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‘It was great to be back’: Inside the world’s first post-lockdown arena concert with L-Acoustics

An L-Acoustics K1 system was used for L.A.B.’s sold out show at Spark Arena

New Zealand’s first major post-lockdown concert took place on July 3 at the 6,000-capacity Spark Arena, with a chart-topping band L.A.B. delivering a sold-out headline performance with an L-Acoustics K1 system, supplied by College Hill Productions, at its core.

L.A.B.’s label and management, Loop Media, is a long-time client of College Hill Productions. Loop is headed by Michael (Mikee) Tucker, with Dan Clist and Scott Tindale providing assistance. “The show was originally scheduled as a smaller club-style show to happen later in the year,” said College Hill’s audio production manager, James Thompson. “Once COVID-19 hit New Zealand, we weren’t sure when the industry was going to pick up again. When Mikee contacted us to say he was planning on shifting the concert to Spark Arena, and making it the first arena concert back, we got our planning books out and waited until the all clear was given to host mass gatherings.”

The College Hill team which consisted of FOH system design and system engineer Johnny Keirle, senior systems engineer/audio crew chief Kevin Bennett, monitor system engineer David O’Brien, PA rigger and patch tech Tracey Dorn, and PA rigger and patch tech Brooke Paterson from their home offices. Once restrictions were lifted, they had approximately a month to pull everything together, working closely with the band to select the right equipment to cater for their needs.

College Hill’s inventory has a full complement of products, from the K Series systems, through to smaller coaxial enclosures.

“We chose L-Acoustics because the products across the range offer superior coverage at greater distances, as well as having exceptional vertical and horizontal pattern control,” Thompson explained. “The K Series products are an extremely well-designed set of tools that allow us to fill large spaces with uniform coverage, whilst focusing that coverage at the audience and away from surfaces with low absorption coefficients.”

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Using L-Acoustics Soundvision 3D modelling software, a preliminary design was made to evaluate cabinet counts and configuration options, then refined onsite to a more detailed prediction for inter-box angles, as well as FIR filter and Air Compensation starting points. Using SPL mapping and probes, Keirle was able to predict how the PA would respond in an empty, dry room, as well as where he foresaw any problematic areas caused by different atmospheric conditions during the show. Soundvision allowed him to verify his sub array design visually, again allowing him to see in advance any areas he might want to focus on when approaching alignment and optimisation of the system.

The final configuration comprised left/right hangs of eight K1, four K2 and four K1-SB subs. Eight K2 were deployed for side fill, with additional fill from 12 dV-DOSC and six ARCS, while 24 SB28 subs were floor stacked.

“The flown system was configured with a K1-SB extension to increase throw and directivity of low frequency energy in the array,” said Keirle. “The speaker configurations were designed to maximise coverage uniformity both in terms of SPL and tonal balance, as well as frequency distribution and response. The side hangs of eight K2 at 90º (asymmetric) were required to fill just a small section of seating outside the coverage of the main hang.”

L.A.B. FOH engineer, Ritchie Allen, and monitor engineer, Charlie Bronson, were relieved to hear that College Hill Productions was looking after them for their shows, according to Thompson. “They complimented the quality of PA setup and told us it definitely lived up to the L-Acoustics reputation of being the finest audio system in the world,” he said.

“The crowd could really feel the energy of the band through the PA, which was a fantastic result. We were told by several attendees that it was good to be back at a concert with great sound,” Thompson continued.

“The buzz is real!” added Tucker. “The sound was the best we have heard in Spark Arena, clear, crisp and controlled.”

The College Hill team followed up their support of L.A.B.’s Auckland show with another sold-out performance in Hamilton, New Zealand a few days later.

“It was a great feeling for us all to be back in the workforce,” concluded Thompson. “Whilst we adjust back to this ‘new-normal’, we do feel for our friends and family all over the world who are still coming to grips with the uncertainty of our industry. Stay strong, be kind and we can get through this together.”