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Practical Considerations for Field Deployment of Modular Line Array Systems

An emergent market trend during the past decade, modular line array systems are now being used for a wide variety of sound reinforcement applications. Variously referred to as line arrays,, line-source arrays, curved arrays, curvi-linear arrays or vertical arrays, such articulating line array systems can offer performance results in the field that vary as widely as the applications to which they are applied. Regardless of the terminology used to describe the genre, such systems do typically provide relatively narrow vertical coverage patterns and increased apparent gain at distance when compared to more traditional, fan-shaped arrays. These acoustical characteristics can be used to great benefit when the system is properly configured. At the same time, this class of device can present unique acoustical challenges for field deployment. Some of these challenges are influenced by the mechanical design of the individual modular line-array element and its suspension hardware. For instance, the size and shape of the individual enclosure, its acoustical capabilities, and the limitations of its suspension methods have a direct influence on what can, and cannot, be achieved when combining multiple elements in an arrayed system. With such systems, not only the high frequency section, but the entire full-range system performance must be considered. To this end, relative merits of individual enclosure design attributes that influence overall system performance are discussed. The availability of objective information regarding the actual usefulness of such systems when deployed in the field has perhaps not kept pace with the proliferation of commercially-available product. However, information systems, including application notes and predictive software tools, are evolving that present opportunities to reliably predict system array setup, projected coverage patterns, and average level in various parts of the intended audience area. A case-study approach is used herein to examine the practical aspects of deploying this type of sound reinforcement systems in performance spaces, and to review various design trade-offs encountered when using them in different venue types. While not a panacea, and not always suitable as a stand-alone sound reinforcement solution, it is shown that correctly-designed modular line array systems can be effectively deployed from small to large venues if system limitations as well as advantages are understood.

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