How Martin Audio’s MLA Technology Saved Hyde Park

Festival sound stalwarts Martin Audio once again bring their astounding MLA loudspeakers to this year’s British Summer Time festival. But just how does the company meet the challenge of presenting pristine clarity across the span of Hyde Park? Listen up… 

Despite its status as one of London’s most cherished green spaces, and a celebrated spot for numerous iconic rock concerts over the past five decades, Hyde Park was all too frequently met with accusations of poor sound quality. From nearby noise complaints resulting in FOH sound levels being turned down to barely perceptible levels, to erratically balanced live mixing – Hyde Park’s live sound was regularly sneered at by the gig-going masses for its inconsistency.

This frustrating state of affairs culminated when 2012’s BT London Live headliners Blur were greeted with shouts of “turn it up!” from the sound-starved masses, with some even taking to social media to say that they left the show after half an hour of quietness. It was clear that to make Hyde Park a viable space for music that met the demands of 21st century audiences, a complete re-think of the park’s sound was needed.

Enter Martin Audio. The London-based loudspeaker company was approached when a new Hyde Park festival, dubbed ‘British Summer Time’ by promoter AEG, prepared to stage its first concerts in 2013. Martin Audio were engaged primarily due to a radical new technology pioneered within their line arrays. The company’s Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Arrays (MLA) promised a level of intelligent sound coverage and consistency across the site, while also mitigating noise pollution.

Martin Audio’s James King takes up the story. “Along with our sound rental partner, Capital Sound, the Summer of 2013 was our first British Summer Time festival and MLA has always featured on the main stage since that time. MLA was selected by AEG and production site managers for the site, Loud Sound, for its promised properties of being able to raise SPL levels onsite while mitigating off-site noise.”


Martin Audio MLA



So what lay behind the success of the MLA deployment at Hyde Park? King expands on how the level of optimisation that the Multi-cellular speakers bring revolutionised the experience. “Our Display 2 optimisation technology is unique, patented and devastatingly precise.” James tells us, “Our proprietary software simulates the output of the loudspeaker at any point in space, using an acoustic model accurate to +/-1dB. Using this model, we can calculate and view the output of an array at hundreds of virtual microphone positions around the venue, all on the user’s laptop PC. Once the user has defined where the audience is – and importantly where it isn’t – powerful numerical optimisation algorithms derive splay angles and DSP FIR filters to precisely control the coverage of the system, as well as the user’s desired SPL profile. Once the filters are uploaded into the speaker array, the incredibly consistent coverage is realised whilst noise leakage controlled, right from switch on.”

What this means, is that excessive noise is reigned in – while the audience gets the full impact of a cranked-to-the-max live show wherever they’re standing. “Each MLA enclosure has 6 individual acoustic elements [cells], meaning an array can have up to 144 cells in total, each with its own onboard amplifier and DSP. These can be optimised by our Display 2 software to deliver the sound across the audience to meet the sonic goals required for any space.” James continues, “Display 2 understands the venue and the goals and not only recommends the mechanical angles within the array for best results, but can use its optimisation algorithm to further finesse coverage, consistency and control.”

James explains that this year’s BST festival has precipitated some changes to the system design. “This was because Capital Sound had earlier in the year invested in Wavefront Precision line arrays to give them more flexibility on different tours and events. Wavefront Precision arrays again utilise Display 2 and enjoy similar acoustic properties to their MLA brethren, allowing for a sonic consistency across the site”, James confirms.


Martin Audio's Display 2 Software
Martin Audio’s Display 2 Software


Learning from each successive year since 2013, the hard-stop during the pandemic didn’t affect Capital Sound’s approach too much, as James details. “Even though the event hasn’t taken place since 2019, there was so much experience and data from previous shows that set up was relatively straight forward this year. So much so, that upon switch on of the PA everyone was already very satisfied with the results needing only minor finesse.”

Though it’s Martin Audio’s technology that lay behind the night and day improvement in sound at Hyde Park, the team are keen to emphasise the importance of tech supplier Capital Sound to proceedings. “[Our relationship with Capital Sound] is absolutely critical. Even though Martin Audio always supports Capital with planning and set up, the vast majority of the system prep and all operation is in the hands of our partner, so the success of BST since 2013 is very much their success as well.” Says James, “Capital Sound nailed it out of the gates in 2013 and to their credit they have always wanted to find improvement rather than simply resting on their laurels. Given the historical issues with the site, this became a proving ground for MLA and its capabilities and we owe Capital Sound for always being a dedicated supporter of the technology. The fact that Capital Sound invested again into Wavefront Precision is testament to their ongoing loyalty to our optimisation capability”

This year’s British Summer Time festival series has seen the extraordinary likes of Elton John, Adele and The Rolling Stones headline, each of which have very particular sound requirements. For The Rolling Stones’ pair of headline performances, the band – now over six decades into their storied career – have never sounded better than they do here, and while the band’s legendary Hyde Park show in 1969 might be more iconic, in terms of pure audio finesse, the band are working in almost entirely different space.


Attending The Rolling Stones’ July 3rd headline day, we were lucky enough to experience the full impact of the MLA setup. Strikingly apparent from early in the day was how sound remained consistently impressive regardless of where we stood within the span of Hyde Park. As the day progressed, The Dinner Party, Courtney Barnett and North Shields’ favourite son, Sam Fender put in solid sets, and though we found ourselves near the back of the park during Barnett’s performance, those 11 delay towers carefully situated at key spots around the space meant that the pulse of Barnett’s rhythm section, the frazzled jangle of her guitar and centrality of her vocal felt like we were experiencing the music right in front of our faces – even from nearly a mile away.


Delay 4 of the MLA setup at BST 2022


While we resumed a more central spot for Fender’s ebullient set (between Delay 4 and 5), the sound remained consistent, albeit raising in volume as the day progressed. By the time The Rolling Stones emerged, the audience had built themselves into a fever pitch. Thankfully, the volume coming out of the MLA towers masked the screams. Launching into a raucous Get Off Of My Cloud, it seemed every element of the band’s honed sound – from Keith and Ronnie’s guitars, drums, bass and Jagger’s unmistakable vocal – punched out with signifiant heft.



As James re-iterates though, we needn’t worry about irritating the residents of the nearby tower blocks that circle the park. Martin Audio’s ‘Hard Avoid’ technology aggressively works to keep this booming sound directed squarely at those who have paid to hear it. “Areas such as behind and below the array, ceilings, balcony edges or in the case of BST beyond the venue perimeter ─ can also be programmed in” James says, “Vertical coverage can even be fine-tuned electronically in-situ to cope with changing environmental conditions and last-minute changes in rigging height, without having to re-rig.”

Hearing the era-defining likes of You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Gimme Shelter and I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) being belted out by some of music’s most foundational legends, at a location that is hugely iconic without suffering from any compromise in sound quality is something to behold. And, it’s testament to Martin Audio’s sublime technology that events such as this are now free from the issues that had plagued the park for so long. With headliners playing at volumes that now exceed 100db, MLA has all but ensured Hyde Park’s future as a place where memories are made.

This year’s British Summer Time festivals use the following Martin Audio MLA setup:

19MLA +1 MLD (downfill) main hangs
15MLA +1 MLD side hangs
32 MLX subs in broadside/cardioid
6x 2 MLA-C front fills

Delays 1,2,4,5,6
7 MLA + 1MLD

Delays 3,7,8,9
10 WPL + 3 SXH218 (subs) in a cardioid stack

Delays 10,11

All Wavefront Precision arrays in 1 box resolution.