MLA MINI AT VIRGIN RECORDS' 40TH ANNIVERSARY
Virgin Records celebrated its 40th anniversary with an extraordinary ten-day exhibition at London's Studio B1 recently. The event was designed to showcase the amazing talent spawned by Virgin Records over the past four decades.
Capital Sound was on hand to make sure the company that built its business on music got the audio it deserved by specifying Martin Audio's new ultra-compact and scalable MLA Mini for the first time in the main event space.
Capital's client TiRA (This is Real Art), a London based design agency, was tasked with developing a theme to showcase Virgin's 40 years of music and then roll it out across the anniversary gigs, book, exhibition and fundraiser.
Paul Timmins of Capital Sound was audio project manager, while Harm Schopman took on the role of Capital crew chief and engineer.
'The MLA Mini was amazingly effective,' says Schopman. 'A PA in a reverberant room like that shouldn't sound that good. And it also made having lavalier mics on stage workable. It sounded very natural behind the PA.'
Paul Timmins confirmed that MLA Mini entered the equation once the sound reinforcement requirement had been raised from high quality playback to full band support.
'We thought it would be a great opportunity to evaluate the system, although we were fairly nervous as the venue was an old car park - a concrete jungle with low ceilings and a low-level stage.'
Draping the building to deaden the acoustics would have raised costs significantly but Timmins knew that any reverberation could be controlled in the MLA Mini's sophisticated Display software.
Capital fielded the MLA Mini standard package - with four top boxes pole-mounted above an MSX for the presentation segments, and a Martin Audio a WS218X conventional concert sub positioned behind each mast, adding additional power and punch when bands like the Kooks and Strypes performed. For floor monitoring purposes, they provided a quantity of Martin Audio LE12J enclosures.
Paul Timmins said that the exercise 'rubber-stamped' the MLA principle - 'and the fact that the MLA Mini behaves in exactly the same way as the other MLA's.' He added, 'You can do everything in a smaller room with this system as you can in the larger spaces.
'The amount of power produced from four boxes on a pole fixed to a sub was breathtaking - and yet it's so light it can be handled by one guy.'
He said that the sonic benefits naturally led on to the economic benefits, given MLA Mini's low weight mass and tiny footprint. 'The system is ideal for small showcases, and record label events. A lot of small gigs are tightly budgeted and to be able to package a system like this that fits into a van - rather than needing to go to the additional expense of a truck - is fantastic. Each box only weighs 13 kilos each so with two stacks of four you are only looking at a total weight of around 100kg.'
Providing general system support (and software induction for Harm Schopman) were Martin Audio applications engineers, Andy Davies and Chris Pyne - while elsewhere each room was themed to a set decade in Virgin Records' history, with further Martin Audio enclosures in evidence.
Virgin quickly became one of the world's biggest independent record labels, with groundbreaking albums such as Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, and Sex Pistols' Never Mind The Bollocks that no one else wanted to touch, to more recent ventures such as Emeli Sandé, Professor Green and Naughty Boy. It is fairly certain that the face of music today would not be quite the same had it not been for Richard Branson and Virgin Records, so Capital Sound, TiRA and everyone else involved was determined to make the exhibition an event to remember.