This year's Exmouth Festival saw the UK debut of Proel's brand new Axiom AX800A compact line array, used for the very first time at a live event after the first units of the new product began shipping this month.
ESW Solutions, the South West's premier provider of professional audio, video, lighting and conferencing services, had the timely opportunity to test the new AX800A system at the Exmouth Festival with one of its most experienced sound engineers Darren Campan and overseen by senior project manager Richard Hawkins. ESW Solutions works on over 500 events a year and as the company looks to expand its business further, it is continually on the lookout for cost-effective, quality equipment to add to rental stock that will improve live event experiences. So when Proel's Mike Roissetter offered a product demonstration system for the festival, ESW's managing director Martin Nicholls was more than happy to trial it.
The AX800A is Proel's newest line array product, adding to the range of Axiom professional line arrays that have found favour with rental companies worldwide. It is based around two 8-inch low frequency drivers back loaded with an acoustic transmission line that reduces some of the high bass energy normally present at the rear of the cabinet, so giving it a natural cardioid characteristic. These LF drivers are matched to a 1.4-inch titanium diaphragm high frequency compression driver in a symmetrical WTW configuration and housed in an organically styled polypropylene enclosure, measuring just 600mm wide by 516mm deep and weighing in at 25 kilos including the integrated rigging hardware.
"This is a great product for outdoor festivals and events of this type," says Nicholls. "Looks neat, great design – it's lightweight, very straight forward and intuitive to use. We had very little work to do with the EQ on the sound check at the festival site, and we were particularly impressed with the consistency of frequency response from close to stage to the back of the event site."
ESW's regular speaker system, which now consists of 12 AX2065 dual 6.5-inch line arrays and eight SW215 dual 15-inch subwoofers, is out all the time according to Nicholls. "What I really like is that we can break these down into smaller systems that are very easy to move around and works so well for the large amount of conferencing projects that we do. Two tops on a wind-up stand make a perfect small speech-only system, and are so quick to set up and operate. They are so much lighter than our previous system, and it means that we can now put out up to four systems at the same time."
Designed to be flown on stage truss or work lift stands, the AX800A rigs quickly and intuitively with a simple drop link and rigging pin system which allows the PA to be set up and ready for use in minutes. Custom flybars are available to fly clusters of either four or 12 cabinets deep, and a custom flight case houses four cabinets to make transportation easy. For the festival, ESW's project manager Richard Hawkins elected to fly six AX800A cabinets each side of stage – the top two on long throw factory presets, the next three on standard presets, and the bottom cabinet on the downfill setting – from rigging towers trimmed at a height of around six metres to optimise coverage over the 100 metre by 75 metre audience space, which numbered at times at around 5,000 people.
On the floor were two of the complementary SW1800A dual 18-inch powered subwoofers each side, and on top of those were two SW215A dual 15-inch powered subwoofers per side from ESW's regular PA rig providing the upper bass octave. AX2065 dual 6.5-inch cabinets were placed on the sub stacks as front fills, with a further AX2065 as a centre stage lip fill. All monitoring was provided by Proel Flash 12A wedges, with Hawkins taking care of all monitor mixes.
With a variety of acts such as Bad Manners, Company B, and Zuri Aura to mix, front of house engineer Darren Campan had plenty of opportunity to check the AX800A's capabilities in an ideal outdoor setting: "I was surprised at how much power there was from a small box, I didn't feel I was running out of headroom at any time. And the system covers really well especially from front to back of the audience, with plenty of clarity in the high end. Having double 15s and double 18s on the floor was very effective for the rather bass-heavy bands like Bad Manners so we didn't struggle at all for low end, and I was impressed with the system's ease of transition from two- and three-piece acts to full bands. We had some good comments from the audience, and the compere John Johnson said that we made even him sound good!"
Project manager Richard Hawkins agrees: "The new Axiom line array sounded great, it's brilliant all round with a lot of depth to it – a proper full range PA. The system's pretty flat from the start and didn't require much EQ to get it sounding sweet, only a little cut at 200Hz, while tonal quality was very much the same from front to back of the audience space. And I like that the visual styling is a little different from the average plywood box. We look forward to seeing more of the AX800A in the future."