MLA Compact debuts with Chris Rea
Having become the first UK rental company to purchase Martin Audio’s MLA loudspeaker system, RG Jones Sound Engineering is now the first to use the scaled-down version of the MLA technology – the MLA Compact, which was launched earlier in 2012.
‘I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new system,’ admits Simon Honywill, who took the opportunity to mix Chris Rea’s sound through the MLA Compact on the closing dates of his recent European and UK tour.
Assisted by system engineer Mark Edwards Honywill, instigated a seamless PA switch for the last two tour dates – at the Pavilions in his home town of Plymouth (UK) and the HMV Apollo Hammersmith, where the system was formally launched in March.While the system performed admirably in Plymouth, Honywill and Edwards, along with Martin Audio R&D Director Jason Baird, repurposed the system for the larger Hammersmith show where the impact was described by Honywill 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 adds, ‘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 optimisation at Hammersmith was nothing unusual, the balcony was notched out in the control software to remove unwanted reflections. ‘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,’ Honywill explains. ‘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.’
Using a groundstack of four Martin Audio W8LM Mini Arrays under the two main PA hangs of 12 MLA Compact elements, 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.’
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 says ‘But the appeal of a self-powered system, without separate processing and amplification, was pretty exciting.’
Having worked on Rea’s shows for the past 15 years, Honywill has historically used Martin Audio systems – generally 16 W8LC Compact boxes 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.
‘MLA is vastly superior to anything on the market and this system provides a great neutral platform to mix on,’ Honywill reports. ‘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 MLA will make its debut on the Sainsbury’s UK 2012 School Games Closing Ceremony at London Olympic Park’s Basketball Arena in May.
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