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Britannia Row Productions Takes L-Acoustics on Tour with Sam Smith

Sam Smith performs at Brixton Academy in London.

Since his breakthrough in 2012, the career of singer/songwriter Sam Smith has skyrocketed from relative unknown to household name. This year the four-time Grammy winner embarked on a world tour; sound provider for the UK and Europe was Britannia Row. With the tour playing a wide range of venue sizes, the company turned to L-Acoustics for a K1 and K2 sound system.

Britannia Row’s systems engineer for the tour, Adam Smith (no relation to Sam Smith), explains, “We were doing arenas like the Brussels Forest National or the Amsterdam Ziggo Dome, and the next night, scaling down to theaters, academy-sized and even club shows. Capacities literally ranged from 10,000 to a few hundred, so it was a challenge.”

Front-of-house engineer Simon Thomas says,“I go back to the V-DOSC days and I absolutely loved that system, I thought it was amazing. Nowadays there are a range of boxes by L-Acoustics, and that was important in terms of our needs for different sizes of venues. And since we were traveling between continents, we were able to maintain consistency because we knew we could get L-Acoustics products anywhere in the world.”

Britannia Row supplied both L-Acoustics K1 and K2, with K1 as the primary system and K2 elements at the ready to satisfy the weight restrictions in some venues, or—as was the case for London’s Brixton Academy—as a truly “split” configuration.

“Brixton was a slightly unusual setup in that it was a split system. It effectively ignored the rulebook, but in that particular acoustic space was a good solution,” says Adam Smith.  “The idea was to minimize mid- and high-frequency reflections from the balcony face and the side walls.

“We delivered audio to two audience areas, with individual systems for each—downstairs left-right and upstairs left-right, which meant there was no energy hitting the balcony front. One thing I really liked about splitting the system was that we could keep downstairs L/R in very close proximity for Simon mixing FOH, as well as for the audience.”

Front-of-house engineer Simon Thomas

With the downstairs system flown from the “traditional” house P.A. points and the upstairs system from the front lighting truss and an additional spreader truss, the Brixton setup comprised five K1 and two K2 per side for the downstairs system, with four K1 and two K2 per side covering upstairs, the latter in 110-degree mode to give off-axis coverage at the front of the balcony.

Subs were six ground-stacked SB28 per side in cardioid mode, with four K1-SB flown as a center hang off the spreader truss and a low profile frontfill of Kiva. All amplification was L-Acoustics LA8s, fitted with AES cards, running at 96 kHz and fed via Lake LM 26 processors, an LM 44 signal distribution system and Dante.

“I used some extended FIR filters, really to tailor the system to Simon’s preferences; if it worked for him, it worked for us,” says Adam Smith. “Basic EQ was done within LA Network Manager and then contour EQ to suit Simon’s requirements.”

“K1 has some of the character of V-DOSC, but it’s a lot clearer. In big spaces I think it’s great, probably the most transparent of all the systems out there at the moment,” says Thomas. “But Brixton was a good example of where it would have been really hard to do with other systems that don’t have the range of boxes and seamless integration that L-Acoustics has.”

“With K2 you’ve got another tool in the box,” Adam Smith adds. “When integrated with K1, there are so many different applications it’s almost endless. In a situation like this tour, where the engineer primarily wanted K1 and the energy of the 15-inch drivers, but we were limited by weight restrictions upstairs, the K2s were essential.

“We had consistently good results throughout the tour. I was putting up as much K1 as I was physically allowed, complementing it with K2 and was really good.” 

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