LIVING WITH MLA &NDASH; SIMON HONYWILL
As I have gracefully aged through 34 years of professional audio (OK, it probably wasn't very professional to start with, but I think I've just about got there), my perspective on what's important to me has dramatically changed. Having battered my way through the informal, non-contractual apprenticeship that was my industry training, I found out pretty much by accident that I cared about what things sounded like. Initially it was difficult to be objective when Bose 802's were the reference standard (hey, more low-end than a Vitavox horn loaded with a 100v compression driver) but there have been several points since 1979 when everything changed, expectations grew and along with them the desire to move people with sound.
To achieve this, I was prepared to work myself into the ground. I had to be involved in every aspect of every job I did – call me a control freak, call me obsessive - really I think I just wanted to be loved by everybody – but alongside loading trucks, flying systems, mixing shows, I was developing a deep appreciation of the importance of complex loudspeaker acoustics. I wanted to model every array that went into every venue, as well as doing everything else. For a while, longer than was really necessary in fact, this seemed to work, but after one particularly heavy few weeks chasing around the country after a certain Margaret Thatcher on her election campaign tour, I fell over big time, and had to have two months off.
Following that warning shot, it slowly began to occur to me that maybe I didn't have to do it all, that there were others who could work with me as part of a team, and that there were distinct advantages to being able to focus on my preferred position at front of house. It also became very clear that the right team, combined with the right equipment, could yield some seriously good results. People began to notice, reputations grew, and with that, the ability to be more demanding about what speakers I got to use on a day to day basis.
Jump forward some 25 years, and I'm sitting in the front room of my good friend Robert Lingfield. With the knowledge that his time was limited lurking in the background, he was determined to share his excitement about a revolutionary loudspeaker concept that he believed would change the game, and place Martin Audio at the top of the premier league. I never imagined that what he was telling me about would impact on my career in the way that MLA has, and I will be forever thankful to that wonderful friend for letting me in on the secret so early.
The arrival of MLA has meant that no longer do I have to worry about why the supposedly amazing sound system hung in front of me doesn't sound quite so amazing as is should – with MLA it sounds amazing every time, everywhere. I don't have to worry about fighting with production for the 'inconvenience' of putting delays in to try and ensure everybody at least has a chance of hearing a good show. I don't have to worry about the implications of the system having to be flown so high to keep sight-lines clean. I don't have to worry about the punters at the front having their ears ripped off. What I hear at front of house is what everybody in the room hears.
MLA has been the single most effective product I have ever encountered that has been specifically designed to make my life easier, at least that's how I view it. At 54 years old (tomorrow, as I write), that's important. This industry has made me tired, and when I have to fight with something to get it to sound right, I get grumpy and miserable to be around. MLA makes me smile – when I fade up a mix at the start of a show, and there is that moment of realization that this is going to be a great show, I look at Mark Edwards (my regular system engineer and close friend) and he looks at me, and we have a bit of a grin. We feel that we belong to a little bit of an exclusive club, because all the systems we've used and all the shows that we've done between us tell us that this is different, that this is special. It's a club that I have signed up for a lifelong membership of.
Simon Honywill is Front of House Engineer for Jose Carreras, Katherine Jenkins and Chris Rea.