In October, Martin Audio’s MLA Mini stepped out onto the world stage in its first commercial outing, and took on one of the most challenging venues around. The event was the annual conference of the UK retail giant, SPAR, and the venue was Westpoint, otherwise known to those in the sound community as a "soulless shed," just off the M5 in Exeter.
While Westpoint offers acres of space for trucks, and therefore easy load in, the venue itself, originally designed for the trading of Devon’s finest livestock, is known for having a reverberation time of at least 7 seconds. With MLA and MLA Compact having taken on and tamed some of the most challenging spaces in the globe, MLA Mini had an enviable reputation to uphold.
The pressure was further compounded because this event is a major cornerstone in the calendar of Plymouth based Pyramid AV, under the directorship of Nic Black. The production team at Pyramid have been producing events for SPAR for some years now, and there is a deep-rooted measure of trust between client and supplier of the sort that doesn’t need a new piece of technology coming along and screwing things up.
Armed with 24 brand new MLA Mini, six MSX subs and three flying frames, the challenge fell to front of house engineer, Simon Honywill and Applications Engineer for Martin Audio, Andy Davies.
The system was deployed in three hangs, with two main purposes––one was full range, intelligible coverage of speech and music for the seated conference area at one end of the hall, and the other was coverage of the entire hall for general announcements throughout an exhibition––measuring approximately 260 x 160 feet. Simon and Andy opted for an 8 deep, left/right configuration for the conference, which was flown upstage of a thrust where all presentations would take place, and a central third hang of 8, approximately 100 ft. out into the hall. The third hang was optimized to cover approximately 165 ft. to the far end of the hall, and the left/right was loaded with two optimizations, one to cover just the seated conference and the second to work with the central hang to cover the entire hall.
Did it work? Simon was enthusiastic in his praise. “I would go so far as to say that Westpoint has never sounded so good. It was actually gorgeous to behold. This little system has something that I have never heard in a small format line array before, real depth and control across the entire spectrum, and a genuine ability to throw some distance. It is warm, smooth and extremely well behaved, requiring little or no EQ on all the head mics, except for a bit of LF roll-off. There was loads of gain before feedback, and I was actually enjoying the very simple task of mixing a little playback, speech and VT––everything sat just right.”
Indeed, MLA Mini exhibited all the qualities of the ideal system for any organization involved in the corporate world. Apart from sounding really beautiful, it flies, goes on a stand, is light, small, looks really tidy and you can guarantee great coverage and masses of gain before feedback. As Simon added, “Problem voices will be a thing of the past as you can open up mics like never before, even with some of the top end conventional small format systems. I would recommend it to anybody who takes their corporate work seriously.”
Having the final word was Nic Black, who had everything to lose from this outing: “Having the Mini MLA system at Westpoint this year reaffirmed that it is possible to have beautiful sound in a challenging space. It was a great opportunity to have demonstrated the simple fact that well engineered audio can enhance the experience of the listener. We have had much positive and complimentary feedback regarding the sound and it was without doubt the best we have had.”
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