A fixture in Washington DC live entertainment since the Second World War, George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium has hosted an eclectic mix of performers from Ingrid Bergman to Pink Floyd, along with leading world music artists, local opera and symphony companies and celebrated political dignitaries over the years.
The university recently decided to upgrade the venerable auditorium with special emphasis on the sound and lighting systems. MHA Audio, a successful local production company and integrator based in Hagerstown, MD, was tasked with installing the new audio system.
Discussing why he got involved with the project, MHA owner Mike Scarfe said, “We don’t normally do much installation work, but we have an outstanding relationship with Lisner and George Washington University based on doing live shows there for over 20 years, so this project made a lot of sense.
“It was also a perfect opportunity in terms of timing to bring Martin Audio’s new MLA Compact system into play and it all came together really well. The 1500-seat venue was the perfect size for the system. We put eight MLA Compacts per side with a center array of six DSX subs under the stage. The system was a natural choice because we’d had such a great experience with Martin Audio’s MLA touring system and this technology is definitely state-of-the-art.”
Discussing the University’s decision to modernize the sound and lighting systems, Executive Director of Lisner Auditorium and Partnership Development at GWU Maryann Lombardi explains, “We haven’t had a significant upgrade since the early forties and we needed to make the venue more competitive in terms of attracting high-profile talent.
“The environment for entertainment venues in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia has changed dramatically in the last 20 years with more venues offering increasingly sophisticated capabilities. Our job is to become more competitive within that market. We’ve held a very prominent place in the past, but we really wanted to branch into other genres and better support our world artists.”
“In addition to a new sound and lighting package,” continues Lombardi, “the facility upgrade included a complete physical upgrade in terms of a new interior, seats, painting, carpet, stage floor, hanging points in the ceiling for lighting and sound, and a new heating and cooling system.”
Since the upgrade, Lisner has presented a series of popular and well-attended world music concerts by artists such as the Brazilian singer-songwriter Gilberto Gil and Acoustic Africa, as well as the sold-out debate between Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.
Asked about her impressions of the sound system since the MLA Compact system was installed, Lombardi enthuses, “I’m thrilled. It really has made an enormous difference in the sound quality. We’ve also gotten very good reactions from legacy clients such as the Air Force Band, Gilberto Gil, the Heritage Awards and artists using the equipment for the first time.
“We are now vetting performers and looking through their contract riders as we venture into new genres and it’s really cool to say we now have this sophisticated sound system in place that they can put to good use.”
Eric Annis, Production Manager and Technical Director for Lisner, is also enthusiastic about the new MLA Compact, “We think it’s fantastic and so do all the users who have come in since the installation.
“We’ve had several televised events in a row and maintaining the sightlines within the auditorium is wonderful,” adds Annis. “The shows have run the gamut from loud electrical music to a single mic bluegrass band, and the MLA Compact system has proved to be equally articulate and clear.”
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About MLAâ„¢ (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array)
The result of many years of intensive R&D, MLA’s methodology replaces trial-and-error array design with intelligent numerical optimization of the array’s output based on a highly accurate acoustic model. The multi-cellular format has six individual cells in each enclosure, each with its own DSP and amplification.
With up to 24 enclosures, each MLA array has up to 144 cells — too great a number to optimize manually, or by ear. Instead, Martin Audio’s proprietary Display2â„¢ system design software automatically calculates FIR DSP filters for each cell and a redundant-ring audio network (U-NETâ„¢) downloads the settings into each array enclosure. Martin Audio’s VU-NETâ„¢ software provides real-time control and monitoring of the system.
MLA delivers a frequency response and SPL consistency never before achievable; a very high system output (140dB peak, per cabinet @1m); Automatic optimization of the array, both physically (splay angles) and electronically (DSP); Computer control and monitoring of the entire system, and total control of sound system balance for engineers and sound technicians.
MLA is fully integrated, with Class D amplification, DSP and U-NET digital audio
network built into each enclosure. MLA complete systems are ready-to-use, with MLA, MLD and MLX enclosures, flying hardware, software, cabling and training all supplied. Everything needed is included. All ancillary items — from tablet PC and Merlinâ„¢ controller to network interconnects and mains distro — are also included in the complete system package. This ensures full compatibility worldwide, down to cabling and accessories.
Additional features include 90A° x 7.5A° dispersion; a compact size (1136mm wide x 372mm high x 675mm deep), one-box-fits-all (festivals to theaters) application range and a global voltage, power factor corrected power supply.
MLA’s compact size and very high output allows it to be shipped using smaller trucks, offering considerable savings and reduced carbon footprint. The system also includes the MLX powered, flyable subwoofer capable of an unprecedented measured peak output of 150dB @ 1m; MLD downfill cabinet, and Merlin 4-in/10-out system controller and network hub. Audio input is via analog, AES3 or U-NET.
By adopting these principles and system components MLA is optimized for every member of the audience — from a 2,000 capacity theater, to a 20,000-seat arena, to a 100,000-person festival site. It will deliver the engineer’s exact mix to every seat (up to over 150 meters) with precision, exceptional power and clarity.
About Martin AudioA®
Founded by audio engineer David Martin in 1971, Martin Audio pioneered the use of all-horn-loaded bass designs in world-class touring loudspeaker systems for groups such as Pink Floyd, ELP and Supertramp. Located outside of London, Martin Audio now embodies a sophisticated mix of acoustic design, research, mathematical modeling and software engineering for a wide range of products in the installation, cinema and touring sound markets.