling from the production team was that the compactness of the package also offered huge benefits.” And this spelled good news for production manager, Pat Baker.

Rea’s tour inventory is traditionally geared to fit one truck, which places enormous pressure on the truck pack. “Every night it is stacked to the roof with all the equipment,” Honywill explains “But the appeal of a self-powered system, without separate processing and amplification, was pretty exciting.”

Having piloted Chris Rea shows for the last 15 years, Simon Honywill has historically used Martin Audio systems to reinforce the artist’s sound––generally 16 x W8LC Compact Line Arrays per side and 16 WLX subs; but for the ensemble of six musicians (including second guitar, two keyboards and drums) this time around, they knew they had considerably raised the sonic bar. Simon’s overall verdict? “MLA is vastly superior to anything on the market and this system provides a great neutral platform to mix on.

“Although RG Jones has bought the big system, which was a no-brainer considering the profile of the company’s expanding client base, the MLA Compact has to be a serious proposition. It’s brilliantly conceived and brilliantly delivered—a completely revolutionary product and other manufacturers should be asking themselves how they are going to counter that.”

Meanwhile, RG Jones’ full-sized, and multiple award-winning MLA will make its debut on the Sainsbury’s UK 2012 School Games Closing Ceremony at London Olympic Park’s Basketball Arena on May 9.

Pic: Chris Rea onstage, with the MLA Compact

For more about Martin Audio, please click to www.martin-audio.com.

About MLA™ (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array)
The result of many years of intensive R&D, MLA’s methodology replaces trial-and-error array design with intelligent numerical optimization of the array’s output based on a highly accurate acoustic model. The multi-cellular format has six individual cells in each enclosure, each with its own DSP and amplification.

With up to 24 enclosures, each MLA array has up to 144 cells — too great a number to optimize manually, or by ear. Instead, Martin Audio’s proprietary Display2™ system design software automatically calculates FIR DSP filters for each cell and a redundant-ring audio network (U-NET™) downloads the settings into each array enclosure. Martin Audio’s VU-NET™ software provides real-time control and monitoring of the system.

MLA delivers a frequency response and SPL consistency never before achievable; a very high system output (140dB peak, per cabinet @1m); Automatic optimization of the array, both physically (splay angles) and electronically (DSP); Computer control and monitoring of the entire system, and total control of sound system balance for engineers and sound technicians.

MLA is fully integrated, with Class D amplification, DSP and U-NET digital audio
network built into each enclosure. MLA complete systems are ready-to-use, with MLA, MLD and MLX enclosures, flying hardware, software, cabling and training all supplied. Everything needed is included. All ancillary items — from tablet PC and Merlin™ controller to network interconnects and mains distro — are also included in the complete system package. This ensures full compatibility worldwide, down to cabling and accessories.

Additional features include 90° x 7.5° dispersion; a compact size (1136mm wide x 372mm high x 675mm deep), one-box-fits-all (festivals to theaters) application range and a global voltage, power factor corrected power supply.

MLA’s compact size and very high output allows it to be shipped using smaller trucks, offering considerable savings and reduced carbon footprint. The system also includes the MLX powered, flyable subwoofer capable of an unprecedented measured peak output of 150dB @ 1m; MLD downfill cabinet, and Merlin 4-in/10-out system controller and network hub. Audio input is via analog, AES3 or U-NET.

By adopting these principles and system components MLA is optimized for every member of the audience — from a 2,000 capacity theater, to a 20,000-seat arena, to a 100,000-person festival site. It will deliver the engineer’s exact mix to every seat (up to over 150 meters) with precision, exceptional power and clarity.

About Martin Audio®
Founded by audio engineer David Martin in 1971, Martin Audio pioneered the use of all-horn-loaded bass designs in world-class touring loudspeaker systems for groups such as Pink Floyd, ELP and Supertramp. Located outside of London, Martin Audio now embodies a sophisticated mix of acoustic design, research, mathematical modeling and software engineering for a wide range of products in the installation, cinema and touring sound markets.

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