Well, It’s Been Two Years. Must Be Time For a New P.A.

By Larry Hall

I know, three to five years is the rule to make sure the system pays for itself before moving on but  A) I have a short attention span and like new stuff and B) I had a “situation.” 

Two years ago, I did a blog post for SPLNetwork.com about the process I went through that ended in me buying the EAW KF740. That PA has served us well and I have no complaints about the actual gear. The PA has handled everything we have thrown at it.

But things are changing in Las Vegas and — at least for us at HAS Productions — the changes have been positive. More gigs and bigger gigs than we have had in the last several years. When I bought the KF740, it was enough for 90% of my gigs. But in the last six months I have had to sub-rent a lot of speakers from other companies locally and even send a truck out to Rat Sound or Shubert Systems in Southern California to cover some of our larger gigs and busier weekends.

The easiest thing to do would have been to just increase our inventory of KF740s. But the reason for not going down that road is as compelling as all of the reasons for doing it put together. It’s about the size of our gigs. The Star of the Desert Arena — 40 miles outside of Las Vegas in Primm — recently came back online with us as their audio provider. When we did this venue several years ago, we were using a substantially larger box as our main PA: the Adamson Y-18. Plus, there have been changes at our bread-and-butter gig: the Fremont Street Experience. When we went with the mid-size KF740s, 10K people for a free concert on Fremont was big. But they have opened up a street across from one of the stages which has seriously opened up the capacity. We have Kid Rock on that stage at the end of September and are expecting 35K people.

So I took advantage of the great relationship I have with my Primm arena client and let it be known that I was interested in hearing a few different systems. I expected three manufacturers but the whole thing very quickly grew way PAst what any of us expected. At one point two weeks out it looked like we would have nine companies. In the week prior, Martin Audio decided against participating for unstated reasons, and both JBL and Outline were unable to pull together the logistics. 

In the end, we had six companies — DAS, EAW, EV, RCF, Turbosound and VUE — each flew two different arrays and EV flew one for a total of 11. This was a three-day event and I was watching everything from the minute trucks arrived onsite. Day One was flying. Day Two was tuning and Day Three was the actual shootout.  

Before we get into the rules and results, I want to make sure to give a giant shout-out to my “bosses” at the Star of the Desert Arena and Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino. Not only did they give us the run of the place, they had their rigger available on OT for all three days and offered special stupid cheap room rates for anyone who wanted to stay there for the duration. A BIG thank you to all of you who were involved.

We ended up with about twice as many people than I really expected including audio bosses for some of the biggest venues in Las Vegas. Remember, I set this up for me to be able to hear a bunch of PAs. Having just one person who might spec one of those systems for gigs show up was an added bonus, and we had a lot more than just one.  

I put everyone from my shop to work on this event and flew in someone I trust as a production manager and engineer who has done a lot of work for me to serve as the host so I could just observe and listen. That was Brad Bryan, AKA the Devil.    

One last note about who was there and who was not. Some have questioned why some of the “big boys” were not invited. Simple. This was not a marketing event: I was interested in seeing and hearing stuff I might actually buy and I am not going to buy L-Acoustic, d&b or Meyer. If you run into me at a trade show and want me to explain why, you buy the drinks and maybe I’ll talk. No guarantees, though.

The Rules

We made everyone follow the same rules and most people were unhappy with at least one of them. This is what we sent out to everyone:

• Large format line arrays are limited to 12 tops over 6 subs

• Med format, 16 over 8

• Compact: We don’t really care how many you hang

We are going for:

1) Venue coverage 

2) Ease of use including rigging and software

3) SPL based on array size

Each manufacturer will get 20 min to tune and 20 min to time align

1) Ea will get 15 min to present each cluster to me and whoever else shows up. For example 5 min of music, 10 min verbal overview. Or 10 mins of music and 5 of talking. Whatever. Bottom line is you get 15 mins.

2) No freaking Steely Dan, no freaking Eagles. Save it for the AES show.

3) I will pick and play one track thru each system for about 30 seconds. Yes, it will be from my iPhone. If I like your PA with my bad MP3 and I like the way it sounds, then YES, if Steely freakin’ Dan actually shows up, I’ll probably like the way your PA sounds then, too.

4) I don’t need you to qualify or make excuses for your rig because I am playing a shitty MP3. We are aware in advance of your MP3 protest.

What was the verdict? As is often the case, we asked five sound guys and got five somewhat different answers. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from all of them are here…

Jimmy Jam’s Good bad and Ugly

Geoff Lissaman’s GBU

The Devil’s GBU

Dave Tennant’s Subbage GBU

Larry’s GBU

The Final Word. What Did i Buy?