The first UK arena demo event for K-array’s Firenze Series was held this month at the Echo Arena in Liverpool by distributor 2B Heard.
Director of 2B Heard, Dave Wooster, says the system was deployed on the Leona Lewis tour at the beginning of the year, where it proved itself in theatres and smaller configurations, but he also wanted to demonstrate its ability in the real world, particularly in a venue on the major touring circuit.
“This system is not just for small venues, it’s for everything from a theatre up to outside shows of 100,000 plus people," says Wooster, "so the next step was to prove [it could handle] an arena situation.”
Wooster emphasises that people should be willing to look past the visual aspect of the unusual looking line array – with each K-array KH8 cab measuring less than 22cm deep – and hear how it sounds, and the performance benefits and consistency it brings, before making a judgment.
“I think people are curious when they see it in images. I wish everybody could come and see it here in one go and have a good discussion about it and hear it," he says.
“It’s like the first time I saw an L-Acoustics system in a field in Germany on an Andrea Bocelli show," continues Wooster. "I got off the tour bus and went, ‘That’s never going to work’. Two hours later, as opposed to having to unload our truck of a massive EAW system, I was standing there going, ‘This is unbelievable’, and that really is where we are again with another manufacturer and another brand. You stand in front of it and you go, 'That’s amazing!'”
Daniele Mochi, project consultant at K-array, was at the demo to talk about the two technologies that set its product apart in the market, including the SAT – slim array technology developed by the company – and a different approach to digital steering.
He says there is obvious advantages to the slim line array elements, including a single dolly being able to transport up to six KH8, and the fact that two people can suspend one side in five minutes (pictured). Easy transportation and minimum cluster volume are accompanying factors.
“It means you can suspend it anywhere, you don’t need big space in front of the stage, you can just put the dollies there and go up. These are very nice benefits of this technology, but that is not the reason why we developed SAT technology,” he says.
“These are great consequences of the compactness of the speakers, but the biggest advantage of SAT is better, overall sound quality. Why? First, because SAT elements show a hyper-cardioid dispersion pattern in the low frequencies and in the middle frequencies… Second, a very slim box has a much better input response, compared to a big enclosure.”
Mochi explains that with a typical configuration indoors one of the main problems is that below a certain frequency conventional line array elements are almost only directional, which means that the sound energy is spread all around the sound cluster.
As a result, a lot of mid-lows are centred towards the stage and then the volume of the monitors needs to be increased to have enough clarity for the performers: feedback issues with the microphones may also be encountered, Mochi says.
Then there is the same problem for the people sitting in the first rows of the audience areas: a lot of low frequencies coming from the PA system and means a need to increase the volume of the frontfills, and again there is the introduction of more and more energy in an area that should be as clean as possible, Mochi comments.
“We spent years developing a way to have the same advantages of the (figure eight dispersion), but with minimal emission in the back; we got this result by styling a very advanced panel located in the back, which is made of absorbent material and it not only absorbs part of the back radiation, but it also adjusts the phase so that the sound has to form a special path in such a way that the sound waves radiating in the rear and front are regaining phase,” he says.
“Well as a result, the dispersion pattern in the mid lows look like the typical hyper-cardioid figure that you also have for the microphones with minimal emission… and there is a lot of energy in the front and a little bit of energy in the back, so you keep the stage clean, the orchestra area clean and you reduce the amount of energy sent to the side walls. This is one of the biggest advantages of this technology.”
Mochi also explains K-array’s approach to digital beam steering and how the product does not use delays, peaking, filters, shelving or high or low-pass conventional filters. Instead the company developed FIR filters, allowing the dispersion to be adjusted digitally.
“With FIR filters you have independent control on frequency response, on the magnitude and the phase,” he says.
The set-up at the arena was nine KH8 cabinets per side, plus subwoofers and side fills. Wooster says the line array ticks a lot of boxes, including offering full-range steering.
“We can leave all the panels, completely flat and dead straight and steer the whole thing electronically, but with the ability to rotate the panels in the frames it then allows us to use less DSP to maintain more of a natural performance from the system. The panel at the bottom can actually rotate 90 degrees and literally fire straight down and the same panel at the top can almost go all the way up and we fire straight up," he says.
Wooster hopes people can be open to the system in a world where it’s “just another black box that makes noise”.
“It’s about being open-minded enough to hear with your ears and allow your mind to understand what it’s actually capable of achieving – because it can achieve things that no other system can,” he says.