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Back on the A Stage for further Flashlight optimisation in shoot-out against L-Acoustics and d&b Line Arrays

Forget Madonna’s appearance at The Brits. An equally momentous event occurred precisely a week earlier on the A Stage at Millennium Studios. At another day of Flashlight system testing and optimisation, we pitted our reborn ‘Turbo Blues’ against Line Arrays from L-Acoustics and d&b. So which systems were fleet of foot and which took a tumble, sonically speaking? All is revealed below…

It’s all about the music

We’d already put the Formidable inventory of renovated and upgraded Turbosound Flashlight through its paces here on the A Stage for two solid days last month and found the best configuration for the room was to fly 3 wide, 2 deep mid high packs per side, with 6 of our 21” Bass cabinets, ground stacked per side.

Now it was time to conduct a controlled test against comparable Line Array systems that we all know have become the industry standard, supplied and used for most live concerts we attend and work on today.

This was not simply a case of old school vs new school or analogue vs digital. Remember: the Formidable Flashlight boxes have been meticulously refurbished, and they’ve been upgraded to ‘better-than-new’ 21st century standards with driver upgrades.

We knew how good our system sounded, but until you actually compare like for like, in the same room, all is subjective. We needed to hear the difference ourselves, before deciding on how to format a public event, to really know where we were with it and whether our 2 years of intensive refurbishment and solid investment had really been worth it… Keep the faith!

To our knowledge, no other sound company has undertaken such an experiment. This was going to be a very interesting day…

Our listening panel of pro sound experts

The truly professional engineers (thanks guys) who accompanied and set up the line arrays, whose remit was to achieve the best sound in the room with their systems, were just as fascinated as us to hear where modern technology had taken sound reinforcement on its journey. A big surprise was also how fast the Flashlight rigged – only 10 minutes slower than the K2 but 10 minutes faster than the d&b, thanks to our newly modernised flyware!

Helping us set up and forming our listening panel were Danny Cooklin, Pete Brotzman, George McKechnie and David Cole. Though each has had deep involvement with Turbosound Flashlight over the years, all pride themselves on their total impartiality. Indeed, as highly respected names in the music industry they are relied upon day in and day out by their clients to provide a unique blend of experience, expertise and independence in all things related to live sound.

Point Source vs Line Array: how the systems lined up for the comparative test

Turbosound Flashlight: 6 x flown Flashlight with 6 x 21” Bass ground stacked per side.

L-Acoustics K2 Line Array: 8 x flown K2 with 6 x 218 Bass ground stacked per side.

d&b J8 Series Line Array: 8 x flown J8’s per side with 12 x 218 Bass centre ground stack.

We played a wide and varied selection of well recorded music tracks using a DAC, carefully monitoring at 105db sound level from measurement mics in the centre of the space, whilst simultaneously switching between systems. The results where indeed fascinating to say the least!

The panel’s verdict: how did the systems perform in the test?

L-Acoustics K2

Pete Brotzman summed up the panel’s impressions of how the L-Acoustics K2 system performed in comparison to the Flashlight rig:

“With the L-Acoustics K2 rig the sub bass seemed very pronounced , ‘one note’ and lacked definition and dynamics.

“The mid-hi box, the low-mid was not clear and also lacked definition and projection, as did the hi-mid and hi.

“In fact, the whole mid-hi box lacked separation within the speaker bands. Along with the slow bass this gave a listening experience that wasn’t accurate to the playback music I was listening to.”

d&b J8 Series

Once again, Pete summed up the panel’s assessment of the sound:

“The sub bass of the d&B J8 system sounded very much like the L-Acoustics system with slow ‘one note’ characteristics, lacking definition.

“The mid/hi was also lacking definition with not a lot of projection; the sound seemed to be back in the box.

“Overall this system sounded very processed and not very musical. With the same SPL [Sound Pressure Level] as the Flashlight, it also appeared quieter.”

Formidable’s reborn Flashlight

By contrast, our renovated and upgraded Flashlight system thrilled all of those present with its detail, dynamics, punch and sheer musicality.

George McKechnie highlighted the key difference between Flashlight and the two Line Array systems in this test: “Flashlight gave the sound transparency and allowed it to breathe easily.”

Pete Brotzman concurred: “Not only did Flashlight hold its own with the current Line Arrays but to my ears it had dynamics, speed and was very musical – all the things you like to listen to.”

Other comments from our listeners included:

  • “Flashlight was considerably more musical in that I could visualise each instrument being played in the mix.”
  • “Flashlight had much more dynamic range and greater intelligibility – the lack of processing meaning that it did not colour the sound in the same way that Line Arrays do, especially the bottom end.”
  • “Flashlight projects the sound to you and develops a proper stereo image.”
  • “Not only was Flashlight as loud as the Line Array systems, it sounded far clearer at higher volumes, as evidenced by the intro of ‘Money for Nothing’.
  • “In comparison, the line arrays seemed to interpret the music in a way that wasn’t representative of how the tracks were mixed in the studio, especially with the slow bottom end and evident added harmonics. In contrast, the new Flashlight gave a very accurate sonic embodiment to the music, bringing the mix much closer to you, enriching the whole listening experience.”

 

So, there you have it. The day was an undeniable, unprecedented success: Turbosound Flashlight is back with a vengeance. With this very valuable controlled test and near-final optimisation session completed, we’re now planning the best course to present a similar A/B industry test day, to hear the difference and on going workshop sessions to be announced for Flashlight in the 21st century. Stay tuned…

 

To find out more, please contact:

Joe Turner, Formidable Audio:
Office: +44 (0)1892 686018   Mobile: +44(0)770 234 9534
www.formidableaudio.com

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