It was 5:30 in the morning of Sunday, June 21, 2015. PK Sound front of house engineers Rory Stewart and PJ Miller, along with Arlen Cormack, vice president Touring and Production, were on an emotional high fueled by exhaustion and excitement.
For three days, running from 7 at night until these early hours, the largest electronic music festival on the continent had drawn more than 100,000 fans a day to the eight adjacent stages on the Las Vegas Speedway.
It was the Electric Daisy Carnival, an Insomniac flagship event, and for the first time the producers had selected PK Sound for one of its most technically innovative stages for 2015: BassPOD.
PK, in turn, deployed its brand new Trinity system – 16 modules per side – reinforced by 69 dual 18-inch CX800 subwoofers at the front of the stage and 8 SW215 stage wedges for vocal stage monitoring. Another 4 CX800 subwoofers and 6 VX10 compact line array supported the DJ booth as monitors. Fully armed and ready to go, all it had to do was deliver as promised. In true Vegas fashion, the stakes were high. In the words of Cormack, “There was no margin for error.”
Throughout the hours of intensive, enveloping bass that the aficionados had travelled here to experience, and the relentless heat and sand of the Nevada desert, Trinity proved to be everything the company had envisioned; from the transparency of the sound to the ability to sculpt and focus the sound field remotely. It helped make BassPOD the top pick of the festival by LA Weekly.
Popular website reviewer thatDROP cited PK Sound among its “10 Reasons EDC Las Vegas 2015 was the Best EDM Festival of All Time”, stating that “ The Trinity rig brought technology that allowed audio engineers to manipulate sound to reach where it is intended, engulfing listeners in a bubble of auditory bliss capable of rattling every cell in their body.”
It validated the decision to go with PK for one of Insomniac’s most innovative stages ever by executive producer Forrest Hunt, who concluded, “Working with PK’s new Trinity system on the bassPOD stage this year was an absolute pleasure. The system focused the energy cleanly and clearly onto the dance floor and we received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback about the sound quality over the weekend.”
In the days leading up to the weekend, 2000 miles away in Orlando, PK’s founder, Jeremy Bridge, Paul Magnuson, VP of business development, Adam Lewis, production manager, and Jon Bichel, R&D specialist, were at Infocomm 2015, officially unveiling Trinity amid a crowd of over 40,000 industry professionals from more than 108 countries. While the visual hook of the exhibit was the remote-controlled movement of the speakers, Bridge and the team were quick to emphasize that the most important result of a “no compromising attitude” at PK was the sound.
“I’m absolutely most proud of the sound,” said Bridge. However, extolling sound quality virtues of a speaker on a tradeshow floor is akin to talking about a Lamborghini’s handling ability in a showroom. There would be much more convincing to be done.
It was a long journey, from the spark of an idea years earlier to this exceptional week in June. But there was no doubt: PK Sound – and Trinity – was ready. Over the course of the year, Trinity would be deployed at more than 135 events across Canada and the US, continuing to win fans and demonstrate PK Sound’s innovative technology.
Although he takes credit for the initial concept of what would become Trinity, Bridge is adamant about sharing credit with those who have joined him at PK Sound since the company’s formation in 2005, and who are now employee-owners. The culture is driven by their desire to take the connection between artist and audience to the next level.
“Trinity is the future of sound reinforcement,” says Bridge. “By giving front of house engineers the ability to sculpt the sound field in all three dimensions, we are able to achieve precision and accuracy that was previously unobtainable.”
It was this culture of mutual support and the agility of PKs relatively small size as a company, which fostered exploration of technologies that had seemingly been passed over by the bigger established players in the industry. From the very beginning, PK set its collective sights on building a few high-quality innovative products rather than a wide range of imitators.
Given Bridge’s engineering mindset as a musician and producer, it is also not surprising that in his quest for better sound he would look at the traditional, cumbersome and hazardous methods of flying line array systems and say, “There’s got to be a better way to do that.”
The result is a system that you can fly straight with just one or two people, hook up your laptop, and make all the adjustments in the module by remote control. This can save up to 75% of the set-up time – which is critical when schedules are tight on major tours, and which then allows the luxury of more time to concentrate on fine-tuning the sound. Whether it’s saving time, or being able to adjust the angle of a speaker even in the middle of a show, everything about Trinity contributes in one way or another to a better concert experience for the audience.”
PK’s patented 3D Wavefront Control permits full control of all DSP functions and the vertical/horizontal directivity of the array, instantly. This advancement is coupled with other critical improvements such as actuating horn flares and the CMI (Coherent Midrange Integrator) Waveguide that combines mid and high frequencies with precisely spaced low frequency apertures. None of this matters to the average concert-goer, of course. What does matter – to fans, artists and promoters – is that using Trinity at an event guarantees the maximum number of best seats in the house.
Before launching Trinity, the team resolved that there would be “no allowances for failure.” Research went into every component, every nut and bolt, which led to sourcing from Europe and around the world. The cabinet itself underwent numerous iterations to ensure that it was absolutely weatherproof to withstand the invasive sand of a desert windstorm or the relentless water of a coastal downpour.
“I would go home at night thinking about all we had done that day to improve the prototype, and how hard everyone had worked,” says Bridge. “Then I would come back in the morning with more ideas, and say things like, I’m sorry guys, but we have to make the cabinet lighter. In the end we were able to package all the additional technology and keep it lighter than our competitors”
By 2014, Trinity was ready for field-testing, and for PK Sound there was no doubt it would be Shambhala, an annual weekend event in August in the interior of BC. All the conditions were there: the tightly adjacent stages that necessitated keeping the sound bleed to a minimum; the extremities and unpredictability of mountain weather; and most of all, the uncompromising artists, including Grammy award-winners and their fans, who demanded to be connected without the slightest hint of audible interference. At the end of the weekend, the Shambhala tribe had heard, had conferred, and had embraced the newest PK addition.
Cormack, who was heading up the San Francisco office while development continued back in Calgary, recalls the trial runs leading up to Infocomm and EDC. “We Beta tested it with Safe ‘n Sound in September and October 2014, then took it on the Excision tour early in the new year. The first real test of the final DSP settings, was the Lightning in a Bottle festival, held near Monterey, California in May 2015. The neat thing about LIB is it was all high profile bands; seven or eight of them per day, and so it was the ideal way to demonstrate the true transparency of Trinity – the true potential. We had no problems getting the vocals to ride on top of the instruments in the mix, because of the headroom and power of Trinity. As PK’s first full-time employee, back in 2008, I had faith in the team, but I still wondered if Trinity could cross the threshold.” It did. “I fell in love with the speaker,” says Cormack. “It showed a bright future for the company.”
Throughout 2015, Cormack’s love for Trinity began to be shared by a growing number of respected industry leaders, performers and fans. Tours and events included Mad Decent Block Party Tour, Full Flex, Life in Colour, Excision, Paradiso, Zeds Dead Red Rocks, Escapade, Lightning in a Bottle, and Insomniac’s Halloween and New Year’s Eve celebrations, among others. Musicians including Skrillex, Major Lazer, Die Antwoord, Aluna George, Excision, Diplo, Datsik, Jack U, Flume, Tycho, SBTRKT, Odesza, Kiesza, NAS, J.Cole, Raekwon, Nero, Bro Safari, Zeds Dead, Keys ‘n Krates and Stylust Beats put the system through its paces.
The tours took Trinity to major cities across the continent, from LA to New York, Houston to Toronto. J.Paul Jackson, sound engineer and tour manager for Keys N Krates, concluded, “When it comes to my job, nothing makes me happier than walking into a venue or festival and seeing the PK logo on the mains and sub cabinets. My happiness level jumped to complete excitement at EDC Las Vegas when hearing the new Trinity speakers in full flex. I’ve never been more impressed technologically and sonically by an array in my life.”
“It was a massive year for us,” says vice president of business development, Paul Magnuson. “We went from a relatively unknown company with a foothold in western Canada and the West Coast to industry-wide recognition in North America and beyond. We are both humbled and thrilled by the response to Trinity and the growing interest in PK Sound, and are now receiving requests that will challenge us to keep up with demand.”
The success of 2015 is apparent by the packed schedule for PK in 2016, which shows its demand by top artists and promoters, its close affiliation with and respect for the people involved in the tours and events, and the adoption of Trinity by more and more music genres outside of the EDM.
That’s not to say that Trinity is the ultimate achievement for PK Sound. “The people in our company who got us this far aren’t going to stop now,” says Bridge. “We’ll accept the accolade that we launched the most innovative speaker in 2015, but we won’t stop there. Pushing to new heights is always the challenge, and what keeps us coming to work every day. Success is great, and we can see where we’re going. But I have to tell you, we’re just as proud of where we came from. We never want to lose that. It’s about people and the love of music. It should always be about that.”