Dream Theater Takes North America’s First L-Acoustics L Series System on Tour
August 14, 2023
NORTH AMERICA – Dreamsonic, the four-hour “prog-metal music festival” that toured North America in June and July, featured Dream Theater along with acts Devin Townsend and Animals As Leaders. It also featured PRG’s brand new L2 and L2D enclosures from L-Acoustics, a speaker system that promises to pack more sonic power in a smaller footprint that’s easier to carry, load, fly and use.
More details from L-Acoustics (www.l-acoustics.com):
Originally formed by three students attending Boston’s Berklee School of Music in 1985, New York-based Dream Theater is regarded as one of the “big three”—along with Queensrÿche and Fates Warning—of the progressive-metal genre, responsible for its development and popularization. Nearly four decades later, the band is still going strong and was recently out on its inaugural Dreamsonic tour, billed as the band’s “very own prog-metal music festival,” according to guitarist John Petrucci, who adds that it will be the first edition of an annual prog-centric traveling festival curated by the group.
Dream Theater, along with support acts Devin Townsend and Animals As Leaders, was also charting new waters in another significant way. This was the first tour in North America to deploy the new L Series system, introduced by L-Acoustics in April as “a breakthrough concept in concert sound made possible through the culmination of 30 years of intensive R&D in software modeling, loudspeaker technology, and electronics.” Before the system becomes publicly available this fall, Dreamsonic’s L2 and L2D enclosures were being carried and deployed by PRG, one of a handful of pilot-phase production providers.
Steve Thom, PRG’s system engineer on Dreamsonic, says being one of the first to fly L2 is its own kind of dream. “It’s an absolute privilege to be one of the first to be hands-on with technology like this on tour,” he says, adding that L-Acoustics provided training on the new L Series before the tour and support as needed once it began.
Thom says he’s enjoyed taking the L2 into each venue during the tour, where staff have been excited to check it out. “They want to know what we’re carrying, and I get to say, ‘Have I got a surprise for you!’” he laughs. “Everybody is very intrigued about the new technology.”
He’s also been impressed by the features and capabilities of L Series, citing in particular how few boxes it takes to assemble a system adapted to accommodate all venues on this run, which he accomplishes using L-Acoustics Soundvision software. “Depending on the size of the venue, we’ll do either two or three L2 over an L2D. The largest we’ve done is three L2 on top of an L2D, but even that is far more compact and streamlined than any system we’ve used before, even K2. We don’t have to set 16 inter-cabinet angles and eight jumpers as with a conventional line array. We only have four elements to connect, instead of 16, without sacrificing any output.”
Two other new components also make the assembly process easier. The new LA7.16 high-resolution touring amplified controller, which supports L2 and L2D with 16 channels of high-power amplification and processing, comes in a new LA-RAK III touring rack offering 48 channels of amplification in a Milan AVB-ready package, with more than 60,000 watts of power in just 9U. And the forthcoming new Clamp1000, which can carry up to four L2/L2D, makes rigging simple and predictable, allowing users to rotate a flown line array from the ground, significantly saving setup time and the number of motors needed.
“LA7.16 is incredible,” says Thom. “Everything you need is integrated into a single amplifier, so you don’t need multiple amps, and the multipin connector on the back takes any guesswork out of the process. L-Acoustics literally thought of everything for the L Series.”
Thom says he’s noticed immediate sonic benefits. “Compared to a conventional line source that will most likely have one group of FIR filters dedicated to four compression drivers, each group of FIR filters on the L Series is dedicated to each individual compression driver in the line, providing increased resolution,” he says. “Also, the transition from component to component is incredibly precise, so there’s no gap in coverage, and the system’s tight directivity really helps clean up the sound on stage.”
Out in front of the system, Dream Theater front-of-house engineer Michael “Ace” Baker had his own epiphany with L Series. “It’s been exciting to be part of this,” he says. “When we go into new venues, I see staff there, who didn’t have to come in that day, show up just to see and hear L Series. That’s happened multiple times on this tour.”
Baker has found L2’s sound to be truly distinctive. He says he’s noticed that in reactions from audiences at shows who comment on the sonic quality, but also from a particular and knowledgeable source: the bandmembers’ wives, some of whom are traveling with the tour. “They’re all musicians, too, and they knew something was up with the sound right away,” he says. “They could clearly and distinctly hear greater definition of each instrument.”
“This is an awesome box,” he adds. “In each venue, it felt like it was exactly the right system for that room, and you didn’t have to wait until halfway through a show to realize that. Talking with the front-of-house engineers for our openers, Devin Townsend and Animals As Leaders, we all say the same thing: L Series truly makes us excited about mixing again.”
Devin Townsend FOH engineer Chris Edrich adds that the stereo imaging was “incredible,” noting that “you don’t have to have a center mix position to be able to hear all of your panning and stereo channels properly, which is great since we don’t always get an ideal mix position. The midrange fidelity is also a huge step up from previous rigs I’ve mixed on. It’s a great system overall, especially when tuned by Steve.”
Animals As Leaders FOH engineer Igor Stolarsky, meanwhile, calls mixing on L2 “a really eye-opening experience. The level of clarity and the speed of the transient response simultaneously feels like it’s both more honest to my mixes and somehow helping them out. And the low-end extension is bonkers. The first time I muted my sub output and realized how much of that low end was coming out of the array was shocking. Switching to other arrays for the occasional house rig on this tour has continuously left me feeling like something’s missing in comparison and wanting to ‘come home’ to the L2.”
From a monitor mix position, says Dream Theater monitor engineer James Meslin, “L Series has delivered a consistent and enjoyable environment on stage.” Meslin adds that “the rear rejection is incredible, to the point that I have questioned if it was even turned on some days. The importance of that, especially when working with artists on IEMs playing complex music, is the low end never overtook what they wanted to hear in their ears. My mixes off the desk hardly changed to accommodate the room response and ensured on days where we couldn’t soundcheck that the band would have no surprises when hitting the stage.”
Meslin also says these benefits are not limited to the monitors position. “This is also a huge advantage from the FOH perspective, as your hands aren’t tied to sacrificing the system to accommodate unwanted resonance on deck. Aside from the sonic advantages, the ergonomics and design of L Series expedited our load ins and outs and made for tidy truck packs. It’s definitely a system I’d like to tour with again.”
PRG project manager Randall Knight concurs that the compact and powerful new L2 and L2D were the perfect fit. “Delivering a system that meets the sonic, budget, and space requirements can be challenging when every venue on tour is so different,” he says. “We went through multiple options in the planning stages of this tour since it was going to theaters, arenas, and amphitheaters. Once L Series was on the table through the pilot program with PRG, it was the obvious choice. The coverage and sonic quality this system can achieve is truly amazing. It’s a game changer.”
“It’s been really exciting to be a part of launching this amazing new technology,” adds PRG account executive Erik Paquette. “Equipment that’s both compact and powerful is becoming really important to tours on all fronts, and truck space is always a consistent concern for everyone. The L Series system is such a groundbreaking tool to be able to deploy. It also doesn’t hurt that it sounds absolutely incredible.”