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Martin Audio MLA Meets The Challenge Of Alfie Boe’s “Serenata”

A Martin Audio MLA system was recently deployed by Capital Sound for for popular tenor Alfie Boe’s "Serenata" at the O2 Arena in London.

Alfie Boe’s Serenata tour recently arrived at the O2 Arena in London where the popular tenor and actor was supported by a 5-piece band, a 16-piece orchestra, the New Zealand musical trio Sol3 Mio and a powerful Martin Audio MLA Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array, provided by Capital Sound.

Mixing the sound at FOH was experienced producer/engineer, Matteo Cifelli (owner of Fastermaster Studio) assisted by system tech, Joseph Pearce.

With 86 inputs at the console (including 80 mic channels), there was plenty to challenge the sound team as Boe worked through an Italian-based romantic repertoire, assisted in one instance by Rick Wakeman on keyboards. But once again MLA passed the test with flying colors.

The same sound team had just come off a six-month stint with Il Divo, who shares the same management (Vector) as Alfie Boe, and Pearce had taken the opportunity to tweak the design in order to optimize the sound and further improve rear rejection.

Part of this optimization included providing 11 slim F8+ enclosures from Martin Audio’s Blackline+ series as lip fills along the stage front, while also specifying a pair of the equally unobtrusive DD12 (Differential Dispersion) horns on either side of the stage. This certainly met the approval of Cap’s project manager, Robin Conway, who described the speaker as “a really supercharged [Martin Audio] W2,” adding, “these fill in all the near outfills, and because they are powered, you can put them on the network, which is a huge bonus.”

He added that the deployment of the F8+s perfectly filled the triangle of seating immediately in front of the stage.

The main PA hangs were based around 14 MLA elements (plus two MLD Downfills) each side, with side hangs of 10 MLA.

Although the show was virtually all acoustic, and hardly dependent on LF overkill, Joseph Pearce had set four MLX along the front—left, right and a split pair in the center—while flying a further eight (four each side), with the top and bottom enclosures in each hang rear facing.

As for Cifelli, he names MLA as one of his favorite systems, having first encountered it during British Summertime at Hyde Park last summer (where he was mixing Sir Tom Jones), while later, at the Hong Kong Convention Center he was amazed to discover that just 12 enclosures a side would throw a distance of 330 ft. He had no hesitation in requesting MLA for this tour, particularly after such a long and positive experience with Il Divo.

“It was a logical choice,” he said. “I was confident we could achieve the perfect vocal sound and the clarity required for the orchestra.

“Tom Jones had sounded brilliant through MLA. Alfie has a more powerful and complicated voice––but thanks to the use of multiband compression the vocal never becomes harsh as it does through other systems, which just don’t sound as good.”

The challenge had been to shape the voice to deliver warmth and presence via the EQ in the face of loud stage monitoring. The vocal then had to nestle in the midst of a conventional band but with the addition of a 100 year old Dulcitone and accordion, and the orchestra when it came in.

“With the changes we have made the PA now sounds absolutely great, and the subs are also impressive,” he notes. “It’s now completely silent behind the hangs.

“One of the best qualities of the PA is that I can get the sound I’m looking for straight away. It reacts very well to the way I EQ instruments and I find it is an extremely musical PA that throws huge distances without losing any detail. The clarity at 200 to 260 ft. is fantastic.”

The sound team agrees that the new [reverse] sub configuration is also much more practical. “There’s a much better transient response and the MLX’s display superb rear rejection while still packing loads of impact.”

The show was driven all-digitally all the way to the speaker boxes via AES3, from Matteo Cifelli’s Avid D-Show and sidecar, with all five DSP card slots fully populated, which made the signal path noiseless. An EQ station, used as a master EQ and compressor, was the only sign of outboard dynamics.

But the final word comes from Joseph Pearce. “To have produced a self-powered, networked speaker system, with some serious companion software, has been a big step up for Martin Audio. The idea of this system is awesome––and it’s definitely the future.”

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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.