K-array Sets Standard for Touring Audio at London’s O2 Arena

Setting a new precedent for touring sound in one of the world’s most famous venues, K-array’s Firenze-KH8 touring system recently covered London’s O2 Arena with a core FOH setup of just nine KH8 loudspeakers per side.

Presenting an opportunity for Firenze to demonstrate its capabilities in such a prestigious indoor setting, the event was described by Sam Nankivell, of UK distributor 2B Heard, as “representing change in the industry, in one of the most iconic live performance venues in the world, where systems are tried and tested. There’s no better place for this system.”

The Firenze system arrived at the O2 as part of a 10-date UK arena tour by street dance troupe Diversity, staged by Production North with Audiotech Services supplying the audio and video rigs. Upon arrival at the O2, the system immediately impressed local crew members more used to a longer, more challenging setup.

“It’s a lot quicker to rig than we’re used to,” enthused Stage Miracles local Crew Member, John Cuckston, who appreciated the time savings associated with flying the Firenze-KH8 line arrays in a straight hang rather than curved. His colleague, Joe Hales, added: “It took maybe 10 minutes to get out of the truck and then 10 minutes to fly – it’s brilliant!”

The Firenze system was used throughout the arena tour, performing in venues including Glasgow’s SSE Hydro, Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena, the Manchester Arena, Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena and more. But it was at the O2 that the audio system –compact enough to occupy less than half of a truck for the entire tour – demonstrated its ability to confound expectations and impress in a world class arena.

“The last time I mixed front-of-house in the O2, I was running 18 boxes per side,” said Diversity FOH Engineer, Christian Lewis. “This arena-sized touring system is occupying less than half of a truck. It sounds as good as any other system I’ve used. In fact because of the shallow box design the response is instant and there’s plenty of top end. It’s all there.” Indeed, regardless of volume, the dynamics remain constant.

The loudspeaker eliminates the limitations of older, larger touring audio solutions. Based on an innovative flat panel design that enables optimum directivity via Electronic Beam Steering, each self-powered IP45-rated enclosure houses 16 neodymium transducers (eight 8-inch for LF, eight 4-inch for MF and four 1.4-inch high frequency compression drivers). The line arrays are anchored in pre-cabled groups of three for extremely fast rigging and deployment, while entire systems are flown in a straight line, with the option to precisely tilt panels as required.

Included in each panel is an IP65-rated electronics module delivering eight channels of Powersoft DSP and amplification, utilising the Armonia platform for system EQ and control, and providing 2,000W of power on each output. System optimisation to suit the venue can be achieved in minutes using AFMG’s EASE Focus software, which also forms the control interface for the creation of all required FIR algorithms, ensuring quick and simple operation over a single, trusted platform. Additionally, all of the Powersoft amplifier modules are IP addressable, enabling quick and seamless configuration updates.

These features combine to form K-array’s unique technology Slim Array Technology – quick to deploy, virtually invisible when flown, and powerful enough to meet even the most challenging of environments.

For Diversity at the O2, for which the upper balcony of the arena was blocked, the system comprised nine Firenze-KH8 panels per side plus side-hangs of two Firenze-KH7 elements per side, each containing four 12-inch coaxial drivers with rotating waveguides. On stage, two side fills included Pinnacle-KR802 portable systems, while eight hard-to-spot Mugello-KH2 loudspeakers lined the edge of the stage as front fills. A total of 12 Firenze-KS8 subs provided low frequency support on the ground. Had the full arena been in use, only three additional KH8 loudspeakers per side would have been required.

At front of house during setup was System Tech Sergey Becker.

“The flat panel loudspeakers are all progressively down-tilted at 2-degrees, but the angling only provides minimal adjustment – regardless of how the system is deployed, the software will sort out the coverage,” he explained. “In terms of the venue’s acoustic challenges, the system minimises reflections and gives a lot of direct sound, and that helps a lot. But I think the biggest advantage is the system’s physical size and the ease of rigging, which is amazing. It’s all pre-cabled and I can actually fly it on my own. It’s impressive, the size and the power you get out of it.”

“When you hear the Firenze system, you realise its designed, first and foremost, to sound fantastic,” added Nankivell. “Taking 20 minutes from unloading the system to flying it provides a real wow factor, but it was conceived to deliver excellent sound reproduction, and that’s precisely what it does.”

“When everyone moved from using point source clusters to line arrays, it was a big difference, but people got used to that change,” he reasoned. “Now it feels like this is the next step in the evolution of speaker systems.”