John Hughes, director at Adlib, reveals a number of trends in concert venues – some are enhancing the sound experience in a variety of environments, whereas others provide an aesthetic upgrade but hinder sound quality.
What are the biggest challenges to the successful deployment of loudspeaker systems in concert venues?
Challenges include budget limitations, available weight loading capability of the buildings existing structure, availability (and location) of existing power supplies. Minimising the visual impact of any new loudspeaker system, rigging solution and cable infrastructure to an existing finished building’s interior architecture and décor.
With more touring productions choosing to use their own sound systems, can this mean the in-house system you are installing is significantly reduced?
On the contrary, we have had great success installing in house systems over the past 9-10 years. With our touring background and strong relationships with manufacturers, we are able to specify and install touring level systems making it a smooth transition from venue to venue. Having said that, a lot of the venues that are run by local authorities have had funding reduced over recent years so meeting touring level specifications can be a challenge.
How big of a factor is timescale for concert venue installs? And how do you manage it effectively?
Working around a successful venue’s busy schedule is difficult, however we always find a way to work around it - yes there are cost implications but we’ll try and keep these to a minimum. It helps having our own team of full-time technicians as well. We usually work on the ‘dark’ days and split our work into phases. Lead times from manufacturers also play a large part!
In concert venue projects, what factors are most commonly overlooked?
Amp room and patch bay locations, as well as the routes to and from them to loudspeaker hangs.
Budgets neglected for supplementary infrastructure that is required, i.e. the rigging solution and power infrastructure required to get a loudspeaker system in place and switched on.
Poorly placed loudspeakers – we have seen an increased trend in the number of new venues with discreetly placed loudspeaker systems almost ‘invisible’ to members of the audience in the name of architecture. Meaning it’s quite easy to make a cutting edge £200K loudspeaker system sound like an entry level solution with poorly placed loudspeakers.
Assigning suitable training time for in-house technicians and operators is also often overlooked as well as allowing enough time for system deployment when a venue has multiple audience configurations and crowd capacities.
Shelf-life of any ‘current’ rider friendly elements for any new investment – our hire department always has an acute awareness of up and coming technologies and an even keener eye on once sought after items that may start to slip from popularity. In summary, we quite simply would not specify equipment that our hire department would not wish to stock.
What technologies are you seeing an increased demand for in concert venues?
In particular, compact digital mixing consoles that offer a BIG mix from a small footprint with I/O count scalability have been the order of the day for the last few months.
The best solutions console or sound systems must be ready to go, straight out of the box.
Another essential requirement is the equipment’s reliability not just installed in venues but on the road, if it can’t handle the miles, then none of the touring engineers will go near it!
Regardless of how fantastic any product is, if/when things go wrong, suppliers and manufacturers offering fast, knowledgeable technical support are the solutions that we aim to specify. When the manufacturers get this balance right, their products sell like hot cakes.
To summarise, regardless of which element of the sound system it is, a flexible solution that is as simple as possible for an operator with limited experience to walk up and have good results with is desirable and this is what we aim for when considering our sound designs.
Tell us about a recent installation project that highlights Adlib’s expertise in the concert venues sector.
Our installations department has recently installed complete turnkey sound system solutions for a number of Academy Music Group’s venues including an L-Acoustics K2 system at The London Forum in Kentish Town (pictured) and also a L-Acoustics KARA System, which was installed The O2 Academy Bristol. Both venues host performances from some of leading artists and since our involvement designing and supplying for these venues, they have minimal requirement for equipment sub-hires, which is a testament to our involvement and knowledge in this field.
The sound systems in both venues are now enhancing the experience for members of the audience and sound operators, not just for touring parties that granted support and budgets to tour equipment with high-end specification. We are particularly proud of our involvement on both projects.
Picture: Caitlin Mogridge, Academy Music Group