Martin Audio MLA Goes Above And Beyond At London’s Alexandra Palace

Capital Sound recently overcame the notoriously challenging acoustics of London’s Alexandra Palace with help from Martin Audio MLA Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) technology for a live show and radio broadcast by dance music trio Above & Beyond Group Therapy.

Capital Sound account manager Martin Connolly notes, “The Great Hall is a beautiful space; but when it was built in 1873, no one ever envisaged that the building would need to play host to the high volume of a modern day concert. Unfortunately, the amazing domed glass roof is only a minimal barrier to sound propagation.”

Martin Audio R&D director Jason Baird adds, “Just think of a marble and glass shoebox, 130 feet wide, 52 feet high and 278 feet deep.”

Above & Beyond, who operate both full band and DJ set-ups (but in this case were operating in the latter mode), had wanted to use MLA, and when they brought in Loudsound’s Dan Craig, he readily agreed, having worked successfully with MLA during the Field Day and deadmau5 shows at Hackney’s Victoria Park, as a precursor to this summer’s Hyde Park British Summertime Festival.

Capital Sound technical manager Ian Colville immediately set to work on designing the system, with Baird providing support. “We have used Martin Audio W8LC’s here in the past, but whatever system we’ve used, it has always required delays,” Colville says. “This time we felt it was time to put our faith in MLA and do away with delays.”

For both Craig and promoters Lock ‘N’ Load Events, the decision was vindicated. Craig reported that by operating to a 98 dB threshold inside, production didn’t receive a single noise complaint.

Yet the greatest ‘illusion’ was inside the venue, where by cleverly mapping the venue to optimize and ‘hard avoid’ selected areas, the clarity of the signal gave a distinct impression that the various DJs were playing a whole lot louder. And with the venue once again hosting a steady flow of events, with Capital Sound as one of their main service providers, this could prove significant.

“We had observed this characteristic from day 1,” states Colville. “If a venue is completely resonant free then the sound appears louder.”

While the complete system design is conceived ahead, the system tech will always make late adjustments on the fly, he said, such as towing in the PA a fraction. In this case once production got on site, they found the venue was not quite as long as drawings had indicated and so certain measurements needed to be re-evaluated.

The system tech on this occasion was Toby Donovan, who worked as the MLA tech on the successful Hyde Park concerts. “I have never encountered a system quite as clever as MLA,” he says. “But you still have to use common-sense in the physical world.”

For this show the L/R system was rigged with 11 MLA elements per side (atop a single MLD Downfill) with two W8C per side for out fills and eight W8LM as front fills. The PA was flown fairly high (with slight downward tilt) but then towed in marginally to keep it off the walls, using Delta plates and three motors per hang.

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“We only needed about 1 degree to avoid distracting reflections; it’s what we would generally do in noise sensitive venues,” notes Donovan. “We also needed to minimize spill all round—the rear rejection with this system is really good.”

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