Martin Audio MLA Passes Olympic Torch Relay Test
As a presenting partner of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, Coca Cola has been staging special concerts at five locations across the country featuring live performances from some of the UK's top music artists. These celebrations have coincided with the journey of the Olympic Flame as it travels around the country while also honoring the achievements of local Future Flames -- inspirational teens selected by Coca Cola to become Olympic Torchbearers for London 2012.
RG Jones Sound Engineering has provided audio production support at all but the London event with their newly acquired Martin Audio Multicellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) system.
Under the project management of Steve Carr, they fielded PA hangs and control in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, and Leeds, helping to enhance such headline acts as The Wanted, Friendly Fires, Eliza Doolittle, Dizzee Rascal, and You Me At Six -- and a special guest appearance by Emeli Sandé at two of the events.
The company was working alongside a production company specializing in branded musical festivals -- and technical director Ben Price of WNY, with whom they have collaborated on high profile events in the past.
Carr confirmed that the acquisition of their new MLA system had conveniently coincided with winning this contract. "It then became a no brainer to launch it on these shows," he said. "With high profile bands appearing at each event, it was an opportunity to showcase it to a number of front-of-house engineers, all of whom wanted to experience this pioneering system ... and we received great response back."
One of the most positive front-of-house engineers was Andrew Thornton, who mixed The Wanted's sound to up to 20,000 people gathered at Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park.
Thornton's first encounter with MLA had been at the Roundhouse iTunes Festival back in 2010 (with Pixie Lott) but working outdoors gave him a whole new perspective. "MLA stands in comparison with the best I have used," he confirmed. "It was very impressive ... particularly how much low end there was in the main array. It sounded modern, clean, and hi-fi -- and it stood up particularly well to the wind, which is always a challenge. I put my Profile show file straight into the system and the mix required almost no EQ."
RG Jones fielded an identical main PA configuration at all four sites, with 14 elements of MLA each side of the stage. In Birmingham -- where Sir Cliff Richard handed over the Olympic Torch to Kiran Sahota -- they also fielded six Martin Audio W8LC outfills and a delay mast with eight W8LCs set back 393' -- highlighting another great feature of this groundbreaking system. The ability to create a coherent soundfield that drops in level by a mere 3dB over that kind of distance is unprecedented, and has very favorable implications for promoters when considering the impact of delay towers on audience areas.
In fact such was the throw distance of MLA on a site that stretched back around 656', that it rendered the delay position almost redundant.
RG Jones also fielded 14 MLX subs in broadside configuration along the stage apron, split into two pairs of seven to allow steps up the center of the stage for the Olympic torchbearer.
"Having the subs in this configuration gave us greater width -- and great projection," summarized Carr. "I was also very surprised by the throw distance of the MLA itself -- I simply didn't believe such a smooth sound was possible over that distance. We checked at 393' and 492', and it maintained its body, detail, and structure with no variation."
"We were averaging around 98-100dB over 15 minutes -- which delivered both the front-of-house engineers' and audience expectations and provided us with the opportunity to put the system through its paces outside," Carr added.
The Birmingham show (as with the others) presented a versatile program to test the system, ranging from street dance to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, R&B artist Loick Essien, and rock band Morning Parade, before the arrival of the Torch and closure by The Wanted.
With Mark Edwards, now a seasoned MLA system tech, plotting the curves, Carr said he was always confident that the high expectations would be delivered. "This meant achieving consistent, even, high quality coverage -- which the MLA did."
"I'm consistently impressed by its performance and more and more convinced by the power and quality," he concluded. "The first time I heard [MLA] outdoors it felt very different. When I started to listen to instruments through it I suddenly noticed the detail that I wouldn't normally have had my attention drawn to ... the sensation of listening with my eyes closed was like listening to a set of nearfield monitors!"