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Martin Audio MLA Boosts Brixton Academy For Rock Legends

When Brixton Academy was built in art deco style during the cinema boom of the late 1920s, it never expected to be hosting high-octane rock bands like Chickenfoot (led by former Van Halen legend Sammy Hagar).

Ghosts of Brixton’s cinema past remain within this Grade II-listed building, and the bulging balcony facade has proved the downfall of many a sound system, returning the firepower off the stage and bouncing the sound waves back at the band.

But Martin Audio was able to pull off a rare feat when their Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) made its debut there (via Capital Sound).

To the amazement of FOH engineer Michael ‘Ace’ Baker, Martin Audio‘s R&D Director Jason Baird and system tech Mark Edwards simply notched out this chunk of the coverage pattern in the dedicated optimization software.

“Chickenfoot is one of the loudest bands that have played through the system, so we stood onstage and switched the MLA’s DSP from a setting that didn’t notch it out to one that did, using the tablet PC over the WiFi link,” explained Baird. The difference was plain to hear, with an obvious reduction in reflections off that deep balcony front.

Ace Baker had wanted to pilot the MLA since hearing it in demo Las Vegas last summer. Knowing that his monitor engineer Jim Jorgensen was about to join Martin Audio he applied pressure; so that by the time production arrived in Brixton, there were nine MLA elements and an MLD Downfill ready to be rigged each side, with six MLX’s ground stacked on either flank.

“I had been hugely impressed with MLA and could see the math behind it, but there’s only so much you can learn under demonstration conditions. I had to get the system out there,” declared Ace.

“Some people were doubting whether this was a true rock ‘n’ roll box––but this is one of the most rocking boxes I have ever mixed through. In fact it is a true concert arena PA, capable of producing a ‘big’ PA sound rather than just pumping out pure volume. I noticed it particularly around the kick drums and toms and yet I’m barely tickling it, there’s just so much headroom.”

He was also amazed that despite the consistency of coverage in the house, none of it was blowing back at the band onstage. “That’s what got me so excited. Initially, all that computer stuff looked like something I wouldn’t be able to handle, but then Mark showed me how simple it was––all you need to be able to do is measure correctly and you are done.”

Baker says that MLA has given him the freedom to exploit “extra places where it can go, the incredible spatial and panning effects that I was running through.”

The engineer started working with rock legend Sammy Hagar four years ago––who in this configuration was fronting a top line-up comprising Joe Satriani (guitars), Michael Anthony (bass, vocals) and drummer Kenny Aronoff (filling in for Chad Smith, who was off with the Red Hot Chili Peppers).

At Brixton, he was able to mix the sound flat on a Yamaha PM5D and that, according to Mark Edwards, is because MLA sets itself up to produce a neutral, balanced sound. “Because the system is so responsive to system EQ, if there’s a bit too much sub in the room it is easy to notch a tiny bit out.”

Edwards also commended Martin Audio’s Display predictive software. “The Drag & Drop approach to loading the optimization is as transparent as it could possibly be and at Brixton I was surprised how little room interaction there was. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the sound.”

As was ‘Ace’ Baker who has now publicly stated that MLA has become his ‘go to’ PA.

“There are a lot of good systems out there but only a few have been truly groundbreaking;” Baker concludes. “Right now, this is the one that has everyone talking about it.

“There will be a lot of touring ahead this year and MLA is the system I want to use from now on.”

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About MLA™ (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array)
The result of many years of intensive R&D, MLA’s methodology replaces trial-and-error array design with intelligent numerical optimization of the array’s output based on a highly accurate acoustic model. The multi-cellular format has six individual cells in each enclosure, each with its own DSP and amplification.

With up to 24 enclosures, each MLA array has up to 144 cells — too great a number to optimize manually, or by ear. Instead, Martin Audio’s proprietary Display2™ system design software automatically calculates FIR DSP filters for each cell and a redundant-ring audio network (U-NET™) downloads the settings into each array enclosure. Martin Audio’s VU-NET™ software provides real-time control and monitoring of the system.

MLA delivers a frequency response and SPL consistency never before achievable; a very high system output (140dB peak, per cabinet @1m); Automatic optimization of the array, both physically (splay angles) and electronically (DSP); Computer control and monitoring of the entire system, and total control of sound system balance for engineers and sound technicians.

MLA is fully integrated, with Class D amplification, DSP and U-NET digital audio network built into each enclosure. MLA complete systems are ready-to-use, with MLA, MLD and MLX enclosures, flying hardware, software, cabling and training all supplied. Everything needed is included. All ancillary items — from tablet PC and Merlin™ controller to network interconnects and mains distro — are also included in the complete system package. This ensures full compatibility worldwide, down to cabling and accessories.

Additional features include 90° x 7.5° dispersion; a compact size (1136mm wide x 372mm high x 675mm deep), one-box-fits-all (festivals to theaters) application range and a global voltage, power factor corrected power supply.

MLA’s compact size and very high output allows it to be shipped using smaller trucks, offering considerable savings and reduced carbon footprint. The system also includes the MLX powered, flyable subwoofer capable of an unprecedented measured peak output of 150dB @ 1m; MLD downfill cabinet, and Merlin 4-in/10-out system controller and network hub. Audio input is via analog, AES3 or U-NET.

By adopting these principles and system components MLA is optimized for every member of the audience — from a 2,000 capacity theater, to a 20,000-seat arena, to a 100,000-person festival site. It will deliver the engineer’s exact mix to every seat (up to over 150 meters) with precision, exceptional power and clarity.

About Martin Audio®
Founded by audio engineer David Martin in 1971, Martin Audio pioneered the use of all-horn-loaded bass designs in world-class touring loudspeaker systems for groups such as Pink Floyd, ELP and Supertramp. Located outside of London, Martin Audio now embodies a sophisticated mix of acoustic design, research, mathematical modeling and software engineering for a wide range of products in the installation, cinema and touring sound markets.