MLA COMPACT KEEPS SOUND INSIDE AMPHITHEATER
RMB Audio Uses System To Stay Within Rigorous City Noise Limits.
The Red Hat Amphitheater is located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina with the stage facing a large convention center covered with reflective surfaces located next to a parking deck. Just a few blocks to the rear of the stage are residential neighborhoods.
Home to a summer-long series of concerts, Red Hat is obviously a challenging environment for shows in terms of controlling noise levels. Cooper Cannady of RMB Audio in Raleigh has produced several shows there and knows those problems all too well: 'The city contracted a large study at multiple sites around the venue and came up with an SPL limitation of maximum 95dB SPL for one minute at given test points. And that's tough when you're doing a show there. Someone like Dylan is manageable, but Smashing Pumpkins and a Snoop Dogg performance is a real challenge to the sound ordinance.
Fortunately, RMB used their Martin Audio MLA Compact system for a recent show featuring American Aquarium, Cravin Melon and the Chris Hendricks band. As Cooper explains, 'We put our MLA Compact rig in there and made a presentation to the city how the system's new software algorithms functioned. We wanted to bring the sound closer to the audience, avoid the reflections from the building and back it off at the stop points we had selected.
'So we kept working on the sound with the software and finally got it to where there's no reflection coming off the building. Only people with the MLA Compact can get that kind of control. Everyone else is going to have sound washing over those surfaces and throw it everywhere.
'The wonderful part about MLA is that the coherence of the system actually makes it sound louder than the SPL meter says it is,' Cooper adds, 'which is a real benefit for the audience and the promoters. The city told us we couldn't have any flags at the 95dB test point and we were able to do that without any problems whatsoever.'
RMB Audio's setup for the show consisted of 12 MLA Compact enclosures per side, with six DSX subs a side stacked on the wings of the stage. The side fills consisted of two Martin Audio W8Ts and two WS218 subs a side, with WS18X subs for drums, and four W8LMs for lip-fills across the front of the stage. LE1200s were used for on stage monitoring.
Engineer Wayne Sowder was also impressed: 'Roger Dennis of RMB put me on the FOH Console for Cravin Melon, and it was my first chance to mix on the MLA Compact. It was unlike any system I've ever mixed on––incredible clarity yet very natural, warm sounding and powerful. The software was also a major plus in helping the system techs refine the system performance based on temperature and humidity in the venue as well as changing the start and stop points without re-hanging boxes. It's a very powerful tool in the hands of skilled technicians.'
Summing up, Cooper adds, 'The city thought the MLA Compact system sounded excellent and that the system was consistent throughout the audience area and had greatly reduced SPL beyond the audience space. I sent one of my staff with a representative from the city with an SPL meter across the street from the park and the sound was diving 10 to 15dB. And if they walked a little further out, the decrease in SPL continued. Once that happened, they actually got it.
'The MLA Compact has been a lifesaver for this venue. This is the answer for an urban area with residences in close proximity. We've been able to make everybody happy––the audience, the acts, the city and the neighborhood. MLA has been a real unifying experience. Not many people can deal with those kinds of restrictions and say they did OK, and we did smashingly well.'