Very Much A Laughing Matter: AVL Productions Takes L-Acoustics K3 Professional Audio System On The Road With Theo Von

Here’s a punch line: the Top 30 comedy tours in 2023 pulled in over a half-billion dollars, up over 40 percent from the year before, per Pollstar. With even bigger dates expected this year, and touring comedy ticket prices approaching those of concerts, audience experience expectations are way up. In a comedy performance, if you miss the punchline, you miss the show, which is why these tours are putting as much emphasis on quality sound as they do for music tours. It’s also why Jacksonville, Florida-based AVL Productions sent iconoclastic comedian Theo Von out on his current “Return of the Rat” tour with an L-Acoustics K3 concert sound system.

“It’s important that every seat in the house have the exact same experience, whether it’s the first row or the last, and that every seat have the same high degree of intelligibility from the PA system,” says Nate Martine, Audio Engineer at AVL Productions and on the Von tour. The system, designed using L-Acoustics Soundvision software for the wide range of arenas it would visit, comprises a dozen K3 per side as mains and nine Kara II per side for out-fill coverage. The arrays are buttressed by eight SB18 subs and four X8 front-fills, all collectively powered by a dozen LA12X amplified controllers.

“The K3 are voiced perfectly for spoken word,” adds AVL Productions President Stephen Unkelbach. “They have a lower crossover point, around 500 Hz, and the directivity from the horizontal steering that you can get from Panflex in the 70-degree mode makes it the perfect fit for comedy shows.”

Martine points out that some comedy shows now incorporate a band, and the full operating bandwidth of the K3 speakers makes it a good choice for those kinds of hybrid performances as well, able to provide full impact for the music without reducing speech intelligibility for the comics. K3 also brings with it some extremely useful and unexpected ergonomic advantages for touring comedy. “K3 is a very compact box, and we’ve been able to achieve some awesome truck packs,” he says. “In fact, the entire Von tour is able to fit into a single semi-truck, which has a huge impact on a tour’s bottom line.”

And the college-campus arenas that shows like these frequent come with their own challenge: a new crew of freshman and sophomore volunteer stagehands every semester. “K3’s compact size makes it easier for them to handle; it’s very user-friendly and that makes it easier for me to show them what needs to be done to get the rig up,” he says. “In so many ways K3 makes a huge difference before the show even begins.”

These were the kinds of advantages that Unkelbach had in mind when AVL Productions officially became established as an L-Acoustics Certified Provider for rental (CPr) last year. “We started with L-Acoustics in 2017, when the new Daily’s Place Amphitheater opened in Jacksonville, and we were seeing a new level of touring come through town,” he says. “We wanted to step up what we could offer. We started out with 24 K2, bumping up to 48 K2 when we became a Certified Provider in 2019. In 2021, we added a batch of K3, and this past year we also added K1, so we’re very much an L-Acoustics house now.”

Unkelbach says the value of the L-Acoustics reputation has helped burnish AVL Productions’ own brand value. He credits it with an increase in work at ever-higher levels of touring, including providing the sound for many of the Danny Wimmer Presents (DWP) shows in the area, like the Rockville and Louder Than Life festivals. It’s also broadened AVL’s reach, allowing it to easily cover events like Panama City Beach’s Gulf Coast Jam and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival.

“It’s increased our range and our scalability, for sure,” he says. And that has one more unexpected but very desirable outcome: “We can reach for bigger shows and events now and can let some of the smaller shows go to newer start-up sound providers,” he explains. “In that way, L-Acoustics very much helps the entire industry evolve.” And that’s no joke.

For more details on Theo Von’s tour itinerary, visit www.theovon.com/tour. AVL Productions can be found online at www.avlproductions.com.