Kevin Sucher, front of house engineer for popular Canadian operatic pop foursome The Tenors, recently had a successful first experience mixing with a Martin Audio MLA Compact loudspeaker system supplied by RMB Audio (Selma, NC).
For two concerts at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, NC, Sucher utilized a house system comprised of 12 Martin Audio MLA Compact enclosures and six DSX subwoofers per side, with four MLA Mini cabinets for lip fill, all networked via U-NET. Avid VENUE Profile consoles were provided for the house and monitors.
“It was my first time and it turned out to be a very pleasurable experience,” Sucher says. “For this tour, we didn’t carry any production with us, including backline, which presents its own challenges when you’re using different equipment from city to city.
“There can be a lot iffy pairings,” he continues, “but when you have the correct rig paired with the right desk some magical things can happen and this was one of those very pleasantly surprising situations. Bottom line, the MLA system blew me away. It was really exceptional. We do many of these shows all around the world and I’ve mixed on a lot of different systems, but this was one of those rare occasions when the responsiveness and the ability to make a small change in the dynamics was amazing—3 dB really felt like 3 dB.”
“And the frequency response was fantastic, like 800 Hz was truly 800 Hz. There weren’t any of these situations where you’re trying to borrow or cut frequencies from areas you don’t want to cut, but you have to because your ears are telling you what you’re hearing isn’t correct. Every frequency was exactly where it was supposed to be.”
Mixing The Tenors is challenging because of the complex dynamics presented by having 20 to 30 string players on stage along with a 30-member choir and a five-piece band. The music is highly detailed, which demands precise dynamic control.
“I started out as a recording engineer and then became a front of house engineer many years ago so I approach live mixing in a very ‘studio’ kind of way,” Sucher explains. “Staying true to their music and recordings as closely as possible is very important, and when you have a lot of live microphones onstage it’s difficult to keep the dynamics contained.
“Adding to the challenge is the fact that The Tenors’ repertoire ranges from classical crossover all the way through different types of pop music that changes from night to night,” he adds. “As such, the speaker system needs to be very responsive and my approach to mixing them is as if they are a large pop act so I need adequate bottom end, much more than some venues they’re booked into. That wasn’t a problem with the MLA system.”
RMB Audio’s Cooper Cannady guided Sucher through the MLA Compact system’s capabilities. “Cooper is very knowledgeable about MLA and he quickly educated me how to use ‘hard avoid’ to duck the ceiling response around the 7 dB to 8 dB range so we could eliminate unwanted reflections we didn’t want in the performance, which made a noticeable difference. The flexibility to change the direction of the energy is like having extra amenities in a very sexy car. These are really well thought out additions.
“That kind of flexibility also allowed us to control feedback in situations where The Tenors performed in the audience 30 to 40 feet in front of the main hangs, which can be tricky depending on the microphones you’re using.”
Because the Memorial Auditorium is almost as wide as it is long without a true balcony and a second level of seats that begins high up far behind the front of house position, the MLA system had to be rigged much closer to the ceiling to provide proper coverage. That said, MLA’s control proved to be “a big help in terms of what was a challenging space in terms of getting real boxy-sounding.
“At this point, I could not at this point think of a better rig than the MLA system for that situation,” Sucher concludes. “I would be eager to hear it again in a more typical space. In terms of the sound for all of our shows, it was probably the highlight of the tour. A lot of people walked by after the concert and gave us thumbs up. I’d be very eager to use it again.”