Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking, award-winning musical Cats has embarked on a large-scale international tour throughout Europe, direct from its sell-out seasons at the London Palladium. Rather than touring traditional theatre venues, the tour takes in significantly larger arenas which typically pose challenges for sound designers wanting to replicate the sonic intricacies and detail expected from such a high-profile production.
With audio production supplied by Autograph Sound, sound designer Greg Pink had no hesitation in turning to KV2 Audio loudspeakers to fulfil the task in hand.
“Having been designing musicals for over 30 years, I have used PAs from many different manufacturers, but it is without doubt that KV2 Audio’s range of loudspeakers are second to none!” enthuses Pink. “Whether you are using them in a small theatre or a large arena they handle the job perfectly. We are currently touring a production of Cats around European arenas using a VHD system. The system looks ridiculously small in the venues, but the clarity and coverage are phenomenal. The dynamic range of the system allows us to run the system louder, if needed, without the risk of any distortion.
“The throw required in these arenas can be up to 100 meters which we easily achieve with just 6 x VHD2.0s and 12 x VHD4.18 subwoofers,” he continues. “All VHD2.0s are flown, so for the audience sitting front of stage, consistent coverage is achieved with a just a pair of ESR215s and 4 x EX26s.”
Speaking more broadly about KV2, Pink adds, “As a designer, KV2 gives you exactly what you want – clarity at any level, frequency response and even coverage. If KV2 says the box is 110 degrees then it is, without any loss of certain frequencies.”
Assuming the role of Head of Sound for the tour is Jens Drieghe who – like an ever-increasing number of audio professionals – has enjoyed similar experiences with KV2 Audio’s products in the real world.
“I first came into contact with KV2 during a demo at PLASA several years ago and was immediately impressed,” he recalls. “The first time I had the pleasure of mixing on a full KV2 rig was during the run of ‘Bring It On – The Musical’ at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London where we used a combination of ESR212s with EX6, 10 and 26s as fills. For the ‘smaller’ shows on Cats we took it a step further by using ESR215 mkIIs and EX15 as main PA with SL412, ESD25, EX6, 12 and 26s as centre fill, delays and fills complemented by EX1.8 and VHD2.18J subs and then the VHD2.0 system for the arena leg of the tour.”
Drieghe is particularly struck by the quality of reproduction and the intelligibility of KV2 systems: “From the moment you switch on a KV2 system and play some music you know you are dealing with something special,” he notes. “I can make sure that every word of the show can be clearly heard in every seat in the auditorium, even in massive arenas, where a band can sound intimate and distant in one moment and instantly switch to in-your-face rock n’ roll the next, without ever losing detail. It’s so clean that you can pick up individual voices even during big ensemble songs, and the slightest fader move is audible on a KV2 rig which lets me put a lot of detail in my mixes.”
He continues: “The VHD system used in the arena shows delivers something that seems simply impossible when you look at the size of it. Yet, we deliver high quality sound to every seat – with only six speakers in the air and plenty of headroom left!
“So many people from audience members to local crew and promoters have taken time to congratulate me on the quality of the sound, and it all starts with an amazing system which gives me a platform to do my thing and make the show sound great,” he concludes. “I was impressed after the first demo and after around a year of mixing on KV2 I am totally convinced. There is no going back anymore – this is by far the best system I have ever mixed on!”
Remarking on the sound following a performance at the Spektrum Arena, Trondheim Norway was Pendabede Stally, Director & Business Manager for Nick Grace Management – the producers behind Cats and countless other high profile theatre productions. “The audio system Greg has chosen for this arena leg of the tour is so outstandingly clear that I couldn’t help but to comment on it,” he says. “Whilst not being an audio pro (that’s Greg and Jens’ job…) I really did notice the difference. There is a clarity and crispness to the sound that I presumed would be difficult to achieve in an arena and it is certainly distinct from other set-ups we have toured previously. The unique properties of each performer’s voice were preserved in the amplification giving the audience something they may not get from other systems – an enhanced layer of quality.
“It was particularly noticeable right at the top of the show in the opening scene where each cat introduces him/herself, their solo voices sitting on top of the music and backing vocals in such a distinct way,” he relates. “I’ve never heard it like that and I really enjoyed the difference – and when it’s good, it’s good to say so!”
Stally rounds off with the simple observation that, “We’ve enjoyed using KV2 systems over the past couple of years on this and other shows in a variety of very different environments and, in addition to the sonic benefits, the weight saving when it comes to rigging in difficult venues is also greatly appreciated.”