Since his breakthrough in 2012, the career of singer/songwriter Sam Smith has skyrocketed from relative unknown to household name. The four-time Grammy winner recently embarked on a world tour with an L-Acoustics K1 and K2 sound system that made a potentially difficult range of venues a straightforward proposition for the audio team.
Sound provider for the UK and Europe was Britannia Row Productions. With the tour playing a wide range of venue sizes, they turned to L-Acoustics for a system that could be easily and quickly adapted to any circumstance.
Brit Row systems engineer for the tour, Adam Smith (no relation to Sam) explains, “We were doing arenas like the Brussels Forest National or the Amsterdam Ziggo Dome, and the next night, scaling down to theatres, Academy-sized and even club shows. Capacities literally ranged from 10,000 to a few hundred, so it was a challenge.’
Front of House engineer Simon Thomas is a longtime fan of L-Acoustics, but his choice of system for this tour was based on very specific needs. Brit Row supplied both L-Acoustics K1 and K2, with K1 as the primary system and K2 elements at the ready to satisfy the weight restrictions in some venues. Or – as was the case for London’s Brixton Academy – as a truly “split’ configuration.
“Brixton was a slightly unusual setup in that it was a split system. It effectively ignored the rulebook, but in that particular acoustic space was a good solution,’ says Adam. “The idea was to minimise mid- and high-frequency reflections from the balcony face and the side walls.
“We delivered audio to two audience areas, with individual systems for each – downstairs left-right and upstairs left-right – which meant there was no energy hitting the balcony front. One thing I really liked about splitting the system was that we could keep downstairs L-R in very close proximity for Simon mixing FoH, as well as for the audience.’
With the downstairs system flown from the “traditional’ house PA points and the upstairs system from the front lighting truss and an additional spreader truss, the Brixton setup comprised five K1 and two K2 per side for the downstairs system, with four K1 and two K2 per side covering upstairs – the latter in 110º mode to give off-axis coverage at the front of the balcony.
Subs were six ground-stacked SB28 per side in cardioid mode, with four K1-SB flown as a centre hang off the spreader truss and a low profile frontfill of Kiva. All amplification was L-Acoustics LA8s, fitted with AES cards, running at 96kHz and fed via Lake LM 26 processors, an LM 44 signal distribution system and Dante.
“I used some extended FIR filters, really to tailor the system to Simon’s preferences – if it worked for him, it worked for us,’ says Adam. “Basic EQ was done within LA Network Manager and then contour EQ to suit Simon’s requirements.’
While Simon is particularly enthusiastic about the K1 system, both engineers acknowledge the essential role that that K2 system has played on the tour.
“K1 is very clear. In big spaces I think it’s great, probably the most transparent of all the systems out there at the moment,’ says Simon. “But Brixton was a good example of where it would have been really hard to do with other systems that don’t have the range of boxes and seamless integration that L-Acoustics has.’
“With K2 you’ve got another tool in the box,’ agrees Adam. “When integrated with K1, there are so many different applications it’s almost endless. In a situation like this tour, where the engineer primarily wanted K1 and the energy of the 15′ drivers, but we were limited by weight restrictions upstairs, the K2s were essential.