Photo: Santana Supernatural speakers are run by tour crew (L-R): Matthew Anderson (Audio Crew Chief / Monitor Tech), Brendan Hines (PA Tech), Harrison Ruhl (Audio Systems Engineer), Kevin Madigan (FOH Engineer) and Brian Montgomery (Monitor Engineer). Not pictured: Michael Grabarczyk (Audio Systems Engineer) and Cindy Pan (Audio Stage Tech)
For Santana, 2019 was a banner dual-anniversary year. Not only did it mark the 50th anniversary of the band’s mesmerizing performance at 1969’s legendary Woodstock music festival, it also marked the 20th anniversary of the Grammy Award-winning Supernatural album, which won the group an entirely new generation of fans three decades later. To celebrate, Santana hit the road for its Supernatural Now tour equipped with an L-Acoustics K1/K2 system from Sound Image.
Joined by The Doobie Brothers as the opening act, the 29-date North American shed trek kicked off in Phoenix, Arizona and snaked its way east, culminating with a final performance in Wantagh, New York. According to Sound Image Senior VP Rob Mailman, who previously served as Santana’s longtime FOH engineer before passing the torch to Kevin Madigan this past January, L-Acoustics loudspeakers have long been the band’s touring loudspeaker of choice. “I started mixing Santana in 2003, so the band has been with Sound Image 17 years,” Mailman recalls. “I first began with V-DOSC in 2005 and moved up to K1 in 2010, then changed my side hangs out to K2 in 2014.”
For Supernatural Now, Sound Image System Engineers Michael Grabarczyk and Harrison Ruhl were tasked with deploying a PA system based on a similar spec. Santana Supernatural speakers included: Main arrays comprised of 12 K1 over four K2 per side, flanked by hangs of eight K1-SB enclosures. Farther out were 10 K2 per side as auxiliary hangs, while a dozen subs were ground-stacked below in four groups of three, set up in a cardioid configuration if the stage was hollow. A total of six Kara frontfills sat atop the subs (the center two were doubled), while two ARCS on the far downstage left and right corners provided additional fill. A dozen LA-RAK loaded with 36 LA8 amplified controllers supplied the system’s power and processing.
Manning his usual DiGiCo SD5 console, FOH Engineer Kevin Madigan appreciated being in the driver’s seat of Santana’s K1/K2 system, as it was nearly identical to the rig he’d been using on a 2018 tour with another one of Sound Image’s clients, Lana Del Rey. “The system design was practically the same as what Dave Brooks [L-Acoustics Touring Liaison Manager] and I came up with for Lana’s shows,” Madigan says. “It gave us a very consistent coverage and a lot of low frequency rejection on the stage. The flown K1-SB are dual-purpose—they sum nicely with the adjacent K1 mains in the audience direction and cancel significantly onto the stage. The ground subs further reinforce low end throughout the audience, and when in cardioid configuration help keep LF off the stage as well.”
Grabarczyk shares his satisfaction with the sonics of L-Acoustics’ system. “The fidelity of K1/K2 is simply incredible,” he says. “It brings a very studio-esque listening experience to the audience, and places everything right in front of their faces. With the proper deployment, it’s a system engineer’s dream as it just sounds the same from front to back.”
Harrison Ruhl, who took over the SE duties partway through the journey when Grabarczyk hopped onto another Sound Image tour, agrees: “K1 and K2 deliver a smooth, crisp, and full sound no matter where you are sitting or standing. The FIR and Air Compensation capabilities in Network Manager allowed me to maintain consistent levels of intelligibility throughout each venue. And with the K1-SB flown just off stage to match the top of the main arrays, the sub energy in the far field was clean and had really nice impact.”
Madigan reiterates his appreciation for the loudspeaker system’s consistency, which has long been a hallmark of the French manufacturer. “L-Acoustics is just a known constant for me,” he adds. “Knowing its capabilities, we can optimize the system each day in whatever venue we’re in to have excellent consistency and quality, from the front row to the highest or farthest seat. I’ll usually go sit up there and listen during the day. I don’t tolerate much deviation from our ideal system response anywhere, and with K1 I don’t have to.”
Sound Image can be found online at www.sound-image.com.