TobyMac & Blackhawk Audio Hits Deep With EAW ADAPTive

Seamless coverage, reduced tuning time, consistent results and quick load out each night pleases crowds and helps production operate more efficiently.

When Christian hip-hop recording artist and seven-time GRAMMY® winner TobyMac hit the road for his Hits Deep Tour, the production team knew that growing audiences and varying coverage demands would provide a challenge few loudspeaker systems could meet. Eastern Acoustic Works’ (EAW) worked directly with Blackhawk Audio in implementing its ADAPTive System for the tour, as it extends coverage and provides even front to back response in a physically compact system.

“The tour is a large and complicated audio deployment; the sound system has to be up and out of the way of the many video screens, yet still provide massive power and clarity to the audience,” says Rick Shimer owner of Blackhawk Audio. “We knew EAW’s ADAPTive could handle our needs and consistently deliver the coverage we needed regardless of the size or shape of the venue. The system has delivered and the sound that we are getting is amazing.”

The Hits Deep 2020 tour travels with 24 Anya modules, 24 Anna modules and 12 Otto subwoofers. Both the Anya and Anna feature individually powered and processed transducers; each Anya consists of 22 while each Anna has 14. This density of sources allows ADAPTive to provide a coverage area per box significantly larger than a typical line array. As a result, the entire audio system for this arena tour fits comfortably in a single truck saving the tour on transportation costs and simplifying load in and out.

Time and cost savings extend into the tuning and setup. “Because it hangs straight and doesn’t need physical angles between boxes, it saves a great deal of time during load in and load out,” says FOH engineer Pat Haapanen. “Before we load in we create a model of the venue in EAW’s Resolution software. Once we define the coverage area and enter the array locations, the software optimizes the processing for each transducer to fit the audience area with no physical angle calculations or moving pins between the boxes.  If something changes or we need to adjust coverage, we just click and drag the coverage area and within seconds, it’s ready to go.”

On a typical arena tour, a significant amount of time is spent going through each section and tuning for every level. With EAW ADAPTive, the team trusts that what they’re hearing at FOH is going to be very close to everywhere else in the venue. Haapanen says, “We still walk the space and listen, but it’s definitely sped up our tuning process. We have seven acts on this tour and none of the openers even come out to listen anymore. It’s been so consistent; they just trust it. For a recent stop, we only had a short amount of time to tune the system, because of a late load-in. We focused on the software model, got the parameters uploaded and did a quick check with Smaart® from the FOH position. We made little to no changes after the initial spot check.”

Haapanen has also been very impressed with how the system sounds. “I think the Anya, Anna and Ottos sound fantastic. The very front rows are so much more accurate/equal to FOH and the rest of the venue, more so than I’ve ever been able to achieve with any mechanically aimed system. Everyone’s mixes sound great. You can pick out individual instruments easily and everything fits together nicely. The EAW’s shine in the big, noisy rooms that are known to be awful for audio.”

“EAW’s Application Engineering team worked directly with Blackhawk Audio before and during the tour in order to provide the training and deployment to fit this growing tour’s needs,” says John Mills, applications engineer at EAW. “It’s rewarding to see ADAPTive technology solve real world acoustic problems and help hard working audio crews make it to catering and the bus before the lighting guys.”

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