Flag Systems is a top southern California sound contractor that supplies systems for everything from major outdoor festivals to private corporate events. The Santa Ana-based company recently joined the growing list of sound providers who have added JBL’s new flagship VTX Series line array loudspeakers to their inventory.
Flag Systems put its V25 line arrays and S28 subwoofers to the test at the recent Jazz Fest West and Hard Summer outdoor concerts—two musically diverse events that spanned the musical gamut from smooth jazz to bass-heavy hip-hop.
“We have been long-time JBL users—we bought our first VerTec® line array system in 2001 and have seen the quality of JBL line arrays improve steadily since then,” said Dave Forney, Flag Systems’ Owner. “In fact, even before the VTX Series came along we saw a big improvement in the performance of our VerTec line arrays by upgrading our power amplifiers to Crown Audio IT12000HD amps, which allowed us to take advantage of their built-in VerTec V5 presets.
“Everywhere we tried V5 we heard amazing results, including at the permanent installation we run at the Hollywood Palladium. So when JBL announced the introduction of the VTX Series you might say we were all ears.”
“We looked at our upcoming summer concert schedule and determined we could support a major new equipment buy,” Forney added. “We had already bought the Crown I-Tech HD amps, which are optimized for use with VTX line arrays, so we were already a good part of the way there.”
Flag Systems purchased 24 VTX V25 fullsize line array elements and 16 S28 arrayable subwoofers. “Depending on the venue, we’ll use some or all of our VTX boxes for a concert,” noted Forney. “We can do a 4,000 to 5,000 person show using two left and right hangs of four V25’s each along with six S28 subs per side, or we’ll go all the way up to the full rig of 24 V25’s and 16 S28’s for large outdoor events.”
“The sound quality of the V25 is just stunning,” Forney commented. “The first thing that struck me is how in-phase everything seems to be. It really doesn’t sound like you’re listening to multiple drivers; it sounds like all the sound is coming from one source instead of a bunch of 15-inch and 8-inch drivers and tweeters.”
According to Eric Williams, Chief Systems Engineer for Flag Systems, the clarity of the V25 is exceptional. “At Jazz Fest West, all of us at Flag and a number of guest front-of-house engineers were marveling at the sound,” he said. “We had to re-check all of our reverb settings as the system was so revealing that the quality of the reverbs came through much more clearly.”
“After firing the system up, I realized it didn’t need any EQ,” Williams pointed out. “I mean, none. I’d never had this happen before—typically, a line array system will always need some EQ. During Chaka Khan’s performance, Anthony Jeffries, her mixing engineer, added a little bit of EQ but after that we went back to flat—and except for a little touch here and there, no one else EQ’d the system for the rest of the weekend.
“I kept telling myself, ‘This is not normal!’ In fact, it actually felt a little scary…we had to get used to it.”
“I mixed the first three acts at Jazz Fest West and it was effortless,” Williams continued. “During guitarist Marc Antoine’s set, I could feel every nuance of him playing the strings, the snare was punchy and fat, and the cymbals had shimmer and complexity. We went from console to console depending on what the acts specified on their rider, and everyone was able to get consistently excellent sound from the V25’s and S28’s.”
“The new VTX rig is like a Maserati—it is a thrill to drive and the performance is outstanding,” said Pamela Forney, Production Manager for Flag Systems. “I have now used VTX at three festivals and it is wildly efficient. It throws forever and the clarity and warmth are never compromised. Congratulations to JBL as they have definitely crossed over this time with VTX.”
Flag Systems’ VTX rig can go from subtle to seismic, as demonstrated at the HARD Summer Festival in Los Angeles, which featured the immensely popular electronic artist Skrillex.
“At HARD Summer, we mixed Skrillex at 125dB in an outdoor space that was about 200 feet by 500 feet. The system did an amazing job of getting there, staying there and doing it well,” Williams added.
Flag Systems uses JBL HiQnet Performance Manager control software for the VTX line arrays and Crown amps.
“Performance Manager makes it extremely quick to set up the system and get the amps on line, but maybe even more important, it gives us real-time monitoring and reporting,” Williams said. “I know what’s going on with every speaker and amp. Performance Manager is the one piece of software I start with at the beginning of the day, and it’s the last thing I shut off at the end of the day.”
“The quality of the JBL VTX Series is so good that engineers are going to have to re-think what their sound systems are capable of,” Williams concluded. “We now need to realize that we’re going to have to mix to what we’re capable of hearing—not to what we’re used to hearing.”