Although Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers have certainly seen their share of North American roads over the past three and a half decades, the group hit the road again in 2012 for a tour which included its first run of European shows in 20 years.
Despite the change of scenery, one thing that remained constant throughout the trek was the use of an L-Acoustics K1 loudspeaker system specified by Petty and The Heartbreakers’ longtime FOH engineer, Robert Scovill.
Preceded by a headlining slot at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as well as another brief North American sweep, the European leg kicked off at the 02 Arena in Dublin on June 7 and visited nine countries throughout the remainder of the month.
As usual, Escondido, California-based Sound Image served as the primary tour sound provider for both the domestic and international legs. Shipping FOH/monitor control systems and backline overseas for the UK, European and Scandinavian run, Sound Image elected to call upon fellow network provider Adlib Audio of Liverpool, England to supply the loudspeakers, amplifiers and some additional crew for the three-week jaunt.
Bumping up the overall speaker count a bit on this leg to accommodate several 360-degree shows, Petty’s typical arena rig consisted of left and right arrays of 14 K1 plus three KARA downfills per side, each paired with an adjacent hang of eight K1-SB subs for LF.
A center array of 12 KUDO was flown between the K1s for true LCR reinforcement, with up to 40 additional KUDO deployed as auxiliary arrays to expand horizontal coverage to the 270-degree mark and beyond.
For front-fill, the crew deployed an LCR ground system incorporating five stacks of dV-DOSC and dV-SUB cabinets. L-Acoustics LA8 amplifiers drove all systems, and system/room equalization and time manipulation of the arrays was accomplished via LA Network Manager.
“I’ve been doing 50-percent divergent LCR with line source – specifically L-Acoustics line source – with Tom and The Heartbreakers for 15 years now,” notes Scovill, a Parnelli Award and six-time TEC Award winner. “When I began, it was with V-DOSC, which is still an extremely viable system.
“For me, the places where K1 shines lay primarily in an expanded and more consistent horizontal coverage coupled with a more open and higher-resolution dynamic response. In addition, there were considerable improvements in rigging and scalability of the K1 and K1-SB arrays. All of these concepts were very desirable for me as both mixer and engineer.
“Over time, we’ve become more adept with the SOUNDVISION design software and have come to have a great deal of trust in it if we are very conscientious of the data we put into it.
“Also, the latest version of the Network Manager software is a marked improvement from the initial release and has made management of the amplifiers and control much more fluid.
“All of these things combined allow the day-to-day workflow to be more concise and comprehensive, so when you couple them up with a great band and some great mixes, we have some truly fantastic results. The reviews of our European shows – specifically London’s Royal Albert Hall, a notoriously difficult environment logistically and acoustically – are indications of just how empowering these improvements can be on the end result.
“The bottom line is that I absolutely love the L-Acoustics product line and people at the company,” Scovill adds. “It’s rare that you meet and interact with manufacturers’ representatives the caliber of Scott Sugden in the US or Florent Bernard in France that are super-helpful and really know what they are doing within the context that you work on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s also great to have access to Dr. Christian Heil for meaningful conversations about the technology and speaker topologies moving forward and how they might impact your day-to-day challenges. It’s odd to think about it, but for the first time since I started using V-DOSC in the late ’90s, I actually got to go to the factory in Paris and hang out for a bit. It just reinforced that my choice of speaker systems is the right one. Yeah, I’m a fan.”