Thursday, October 2, 2008

Esplanade Theatre's Audio Shootout

Yup, this is reality TV for audio industry. More so for this small little island where there’s not much spaces to hang a line array, although I would love to have one in my living room. :) When Singapore’s top performing arts venue is looking for a system overhaul, nobody wants to be left out of the picture. So here we have a 1 week’s worth of ‘survivor-style’ line array shootout for 7 kingpins of line arrays, right inside Esplanade Theatre.

d&b audiotechnik
L Acoustics

Setting up wasn’t difficult for everyone. But it’s the brains behind the array calculation that’s stressed. For one, it’s A/B comparison with your direct competitors. But stepping aside from the winning mentality, who knows you might be blown away by your competitor’s array, and submit your resume right on the spot! Secondly, it’s the pressure from your boss, coz you know your year-end bonus is hanging on the tip of your fingers.

For consumers like me, it was a great chance to compare how different manufacturers emphasize on different aspects of audio technology. Like for some, coupling of subs proved to be very effective, while others bulldoze by numbers. It was also a good display for rigging techniques as preferred by each manufacturer.

For day 01, all 7 line arrays were put to the test which consisted of a huge variety of music playbacks ranging from symphonies, pop and rock music, and vocal microphone. Venue coverage were also taken into consideration. The tribal council, which consisted of Esplanade’s Head of Sound, Robin Shuttleworth, and a few others from the sound department, took time to rate the performance of each array on a piece of paper in point system format. At the end of day 01, 3 arrays will be eliminated based on the overall score.

After Meyer, EV and Nexo got eliminated, the rest of the contenders got to work again to fine tuned their system. The pressure seem to have climbed another level as making to the 2nd round doesn’t mean anything. Since I’m helping d&b audiotechnik, I was hoping that they can make it through. Then at least I can stay to the finals of the survivor series and find out the results. And personally, d&b’s performance is quite amazing.

Colourful CROWN amps driving JBL's Vertec

At the end of the day, the results came as a shock to everyone. Yeah… d&b got eliminated, leaving Adamsons and JBL to race to the end. Now, both Adamsons and JBL will have to rig up stereo configurations and go through another round of evaluation.

On the grounds we heard a lot about political issues and frankly speaking, I don’t give a damn. But which ever the house system, it better justify Esplanade’s status, and especially the expensive tickets.


  1. How come D&B Audiotechnik, L-Acoustics, Adamson, ElectroVoice, Meyer and Nexo didn't make it to the end? Why was Martin Audio not involved?

  2. Meyer is the best and D&B Audiotechnik how can in the final remain only adamson and jbl i think those are the worst.

  3. Yeah I am with you. I Hate the sound of JBL horns,next to EV and Nexo. But I guess its a matter of taste. I would have love to been there.

  4. It's incredible to compare real factory products like Electro Voice to nexo or L acoustic who don't know what's building a loudspeaker because they just assemble components from everywhere. They have no knowledge in the industry of loudspeakers. JBL is the king with more than 50 years of experience.
    There is certainly a reason if JBL VERTEC is N°1 in the world for it's unrivaled audio quality.

  5. Well... I'm not surprised.
    Now Martin with it's new MLA system will leave behind all these brands.

  6. I completely agree with you, Martin Audio is the very best!

  7. Who won in the end? I thought d&b was quite good. Did they bring the J-series? I love those. I think the National Day Parade in Singapore uses it right?

  8. Anyone who says 1 system is the best obviously has no clue what he's talking about

  9. it's a joke no?, why Nexo have only 2 cd18?? and jbl have a lot of subs??

  10. Again another example on what not to do for a shoot out:
    - Nobody mixes or listens in mono since 1958: stereo shout out is a must to identify true system capability
    - Line array system should be installed at exactly same pick points with same aiming area
    - System configuration should be nearly identical in SPL level across the range
    - System engineer supporting each brand separately
    - Theater to provide one main specification for main system

  11. Music and lighting are an integral part of a production. They enhance moods and situations, highlight characters and places, and add to the success of a production.

  12. I also agree that this is not a proper test....

    I have used all of these multiple times and have to say that I can make any one of these sound better than another simply with processing and array setup.

    The obvious faults in this setup are that... as stated above "they should be installed at same pick point" or you will not be able to determine coverage.... also these are completely different size arrays and have different number of subs, etc..... Fail fail fail on all counts from day 1.

    Depending on how experienced you are with these types of systems some will know how much easier to setup and tune a D&B system versus a Meyers, versus Nexo, etc.... In my experience Meyer requires quite a lot of processing and setup to get the systems to sound exellent and D&B can almost be set up and run flat and they sound great but they also require specific amplifiers made by D&B so no options to get a different amp for cost purposes. Nexo is an older school style cabinet and without their processors they seakers sound horrible AND the processors are not as dependable as other companies. JBL does have a lot of experience designing speakers and they do make good quality stuff however the VERTEC has a very harsh whiny horn and without proper processing can sound horrible. Adamson is not a largely found manufacture as of now but have been coming up in the world, however they too require much processing to sound good.

    So if you ask me It depends on a lot of factors what someone would consider the "best," in their opinion that is, and most of the factors that just don't add up in this "contest" to determine who the "best" is.

    Cool post though!