Dóm Square in Szeged, Hungary, (literally, Cathedral Square) is one of the largest squares in Hungary. Every year its 12,000 square meters of open space are transformed into a 4,000-seat auditorium to host the Szeged Open-Air festival.
With a tradition stretching back over 75 years, the festival is Hungary’s largest open-air theatre and music event and the most visited summer cultural event of the region.
The unique nature of the festival with its stunning backdrop of the Szeged cathedral is enhanced by a flamboyant program of world premieres and internationally ranked stage shows and concerts, and every year, the stakes are higher in the quest for technological perfection and flawless sound.
This year, ES Audio’s Sandor Elek, who has been managing audio for the festival for the last 12 years via his rental company, Votec, decided to raise the bar even higher and opted for a combination of his own loudspeaker system with Innovason digital mixing consoles and digital microphones from Neumann.
The season opened this year on July 6th with a 3-day run of Wildhorn’s acclaimed Broadway musical of Jekyll & Hyde, controlled and mixed by an Innovason Eclipse GT digital console accompanied by an Innovason Sy80 for the radio mics.
“My goal is to improve the sound year on year,” explained Sandor. “We already made a big difference last year in working with internationally renowned classical engineers such as Carsten Kümmel and Thomas Mundorf whose approach to classical music and in particular their knowledge about the use of condenser microphones measurably improved the sound quality.”
Sandor also deployed his own loudspeaker system that he developed specifically for music and theatre use.
“I couldn’t find anything on the market that fulfilled my requirements for transparency and flexibility for classical music applications, so I built my own!” he said with a grin.
This year, following a number of conversations at ProLight +Sound and, importantly, an introduction to PANDORA, the new panning algorithm on the Eclipse GT console, Sandor decided to take things to the next level and deploy an Eclipse GT for the festival.
He got in touch with the local Innovason partner, Microsound in Budapest to supply the Eclipse GT, as well as an Sy80 for Jekyll and Hyde.
“The PANDORA function is amazing,” stated Sandor. “I didn’t think it was possible to make such a difference to the definition of the stereo image for the audience just by turning a pan pot, but PANDORA makes it possible.
“You can hear a true stereo image that goes from full left to full right and back without any loss of signal for those sat at the extremes. It’s incredible.”
He also decided that given Eclipse’s capacity to control all the parameters of Neumann digital microphones from the control surface, this would be the perfect occasion to try them out and improve sound quality still further by dramatically reducing any noise coming from analog circuitry and cabling.
Sandor therefore arranged for a 40-channel set of digital microphones and four Neumann DMI stageboxes to be run by the Eclipse GT at FoH in the capable hands of tonmeister Carsten Kümmel.
The Sy80 was installed to handle the feeds from the radio microphones of the singers and the choir. This mix was then sent to the Eclipse GT where it was mixed with the orchestra (all using Neumann digital microphones) to provide the main mix which was then diffused by the ES Audio PA system.
“It was a real pleasure to mix this event with the technical set-up we had here,” confirmed Carsten Kümmel.
“What more can you wish for with classical music than a wide open, transparent image that highlights the natural colorations and blending of the different instruments,” he remarked. “The MARS system also proved its worth as I used it constantly to fine-tune the system using the tracks I had recorded during rehearsals.”
Sandor Elek was equally pleased with the results. “I was impressed by the quality of the orchestra sound,” he said. “Carsten’s mix worked really well throughout the 4000- seat auditorium, no matter where you were placed. You could hear everything from everywhere. It’s going to be a real challenge to improve on this next year!”
At the same time Innovason used the opportunity to show this setup to interested clients and business partners.
On Friday over 30 guests from all over Hungary enjoyed a half day of seminars and presentations by Marcel Babazadeh (Innovason), Eric Veres (ES Audio), Imre Selmeci (AudioPartner) and Carsten Kümmel (Tonmeister) in the nearby REÖK palace. The second part of the day took place at the Dom Ter with a hands-on training session and demonstration of the full system using the original tracks taken from the rehearsals recorded by the Eclipse’s onboard MARS multitrack recording system.