ATK/Audiotek of Valencia, California supplied a sound reinforcement system headed by JBL Professional VerTec line arrays for the recent 43rd Annual CMA (Country Music) Awards at the sold-out Sommet Center in Nashville.
The show, also broadcast on the ABC television network, saw a record total of 23 music performances by artists including Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Dave Mathews, Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.
The sound system was designed by Pat Baltzell, principal of Baltzell Audio Design, and it included five line arrays made up of 88 VerTec VT4889 full-size elements joined by a separate flown cluster of 14 VerTec VT4880A full-size arrayable subwoofers. Four VerTec VT4887 compact line array elements were built into the stage as front fill.
Baltzell and Rick Shiner were co-FOH mixers for the show; Baltzell mixed the performances that used re-recorded backing tracks and the production dialogue, while Shiner mixed the music performances, all completely live.
Keeping continuity between the live and backing-track performances required a lot of coordination between the two mixers.
“Even though we’ve been getting more stereo stem tracks, which gives us a greater level of control over the mix than stereo two-track backing tracks, we still have to work hard to make the transitions between each type of mix,” explains Baltzel, making his14th year mixing at the CMA Awards.
The system’s flexibility is illustrated by a change in configuration of the clusters that Baltzell devised three years ago (and has been refining ever since) to address the fact that the host podium microphones are located downstage on a thrust platform, slightly forward of the flown PA clusters.
Baltzell wired the bottom pair of speakers on each cluster as a separate mix and reduced their level during dialogue segments of the show, thus increasing the system’s gain-before-feedback capability.
That would typically mean the first several rows of the audience would have diminished sound levels, but Baltzell addressed the issue by placing JBL Control 25T Control loudspeakers under every other seat in the front rows as a forward, hidden system, assuring consistent sound level throughout the arena.
“I have to take the dialogue audio down 6 to 8 dB in the speakers that I have on a separate mix, but I can make that up easily by adding level to the Control 25T forward fill system, which we’ve timed and tuned to match the larger overhead VerTec system,” Baltzell notes. “It is an amazing rig and just sounded fantastic all night long for every type of audio we had to run through it.
“The Sommet Centre is an asymmetrically shaped venue and one of the best-sounding arenas I’ve ever worked in. When you put this incredible VERTEC PA in there with these amazing, award-winning artists, that’s as good as it gets.”
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