The summer classical concert season is in full swing at a range of heritage sites across Britain. The Proms in the Castle in the beautiful grounds of Pontefract Castle, West Yorkshire – a magnificent evening of music with the West Yorkshire Symphony followed by a dazzling fireworks display in front of a capacity crowd of 2000 people – took place at the end of June. Local full service production company, Sound & Light UK, were excited to put an EM Acoustics HALO-A large format line array system through its paces for the first time on a live outdoor event.
SLUK has been looking after the event since 2015 with an active system that required covered PA towers to protect the internal electronics. The client was extremely nervous about changing the system which, according to SLUK’s Chris Bottomley, had always done the job well enough, but as he pointed out, the opportunity to put HALO-A on the event was too good to miss. “Ian Downes [Programmes and Events officer, Pontefract Castle] was very uneasy about changing anything as he’d been burned in the past by a seriously underspecced system (which was why we got the gig in the first place) and what we had in place got the job done. I had to use all my powers of persuasion to let us try out HALO-A, and he’s now very glad we did!”
The West Yorkshire Symphony is a 60-piece orchestra. The brief was to individually mic each instrument which resulted in 96 channels of audio and provide sound reinforcement capable of covering quite a large area – 50m wide by 80m deep with the FOH position at 60m down the the field. SLUK provided four HALO-A cabinets per side flown from traditional truss PA towers supplemented by two MSE-218 subs on the ground.
“The sheer power delivered by HALO-A was incredible,” says Bottomley. “Even when the tops are just ticking over, it’s such a big sound. It’s clean, it’s fast, it’s accurate and the amount of information and detail is unbelieveable, as is the amount of headroom in the HF. Compared to our previous system, it was like night and day.”
“Another advantage of the HALO-A system is that the feedback rejection is exceptional which gave us a lot more headroom,” he continued. “In previous years the overall volume was limited by feedback on the bottom end, partly due to the way the orchestra is laid out with three double basses and six cellos over to one side. However, this was no longer the case with HALO-A. Funniliy enough, people said it sounded quieter at the back, but when we measured it, it was actually louder, which is a measure of how clear and transparent the system is.”
“I spoke to Ian at the interval to ask if he was happy so far, given his earlier misgivings. He was over the moon. He said, ‘It’s perfect; it’s much cleaner than the previous system that we’ve used and the volume’s fine.’ His final comments after the show were, ‘What a stunning-sounding PA system. It feels as though we’re listening to the instruments and not the PA.’ That’s the holy grail for every PA system, so we’re very happy with that.”