Brief take: Martin Audio’s Wavefront Compact Series at Grand Performances

Offering free live shows during the summer, Grand Performances is a concert series that takes place in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. For those who are familiar with the area, the venue is located in California Plaza within the Watercourt Stage, which is crammed between several large skyscrapers and apartment buildings. While I don’t go to the series often, I did manage to stop by for a few minutes to – you guessed it – see and hear their setup.

In terms of sound, Grand Performances has utilized a Martin Audio Wavefront Compact Series system for as long as I can remember. Flanking either side of the main stage is a four-box array of Martin Audio Wavefront W8C tops underneath three Wavefront W8CS subwoofers. Four Wavefront WSX subwoofers flank the far right of the stage to provide low-frequency reinforcement, while Wavefront W2s serve as delays across the venue.

The space is highly reflective, with hard surfaces – including glass, cement, and several large buildings – surrounding the stage. On top of that, the audience is separated from the performance area by a large body of water. So with this in mind, here are some brief takeaways about the Martin system:

Wavefront W8C tops and Wavefront W8CS subwoofers

Martin Audio’s Wavefront Compact Series at Grand Performances

As a whole, the W8C/W8CS combination was somewhat surprising to hear. If I had to use a word to describe my brief encounter with them, it’d probably be pleasant – at least in this context. The W8Cs weren’t in your face as you’d probably expect from a high-Q top, and the W8CSs seemed to add enough warmth to make the mains full range. My hunch is that these boxes may have been tuned low or I was constantly out of their coverage, but whatever the case, they seemed to sound just fine with sound appearing to emanate from the stage rather than from the boxes themselves. This – in my opinion – is always a huge plus.

Wavefront WSX subwoofers

Martin Audio’s Wavefront Compact Series at Grand Performances

Arranged in a horizontal stack of four, the WSX produced a pleasant thump throughout the show. Perhaps with a different genre of music I could say more, but they made their presence lightly known depending on where you were situated in the venue.

Low frequency support was admittedly inconsistent at Grand Performances, but given the space, this is certainly understandable.

Wavefront W2 delays

Martin Audio’s Wavefront Compact Series at Grand Performances

Martin Audio’s Wavefront Compact Series at Grand Performances

Compared with the rest of the system, the Wavefront W2s certainly stood out – and not always in a good way. If the W8Cs/W8CSs blended in on the first floor, the W2s consistently made their presence known on the second. I wouldn’t say that they were stressed, but I certainly felt that I was hearing a disproportionate amount of W2s compared with the rest of the system. Suffice to say, it sounded like you were listening to a PA rather than the show itself, with sheer sound – rather than detail – being pushed to the audience.

Martin Audio’s Wavefront Compact Series at Grand Performances

Anyhow, these are just my first impressions of the Martin Wavefront system. This is a challenging venue for sound, no doubt, but the Martin system seemed to handle the space relatively well. Obviously more time is needed to form a more informed and nuanced opinion, but this is what I have.

Specification list:

  • 8 Martin Audio Wavefront W8Cs
  • 7 Martin Audio Wavefront W8CS subwoofers
  • 12 Martin Audio Wavefront W2s
  • 4 Martin Audio Wavefront WSX subwoofers