Martin Audio Precision Line array

Martin Audio Wavefront Precision: How scalable resolution is changing the live sound business

Martin Audio’s Wavefront Precision optimised line array series has won a slew of industry awards, and been a best seller for the pro audio specialist since its introduction. Partnered with the brand’s innovative DISPLAY 2 software, the range offers installers and engineers a uniquely flexible live sound solution by customising audience coverage to each venue and using scalable resolution to build systems to suit users goals and budget, in venues from outdoor festivals to worship halls.

To learn more, we quizzed Robin Dibble, Product Support Engineer at Martin Audio.

AMI: One key advantage offered by the Wavefront Precision range is that it can deliver consistent sound quality for every member of an audience or congregation, by reducing the influence of room acoustics. This is a game changer for live venues, places of worship etc. What’s the underlying science behind this line array range – is it a perfect marriage of hardware and DISPLAY software? 

Robin Dibble, Product Support Engineer: In a word – yes!

Our technology allows us to use the vertical line of drive units not entirely as a traditional line source, but as an opportunity to play with the acoustic relationship between vertically aligned speakers to change the directivity of the array in the vertical plane. Horizontally, the fixed angle directional control comes from Martin Audio’s lifelong experience with horn design.

DISPLAY 2 software looks at the vertical coverage of the array, using virtual microphone points through an auditorium’s audience regions and building profile to examine the likely output of an array in multiple physical arrangements and processing arrangements to achieve the goals set by the system designer.

These goals include the sound level attenuation from the front to back of the audience, consistent frequency response and tonality throughout the audience space and reducing the level in areas where there are no audience by as much as 20dB broadband. This significantly reduces the influence of the room’s acoustics on the sound heard by the audience.

Then we have the cherry on the top, a function we call Hard Avoid. It allows users to nominate a particular area of the venue where the system will actively reduce levels by as much as 30dB broadband with respect to the level in the audience space. This is invaluable in keeping stages quiet for cleaner mixes for better gain before feedback, or reducing reflections from a troublesome back wall, or in the case of festival sites, reducing the sound levels escaping into the surrounding environment.

The results of this processing can further be examined in a three dimensional model of the room or site in our new DISPLAY 3 software, by importing the details of the room and arrays from DISPLAY 2.

Martin Audio at Norfolk Jazz Festival

Scalable Resolution explained

AMI: Can you explain what you mean by Scalable Resolution, and why it’s a significant advance for sound professionals?

Robin Dibble: To achieve what we do with vertical control, it is necessary to process the sound differently to different regions of an array. Depending on the model of loudspeaker, we can do this by processing blocks of four, three, two or single cabinets separately using the powerful DSP in the output of our iKON amplifiers. These work according to the parameters set in them by our DISPLAY 2 software and VU-NET control software.

For example, we can drive an array of eight WPM array loudspeakers with between two and eight amplifier channels. The more amplifier channels in use, then obviously the finer degree of control we have over the sound in the room, and the more effective the achievement of each of the goals.

This allows decisions to be made by the system designer about budget vs. room requirements, with the added advantage that more amplifier channels can always be added at a later date to improve the existing system.

As an example, a couple of dance stacks in a club may not need the highest degree of control, the requirement there is for volume and impact. Whereas for a concert held in an historical church building it would be necessary to minimise the effect of the room acoustics on what the audience hear, requiring more control from the loudspeaker arrays and therefore more channels of amplification.

The commercial advantages of the approach are substantial. When it comes to system rental, users can design systems that can exactly meet specific client budgets and tour technical needs, while installations have the option to start at lower budgets and add amplification at a later stage to improve pattern control and thereby sound quality in the venue.   

Wavefront Precision case studies

AMI: Can you point to some real world case studies?

Robin Dibble: The first installation of WP series was in First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas by Clark. Arrays of 16 WPC and 8 WPM provide exemplary venue coverage in a challenging environment for up to 4,500 congregation members across music styles from choral to rock. The environment included domed ceilings, stained glass windows and marble surfaces, yet using our optimisation and scalable resolution, sound quality described as comparable to that of studio monitors was achieved throughout the room.

AMI: Do the advantages offered by the Wavefront Precision family create new installation opportunities?  

Robin Dibble: It’s not so much new installation opportunities, but obviously the flexibility and affordability of Wavefront Precision system does open up more venues to be able to access array optimisation, rather than compromising the system they install with standard line array. 

AMI: Has the trade taken to the idea/freedom of incremental upgrades, as and when? 

Robin Dibble: Yes, very much so. At a rental level, live sound companies are regularly interchanging the number of amp channels used to either suit client budget, the needs of the venue or the requirements of the performance. Similarly, we see many installations starting at two box resolution with a view that in a few years’ time they can upgrade the performance of the line array system yet further, extending its life and value. 

AMI: When it comes to touring sound and corporate event hire, what are the key benefits offered by the Wavefront Precision Series?

Robin Dibble: The unique tools already outlined have the same advantages in these environments, for example with noise control and exceptional audience coverage giving any rental house deploying WP an advantage.  Scalable resolution is allowing providers to tailor rental packages to different customers’ requirements through scalable resolution, making meeting tour budgets easier whilst providing successful events.

AMI: The series is already comprehensive, but can sound pros expect some new loudspeaker additions to the range? 

Robin Dibble: As it stands the Wavefront Precision series is complete. However, as mentioned earlier we are continuing work on our 3D prediction software, DISPLAY 3 (D3). We can already import DISPLAY 2 data into D3 to showcase the system design in a 3D environment, but we are obviously working on full optimisation of line array systems natively within D3. Equally, we will be adding sound prediction for our subwoofers and point source line up, so any system can be viewed in a 3D environment, ahead of time.

Martin Audio and Electric Woodland

Defeating sub-optimal acoustics

AMI: Many installations will be in venues with sub-optimal acoustics – which is where DISPLAY software, and features like Hard Avoid, come into their own. Can you cite any projects that could only have been served by the Wavefront Precision range?

Robin Dibble: There are a number of venues which have significantly benefited from Wavefront Precision systems, that otherwise would have probably comprised their sound system.

Jonava Cultural Centre, with its rake seating and series of arched ceiling mounts was highly susceptible to sound reflections. But the introduction of a WPC system with two box resolution and the Jonava Cultural Centre sound engineer, Valius Strakalaitis, commented, “The overall system intelligibility and consistency of coverage is just outstanding. I am very proud and delighted to be working with this system.

Another example is Oak Point Church in Michigan, a venue that had low ceilings, poor sight lines, and a dynamic stage, and the existing PA system was lacking intelligibility, pattern control and musicality.

We needed control and directivity to avoid coverage where we didn’t need it, which we get from the system’s Hard Avoid capability. The surfaces are brick and steel with a huge reflective wall at the back of the room and the PA system drops coverage a few feet beyond the operator at the back of the house while staying off the ceiling as well. “With Martin Audio, the intelligibility is so much more impressive than the previous PA. It’s an impressive sounding system by any standard. Everyone is over the moon and we’re very proud of it.” Trent Keeling, Senior Design Consultant for Advanced Audio. 

Finally, to the Shibata Civic Cultural Center in Japan. A venue is a semi-circular-shaped hall with upper balcony seats. 

Mr. Inomata from Niigata Shomei Giken, who is in charge of sound operation in the hall, commented, “This audience area has quite a unique shape, and you can see the stage from wide angles, almost 180 degrees. On the other hand, it is generally difficult to create consistent sound in a venue of this shape.”

In particular, the venue suffers acoustic problems caused by reflections to the stage, he continued. “Up to now, I had given up solving this problem because it was outside the range of adjustment. However, with the introduction of a WPM system it’s a different story, as it can clearly handle these issues and totally give the same audio experience in all the seats.

The sound characteristic is similar everywhere in the auditorium, as WPM is deployed for both proscenium and as side columns. To combine the system depends on the performance, and the ability to control between loud volume and a much smaller sound. With WPM we can provide top-class sound quality to audiences at all events.