David Lee (owner and chief engineer at BASSMAX) has been working on integrating the two types of subs specifically because of Ultra.
“What we’re looking for is the SP218s to cover the drop and for the horn-loaded subs to handle the smack,” Fowler says. “Integrating those is a challenge, as is trying to integrate those with the other parts of the PA.
“One of the tricky things this time was that David was using a mix of powered and passive subs, so the latency through the various digital processors was different depending on what pair you were working on. He spent quite a bit of time making sure that was all correct before we could proceed, but it sounded great in there.”
There’s a definite learning curve to getting it right. Fowler explains: “Particularly when you’re mixing subs. We’re looking for something that handles the drop and something that handles the smack and they’re so far apart in frequency that it’s unreasonable to expect one sub to do both. The smack actually happens in the lowest portion of what the main PA handles.
“So, say 120 Hz is where the heart of the smack is – we’ve got subs crossed over just below that and we’ve got tops crossed over near there on the high pass, so we can have an alignment problem in various places. That’s what we’re trying to avoid by using a mix of subs and running them a little bit higher than we normally would.”
Two types of subs at the Mid Park Stage to help present the drop, the smack, and everything in between. (click to enlarge)
Ultra Main Stage
While Fowler doesn’t tune every system, he’s eminently familiar with the sonic and physical challenges each presents vendors and their crew. Take the main stage, which sported d&b audiotechnik J Series loudspeakers (J8 and J12 specifically) driven by a d&b power and control package, provided by Beach Sound of Miami.
The main stage is mostly DJs with some exceptions – in the past Crystal Method and Black Eyed Peas have played it. What’s needed is a “no-excuses” concert PA with excessive headroom in the subwoofer region.
This year , the choice was 24 J-SUBS (triple-18, cardioid) and 32 J-INFRA (triple-21, cardioid) subs intermingled on the ground, but in years past, the J-SUBS have been flown, co-located with the mains. “The jury is still out on which way is better,” Fowler notes.
A perspective showing the scale of the Ultra Main Stage. (click to enlarge)
Flying subs is something McNeil first experimented with at Ultra with an L-Acoustics V-DOSC rig. “I told the vendor to fly at least half the SB218s so I could hear what it sounded like,” he says. “V-DOSC is naturally heavy on the high mid, but when we flew the subs, it was a whole different animal – nice and thick and warm.”
This year, with the d&b rig, he adds: “It was even left to right and it fell off right where they said it would, but, in my opinion, when you fly the subs you get a fuller sound.”
In future McNeil is considering flying a quantity of J-SUBs and experimenting with different sized stacks of J-SUBs on the ground. “And after we find out what that combination sounds like, then we start adding in the J-INFRAs.”