Mark Knopfler goes Strait for L-Acoustics

Four-time Grammy winning guitarist and vocalist Mark Knopfler has embarked on a world tour in support of his eighth solo LP Tracker, backed by an L-Acoustics system. 

Knopfler has enjoyed a forty-year career, including 20 years with Dire Straits and another 20 as a solo artist. The current tour sees him hitting 50 European arena and outdoor venues, before heading to the USA and Canada for 38 more theatre performances.

FOH engineer Dave Dixon chose L-Acoustics K1 and K2, supplied by Germany’s Black Box Music, to ensure Knopfler’s characteristic spiralling guitar sound is reproduced for each and every fan in the audience.

“I had a couple of options, but I have used K1 on tour with Mark before and everyone was knocked out by how good it was,” said Dixon. “I’ve system engineered K1 on tours as well and it’s absolutely great for shows like this, with a lot of dynamics in the music. It was a no-brainer to choose it.”

For the European shows, Black Box Music uses main hangs comprising 14 L-Acoustics K1 per side, with six K2 per side as downfill and eight K1SB per side flown next to the array as low extension side hangs. 15 K2 per side are also flown using Panflex for asymmetrical horizontal coverage, to ensure the sound is sent only to audience areas, with four K1-SB in long throw mode on top. Subs are eight SB28 in each of two cardioid stacks, with rear hangs of 12 Kara each, a centre hang of six Kara and six more as nearfills.

“This combination was chosen because of the identical sonic signature of the K1 and K2 and the seamless way that K1, K1-SB and K2 can be used in one system,” commented Ulf Oeckel, the tour’s L-Acoustics systems engineer and technical manager. “The venues vary and this system gives us huge flexibility – whether it’s limits on flying weights, low ceilings, how far it needs to throw, etcetera. It is really easy to change elements of the system in reaction to the demands of each venue, with no loss of audio quality or coverage.

“On the US leg we will only be using K2; with its adjustable horizontal coverage, inter-element angle of 10º and only 56kg of weight per element, it’s ideal for theatres and we will still have a very flexible, highly efficient system.”

One challenge Oeckel and Dixon have faced on the tour has been that of the low volume levels permitted at several of the shows. “Mark’s shows aren’t particularly loud, but there are a lot of dynamics,” remarked Dixon. “The songs vary from strident, like a couple of the old Dire Straits numbers, to just guitar and violin. And there is a lot of light and shade within songs, so the challenge is to make sure the audience hears every note, whatever the permitted volume limits.”

“The L-Acoustics system has really helped to achieve that balance,” added Oeckel. “We are able to achieve a consistent tonal balance over the entire audience area, which I feel is better than what I get with other PAs.

“I am really glad to have a rig that provides a great starting point as soon as it is switched on. It doesn’t need a lot of adjustment and it can perform any kind of sonic signature without a lot of tuning,” he continued. “The audio quality and consistency over distance – in combination with the LA8 amplifiers and Network Manager control software, which are great and easy to handle – makes the system unique. I have been dealing with L-Acoustics systems for many years and I am still hugely impressed with them.”

“I wouldn’t have chosen L-Acoustics if I didn’t know the system would be great… and it wouldn’t have lasted on this tour if it hadn’t sounded top notch!” added Dixon. “The flexibility is also perfect for a tour like this – I have no qualms about using K2 as the main hangs in the US.

“But having a great system engineer like Ulf and an excellent service company like Black Box Music behind us has also been so important. They have made life very simple and calming for me – I can sit behind the mixing console and do my job, totally confident that the sound everywhere in the audience is the best it can be.”