Rapper and producer NF—née Nathan John Feuerstein—is taking his massive HOPE Tour to 47 venues across North America, Europe, and the UK this year in support of his new HOPE album that dropped April 7. NF’s performances are anchored around his articulate lyrics, which are backed on the HOPE Tour by a minimal stage show consisting of a thunderous drum kit that takes up as much as half of the production’s 60-plus inputs. It requires a PA system that can achieve the gut-punching sonic impact that any rap performance demands, but also deliver the lyrical intelligibility that makes NF so unique. That PA is an L-Acoustics K1/K2 concert sound system, provided by PRG, which delivers each word with powerful clarity and allows NF’s audio team to scale the system precisely for each venue’s size and configuration, keeping that articulation sharp and clear at every show.
The base design for the tour is 14 K1 over four K2 downs per side, each backed by a dozen flown KS28 subs. Left and right hangs of 16 K2 are deployed as out-fills, and these can be augmented with two more identical arrays to bring the system to a full 270° configuration when the arena seating layout calls for it. Twelve additional KS28 are ground-stacked to bolster the concert’s low-end reinforcement, and the full rig is powered by 66 LA12X amplified controllers. The system’s design also calls for two L-Acoustics P1 processors, which are fed from the console’s main left/right and sub left/right outputs for system processing before routing out to the amps via Milan AVB, giving the entire setup an unprecedented amount of control.
“No matter what the venue calls for, K Series can match the need,” says Will Foley, Systems Engineer for the tour and for PRG, which also supplied a pair of DiGiCo SD5 consoles for Front-of-House and monitor mixing. And what any rap performance always calls for is plenty of low frequency extension, what Foley calls “the beef” of a hip-hop show. He says the combined deployment of KS28 subs, both flown and ground-stacked, arrayed in a delay arc, are giving the HOPE Tour all the punch the music demands.
“What the subs are giving us is a lot of impact, but also very even and consistent low-end coverage, front to back, high and low, up to the 200 and 300 seat levels,” he says, adding that the Panflex directivity feature of K2 helps achieve that for the side-fills. “At the same time, we’ve tuned the system for a high degree of intelligibility, which NF’s music really needs. So we’re getting very clear, articulate sound across the entire spectrum with no loss of punch, and we’re getting that to every seat, thanks to the Soundvision software that I use to lay out every show. I'm able to draw these venues pretty quickly and get very good results every time, and that's all I can really ask for.”
Travis Stoker, who designed the system, says it went through nearly a dozen iterations before its current form. “When we first started looking at this about a year ago, I had no idea what we were going into, and neither did the rest of the team, so it’s changed quite a bit over time as far as size and use goes,” he says. “We thought we were going to be doing small arenas, curtaining off the upper sections, so the system was much smaller, but it ended up turning into something much larger than that as ticket sales opened up—to the extent of even adding a 270° portion of the system to cover past the downstage edge for a certain number of shows.”
Stoker, who also mixes the tour’s Front-of-House sound, says that Soundvision has been the consistent thread throughout this process, allowing the system design to evolve as needed, such as deploying the flown KS28 to deliver low end to the upper levels of arenas. “I also spoke with others who had deployed similar system designs, and that feedback from L-Acoustics users was also very useful,” he explains. “It really is a community.”
Foley has one other major demand on the system: that it be scalable, able to accommodate the specific interior geometry of each venue. Scaling a system can be tricky, he says, because of the change in relationships between different frequency ranges. “For instance, your midrange can change a lot,” he says. “The large number of subs we’re deploying means we will always have great low-end impact, but we use two P1 processors at Front-of-House, linked via Milan AVB with an analog fallback, to fine-tune the mids and the high end when we scale the system. I've been extremely happy with the results of that.”
Foley says the crowds at shows have been appreciative of their efforts, as has NF himself. “One of our main goals is the intelligibility of his vocals, and NF wants it to be super-clean everywhere. We all want every seat in every house to have the biggest possible impact so the audience can feel what he feels,” he says. “And that’s exactly what we’ve been able to achieve, night after night.”
The North American leg of NF’s HOPE Tour kicked off July 12th at Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio and featured special guest Cordae. The tour continued making stops across the US in Philadelphia, Anaheim, Denver, and more before wrapping up at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec on September 3rd. A 16-date European leg launches on September 23rd at the Fabrique in Milan, making stops in Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, and elsewhere before finishing in London at Eventim Apollo on October 15th. For details on NF’s upcoming tour stops, visit www.nfrealmusic.com. PRG can be found online at www.prg.com.