MLA Break Glastonbury Record
This year’s Glastonbury festival more than 150,000 fans listened to headline acts Metallica, Arcade Fire and Kasabian. Also featuring on the bill was Lana Del Ray, The 1975, Elbow, Rudimental, Nitin Sawhney and Dolly Parton. These headlining acts had the highest sound levels ever for a Glastonbury audience (without exceeding noise pollution levels), all thanks to Martin Audio’s new Multi-Cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) system.
Making its Glastonbury debut, the system deployed on the Pyramid Stage was impressive, utilising cabinets from the entire MLA range of loudspeakers. This comprised a total of 72 MLA for the main hangs, eight MLA Compact for stereo infill at the pit barrier and four delay positions of 14 MLA each. The latest addition to the range, the MLA Mini, provided stereo infill behind the FOH control structure and onstage coverage of artists’ guest viewing platforms. A massive broadside array of 38 MLX stretched across the entire width of the stage to provide sub-bass support to the entire system.
Acoustic cells housed within each cabinet are independently controlled by their own amplifier and DSP channel, a total of six in each MLA. This control allowed RG Jones system engineer Mark Edwards to specify exactly what SPL and frequency response was required across the audience, with the software automatically controlling the array to produce that result. This amounted to just a 6dB drop off over the 300m long audience area, with an even frequency response.
“We used our proprietary computer software to figure out how to drive each cell in each array to direct sound just at the audience, and then cut it off sharply just beyond the audience to dramatically reduce noise pollution,” says Martin Audio’s R&D Director Jason Baird. “As a result, headliners including Arcade Fire and Metallica could play at 104-105dBA – this is the first time such high levels have been achieved in the history of Glastonbury as noise limits are really strict.”
Having persuaded the festival production in 2007 that RG Jones Sound Engineering was the right company to run audio services on the Pyramid Stage, Simon Honywill said, “I have believed that MLA was the right system for the Pyramid since I first heard its extraordinary fidelity…Having used it at the past two Glastonbury Abbey shows, it was natural to suggest to Dick Tee and his team that it should take its rightful place on this iconic stage. I think it has more than proved itself here – I spent a considerable amount of time out in the audience and have never heard the field covered so well. And people in the crowd were openly complimentary about the volume and clarity too.”
There was also a lot praise from the stream of FOH engineers over the weekend.
One of the biggest draws of the weekend was Metallica, engineered by Mick Hughes: “MLA is a new system to me, a new experience. I was surprised how easy it was to get the mix I wanted out of it. When I first used it I thought ‘whoa’ there’s some serious horsepower here. It just sounded really alive; I wouldn’t shy away from using it again.”
One of the most enigmatic performances was from Lana Del Ray, engineered by Max Bisgrove: “In half a song, I could get out what I needed from the MLA system…it’s by far my favourite Glastonbury mixing experience so far.”
Dave McEwan, FOH sound engineer for Nitin Sawhney, remarked: “Glastonbury was the first time I’ve used the big MLA, and I’m really impressed. You can dive in and enjoy, it’s another sort of PA! I’m hoping to use this at the Royal Albert Hall for Nitin in September.”
The 1975’s engineer, Jamie McLuckie, adds: “At some festivals you have to tweak the bottom end, but [this] system sounded fat, with nice clarity and nice high end too. I couldn’t really fault it.”
Summing up, Jason Baird says: “It was my career highlight back in 2008 working on our very first Glastonbury, but with MLA this year, it’s been topped. To see the massive audiences in complete unison front to back enjoying the performances [and] the constant stream of smiling faces at FOH.”
Excerpts from Press Release