L-Acoustics gets immersive at Jazz à La Villette

This year’s Jazz à La Villette festival in France saw L-Acoustics’ L-ISA Hyperreal Sound technology bring new audio dimensions to proceedings. Headliner hears from Emmanuelle Corbeau, deputy head of the AV department at the Philharmonie de Paris, which managed the deployment of L-ISA at the Cité de la Musique’s Salle des Concerts, about what the technology brought to the performances and how it enhanced the experience for audiences.

Every year, thousands of jazz fans come together at The Parc de la Villette in the French capital for Jazz à La Villette. Featuring some of the most prominent contemporary artists making jazz music today, the festival also celebrates the genre’s heritage. Cité de la Musique, one of two buildings comprising the Philharmonie de Paris, served as one of the key venues for the festival.

“I have been fascinated by sound spatialisation for as long as I can remember, but initially working as an in-ear monitor engineer did not offer much opportunity to play with that technology, apart from looking into some binaural research available at the time,” said Corbeau. 

“When I joined the Philharmonie de Paris in 2015 as their front of house engineer, it opened up a new world of possibilities in spatialised sound for me.”

Having experienced L-ISA in the form of demo sessions at tradeshows and, Corbeau first signed up to a dedicated spatialised sound course with the CFPTS (Centre de Formation Professionnel de Technique de Spectacle), where she was given a general overview of spatialised technologies, with L-Acoustics’ Etienne Corteel teaching the L-ISA section. She then experienced her first live show in L-ISA at the Cité de la Musique in 2019, leading the entire project with support from L-Acoustics.

She and the team from the Philharmonie then went on to explore the potential of L-ISA technology by attending a training session led by L-Acoustics head of application projects, Arnaud Delorme. The opportunity to put her training into practice then presented itself with this year’s Jazz à La Villette festival.

The Philharmonie has L-Acoustics K2 and Kara systems permanently installed in both of its venues, meaning that Corbeau was able to use the Kara cabinets in Cité de la Musique, complementing them with additional cabinets from rental and installation specialist Audiolive to deliver a full L-ISA Scene system. 

These additional cabinets were used as ‘spatial fills’, a new feature from L-Acoustics that creates a virtual replica of the Scene System, where cross-coverage cannot be physically achieved, then using gain/delay-based algorithms for positioning audio objects. This is designed to improve object separation, coverage and level consistency.

With just one day to set everything up for the event, Delorme assisted Corbeau with the design element in advance.

“Although the training I’ve had meant that I was able to handle the setup myself, it was a nice feeling to know I had a ‘safety net’ in case of any issues,” she added.

One of the most beautiful things about L-ISA is that it literally envelops the person in a 3D soundscape.

“The L-Acoustics team is always ready to support shows, especially with L-ISA, but to be honest, my job was easy here,” Delorme commented. “Emmanuelle handled it beautifully, from design to mix, thanks to her talent and to the intuitive nature of L-ISA which makes it easy to switch from a classic stereo configuration to immersive.”

The final configuration for the oval-shaped Concert Hall featured a main L-ISA Scene system of five hangs of eight Kara, evenly distributed across the front of the stage, with two hangs of two A10 (one Wide, one Focus) for outfill. 

Eight stacks of one Kiva II provided spatial fills, evenly spaced across the front of the stage, with six facing directly forward with the two outer Kiva II angled towards the side seating. Surrounds were covered by four 115XT, spaced evenly around the auditorium above the balcony level.

Corbeau assisted visiting audio engineers while also working as FOH mix engineer for some of the acts.

“I mixed two very different performances – one was a jazz quartet with a very natural sound, the other was a performance with a lot of energy, so a lot of SPL was needed,” she elaborated. 

“A major advantage for both is that object-based mixing is so much easier for the brain to process, compared to stereo, and provides a much more pleasant listening experience.

“One of the most beautiful things about L-ISA is that it literally envelops the person in a 3D soundscape, so you feel as if the music is not just in front of you, you’re surrounded by it,” Corbeau continued. 

“Both the technical director at Philharmonie de Paris and the technical manager of the venue told me that it was much easier for them to hear the nuances between different instruments, so they could go deeper into the sound layers and really appreciate the full scale of the musical performance.”

Commenting after the Jazz à La Villette festival, Corbeau said that she is already looking forward to her next opportunity to take on a show with object-based audio.

“It was such a great experience using L-ISA for Jazz à La Villette that I find it difficult going back to mixing stereo,” she concluded. “I truly think it’s worth learning this new language of object-based mixing, as it’s the future of sound.”