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“The Hip” Gets Hip To L-Acoustics K2
Canada – When Canadian alt-rock heroes The Tragically Hip put together a 2015 North American tour supporting the deluxe reissue of their 1992 studio classic, Fully Completely, the band’s long time audio provider, Solotech, made the decision to carry an audio system based entirely on L-Acoustics’ K2 line array system.
“The Hip,” as they are known to their legion of north-of-the-border fans, are touring behind the re-release of one of their biggest records, and the trek has been a “big deal” with staging that includes projection screens extending into areas normally reserved for the main PA hangs. This added to weight considerations that made the system design an even greater challenge than usual.
Jamie Howieson, well known for his work with Mumford & Sons among others, has been the Solotech systems engineer on the tour and discusses his thinking in putting the system together. “We were touring hockey arenas in Canada in January and February during one of the coldest winters anyone can remember,” he recalls. “We did not want to spend a bunch of time every day having to mess around with reconfiguring the system. I went through all of the venues and had DWGs of 90 percent of them – plus I had Soundvision, of course – so I did all of my homework before I ever left my house.”
Howieson had prior experience with K2 in a support role on other tours and had been impressed not only with its ease of use but also its sonic performance. “Everyone always talks about how easy it is to hang and rig, as well as the light weight and tight truck pack. But what people forget to tell you about it is that it sounds absolutely amazing!”
House mix engineer Jon Erickson has been mixing The Hip for approximately six years and notes that, in addition to sounding fabulous, the system is totally consistent no matter how many enclosures are in the arrays. “When we add boxes for bigger rooms, the sound of the system never changes; it just gets louder,” he says. “For me, as a mix engineer, it makes my job so much easier. I can just relax and mix. It makes everything better – my shows, my life. And because of the projection screens, we are flying it up over 40 feet in some of these arenas.”
And that is exactly what Howieson was going for when he designed the system. With a few exceptions, the tour’s first leg played all hockey arenas in Canada. This encompassed a mix of 'junior' arenas that hold 3,000 to 7,000 all the way up to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto where the band came close to hitting the venue’s capacity of 15,000. Although Solotech considered deploying its larger L-Acoustics K1 system – the premium staple for stadiums and festivals – K2 has performed admirably even in the biggest rooms on this trek.
Says Howieson: “We have two designs: a junior arena rig and an NHL arena rig, so we know the night before exactly what we are going to do the next day. It makes each day go very quickly and smoothly. Our Solotech audio team of Russ Wilson and Spencer Ellis has been just great, and between their solid work, a good design and the fantastic consistency of the K2, we are able to provide Jon with the exact same sound and timbre each and every show of the tour, no matter the size of the room.”
“It’s all about the L-Acoustic science,” Erickson attributes. “The software predicts it will do something, so you set it up and it does exactly what it says it will do.”
Solotech’s junior arena rig consists of a dozen K2 mains, eight K2 outfills and four K1-SB subs flown per side, while the NHL arena rig is beefed up to include 18 K2 mains, 14 K2 outfills and six K1-SB per side. Both variations of the system use a dozen SB28 subs on the floor, with eight Kara enclosures spread out across the sub tops for frontfill. LA8-equipped LA-RAK amplifier racks power and process the entire system.
“After I did the Soundvision work,” Howieson adds: “And really looked at the venues, I went to the production manager with the coverage maps and said, ‘Look, mate, this is all we need to bring.’ K2 was the right decision for this tour on a lot of different levels and it has worked out brilliantly.”
2nd April 2015
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