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Hammersmith launch for MLA Compact

‘Offspring of MLA’ makes acclaimed Martin Audio technology available to a wider range of touring and installed sound applications, writes Dave Robinson.

Martin Audio formally launched its new MLA Compact system over two days at London’s HMV Hammersmith Apollo (now a Stage C venue) this week.

Following the sweeping success of the Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array (900 enclosures sold since the May 2010 Antwerp launch), the arrival of MLA Compact brings the technology to a wider range of applications and budgets, particularly the medium-scale touring and fixed installation markets.

Martin Audio – which has just celebrated 40 years of business – invited around 200 existing MLA users and potential customers to the famous London venue for a full demo of the system.

Managing director Anthony Taylor introduced the event, revealing that the Martin Audio engineering team had declared it “the best product they had ever designed”.

Sharing the same sonic attributes of the flagship MLA, the new system’s compact size (W: 788mm x H: 280mm x D: 500mm) belies its output capabilities: a 12-box array is sufficient for a 5,000-seat venue, claims the company, whilst a 24-box array “will approach the output of many ‘full-size’ systems which have less efficient acoustic elements”.

“This is a more affordable system,” Taylor confirmed to PSNE. “We really see it as a 50% installation, 50% touring system too.”

Head of engineering Jason Baird (pictured) led the technical presentation of MLA Compact, highlighting significant uses of the parent system at festivals, high-profile TV events (Ophrah Finale show in the USA) and venues with an awkward acoustic (pointedly, the Royal Albert Hall). Key to MLA’s success has been the intelligent control software which delivers a dramatically increased level of performance, focus and coverage consistency compared to conventional line array technology.

Baird stated that MLA Compact will be supplied to users as a fully integrated system: speakers, amplification, DSP and optimisation software. Class D amplification, Loud Technology’s proprietary U-NET control network and DSP circuitry are integrated within each enclosure. MLA Compact arrays can be remotely controlled from the supplied wireless tablet running VU-NET control software.

“Why do we need another networking technology? We’ve found that Loud’s U-NET is the fastest at detecting and locating all the boxes in a system,” Baird said. He added that there were no plans to port the optimisation software to increasingly familiar tablet controllers such as the iPad because the processing available in those platforms was “just not powerful enough to perform the calculations required to run the MLA technology”.

Director of sales Simon Bull invited guests to experience extreme examples of the new system in action – for instance, in a ‘hard avoid’ mode, sound on the balcony of the Apollo was reduced by a significant dB SPL level while a ‘concert performance’ level was retained in the stalls.

MLA Compact makes its world trade show debut at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt in March.