The ‘80s-themed musical Rock of Ages that’s popular on Broadway and in Las Vegas is now also on tour in the UK through November.
London-based Autograph Sound is the tour’s live sound provider, and Chris Full, sound designer at Creative Sound Design, is the associate sound designer for the show. He selected Harman’s JBL Professional AXYS loudspeakers to meet highly specific requirements.
“We have a ruthless touring schedule throughout the UK,” Full says. “Weekly touring in the UK is an art form—with limited truck access and the vastly different size and shape of the venues, from under 1,000 seats to nearly 3,000. It’s challenging.”
The show has an elaborate wraparound set that has walls across the back of the stage and up each side, and many loudspeakers integrated into the set itself. “We can’t start to build the onstage audio system until the set is completed, which leaves us with an even tighter timeline than usual to put the sound system together,” Full explains. “So we needed a system that could be set up quickly with easy rigging and be seamlessly integrated into each venue without calling attention to itself visually or restricting audience sightlines—while delivering very loud and proud rock and roll sound levels.”
The JBL AXYS configuration is comprised of six Scope T-2115G2 15-inch 3-way loudspeakers, six Scope T-2112G2 12-inch 3-way speakers, 16 Flex U-14G2 and two Flex U-12G2 compact 2-way speakers plus four UB-25 15-inch vented direct-radiating subwoofers.
“We used a JBL AXYS rig for the London stage production prior to the tour with excellent results,” he notes, “so we knew it would work well sonically for the tour production, but we had to make some changes and adaptations to accommodate the quick setup and teardown required.”
Full adds that because the music is such a crucial, central element to Rock of Ages, the sound quality has to be nothing less than exceptional. “The audio is at high-volume rock and roll SPL but there’s also a lot of detail and subtlety that needs to be reproduced, as well as dialog clarity. So the biggest challenge of the design was achieving a system that packed a lot of punch but also provided that high level of detail.”
The point-source design of the AXYS loudspeakers furthers the required clarity and focused coverage, in Full’s estimation, while taking up a minimum of space and keeping rigging time down. “So many UK venues are like miniature opera houses, very ornate theaters where you find you have to make a concerted effort to deliver high-quality audio but without disturbing the appearance if these older, beautiful structures.”
He concludes: “We’re very pleased with the way the touring production of Rock of Ages sounds and the audience reaction has been fantastic. The attributes of the JBL AXYS loudspeakers, especially the ability to shape their sonic performance and coverage via DSP are tailor-made for a show like this.”