“Al di Meola is quite specific about loud stage environments,” says Jan Weimann from rental staging company Tonwerk. “The Uniline system has such a great directivity that there's so little sound spill to the stage from the PA system.”
Weimann is reflecting on the sell-out gig by the jazz-fusion veteran, staged at the 1,000-capacity Straatstheatre late last year. PA and lighting house Tonwerk supplied the APG kit for the Darmstaadt date, one of string of dates across Europe in 2016 which saw the ‘Elysium & More Unplugged’ band – di Meola with Peo Alfonsi on second guitar and Peter Kaszas – showcasing material from the di Meola’s Elysium solo album plus highlights from a career stretching back to the early 1970s.
“In the beginning it was quite hard for me to understand what [Al] really wanted for his stage sound,” admits Weimann. “After a while I realised that the whole relation between monitors, acoustic instruments and reflections from the room had to be a certain way to create the right atmosphere. We had to move the acrylic drumshield and the monitors a few times until it was perfect. I was really impressed by the high level of virtuosity and musicality of all three musicians on-stage. Of course, Al di Meola is really in a class of his own.”
The APG Uniline system was configured to provide high-clarity coverage for every seat with minimal backward spill. Comprised of left and right hangs of eight UL210 three-way line array modules per side, with bass support from three stacked UL115B subs, the system was driven by APG controllers. For Weimann, APG’s Uniline is his preferred system because, he says, it implements a “large stereo image, compared to other systems where you have a small stereo spot just in the middle of the room with ‘switching’ either to one or the other side.”
Weimann has reinforced many artists playing the Straatstheatre with the modular Uniline system, and he points out, “it performs extraordinarily well with artists like Al Di Meola.”
He states the reason behind this as, “the [proprietary] isotop driver doesn’t colour the sound but replicates it honestly – and there's no sharpness or any kind of ‘masking’ as the music rises in intensity and volume.
“I often use the word ‘Durchhörbarkeit’ to describe the APG sound, which could translate as being able to actually listen to the music, instead of just hearing it. To give you an example, I did a shoot-out last year with a number of speaker brands, and the Uniline system was the only one capable of identifying all five instruments of a horn section in an arrangement.”
The German rental stager has known about France’s APG for a few years. (Coverage of the loudspeaker maker’s takeover by Active Audio was featured prominently in PSNEurope April 2016.)
“I came across APG the first time in 2010 when I was looking for new stage monitors for [Tonwerk’s] rental stock,” continues Weimann. “I had the DX12 for testing and I immediately liked the intelligent design, the low profile and small size, the ergonomic features, such as the integrated speaker adapter, the angle plate for the rigging clamp, the two different angles for putting it on the stage and the position of the Speakon [connectors], so that it’s nearly impossible to damage them in any way.”
(As an aside, he mentions a recent Ute Lemper gig at the Darmstadt venue, where monitoring for the German star was “quite difficult”: “With the APG monitors we quickly had a satisfying result for him,” he notes.)
In 2014 Tonwerk committed to a full Uniline system, while also upgrading to the DX15 monitor model. “We’ve made a few club installations in Darmstadt where the technicians and the audience are very satisfied with the products. APG is not well known in Germany, [but] all of the artists I work with are happy with the APG sound.”
Weimann heard the new Uniline Compact series for the first time shortly after its 2016 launch: “I must say, I was really impressed. I never expected such tonality and low mids from a system of this small size. Compared to systems like [L-Acoustics] KIVA or d&b T-Series, the Uniline Compact sounds much larger.”
Back to the night in question, and the fiery fusion of Latin and jazz for which di Meola is famed. Weimann takes the pressure of working with high calibre artists in his stride. "That night I was responsible for the monitors and opted for a TC M3000 dual engine reverb. It was amazing to get to work alongside di Meola’s own FOH technician, Casba Toth Bagi, who also happens to be an extremely gifted guitar player. As for the artist himself, he concedes: “Al di Meola is known for being a perfectionist when it comes to sound, so if you can rely on the material you are using, like the Uniline Series from APG, there is not much to go wrong.”