The idea of an electronic music festival might send a shudder down your spine—for many it does.
Characterized by the kind of sound frequencies that make one weak at the knees, Ultrafest in Miami Florida is billed as the World’s Premiere Electronic Music Festival and it lives up to every expectation, including the earth shattering.
Beachsound based in Miami have built a reputation at this festival after providing audio for multiple stage for several years. Neil Rosenstock who heads Beachsound’s audio production team for the event has deep roots in this style of music and knows exactly how to make it sound great.
“It’s no secret really; we have been putting in d&b audiotechnik systems at Ultrafest year after year,” Rosenstock explains. “For 2012 we used J-Series for both stages with some Q-Series and C7s for fill and delay.
“We find that if you select the appropriate system to the size of stage then d&b will always hit the spot.”
A thought qualified by many performers, Frank Voet, FoH engineer for Justice is typical “I really like the sub settings. Dance music needs to have a short kick! I’m happy!”
The subwoofer settings are not to be taken lightly (pardon the pun) as Harry Brill an independent consultant who supported Rosenstock for the event pointed out.
“Neil designed the entire PA for both d&b stages. We discussed some issues I anticipated with the sub array being very long horizontally, and addressed them together,” he adds. “Neil is a very competent engineer and system tech. I was brought in to collaborate with him and to optimize the system; I use Smaart to help with that.
“The sub array was really amazing. The d&b array modeling software makes it so easy to try things and check on the result. We wanted the coverage to be well defined without much of a power alley.”
The parkland setting of the 2012 festival made this a trickier equation than the more open site used in previous years.
“Sight lines required the J-INFRAs to be stacked only two high,” Brill continues. “At the recommended spacing for directional subs the horizontal line would have been so wide we would not have been able to open up the coverage even with the arc delay setting selected in the amplifier. I suggested we move everything in tight.
“I have used lots of directional subs and I wasn’t worried a bit. Worse case we lose some of the intentional cancelling behind the array but it honestly worked really well. Getting the boxes closer together really helped open up the pattern.
“Some say you need a certain kind of box and a certain kind of tuning for a particular type of music. I don’t really subscribe to that theory but rather believe if the system can handle the SPL requirements at all the needed frequencies then I can use it.”
Beachsound’s founder Andre Serafini plans long and hard to ensure the success of Ultrafest.
“We have increased the number of loudspeakers each year; this year on the main stage we put more J loudspeakers, as well as on the Live Stage,” explains Serafini. “Moving the festival to Bay Front Park made for a nicer crowd environment and the whole site was a lot more energetic, but it presented new challenges for audio, not least the physical obstructions like trees and fountains.
“We knew well in advance what we would be dealing with and we do other events here in the park, but it did mean segmenting the audience areas and often treating each one as a discrete audio zone; then time aligning the whole system to make it coherent.
“We also had a separate PA consisting of d&b T-Series for the VIP area, a large covered environment that although well in range of the main system, needed that extra attention, especially in the mids and highs, to give that front row listening experience. The audience areas were not consistent, we had long narrow strips to cover, and then wide areas that were not so deep. Harry Brill and Neil Rosenstock did an excellent job.”
Brill saw strategic thinking behind Serafini’s management of the event, “I’ve known Andre for over ten years and he and his Beach crew are stellar. We try to work with each other whenever possible. The d&b partnership is just one more fantastic business decision he has made over the years.
“I’ve been a big fan of d&b as well as a few other PA manufacturers for many years. I can think of only a handful of players at that level. One thing I really like about the d&b J-Series is the phase response; it’s very well behaved which equates to a good solid time response.
“What goes in comes out very much the same. I really enjoy mixing on and even tuning the PA. I generally tune the PA as neutrally as possible and let the mixing console do the work of tonally shaping the artist. This allows the mix or the music to translate better from one PA to another. Some PAs are a lot harder to get there; d&b is one of the easy ones thanks to the ArrayCalc and the R1 system management software.”
The plaudits have been raining in since the festival ended, “I love d&b! Beachsound and their staff have been awesome!” said Sean Rampton, FoH Engineer for Chase & Status.
Harry Nathan from Australian act Foniko was in the same space, “Debut gig at Ultra and this has to be the best audio visual setup I’ve ever seen; especially the sound quality which was absolutely incredible.”
The go-to performance of the festival came from Kraftwerk, a band whose name is synonymous with the birth of electronic music and whose presence on any lineup demands attention. Their production Manager Winfried Blank was unequivocal - “Thanks for your support. It was really great to work with you and your team. We were more than happy with your fantastic tuned d&b J system. As Kraftwerk’s music is very straight and powerful we like to have clear bass impact and full frequency response, even in the ultra lows below 30 Hz. I have just to say: we got what we expected and would like to do it again with Beachsound.”