A different sound reinforcement approach and re-oriented stage provided the right recipe for the AEG-Barclaycard British Summer Time festival at London’s Hyde Park, as Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones kicked off the 10-day season attracting crowds of 65,000.
Historically, Hyde Park concerts have been dogged by off-site noise problems, leading to neighborhood complaints and the need to reduce sound levels on site — meaning that the audience couldn’t hear the performances. New tenants AEG/Loud Sound chose to look to Martin Audio’s Multi-Cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) system, supplied by Capital Sound, to help solve the problem.
Knowing that its advance level of control would be the only scientifically proven system capable of maintaining an offsite level beneath the stipulated 75 dB(A) threshold, there was the equal confidence of being able to raise the levels up by as much as 6 dB from previous years to around 100 dB(A) within the audience area, ensuring that the entire audience was united in the experience.
These figures were verified by Ian Colville, technical manager of Capital Sound, who designed and supplied the complete audio infrastructure. He had praise for the MLA system that allows a site to be mapped and areas optimized for audience, non-audience and entirely “hard avoid.” As a result, neighborhood complaints were reduced to an absolute minimum.
Loud Sound had already received categorical proof of MLA’s capabilities at the 2011-2013 back-to-back Underage, Field Day and Apple Cart Festivals in Hackney’s Victoria Park, serviced by Capital Sound. Immersed in a densely populated neighborhood (as with Hyde Park), complaints about noise escapement suddenly ceased according to the event management.
This gave Loud Sound, the site managers for AEG, the evidence that MLA would be the right tool for the Hyde Park concerts.
But given the sensitivities of noise thresholds in the Royal Parks, a site simulation was first set up at Hatfield House in Herts for the promoters and acoustics consultants Vanguardia Ltd., who routinely carry out measurement and analysis at outdoor events such as this.
Colville and Martin Audio R&D director Jason Baird confirmed that this location was chosen because of its similarities in shape and size to the Hyde Park site, and evaluation took place against other systems.
The Martin Audio system is unique in its ability to place the sound only where it is required. The sound coverage pattern can be programmed into Martin Audio MLA software to help insure sound containment.
Vanguardia recorded near- and far-field measurements and asked Martin Audio to load in two different presets. which set coverage at 330 feet and 165 feet. The measured SPL data over the site was then fed into their own environmental model before giving the system the thumbs-up. Vanguardia’s experience with MLA also caused them to believe that a better off-site sound could be achieved than with a conventional system.
The other key factor in the sound threshold increase was the reorientation of the Hyde Park stage by around 30 degrees from north facing to northwest (directing it away from Park Lane). “The result is that fans positioned out at the perimeter have been able to enjoy an identical sound experience to those at the front of the stage,” states Capital Sound general manager Paul Timmins. “But walk five yards outside the soundfield and it will vanish.”