American ‘supergroup’ Chickenfoot, led by former Van Halen man Sammy Hagar, recently took to the stage at London’s Brixton Academy, with Martin Audio’s Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) specified to tackle the venue’s notoriously challenging acoustics.
Built back in the late 1920s, the Grade II-listed building’s bulging balcony fascia has proved the downfall of many a sound system over the years, returning the fire power off the stage, and bouncing the sound waves back at the band.
However, to the surprise of FOH engineer Michael ‘Ace’ Baker, Martin Audio‘s Jason Baird and system tech, Mark Edwards were able to notch out this chunk of the coverage pattern in the dedicated optimisation software.
“Chickenfoot is one of the loudest bands that have played through the system, so we stood onstage and switched the MLA’s DSP from a setting that didn’t notch it out to one that did, using the tablet PC over the WiFi link,” explained Martin Audio’s R&D director.
Baker had wanted to pilot the MLA since hearing it in demo in Las Vegas last summer. Knowing that his monitor engineer Jim Jorgensen was set to join Martin Audio he applied pressure, so that by the time production arrived in Brixton there were nine MLA elements and an MLD Downfill ready to be rigged each side, with six MLX’s ground stacked on either flank.
“I had been hugely impressed with MLA and could see the math behind it, but there’s only so much you can learn under demonstration conditions. I had to get the system out there,” declared Baker.
“Some people were doubting whether this was a true rock ‘n’ roll box, but this is one of the most rocking boxes I have ever mixed through. In fact it is a true concert arena PA, capable of producing a ‘big’ PA sound rather than just pumping out pure volume. I noticed it particularly around the kick drums and toms and yet I’m barely tickling it, there’s just so much headroom.”
He was also amazed that despite the consistency of coverage in the house, none of it was blowing back at the band onstage. “That’s what got me so excited. Initially, all that computer stuff looked like something I wouldn’t be able to handle, but then Mark showed me how simple it was — all you need to be able to do is measure correctly and you are done.”