L-ISA: French Revolution

L-Acoustics pioneered the last major reinvention of the PA, now it’s confident it can do it all again.


25 September 2018

Text:/ Mark Davie

L-ISA isn’t even technically on the market yet, and Guillame Le Nost, L-Acoustics’ Director of R&D on L-ISA, is already referring to stereo PA deployments as “the way it used to be”, “traditional”, and “stuck in a 50-year old configuration.” I guess everything looks nostalgic when you’ve poured the last few years of your life into developing the ‘next step’ in live sound technology.

L-ISA started as a research project with a team of three. By 2016, L-Acoustics finally had a “technology that could really offer productions a way to put the sound back at the centre of the show”.


You can read about Auditoria’s 360 L-ISA deployment elsewhere this issue, so I wanted learn more about what was in L-ISA’s immediate future and what’s pertinent to the fixed installation market. The L-ISA processor holds the key.

While L-Acoustics has had some spatialisation characteristics built in, the new version of the Processor “could be considered a room acoustics enhancement system,” said Le Nost. It’s not a room simulation engine like Meyer’s Constellation, designed to replicate a specific concert hall in your gymnasium. Rather, it’s about giving the system designer the ability to tailor room reverberation characteristics to the application. “If you’re in a very reverberant venue, you can just add a few early reflections and restrict its effects to a specific frequency range,” explained Le Nost. “Conversely, if you’re in a venue that’s really dry, you can add more diffusion and late energy. You can store those tweaked parameters as presets so a single space can have multiple use cases.

“Let’s say you have a fixed installation in a theatre, you could create a drier acoustic environment for a spoken word event on Monday, then switch it to a wetter preset for a chamber orchestra on Tuesday. It’s not replacing the sound engineer’s reverbs — like plate reverbs or their favourite Lexicon presets — it’s an enhancement of the space you’re in. It has an effect on all L-ISA systems, but the space effects work better if you have more extended deployment with surround speakers.”

Audio Director Nick Ryan (left) and Technical Sound Designer/Immersive Mixing Engineer Davey Williamson (right) integrating the 19.1 Briefing Lift’s AV system. Spyscape’s Surveillance Challenge 360° room is a large, cylindrical space, around 16m diameter and 8m in height, and the gallery tells the story of surveillance. Here, 38 speakers and a pair of subwoofers create a 38.1 system. The system comprises three rings of 10x 5XT speakers each: one at floor level, one at the mid-wall height, and one at ceiling level. Eight more 5XT are deployed in a smaller ring on the ceiling pointed at visitor head height. Two SB18 subs placed in the centre of the ceiling facing down provide low frequency coverage throughout the room. Ten LA4X amplified controllers power all elements across 40 discrete amplification channels.


As for the cost, well, L-Acoustics isn’t revealing its hand yet. The L-ISA processor is not technically for sale, yet, and doesn’t have a list price. Ecalle would rather discuss the overall deployment cost: “Another way to look at it is how much of a cost difference it is compared to a classic stereo deployment. Because the energy is spread out over five or seven arrays, you don’t need to dimension the clusters in the same manner. When you would deploy 12-16 K2 cabinets per side in a stereo configuration, you’re going to be working with 6-9 KARAs per cluster — more cabinets overall, but a smaller format. The average cost difference is between 25-30%, but can vary a lot from project to project.”

The team at L-Acoustics are bullish about L-ISA. Not arrogant, just confident they’re sitting on a game-changing technology that takes the conversation away from what sort of rigging pin setup a PA has, or minor spec bumps. They believe it’s an undeniable improvement over that “50-year old configuration” we’ve been “stuck” in for so long.


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