Showstoppers in Perth Concert Hall. KV2 Audio PA hitout.
Story: Christopher Holder
Photos: Drew Parsons
‘Broadway to La Scala’ hit the road again after plenty of enthusiasm in 2015 for the crowd pleasing combination of show tune hits and opera favourites. Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Greta Bradman, David Hobson, and Lisa McCune, loosen their cravats and bodices for a relaxed performance with a full orchestra. We caught up with the show on its final date at the Perth Concert Hall to check in with live sound veteran Angus Davidson (Supertramp, Crowded House, et al) about his set up.
Angus’ day job is as Tech Support Director for KV2 Audio and he had a chance to fly a KV2 Audio VHD2 main PA with VHD1.0 underhang. Perth Concert Hall, is known as being problematic for amplified sound so it was going to be a test.
KV2 Audio is led by speaker designer George Krampera, who’s renowned for his single-minded pursuit of audio perfection… it’s the KV2 way or the highway for George. He hates ‘common or garden’ PCM digital — reckons standard DSP messes with your HF in horrible ways. He’s convinced line array is mostly snake oil (not actually line source at all) and his PAs are resolutely point source.
In other words, there’s no mistaking a KV2 Audio PA. And if you think the KV2 market is niche or marginal then you might be interested to learn that plenty of top-shelf Broadway musicals are getting on board. Broadway theatre is a market where money and performance talk a lot louder than being ‘rider friendly’ — makes you think.
The show was also a chance for Angus Davidson to unleash his extensive collection of Earthworks mics — he’s got 40-odd. Most are the SR30 small diaphragm models, which look like measurement mics, and he swears by them.
At front of house Angus wheeled in an Avid Venue S6L — another favourite. I’ll let him explain his choices elsewhere in this live sound photo diary.
THE KV2 AUDIO WAY
Angus Davidson: The philosophy behind KV2 Audio compared to line array is pretty simple. You might have a 20 or more line array drivers firing into a space like the Perth Concert Hall. And despite what the marketing brochure will tell you, that many adjacent speakers makes for a lot of destructive interference and a lot of wasted energy. Meanwhile I’ve used two point source boxes. Line array might have 20-odd amp channels, while we’ve used three. The sound of KV2 Audio speakers is one of extraordinary clarity.
PIANO MIC: DON’T SPARE THE ROD
Angus Davidson: The Earthworks PM40 is an extraordinary mic. The rod is part of the mic assembly. It screws together in the middle and its length is adjustable so you have the freedom to place it pretty much anywhere on the piano. You can then adjust the goose necks to fine tune the mic placement. It’s an omni capsule, so there’s a wide transparent sound with no hype.
Angus Davidson: The Avid Venue S6L is the best digital console I’ve heard — certainly the only one on my rider. For some years I used Avid Profiles. They’re a great console to operate but lacked a little in the top of the high-end. I’d end up running a bunch of plug-ins to compensate for the sound. The S6L I run pretty much flat. I use a little bit of reverb, a multi-band compressor on the vocals and that’s it.
STRINGS OF LIFE: SQUASHING BUGS
Angus Davidson: I carry about 40 Earthworks microphones. The small diaphragm pencil condenser has a super-fast rise and settling time resulting in a clear and transparent mic. Most string sections are now close miked with DPA bugs. I think that sounds one-dimensional. I’ll use Earthworks SR30 mics around 600mm above the violins which I believe captures the full harmonic richness of the instruments — air, breadth and some of the ensemble sound.
OPERA DYNAMICS: 20dB GAIN REDUCTION?
Angus Davidson: It’s a challenge to amplify an opera singer because their dynamic range is huge. You can’t rely on mic technique because they’re using a DPA 4088 headset. So you need a way of accurately controlling level to deal with when they’re belting it out and to capture the barely audible delicate parts. I’ll use the S6L’s channel compressor to deliver as much as 20dB of gain reduction, with a little extra help from the multi-band compressor. I have never been able to do that on any other console or standalone compressor to achieve that sort of gain reduction without artifacts — it’s astonishingly good.
VHD2: BACK TO THE FUTURE
Angus Davidson: For those only used to line array in a concert setting the VHD2 loudspeaker looks a bit quaintly old fashioned, though it’s anything but. The HF is on a short (80° x 40°) horn. George Krampera believes that a longer horn is a defacto heater — it uses a lot of energy. Behind the HF horn is a three-inch titanium nitrate vapour deposition proprietary driver. The combination is an extremely efficient device that covers the whole auditorium. The horn-loaded mids are taken care of by 2 x 8-inch drivers with phase plugs. The drivers have a secondary coil that’s out of phase with the main coil. It sits inside the magnet so the voice coil returns after its excursion, the secondary coil pulls it back and stops it dead. Making for zero induction. This means extremely low non-harmonic distortion, dramatically increasing the systems dynamic range and clarity. Two hornloaded 12-inch LF units round out the enclosure. We had a VHD1.0 flown under the VHD2 as underhang.