Spectrum Acoustics Delivers with McCauley Sound
M.LINES Heat Up Portland's Salsa En La Calle
When Rose Bonomo and Roger Rumba, promoters of Portland, Oregon’s Salsa En La Calle, wanted to stage their annual daylong event featuring the best salsa bands from the Pacific Northwest this past August, they chose a location that would strike fear into the hearts of sound system installers everywhere: outdoors, below an interstate (I5), and right under a bridge (in this case, the Hawthorne).
"That day, they really showed what they’re made of, loud and clear—exactly how the promoters wanted their sound"
Dana Monroe, owner of Spectrum Acoustics (also in Portland), was called upon to overcome the freeway traffic above, and cut through the cacophony of white and ambient noise permeating the area, to deliver a powerful sound that would do justice to this glorious celebration. Monroe knew that only one system would do—McCauley Sound’s M.LINEs™.
Although the promoters happen to be very tech-savvy and originally requested a L'Acoustics ARCS system for this gig, they came out to a street dance where Monroe was using the M.LINEs, and were so pleased with the sound, that they decided to go with the McCauley system.
It was the right choice. Monroe recalls the event, “Power salsa is fun, but difficult to mix, because everything is going 100 miles an hour all the time. You have to find a place for everything. That gig was the mother of all noisy shows as far as background noise; under the I-5 freeway with tons of trucks and cars blasting away, and all that reverb...but you couldn't even tell there was freeway noise, because these boxes were right in my face, at about 125
feet away. Having a line array was the ONLY way I was able to pull that show off. I had horrible visions of me trying to use a conventional sound system instead.
“I can't bear the thought of ever doing that gig again without my M.LINEs. That day, they really showed what they’re made of: loud and clear—exactly how the promoters wanted their sound. It’s important to be able to focus sound directly at peoples’ ears and not at the pavement, and to place extraneous noise and reverb as far back as possible. Of course, the Lab.gruppen amplifiers help a lot. If I ever do another event in this space, I won't even think about doing it without the McCauley system. ”
Monroe believes that the development of line arrays has transformed outdoor event spaces, and that ever since his company started using the M.LINEs, they’ve saved the day at almost every gig. Currently, Monroe also uses the McCauley Sound MS1 Touring Class Low Frequency Dual 15" modules from the M.LINE™ High Mobility Line Array Series. He also uses a horizontal (side by side) line array from L'Acoustics (SB218s), as well as all Lab.gruppen amplifiers (6400 for subs, fp3400 on the MS-1s, fp6400 mids, and fp3400 highs).
Monroe has found every venue to be challenging in its own way. “Show me an architect who actually thinks of incorporating sound quality in their design or any builder/contractor who might point it out, and I'll eat my hat. I guess there may be some lucky church designers out there who can actually model a space with Sonex included, but whether a client will actually pay for that is another matter.”
“Honestly, if I can get the client to step up to the plate, I want to use my M.LINE system at just about every gig possible, over any other PA (public address) system. The L'Acoustics ARCS system I have sounds fabulous, but doesn't quite have that “in your face” sound. In fact, I can't stand mixing on non-line array systems now. I understand the benefit of listening to speakers over room noise and freeway noise, etc., and don’t like the way sound bounces off of everything with conventional speakers. Plus, the high end doesn't give up. It doesn't matter where you are—even up to 200 feet back—the high keeps up with everything else. I also appreciate the fact that you can get useable coverage at extremes of the cabinets, so when you need really broad coverage for wide-spaced short throw—at auctions, let’s say, or for some dance floor sound—you can get it with intelligible high end, though down in decibel level.
“A huge benefit too is when all the boxes are facing forward and none splayed down to throw the sound over the heads of the people sitting near, and to deliver SPLs (sound pressure levels) where you want them, not killing the front row. The front row gets enough coverage off the bottom cabinet, and depending on where you slightly tilt the entire array and the height, you can get a huge wide throw and make the sound very even across the audience.I see people all the time right on the boxes, and the cabinets are killing me at mix position and it's just going right over their heads but giving them just enough. At auctions, with loud, pompous auctioneers, this effect is extremely important to the event, as I have to get the item descriptions clearly to the farthest tables without blowing away the high-dollar bidders nearest the stage. I can't emphasize enough how this effect pleases the client. And another excellent benefit is the hardware and fastening system; it's awesome and well thought-out.
“There are definitely enormous differences in the two line-based systems I have, and there should be, since one is a vertical-based line array and one is horizontal-based. Sometimes a client may specify a L'Acoustics ARCS system, which is a true horizontal system that acts as a line array and a trap array, so you get true even coverage throughout, wherever those boxes are pointing. Where they aren’t pointing, however, you get very minimal sound. Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad. Unless you're facing boxes right into the dance floor, you won't get much there unless you use some type of front fill, and that's more hassle. If you do start pointing boxes into the center, you may start hearing a crossfire effect, which often translates into lobing and nulls. Yes, ARCS do sound great, but they don't have quite the center throw of the M.LINEs—which really surprised me. The fact that the horns are 20? down and 40? up sometimes puts sound where I don't want it, and that's precisely why I prefer using the M.LINEs, so I can know exactly where my high end is going. The L'Acoustics system is a very fine system, but for the most part the M.LINEs have been more beneficial to me as well as weighing less!
“As far as even coverage, the ARCS system would win. But, the side of the ARCS box pretty much dictates where there will be sound. Plus, you can only go 90? with the ARCS, but the M.LINEs can go over a 120? angle with usable coverage all the way out to the extremes of the box. The only bad thing I can say about the M.LINEs is that they really have most of their sound coming out in about a 60? pattern out of the array. People sitting off to the sides will get substantially less sound. You have to allow for that, and place the array so that effect will be minimized or use it to your advantage. Sometimes, especially when I am doing outside events, I will place the arrays back substantially farther to get a more even sound. Since this gives completely unrestricted sight lines, the bands and the crowds love it. The fact that the arrays throw so well allows for great vocal levels without generating feedback. Also, in my opinion, the M.LINEs really don't sound their best until about 80 to 100 feet out. At about 150 feet out, it sounds like a big stereo system with all of the high end still there. I love that. I guess I wouldn't recommend it if you have a bunch of hard surfaces that will give you a lot of slap. I might go for a medium throw system if that's the case.
“My other systems still work for me, though they have a more limited use. I still use Yorkville TX-4s for a lot of club installs that require just a box per side, and they work great for that. Yorkville did their homework well on their processor. It sounds good (although heavily equalized) and you don't blow speakers. However, splaying them is ugly and especially tricky outside where you can hear (and measure) dips between 1k on up, at about minus 15dB or so.
“This horrible splay performance is why I eventually went to the Renkus Heinz STX 4 and STX 2 series, so I could get 40? trap boxes and significantly reduce the lobes and nulls which were driving me insane. I just use however many boxes I need to get the coverage I want. These systems work great and provide even coverage because they are trap boxes, but they’re a short to medium throw box, so they don't work well for loud rock and roll. Their advantage would be clear midrange from their co-entrant mid-high drivers as well as even coverage, but they are not line arrays and the line effect is what I’m looking for. The only other reason I might want to throw up a Renkus array is because they can walk all over a small line array box as far as low-end performance. So, you can get some great bottom end out of them (though not live kick drum) for auctions and loud presentations, music playback, etc., without subs. However, it's much easier to just bring in smaller, lighter line array boxes with a subwoofer, hence my switch to the M.LINEs. And the M.LINEs do work well for loud rock and roll! The M.LINEs have far exceeded how loud I thought they could get.
Monroe shares his hope for future developments, “I know from using the M.LINEs that we could go even smaller and I could still do many events with this smaller box if it was somewhat similar, using the same horn and moving up the (sub) crossover point to perhaps 150 Hz. I don't want the VRX boxes, because I want to face all my boxes forward, and not be forced to splay them into a big banana. And I don't like the small SLS guys because they don't handle any power to speak of. So far, the FBT Modus 15 looks like where I might be going unless McCauley or someone similar pulls something out of their hat.
“If I want bigger, then I will look heavily into the McCauley MLA3s. I can't even imagine how loud their bigger stuff gets. I'm not sure if I really ever want to know. As far as anything else, I will have to break down and buy some conventional 12" and 15" with horn boxes. Based on how much I love my new McCauley SM95-2 coax monitors, I know for sure any new speaker cabinet I get that's a "pole speaker" will be a pole-mountable version, most likely the SA95-1. I LOVE coax!
Dana Monroe, his clients, and even his crew have been quite pleased with his choices, as he recalls, “Right after buying the M.LINEs, I got a tech rider from a country band who said: ‘Mains system – Line array only.’ Well, what are you going to do? Fortunately, I had a small line array and the guy had seen the room before and knew it was fairly small. I called him and asked him if he still wanted a line array in this small room and he was blown away that I could put one in there and get it above peoples’ heads. It really didn't even matter what it was. The fact that I could produce what he wanted was paramount. He was so tickled when he came into the room and saw that M.LINE system. The gig went off great and he was very happy.
“I really wanted to use the M.LINEs at the 1st annual Portland Pirate festival recently, as well. The bands there blew my socks off. They were funny and good and got quite loud. My main engineer, who worked Oktoberfest at the same time, was threatening to not do the gig unless he got to use the M.LINEs. He wanted to focus the sound on himself and the crowd and couldn't endure three days of Polka music bouncing off tent walls again. I gave in and let him have the M.LINEs, and he reported much less listener fatigue and was very thankful that he got to use them. The ARCS I used at the Pirate Festival worked great, but if the opportunity comes up again and both systems are available, I might switch to the M.LINEs for some additional throw.
“Two years ago I said: ‘I don't need a line array,’ and now I can't live without one. In my opinion, if you're a sound company and you don't have a line array system, you will fall by the wayside; it's just a matter of time,” says Monroe, who sums up the McCauley M.LINE system this way: “It’s definitely great-sounding new technology that's worth every penny.”