First for First Avenue: Iconic Minneapolis Venue Paves the Way with North America’s First Installation of the New L-Acoustics L Series Concert Sound System First for First Avenue: Iconic Minneapolis Venue Paves the Way with North Americ...
A venue famous for hosting every genre of music imaginable over more than 50 years now has a sound system that makes them all sound equally great
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – December 2023 – The fact that the venerable live music club First Avenue occupies a former Greyhound Bus terminal in downtown Minneapolis might have prompted patrons when it first opened in 1970 to joke that the venue might be going places. As it turned out, First Avenue has instead stuck around. Five decades later, the venue is celebrated as one of the longest-running, independently owned and operated venues in the United States and is widely recognized as the musical epicenter of the Twin Cities. Perhaps best known as the recording location of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” which became the title track for the eponymous landmark film that also featured the club, First Avenue has hosted countless nationally- and internationally-acclaimed music artists like Green Day, Public Enemy, Ray Charles, Megadeth, Tina Turner, and many others over the years. The venue also became the incubator for most of the artists who formed Minneapolis’ moment atop the ever-moving American music locus in the 1980s, including The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum, The Revolution, and, of course, Prince himself.
Keeping the long-running club at the leading edge of live music has been one of its top missions over the years, and that continues today, with the installation of North America’s first permanently installed L-Acoustics L Series sound system, part of a full-system package that also includes a pair of DiGiCo Quantum225 consoles for front of house and monitor mixing, integrated thereby locally-based Allied Productions. The new loudspeaker system officially debuted on a recent Thanksgiving Eve Show featuring Ike Reilly on Wednesday, November 22, followed by a sold-out Atmosphere concert two days later.
“First Avenue finally has the sound system it deserves,” comments Randy Hawkins, who mixed that first Atmosphere show at First Avenue. “I had the EQ flatter than ever, and I even had the subs and bus compressor turned down -7dB and we still hit 124dB C-weighted! That’s how transparent and powerful the L Series is. It’s surprisingly powerful for its size.”
Hawkins should know: besides having mixed front of house for Atmosphere for the past 18 years, he had also been First Avenue’s house engineer and sound supervisor for nearly 30 years and is currently the A1 at The Palace Theatre, part of the First Avenue portfolio of local venues and home to an L-Acoustics K2 system.
He further notes that First Avenue could be a sonically challenging room over the years, sometimes sounding radically different between soundcheck and the night’s first show. “But with the L Series, it was clear from the front to the back of the house, and it didn’t change a bit from soundcheck to downbeat,” he says. “The buildup of the low-mids that often happens in that room didn’t happen. I took a little bit out at 2K and 2.5K, but that was mainly because of the Beta58 mic. The L Series itself was virtually flat, and there were no headroom issues at all. It’s a great PA for a great room.”
Alex Johnson, Lead Audio for First Avenue, agrees: “The new L2/L2D system has dramatically improved many of the challenges engineers and audiences faced in First Avenue,” he says. “For audience members, coverage, clarity, and sightlines are better than ever. For engineers, there is better frequency response, stereo imaging, sub extension, and headroom. The best improvement is how much less things change from soundcheck to show. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to dial in a band the way I wanted in an empty room the first time I used it. I’m very excited to hear what artists and engineers can do with it for a long time.”
Tyler Thomas, Technical Lead at Allied for the installation, was impressed with the L Series before it was even flown. “This product is so new that we had to wait for the update to Soundvision to see the design, and once we did, we were super-impressed with the results before we actually even heard it,” he says.
“First Avenue is known for its powerful sonic signature and being able to host such a wide variety of artists from all genres, from all over the world, so we really needed a system that would be capable of reproducing anything we have onstage. With the L-Acoustics L Series, we are achieving maximum sonic consistency and even coverage across the entire venue, so no matter where you are in the room, you will have an excellent experience. I firmly believe that any other system would have fallen short.”
First Avenue’s new concert sound system is a left-right design comprising one L2 over one L2D per side with four KS28 subwoofers below each main array as an LF extension, four Kiva II center-fills (as an optional assist for replacing lost stage volume for artists that are completely on in-ear monitors), and five X12 to fill areas obstructed by staircases or walls. The system is driven by five new LA7.16i amplified controllers plus two LA12X for the KS28 subs. For monitoring, there are two A15 per side—one Focus and one Wide—as flown side fills, two KS21 per side for side-fill LF extensions, a dozen X15 HiQ wedges, and one KS21 as a drum sub, collectively powered by eight LA12X. All amplifiers are driven with redundant Milan AVB and AES as a fallback. A P1 processor resides in the amp rack and is responsible for the master Milan AVB stream and any additional inputs needed to run into the system separately from the FOH console. A second P1 in the drive rack at FOH converts the console outputs to an AVB stream that is received by the amp rack P1.
Thomas notes some of the instrumental nuances of the L Series design. “The L2D greatly assists with mechanically attenuating the SPL to make sure we have the appropriate amount of headroom while also not producing harmful volume levels in the front of the audience, and its internal cardioid driver stops low end from building up on stage,” he explains, adding that monitor engineers have reported a “huge improvement” in the sound on stage. “It also provides an extra-wide 140-degree horizontal pattern to adequately cover the entire front row without the need for placing front-fills on an already crowded stage.” Thomas further points out that the L Series’ low profile has also given better sightlines to the stage from every audience vantage point in the house.
“This system, being the first L-Acoustics L Series installation in North America, underscores First Avenue’s commitment to investing in the latest and greatest technology on the market with the goal of bringing fans closer to the music,” he says. “It’s already greatly raised the bar for artists and their audiences here, and I know that engineers will truly enjoy mixing on this system for many years to come.”