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Capital Sound to tackle Hyde Park with MLA

Capital Sound will deliver a huge Martin Audio MLA rig to the AEG-promoted series of concerts in London's famous park this summer, in an effort to stymie noise complaint issues which blighted some of last year's performances.

Capital Sound will be working with promoter AEG to supply audio equipment for the July series of concerts in Hyde Park in 2013. Aiming to bring improved sound control to the central London performance space – mired in noise pollution and curfew issues last year – the rental house will be deploying a huge Martin Audio Multicellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) for the gigs, which include turns by Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones.

DiGiCo digital consoles will be used as the resident boards at the FOH and monitor positions.

“For us, there’s a lot of similarity to Glastonbury a few years ago, where the spotlight was on the audio, but not because the supplier had done anything wrong: it’s more about the changing situation with noise [levels] and what people expect [to hear] at the perimeter of outdoor shows,” says Capital Sound’s Paul Timmins, speaking exclusively to PSNEurope at the Prolight + Sound show last week (pictured).

Promoter AEG, who took over the concert series from Live Nation last year, agreed with the Royal Parks to cut the number of large scale events in Hyde Park to just six, following complaints from locals about noise and damage to the environment. Bruce Springsteen’s park appearance generated huge headlines after Live Nation silenced his duet with Paul McCartney because the 10.30pm curfew had been breached.

In a separate gig by Blur, fans took to Twitter to complain that the band’s performance was “inaudible”.

The MLA system – with its proven consistent SPL coverage across a wide area and its controlled and rapid loudness drop-off at the edges of the soundfield – was created for just the sort of troublesome environment Hyde Park represents.

“Ever since we got involved with the MLA, we knew there would be certain things on the radar that it would be perfect for,” agrees Timmins.

Cap Sound road-tested MLA at the LED (London Electronic Dance) Festival in 2010 in London’s Victoria Park, an area also surrounded by residential properties.

“Another sensitive site,” nods Timmins. “We had the opportunity to demonstrate to Loudsound [site managers for AEG], that MLA is a perfect tool for that kind of project. At LED we showed we could get a higher SPL at the soundboard than other systems. That was the first thing that got them hooked into the system.

“So they came to us last year and said, ‘Hyde Park – MLA – let’s talk some more’. They got really into the science of the system.”

As part of the process, Capital Sound constructed a facsimile of the Hyde Park scenario at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire earlier this year. “We pretty much put the whole system up, in the snow,” reveals Timmins. “Loudsound brought [acoustic consultants] Vanguardia in to run simulations, including test stations up on cherry-pickers to represent the sensitive spots.”

Passing the tests with flying colours (Timmins: “A lot of science has gone into this!”), the south-west London-based rental company is now set to supply 126 MLA boxes plus 32 MLX Subs for the half-dozen gigs beginning in July.

Anthony Taylor, managing director of Martin Audio, tells PSNEurope: “This is a significant jewel in the crown of worldwide events, and we are thrilled that Martin Audio and our MLA technology has been chosen to tackle the challenging sound issues that blighted Hyde Park concerts last year. This is a win-win for everyone involved: artists, sound engineers and the paying public get the sound performance they deserve, whilst local residents are less impacted.”

DiGiCo live consoles are also on the rider. “The headline acts will bring in their own but we’re going down the dual A-B system for acts that don’t, flip-flopping between them,” says Timmins.

“We chose DiGiCo because of reliability and the support element, which is crucial to this: the DiGiCo guys in support are first rate.” Desk specs are still to be confirmed, but Timmins says the consoles will be SD10s or SD7s. “And we’ll be encouraging people to use those.”

Following 2012’s less than favourable reporting, is Timmins confident that Capital Sound and MLA can change the way Hyde Park concerts are perceived by the watchful London media and public?

“I think the science of [MLA control] will deal with the noise issue there has been in the past,” he says. “There are some exciting ideas here, and the people that go to the shows will have a truly excellent experience: quality sound, and power.”

“But,” he smiles, “if the Rolling Stones go over the curfew, that’s nothing to do with the sound.”

Dave Robinson