MARTIN AUDIO TAKES MLA EDUCATION ON THE ROAD
Abu Dhabi the latest location for 'real world' demo of system optimisations.
Martin Audio recently decided to take education to the masses, embarking on a 'seminar tour' in the Middle East in support of its new award-winning MLA (Multicellular Loudspeaker Array) system. Distributed in the region by Richard Maunder's VTi, MLA has already made an auspicious debut - courtesy of Almoe AV Productions - reinforcing a concert by the Jackson Family.
Martin Audio is just one company that recognises the benefit of onsite training, and recently took a rig up the Sheikh Zayed Road from Dubai to the fashionable Yas Island - home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - where sound technicians took the opportunity for some real world exposure to the system.
'We've discovered since the launch of MLA that a direct approach is by far the best way to get the message across,' says Simon Bull, Martin Audio's director of sales. 'You can do whatever you want with websites and printed material but unless you can focus one-to-one, explain the technology and then prove it in a listening test, you're not going to get the message across.'
Of course, it also give Martin Audio the opportunity to support local partners - in this case UAE representative VTi. 'Our distributors find the support extremely valuable,' notes the sales director. 'One of our recent successes was in Hungary. We went to Budapest because there are a lot of Eastern European distributors that don't have the facility to stage their own demonstration. These exercises cost a lot of money - and there are not necessarily many prospects in each of the countries - but by centrally placing a roadshow in Budapest, and inviting lots of engineers and technicians, as well as distributors, it was thoroughly worthwhile.'
When it took over the du Forum on Abu Dhabi's Yas island at the end of 2012, it was the first opportunity for most sound engineers in the Middle East to hear the system for the first time. 'Having done these presentations elsewhere in the world we noticed there was a glaring hole in the middle where the system had not been represented,' reflects Simon. 'The decision to come to Abu Dhabi was taken in view of the resurgence in building projects here, coupled with vibrant live music activity. There are some fairly key rental companies based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.'
Martin Audio decided to take a split approach to prove the system's lofty claims. They used recorded music to demonstrate the different optimisations capable from MLA. On top of this, local U2 tribute act Vertigo were on hand to perform and give the engineers a chance to mix the system live.
'About 50 per cent of the demos we've conducted have featured a live band as well as pre-recorded music. You have to have confidence in the band and the engineer, but it works,' continues the Martin Audio director. 'I think to do all the optimisations and let people wander around, with the stability of the pre-recorded material, is great. But of course the rouging community is interested in what it sounds like with a band playing through it.
'When we do have a live band, we encourage visiting engineers to mix on the system and get them to understand that when they make a small adjustment on the desk you can really hear the difference with MLA. They can see that [the change] is inherent in the system and not the result of us spending days on end preparing.
And Martin Audio aren't adverse to showing some of the magic and trickery that MLA can deliver. 'For instance, depending on the space, we play with the optimisations of the system so we can cut out bits of seating, put holes in, 'hard avoid' on the stage so that it sounds really quiet. In Abu Dhabi we switched off all the optimisations to treat the system like a conventional line array. When the room 'took over' you could hear just how horrible the sound had become. You put the optimisations back in and suddenly you're back in control.'
'We chose this location because the venue is just so acoustically challenging,' adds VTi's Richard Maunder. 'It's the only venue of its type in the UAE and it was the obvious place to stage this demo as nobody else has had success in here at all. Everything has sounded muddy and confused, even when the place is full – the acoustics just take over. The MLA has proved a point. Even with an empty venue there is only a couple of per cent of the reverb that is still showing.'
While this was an educational event designed to prove to the local industry what MLA could do, the expense involved in running these events meant that there had to be a sales element to it too. 'We have to generate revenue because we're a business,' Simon Bull concedes. 'But what it does for your brand profile, particularly in a place like the UAE, is to raise it considerably.'
Demonstrations such as this will always contain a certain sales component - but educating potential users is the logical first step towards this. The roadshow model can also be a successful way to get engineers and technicians to learn about system capabilities, and Martin Audio, for one, is convinced that it provides multiple benefits.