Monday, January 20, 2014

Audio Technology Redefining Art

Wireless innovation to support a first of it's kind live theatrical production at LA's Union Station

Theatrical productions have been staged in many forms and venues over the years, ranging from traditional proscenium arch theatres to outdoor Shakespearian-inclined stages, from theaters-in-the-round to “black boxes,” and plenty more.

But I recently checked out something altogether different, a new avant-garde opera production entitled Invisible Cities that was staged inside the general transit area of Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The show, which ran twice nightly for about a month late last year, was the result of a cooperative effort among production company The Industry, the Los Angeles Dance Project, and Sennheiser, which worked closely with rental company Bexel ASG. The latter pair comprised the technical pivot point in this ambitious project, providing a transformation from initial concept into working reality of what was billed as the first “headphone” opera.

Putting It Together
The concept is radical and challenging. The staging of the Invisible Cities is based on the cast moving throughout the train station during the performance, while the audience members follow them as they wish. But first you have to find them…and that’s not easy.

Artistic director Yuval Sharon instructing the wireless-equipped cast at a dress rehearsal.

The opera is based on a 1972 novel by Italo Calvino. The narrative, accompanied by a musical score from an 11-piece live orchestra located in a remote room, took audience members on a multi-sensory journey throughout the terminal as the lead character, legendary traveler Marco Polo, described his quests to Emperor Kublai Khan.

Yuval Sharon is the artistic director who conceived of this work and brought it to life. When we spoke, he expressed a profound desire to blend everyday life with artistic expression. He talked about how the headphone experience would bring a new element into play. Initially, he was not fully convinced that headphones were the key so he explored, perhaps in the same vein as Marco Polo, and came up with a means of delivering this all-new form of theatrical content.

The Sennheiser- and Neumann-miked orchestra performing in a remote room.

Advanced wireless technology played a huge role in bringing the production to life. There were no loudspeakers; the audio was delivered to the audience via Sennheiser model HDR-120 wireless consumer headphones, and to the performers via Sennheiser 2000 series IEM systems, which handled in-ear monitoring duties for each of the singers and dancers, helping ensure their performances were in lock step with the musical score.

The EK 2000 IEM receivers, IE 8 earbuds and SR 2050 IEM twin transmitters were accompanied by a complex antenna system. Seventeen antennas for wireless mics, IEM and headphones were allocated among four concentrated locations throughout the station to achieve seamless RF coverage for both the performers and audience members.

Depending on the zone, model A 2003-UHF passive directional antennas were deployed with A 5000-CP circularly polarized antennas, effectively minimizing signal strength variations while eliminating multipath issues.

The “technology star” of Invisible Cities was the Sennheiser Digital 9000 wireless mic system, which delivered eight channels of uncompressed, artifact-free audio throughout the facility and captured the nuances of the libretto. The components of the Digital 9000 system included the EM 9046 digital receiver, SK 9000 beltpack transmitters and MKE 1 clip-on mics.

A fully digital transmission system, the 24-bit/96 kHz analog-to-digital conversion takes place in the transmitters. The clarity and sonic quality of the system was excellent, virtually identical to listening to wired mics in a studio control room, and it delivered rock-solid wireless performance in the notoriously tough RF environment that exists in downtown LA.

One of the four wireless antenna stations.

Sound designer Martin Gimenez specified a diverse collection of Sennheiser evolution mics to capture the orchestra’s brass and percussion as well as overall room ambience. For woodwinds and strings, including a harp, he called for several Neumann KM 184 small-diaphragm condensers, and for piano, selected a pair of Neumann U 87 Ai large-diaphragm condensers.

“Between the sonic immediacy of the headphone concept and Christopher Cerrone’s haunting orchestration, sonic transparency was paramount on our minds,” Gimenez says. “Having access to the entire range of Neumann and Sennheiser microphones proved vital and necessary in order to convey the amount of detail to each and every audience member.”

How It Works
Union Station is a busy, fully working transit station that host upwards of 30,000 passengers per day. And like it or not, for a month or so, the thousands of people who used the station were a part of the production, if only for a moment or two, as they made their way through the building. Most were completely unaware of what was taking place around them.

An actor outfitted with Sennheiser mic
and IEM.

I attended a dress rehearsal of Invisible Cities prior to its official opening. The concept could be called something like a “moveable production.” With your ticket comes the pair of Sennheiser wireless headphones. You put them on and wait for something to happen, perhaps feeling a little odd that you’re wearing a conspicuous over-the-ear set of headphones in a public place. But there are others around you with the same headgear—each performance accommodates 150 to 200 theatre-goers.

The cast members blend in with the travelers, especially at the beginning of the performance when they first appear, wearing ordinary street clothes. Then, out of nowhere, you hear a musical passage from the orchestra playing in a real room that’s hundreds of feet away. The sound grows in intensity, then diminishes, and then takes flight in various musical modalities. It’s an overture. This is the start of the experience.

Now a solo voice appears in your headphones, and you’re eager to see where it might be coming from. It’s by no means obvious. There’s a lot of space around you. You see a bustle in the crowd of your fellow headphone wearers, so you follow them for a while. Do they know where they’re going? Are they just guessing? Before too long you find the source of the voice. It’s a man in a wheelchair singing a poignant passage in operatic style, backed by the invisible orchestra.

Soon he is joined by another voice, a man dressed in typical transit station clothing, and wearing a shabby backpack. Again, it takes a while to realize where the second voice is coming from and who might be the vocalist. You visually explore the area and it’s very hard to separate the legitimate passengers in this rail terminal from those who might be cast members. The search is on for the tell-tale IEMs and headset mics, but both are well disguised. If you don’t have a close-up view of the performer, you cannot be sure if he/she is in the cast…or just a passenger wandering by.

The first actors have drifted away and new voices appear. Dancers augment the vocalists. Some are pushing brooms, wearing maintenance staff jump-suits. Others are exotic women in beautiful all-white gowns. They begin to appear in and around the large interconnected halls and the outside garden areas of the train terminal. Who do you follow? Where should your attention be directed?

The audience on headphones surrounding a facet of the performance.

And this is exactly what the producers want you to experience. A highly interactive event, that while scripted and choreographed, becomes a personal experience depending on what catches your attention, and what you decide to do about it. How you determine where you will focus on the different activities that are going on all around you is what makes it unique to each audience member.

Behind It All
The show could not be held without the foundational technology. The folks at Bexel, a company that is accomplished in serving complicated events, closed the loop between top-quality products and the successful deployment of them.

The wireless antenna cables were one of the numerous challenges of the project. They were routed to equipment racks in the control room where the Managed Antenna System components were located. MAS-500 Series equipment, which Bexel manufactures, was used to combine or distribute the various signals as needed. The use of ultra low-loss cables was impractical due to the public space issues, so the tech team had to be creative with amplification and signal routing to deliver the maximum allowable energy to each transmitting antenna and provide the cleanest signal possible for the wireless mic receivers.

“While the science is well known, and one in which Bexel has much experience, we had to apply our knowledge and expertise to an environment that required more than our customary methods,” states Andrew McHaddad, chief engineer for Bexel. “The greatest challenge was working in a public space with such a large, long-term installation. Cables and antennas had to be set up and torn down before and after each night’s performances, risking misconnected cables, incorrectly aimed antennas, and damage to cables due to pedestrian traffic or other forms of stress. The show’s audio department embraced these challenges with great professionalism and skill.”

Senior technical editor Ken DeLoria has mixed innumerable shows and tuned hundreds of sound systems with an emphasis on taming difficult acoustical environments, and he’s also the founder and former owner of Apogee Sound, which developed the TEC Award-winning AE-9 loudspeaker.

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/20 at 02:48 PM
Live SoundFeatureBlogConcertMicrophoneMonitoringRemoteSignalSound ReinforcementWirelessPermalink

Delicate Productions And Martin Audio MLA Support The Black Crowes

Challenge for Delicate was to completely rebuild disassembled system from scratch that was identical to the original touring rig

Late last year, The Black Crowes celebrated a successful tour of outdoor venues with a December concert reunion finale at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, and lke the tour, the concert featured the Tedeschi Trucks band and The London Souls, with Delicate Productions of San Francisco supporting with a Martin Audio MLA loudspeaker system.

According to Smoother Smyth of Delicate, the tour included sheds ranging from 3,000 to 18,000-capacity with Black Crowes FOH Engineer Bob Coke “over the moon about the MLA system.” Setup for the tour included 11 MLA and one MLD (down fill) per side, 8 MLA Compact per side, and 12 ground-stacked MLX subwoofers.

After the initial summer tour, the Black Crowes continued to tour using local promoter-supplied systems in the fall. But because Delicate and Martin Audio MLA had worked out so well for the band during the summer, the Crowes decided to bring both back for the finale.

The challenge for Delicate was to completely rebuild the disassembled system from scratch so that it was identical to the original touring rig and get it up to San Francisco for an 8 am load-in and 2 pm soundcheck with no rehearsal time. As Smyth notes, “it required a maximum effort on our part, but was well worth it because we were getting a lot of comments the next day about how amazing it sounded. The Graham auditorium is known as a very lively room and MLA allowed us to contain and control the audio really well. It turned out to be a slam-dunk.”

Bob Coke, contacted in France where he lives and works, adds: “I was initially skeptical about the MLA system. But during my first experience with the MLA Compact at a circular bull fighting arena in the south of France––an acoustically difficult venue––I was truly amazed by the sound quality, color and coverage. An hour before doors we were told that certain sections of the seated area would be vacant.

“The system tech, Andy Davies, reprogrammed the venue coverage to exclude that section in five minutes. I walked the section and was amazed to hear the difference. It’s what convinced me that the theory behind the MLA system was accurate and reliable. To be able to reprogram where the sound is being sent in a venue without having to physically change how the system is flown is quite remarkable.

“We were touring with the Tedeschi Trucks Band and The London Souls,” Coke continues. ”Each band had their own FOH engineer with different criteria for the system color, but the three of us agreed that the system sounded great. In the mornings when we were loading in the system, we would often hear from the local crews or local sound technicians that the MLA was the best sounding system they had yet heard in their venue. For the size and punch it can’t be beat. It’s also easy to set up and take down.”

Asked about mixing the final concert, he concludes, “The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is a really decent 7000-seater. I mixed the band for their final show loud––louder than the first two acts and the system as well as the venue behaved really well acoustically at that level. I was impressed by the sound of the Tedeschi Trucks band and London Souls, and how sweet the system sounded at their levels.

“There were a lot of people who stopped by after the show to pay tribute to the sound. The best compliment is when people talk about how great the show was––it’s a sign I’ve done my job well and that people have experienced the music in a direct way without having it ‘filtered’ through a bad sounding system or being distracted by room acoustics or a bad mix.”

Martin Audio
Delicate Productions

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/20 at 02:01 PM
AVLive SoundNewsConcertLine ArrayLoudspeakerSound ReinforcementSubwooferPermalink

Friday, January 17, 2014

Majic Productions Expands With Allen & Heath

Event production company Majic Productions expans with Qu-16 and GLD-80 digital mixers from Allen & Heath.

US event production company, Majic Productions, has expanded its stock portfolio with Qu-16 and GLD-80 digital mixers from Allen & Heath.

At the age of twelve, Mike Jurken started running his own DJ business, and fourteen years later is President and CEO of Majic Productions, a major player in the event production world, running 1000 events a year with a client roster including Fortune 500 companies ranging from Harley-Davidson to Northwestern Mutual, as well as high profile non-profits such as The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and The American Red Cross.

The real proving ground for any audio gear is in the weekly, month in and month out park concerts, hotel conferences and other ongoing special events. A FOH audio engineer faces a diversity of challenges at outdoor events that are very different from the challenges found in a hotel conference room or poolside for a raucous fundraiser. In every situation an Engineer needs options for mixing sound, sometimes a lot of options.       

“Allen & Heath has provided us with new tools to improve our production value to its fullest potential,” states Mike Jurken.

“In addition to the excellent tools provided on the new Allen & Heath boards, the Touchscreen provides visual references that are not found on other boards such as EQ, compressor, gate, drag and drop channel routing, and RTA,” continues Majic’s lead sound technician, Logan Byrne.

FOH placement at events not staged in a standard venue is frequently awkward. For Logan and his team, the nightmare is now over:

“Using an iPad to utilize the Allen & Heath Qu-Pad app has changed the way we run shows. After being stuck on the side of the stage, with limited or absolutely no view, Qu-Pad has given us the gift of being able to leave Front of House without leaving the board. Now we can take a walk to the back of the room and be able to control the entire board wirelessly from an iPad.”

“The sound of the board was the first thing that stood out to me. I sat down with the GLD-80 to do a sound check with a band I had never worked with before. After checking all the lines, I had them run through an entire song. The first minute I just listened, the board response sounded beautiful, and I hadn’t even started to play yet. Working with the new line of Allen & Heath products can only be summed up with two words: game changing. I’ve worked with numerous other digital consoles and this tops the list,” continues Logan.

And, as Mike Jurken concurs, “Allen & Heath has been able to provided us with the ability to provide better audio solutions for our clients.”

Allen & Heath

Posted by Julie Clark on 01/17 at 12:42 PM
Live SoundNewsConcertConsolesDigitalSound ReinforcementStagePermalink

Thunder Audio Helps Provides Donny and Marie Christmas Tour With JBL VTX Line Arrays

Donny & Marie Christmas tour utilize JBL VTX line array system.

This recent Donny and Marie Christmas tour brought the Osmonds’ family-friendly blend of music, dancing, comedy and entertainment to audiences across the US.

The 15-city arena tour featured the Osmonds performing holiday music, hit songs and more—even mixing in classic clips from 1970s holiday TV broadcasts that hadn’t been seen in decades.

The all-out entertainment extravaganza delivered with the help of a Harman JBL VTX Series line array audio system provided by Livonia, Michigan-based Thunder Audio.

“Donny and Marie are known for their spectacular production values, musical variety, costume changes and unstoppable energy and the Donny and Marie Christmas Tour was no exception,” said Greg Snyder, Business Development Manager for Thunder Audio and project engineer for the tour. “They want to make sure every single person in the audience feels like they’re an intimate part of the show, even if they’re at the back of a 20,000-seat arena.

“That’s why we used the JBL VTX line arrays for sound reinforcement on the tour—more than 75 of them including tops and subs.”

Two main left and right hangs of 14 V25 fullsize line array elements were flown per side, along with two outfill hangs of nine V25 elements per side, two side fill clusters of two V25 elements per side, six S28 subwoofers hung at each end of the stage and a center cluster of four V25 elements. On the ground, six S28 subwoofers per side and four JBL VERTEC® VT4888 midsize line array elements up front provided additional low end and center fill.

The loudspeakers were powered by 72 Crown I-Tech HD 12000 amplifiers housed in proprietary Thunder Audio rack systems. JBL HiQnet Performance Manager™ was used for system control, with JBL’s Line Array Calculator II employed for loudspeaker setup. All the shows were recorded by FOH engineer Lucas “Rico” Corrubia using a Soundcraft Vi6 digital mixing console.

The sound crew for the show included monitor engineer Joe Webster, Thunder Audio’s FOH systems engineer Johnathon Winkler, monitor systems engineer Ron Hurd and fly tech and stage patch technician Paul Villarreal. “As one of the first sound companies to purchase JBL VTX Series line arrays, we’ve gotten to know what they can do in an arena setting in every respect,” Snyder pointed out.

“This rig is phenomenal, Paul Bauman and the JBL team did a great job designing VTX,” Corrubia noted. “It has so much horsepower, it can go for days.”

Systems engineer Jon Winkler is extremely well versed in the operation and deployment of this system and in using Performance Manager and the JBL Line Array Calculator II to optimize its performance. “Jon has a very keen ear and he was really the key to fine-tuning the system to the ‘nth’ degree,” Snyder added.

“To me, the definition of a good loudspeaker is when the sound of the box itself disappears—that you almost forget you’re even listening to a loudspeaker,” Corrubia added. “That really started to happen with the VTX system as we got a sense of tuning it. We could go anywhere in any arena and it would still sound crystal-clear and transparent.”

Snyder noted that even though the Donny And Marie Christmas Tour played in large arenas, the show felt more up close and personal, thanks in large part to the clarity and smooth, focused coverage of the VTX line arrays even over larger distances.

“Donny and Marie are two of the warmest and most inviting performers around and we wanted to make sure that audiences were drawn into the more intimate parts of the show like their quieter solo numbers, yet dazzled by the energy of the all-out production numbers,” he said. “The JBL VTX line arrays are as unstoppable as Donny and Marie when everyone’s singing, playing and dancing their hearts out.”

Corrubia echoed this sentiment. “Donny and Marie have so much variety in their shows, going from rock and roll to Broadway and opera, that you need a system to handle that versatility,” he said. “VTX did an incredible job.”


Posted by Julie Clark on 01/17 at 10:55 AM
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Once Upon A Dream: Bridging The Tech Gap With The Rascals

Imagine a wildly successful blue-eyed soul group of the 1960s, pushing back against the British Invasion with many chart-topping hits including “Good Lovin’” and “Groovin.”

They became household names thanks to Top 40 radio, The Ed Sullivan Show, and the power of television. They performed to sold-out audiences across North America and Europe, and would eventually be inducted into the Songwriters Hall and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet they were unable to escape the disillusionment that came with all this success; the principals simply disbanded by 1970 and did not play together as the original foursome for another 40-plus years. 

This is the story of the Rascals, aka the Young Rascals, who placed their careers on hold in the midst of a technological revolution, our revolution, only to return after the performance audio industry was born, developed, and matured. Now imagine the original members, who began their careers using primitive PA systems, reuniting after four decades of technological innovation had occurred, including developments by professional audio equipment manufacturers, solutions by touring sound companies, and the combined expertise of 40 years of house and monitor engineers. The contrast would be profound.

It may surprise some that high-impedance microphones plugged directly into guitar amps were the sound reinforcement systems of the day. Mark Prentice is musical director and bass player for the recent “Once Upon A Dream” tour, and has played with Rascals organist Felix Cavaliere for many years. He personally witnessed a Rascals show as a teenager, and recalled a system typical of the period.

Not so young but still kickin’—the Rascals in concert presenting “Once Upon A Dream.”

“I’m a fan as well as a guy in the band,” he told me when I met up with the tour in Toronto. “When I saw them in 1967 at Watertown (NY) High School, and the only reason I know this is because a friend of mine recently showed me a photo from that show, I think they were singing through a couple of Fender Bandmaster cabinets. Maybe a 4-channel Shure mic mixer running into a dual Showman head. No individual EQ on mics or anything, only on the guitar amp head. Possibly high impedance Shure microphones. There was certainly nothing resembling a monitor, and absolutely no one was running sound from offstage. I don’t think anyone conceived of that until Woodstock.”

Unlike many Broadway pop music revivals, these musicians are playing as a foursome with all of the original members—Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli, Gene Cornish and the aforementioned Cavaliere. Assisted only by two sidemen and three backing vocalists, “Once Upon A Dream” is combination musical retrospective and 60s counterculture multimedia extravaganza.

The marquee for tour dates at Chicago’s Cadillace Palace Theater.

Miles And Miles
Directed by Bruce Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt, with concert design by veteran Marc Brickman, the show leverages technology in a manner that simply could not have been imagined when the band cut their teeth playing tiny clubs in New Jersey. Almost every piece of equipment we take for granted would look foreign to these four when they released their first record in 1965.

No parametric EQs, no solid-state power amplifiers, no condenser mics built to survive the road, no networked system control, no in-ear monitors, no hanging loudspeakers, no digital…well, anything. Shure hadn’t even released the Vocal Master system when these guys started out.

“There was nothing in those days, oh no,” notes Danelli, the band’s drummer. “It’s come miles and miles, that’s for sure. I never sit down and think about it too much, because you just get caught up in the trip of it all.”

Fortunately, the tour is made possible by generations of sound system improvements, improvements we use and take for granted every day, guided by a fine 4-person audio staff charged with reinforcing a musical tour-de-force consisting of 30 songs and Brickman’s first-class video retrospective.

Monitor engineer Mark Hutchins pre-show at an Avid VENUE console, with Avalon 737 compressors applied to vocals mounted below.

Mark Hutchins serves as monitor engineer, and the technology he uses provides an ideal contrast between the stage of today and the performing environment of 1965. He keeps the band comfortably ensconced in an all in-ear environment essential to creating the right performing conditions, managing stage levels and facilitating timing with video content.

Mixes are done on an Avid VENUE digital console with every source miked. The deck is wedge-less save one tiny back-up monitor on the drum riser. Guitars and Leslies are isolated offstage in sound absorptive enclosures. Bass and keyboards are taken direct on DIs. A significant departure from their 60s upbringing, the Rascals stage is almost silent except for drums and percussion.

“This is not a simple monitor gig,” Hutchins states. “It’s taken some time to get them comfortable. We’re talking about musicians that haven’t been on ears their whole lives, they don’t want to be on ears. Gene looked at me the first week we worked together and said, ‘I want a monitor, I want a monitor.’ Eventually we got everybody happy.”

Musical director Prentice explains that the challenge of transitioning a band that used no vocal reinforcement beyond guitar amps to the highly devised performance environment they enjoy today was a seminal task. “In-ear monitoring is really the only way to do these shows.

Leaping from a zero monitor situation throughout their successful career to a potentially sterile laboratory environment with ears, and having to figure out how to get them feeling the music, and enjoying themselves and believing they are part of it, is the job and I think we’ve got there.”

A Matter Of Balance
After watching Hutchins mix a couple of tunes, and solo a couple of mixes, I learned that fundamentally, the primary issue is balancing Danelli’s drum kit, as the only non-isolated source onstage, with everything else. Hutchins hails from an extensive live television background, and was brought into rehearsals already underway when the band was not satisfied.

RF coordinator Brian Kingman in his world adjacent to the monitor mix position.

“I came in to observe what was going wrong, initially (under the guise of being) a video guy,” he notes. “The band wasn’t happy. It’s the old story of (balancing) a loud drummer and vocalists. I’m a drummer, and I wanted to get it right for Dino initially, so I spent a whole day playing his kit, with Brian Kingman (RF coordinator for the tour) mixing, to get the drum sound in Dino’s ears the way I thought he would like it. He came in the next day, sat down and played for 20 minutes by himself, and then looked at me and said, ‘that sounds fantastic.’ We had started to build some trust.

“Then it was a matter of understanding each of their ears,” he continues. “Gene (lead guitar) likes lots of top end, and Felix likes a midrange-scooped Steely Dan-type of sound. Very little low mids. Gene and Dino both have pretty aggressive rock mixes lots of kick and snare. Eddie doesn’t want to have any drums at all. He prefers to hear himself, some keyboard, and the background vocalists, leaning to a very unique, isolated blend of what is almost like folk music. Not like the other guys, but it works for him.”

Sennheiser ew300 IEM receivers for all performers, staged and ready to go.

Brigati is the lead singer of the Rascals and composer with Cavaliere of many of the group’s hit records. “Vocals, in my humble opinion, are supposed to be a glaze on the surface of the instruments,” Brigati states. “In rock and roll, you start with the bass drum and then build on that. I’m trying to get used to ears. You don’t hear the ambiance in the room in the same way (as) the earphones block out the ambiance in the room. An individual is feeding you a blend, but when it’s right, (IEM technology) helps me be a better singer.”

A Sennheiser A5000CP passive circulary polarized antenna for the wireless systems.

Hutchins describes the vocal treatments developed for the tour. “The only thing I’ve got going on gear-wise is two Avalon 737 compressors on Felix and Eddie’s vocals.  We went through a lot of vocal mics initially, and settled on Telefunken M81s. Felix sounded best on a Neumann KMS 105, but it just brought in too much off-axis stuff to be practical.

“Eddie needs something with a lot of rejection, but also has crooner elegance to it. A full range mic that is warm and inviting. The M81 is a good compromise, they can work around it but it also has a tight pattern. Those Telefunken mics are pretty cool.”

Adapting Realities
Chris Edwards mixes front of house for “Once Upon A Dream.” Originally the engineer at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY, he joined the tour after working the initial out-of-town tryout at the Capitol to the satisfaction of director Van Zandt.

“I walked in and the theatre’s production manager said, ‘it looks like you’re going to be mixing the Rascals’,” Edwards recounts. “Steven sat with me every single night. He knows every note of every one of their records. He understood that I was a musical mixer and not just another dude in a bad Hawaiian shirt. Steven definitely had input. Trying to grasp 30 songs of new material, I didn’t hit it on the head every time, but as soon as we were cool, we were cool.”

As noted, Edwards is a music mixer by training, and has had to adapt to the realities of managing a highly-cued, theatrical type show. “The show has extensive narration that accompanies the video portions between songs,” he explains. “Many of the initial narration came from different sources with inconsistent levels and EQs, adding that getting various pieces of narration to sound right through the system was challenging: “I had never used any kind of snapshots, but (initially) I just dove right in using them to manage dialog levels and EQ.”

Later, Geoff Sanoff from Van Zandt’s Renegade Studios re-worked the narrative post-production audio to make it more consistent. Edwards: “The first time I heard the remixed dialog I hugged him. I later chose to abandon using snapshots altogether. I have a lot of experience working in old analog studios with no automation or Pro Tools, and these skills have been very useful to me in this production.

Self-described “musical mixer” Chris Edwards at his Midas PRO6 at front of house.

“I always approach the mix to honor the music,” he adds. “I’m a musician and deeply rooted in music, and have a great respect for these artists. I spent eight years as a stage tech with Levon Helm and recorded the Rambles at his barn. For me, it’s an honor to mix this show; I’m just trying to place all the parts where they should be dynamically, and pay homage to all the nuances.”

Edwards mixes on a Midas PRO6 digital desk supplied by Firehouse Productions, using loudspeaker systems provided locally by the venue in order to manage production costs. I had the pleasure of hearing two performances at Royal Alexandra Theatre during my visit to Toronto, and can testify first-hand that Edwards provides mixes with great vocal and instrumental clarity, while enhancing subtleties in the arrangements resulting in a believable, entertaining presentation.

The tour had “racks and stacks” provided locally, including Martin Audio MLA in Chicago, supplied by On Stage Audio.

Very Comfortable
Jeff Child is an independent systems tech provided by Firehouse Productions, managing another pile of gear no one could have imagined 40 years ago. Child usually tours with technology-savvy Ultrasound accounts including Dave Matthews, Further, and Phil Lesh and Friends. He struck me as very comfortable in this setting, managing adjustments for the house-supplied d&b audiotechnik Q Series line arrays with two B2 subs left and right. Q7s handled in fill and front fill duties.

“Stacks and racks are what we usually pick up. The balance is provided by Firehouse or owned by the band. Both Mark and Chris have extensive house engineer, broadcast, and studio backgrounds, so I bring a touring rock sensibility to this,” Child explains.

As noted earlier, Kingman is responsible for RF equipment and frequency coordination, and also handles earpieces and beltpacks for the artists. He uses Intermodulation Analysis Software from Professional Wireless Systems and a WinRadio spectrum analyzer to coordinate frequencies.

The audio crew at the drum riser, left to right: Hutchins, Kingman, Edwards and system tech Jeff Child.

“Frequency coordination here in Toronto has been easy,” he tells me. “I was informed that no licenses were required. To date, I’ve only had to change one frequency. The loudest thing onstage is Dino’s drums, and keeping drums, shakers, and tambourines out of vocal mics is the greatest challenge. Being older guys, the in-ear environment is very different. Our main role is to let them know ‘we are here to make you comfortable’.” In-ear electronics are Sennheiser ew300 IEM G3 systems with a Sennheiser combiner and helical antenna. All artists are on Ultimate Ears UE-11 earpieces.

Prentice notes that fortunately, the Rascals have adapted well to the profound changes in performance technology. “They’ve all become really, really comfortable in that environment. Now we just stick these little things in our ears and do a show, and I think you miss all the technological magic that has to exist to make that happen.” Fortunately for the Rascals, that technological magic happens every day because of innovation and a talented crew offering them a supportive musical environment in sharp contrast to when they first began.

“This whole phenomenon that we’re enjoying now, this re-visitation of almost 50 years ago, is about young guys that got together and cooperated and protected each other, and created together, and it was like a chance at peace,” concludes Brigati.

Danny Abelson is a consultant that specializes in the design and construction of technology systems in professional and collegiate sports facilities.

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/16 at 05:29 PM
Live SoundFeatureBlogConcertConsolesEngineerMicrophoneMonitoringSound ReinforcementTechnicianWirelessPermalink

Adamson E218 Subwoofers Add Romance To John Legend Tour

"Made to Love" is on the road with an Adamson Energia E15 PA.

R & B crooner John Legend’s “Made to Love” tour is sweeping across the country playing in 27 different U.S. cities. Concert attendees are treated to intimate, hopelessly romantic presentations of the performer’s amorous chart-topping tunes.

Sound Image, located in Escondido, California and Nashville, Tennessee, was once again selected to provide sound reinforcement and support for the tour.

“Made to Love” is on the road with an Adamson Energia E15 PA. The typical venue configuration features left-right hangs of twelve enclosures per side with front fill support provided by four SpekTrix enclosures.

The newest items on the tour are eight Adamson Energia E218 subwoofers, which recently joined the inventory at Sound Image.

“The technology in the Adamson Energia E218 sub is leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors,” explains Dave Shadoan, president of Sound Image. “They are extremely impressive.”

The recently introduced E218 is a band-pass sub containing two ND18-S Kevlar Neo-Dymium drivers utilizing Adamson’s Advanced Cone Architecture.  The sub is equipped with a custom version of the e-Capsule which holds a simplified version of the Energia rigging system, allowing for a flat or slightly curved sub array when hung. 

During the “Made to Love” tour the subwoofers are used in a standard left-right configuration off an auxiliary send. When space allows, they are typically arranged two wide by two high. 

“Sometimes I only have 4-feet of space to work, so with them being relatively lightweight, stacking isn’t difficult with four guys,” explains John Leary, Sound Image system tech for the tour. “We stack 3 high on a dolly, which makes getting them into the building easy and I like the input and ouput NL8’s on the back so I can drive two boxes with one cable.”

David Haines, FOH engineer on the tour adds, “I’m amazed at how smooth and punchy the E218 is for being so light. They have excellent coverage and response, especially in some of the more challenging rooms we’ve encountered on this run so far.”

The system is powered by Crown HD-12000s and driven by Lake Processors.

Posted by Julie Clark on 01/16 at 04:00 PM
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Filipetti Picks Sanken Microphones For Historic Performance Of Zappa’s “200 MOTELS”

Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Frank Filipetti chooses Sanken microphones for historic performance.

Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Frank Filipetti (Elton John, koRn, James Taylor) chose a large selection of Sanken microphones for the performance of Frank Zappa’s “200 MOTELS - The Suites.” The LA Philharmonic marked the 10th anniversary date of the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall with the world premiere of the orchestral Work by L.A.‘s groundbreaking iconoclast composer Frank Zappa.

“I spent five days in rehearsals and production meetings with Gail Zappa and the amazing folks at the LA Philharmonic and Walt Disney Concert Hall,” commented Filipetti. “This was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding assignments I’ve ever undertaken.”

Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen lead the LA Phil, joined by L.A.-based director James Darrah, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale with Grant Gershon. Also joining Salonen and the LA Phil was a cast of renowned soloists featuring soprano Hila Plitmann, and a band that included Ian Underwood of Zappa’s The Mothers of Invention, Scott Thunes, who also played with Frank Zappa, Zappa Family Trust “Vaultmeister” Joe Travers, and Jamie Kime of Zappa Plays Zappa.

“From a recording perspective, we had 160 microphones on stage, and managed to capture an extraordinary evening with the Music Mix Mobile West truck,” explained Filipetti.  “My main orchestral sound came from six Sanken CU-100Ks —three in an LCR tree above the conductor, and three in the rear in LCR.  These mics have a phenomenal response, incredible low end, and a texture in the top end with such sweetness they capture that very high air in a very warm way.”

According to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which mounted the one-night-only performance, this was the first complete realization of Zappa’s musical vision. “It was a huge undertaking but exhilarating to hear Frank’s music performed by such an incredibly talented group of people,” added Filipetti.

In total, Filipetti employed over 30 Sanken microphones, including dual-capsule CU-44X condensers on the orchestral double bases and cardioid CU-55s for the entire woodwind section, drum overheads and the extensive percussion section.

“The CU-55s are small and unobtrusive,” continued Filipetti, “but they have a wonderful low frequency response while still providing super quick transients.  You get a lot of air without harshness, and the low end is really nice and deep. Because they are small, they are easy to place and are unobtrusive. The brushed bronze finish works out quite well for orchestral sessions because many conductors and directors don’t like to see a lot of microphones onstage and the 55’s tend to blend in with the instruments.”

Frank Zappa had a rich classical history, with his music performed by Zubin Mehta, championed by Pierre Boulez, and picked by Esa-Pekka Salonen for this unique Los Angeles celebration of his music and the 10th Anniversary of the Disney Hall.

“To hear those notes the way Frank wrote them was indescribable, kind of magical,” added Filipetti.  “To be a part of this one-night only event was very special, and I’m so glad they chose Frank’s music to celebrate this milestone.”


Posted by Julie Clark on 01/16 at 11:30 AM
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Adamson Systems Backbone Of Indochine Black City Tour

The second half of the Indochine Black City tour kicked off with sound reinforcement once again provided by Adamson E15 and E12 line arrays and T21 subwoofers. The first half of the tour deployed the same Adamson system.

The Black City Tour is performing in large venues throughout France, Belgium and Switzerland culminating with a performance at the Stade de France in June.

Nicolar Sirkis, the front man and lead singer for Indochine, assisted in the creation of a sound, lighting and video show that promises to dazzle audiences everywhere. Philippe Dubich, the sound engineer for Indochine, specified the Adamson Energía sound reinforcement system.

The system was designed by system engineer Julien Poirot. He along with his assistant, Wilfried Lasbleiz, have flown the versatile E15 and E12 line arrays in every venue and have been impressed with their sonic quality and coverage. 

“The E15 is a system that combines powerful dynamics , clarity and precision ... I love this system, it would be ideal for many different projects,” Poirot explains. “Indo on the E15/T21/E12 combination works well and gives us an impressive sound homogeneity throughout the venues. The result is top notch.”

Poirot deploys two left-right hangs of 12 E15 enclosures for the main PA.  Outfill is covered by left-right arrays consisting of 9 E12 enclosures.

Due to moving screens constraint, the second part of the venue is blanketed by two more E12 arrays – this time made up of 6 enclosures each. In order to provide attendees in the first few rows with a clear vision of the stage and the multiple screens, two more downfill arrays – four E12s each – were installed in the scenic grill.

Twenty T21 subwoofers in two columns of 10 push the low end of the system providing the beat that drives Indo fans.

Adamson Systems

Posted by Julie Clark on 01/16 at 10:44 AM
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Harman Professional Components Make Up Concert System For Grand Plaza Main Stage At 2014 NAMM

First concert use of JBL's new VTX Series V20 line array system with S25 companion subwoofers

The Anaheim Grand Plaza Main Stage at the upcoming 2014 NAMM show will feature the first public concert use of JBL Professional’s new VTX Series V20 line array system with S25 companion subwoofers.

The stage, located between the Hilton and the convention center, will host headlining performances by percussionist Sheila E. and blues-rock guitarist Jonny Lang.

The full schedule:

 Wednesday, Jan 22, 6 pm: Pre-Show Party Featuring Bernie Williams and Gil Parris
 Thursday, Jan 23, 6 pm: Opening Night Concert Featuring Jonny Lang
 Friday,Jan 24, 6 pm: The Imagine Party, Featuring Sheila E. With Special Appearance by Art Alexakis of Everclear
 Saturday, Jan 25, 6 pm: Saturday Night Concert

In addition to the new VTX V20 arrays, the system will include a full complement of Harman Professional components. The list includes 10 x JBL VTX V20 mains, 6 x S25 subs per side, 6 x G28 subs (center), VTX F Series fill loudspeakers and stage monitors, VT4886/VT4883 side fills, Crown Audio VRacks, Soundcraft Vi digital mixing consoles, and AKG wired/wireless microphones. And, entertainment lighting at the stage will include Martin MAC Vipers, MAC 700s, MAC 301s and control and programming with a Martin M1.

JBL Professional
Harman Professional

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/15 at 05:48 PM
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On Point Audio Provides Reinforcement For Komyo-ji Temple Concert

The Komyo-ji temple in Kamakura, Japan, holds occasional music concerts in its main hall. Micro Tacs, a local pro audio rental company, recently provided an On Point Audio sound reinforcement system for a jazz concert held at the temple.

“Several hundred guests enjoyed the system,” explains Shiro Nagashima, owner of Micro Tacs. “The OPA Line/Sub system provides high fidelity sound while not overwhelming the audience. It was perfect for this venue.”

The OPALine is a single-box vertical line array with a vertical transducer configuration that generates a wide horizontal dispersion while also providing precise vertical pattern control. As a result the defined pattern provides excellent intelligibility in reverberant spaces – ideal for the temple main hall.

The OPALine is loaded with four NP8 high-output, narrow-profile woofers that have the same cone acoustical radiating area as a conventional 8-inch woofer, in a much smaller profile. The HF section of the OPALine features two vertical line array waveguides that are both coupled to a high-output, medium-format titanium compression drivers. This configuration ensures excellent vocal range pattern control, superior system intelligibility and high reliability.

When coupled with the OPALine/Sub – a powered 18-inch subwoofer with two power amplifiers designed as a companion product for the OPALine – the self-powered system provides the controlled dispersion needed in a reverberant temple space while still offering audio fidelity, vocal intelligibility and the low end a jazz concert requires.

Micro tacs also provided two OPA 28 NP and two OPA 10 Active utilized as floor monitors. An Ashly KLR-2000 was on hand for the passive enclosures.

“The host of the event was very pleased with the look of the OPALine/Sub system,” Nagashima adds. “He did not want the system to detract from the space and the compact nature of the pole-mounted enclosures fit the aesthetics of the room.”

Micro Tacs provided a similar system for the Café Prime in Enoshima Yacht Harbor which was equally well received.

On Point Audio

Posted by Julie Clark on 01/15 at 02:04 PM
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Monday, January 13, 2014

Soundcraft Vi4 Consoles Foster Collaboration For LIVE ART: Tree of Life In Virginia

Consoles offer unique capabilities to overcome several production challenges

LIVE ART: Tree of Life is a unique collaboration that brings together recording artists, musicians and children at the 3,200-seat Landmark Theater in Richmond, VA, with Virginia-based Soundworks handling live sound for the event, utilizing Soundcraft Vi4 digital consoles for both house and monitors.

Produced by the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC), this winter’s LIVE ART: Tree of Life featured Grammy Award winner and SPARC alumnus Jason Mraz, along with k.d. lang, Christina Perri and other artists performing with more than 200 children of all abilities.

Any show with multiple performers is always a challenge, but the LIVE ART: Tree of Life event presented an unusual logistical hurdle: the monitor console was located behind some of the scenery, which blocked monitor engineer Bryan Hargrave’s view of the pit band and the bands and performers at one side of the stage.

The fact that the house band was positioned in the orchestra pit, right in front of the main PA system, did not make his or FOH engineer Grant Howard’s job any easier. A group of children in the box seats at stage left were also in front of the PA and had to be miked for the show.

Thanks to some careful aiming of the PA speakers and the Soundcraft Vi4’s functionality and its ViSi Remote iPad control, the show went off without a hitch even though it was, in the words of Howard, “like performance art, musical theater and bands playing all rolled into one,” and mixed seasoned veterans with children with little or no experience in front of an audience.

Soundworks used 62 inputs in the FOH console and configured the output with left/right/subs on an aux configuration for the main outputs plus two more feeds going to the under balcony and a feed dedicated to the hard of hearing. In addition to the complex live mixing duties, it was necessary to generate 62 channels of audio for a multi-track recording to be used for a planned PBS documentary film. 

“It was about as simple a hookup as I’ve ever seen for such a complex routing scheme,” Howard notes. “We just plugged in the MADI interface, turned on the consoles, assigned things accordingly, and that was it.”

“The ability of the Vi4 to be controlled by an iPad was an absolute lifesaver,” adds Hargrave. “In any other situation, not being able to see the performers during the show would have been a severe disadvantage.”

Instead, during rehearsals Hargrave was able to walk away from the monitor console, listen to the mix from anywhere in the theater and make adjustments.

“We had 16 powered monitors across the stage and I could walk right up to a performer, the piano player or a group of singers, hear exactly what they were hearing and use the iPad to make adjustments to the monitor mix right on the spot,” says Hargrave. “Without the iPad app, I would have had to walk to and from the console a hundred times.”

After dialing in their monitor and FOH mixes, Hargrave and Howard saved their mixes using the console’s Snapshot feature. They had only two days of rehearsals to dial in the sound for the more than 200 people who were onstage at various times, and found the Vi4’s ability to recall scenes indispensible. “By the time the show went on, all I had to do was scroll from one Snapshot to the next and the mixes were right there,” adds Hargrave.

“This was the most out of the ordinary show we’ve done on the Soundcraft Vi4, but we found it to be perfectly adaptable to the situation,” Howard points out. “In my experience it’s also the easiest console to teach visiting engineers how to operate.”

“Doing the LIVE ART: Tree of Life event is a humbling experience,” states Soundworks president Steve Payne. “It’s just absolutely astounding to watch these kids perform with artists of the highest caliber. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Many of these kids have special needs and face challenges on a daily basis. Watching them perform on this stage is like watching a flower blossom. The process is hugely rewarding for all of us—the kids, the performing artists, the crew and the audience alike.”

Harman Professional

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/13 at 03:06 PM
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Friday, January 10, 2014

Electro-Voice Brings Sweet Sound To Dunkin’ Donuts Center

Dunkin' Donuts Center upgrades with sound reinforcement system from Electro-Voice.

Home of the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins and Providence College Men’s Basketball, The Dunkin’ Donuts Center is the major sports and entertainment venue of the Providence, Rhode Island metro area.

Seating approximately 13,000 depending on configuration, the arena hosts not only games, including NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball, but also corporate events, trade shows, commencements and concerts from artists including hit-makers such as U2 and Elton John.

The facility, which was extensively remodeled in 2008, benefits from solid acoustic design and good interior treatment. Even so, the sound during games was lacking until a recent sound-system upgrade featuring loudspeakers, power amplifiers and digital routing systems from Electro-Voice.

“The two main issues with the old system were lack of coverage and lack of intelligibility,” says Tom Barrett, president of Ambient Sound in nearby Warwick, Rhode Island. Ambient handled installation and co-designed the system with Electro-Voice’s Technical Services department, whose efforts were led by Robert Deyarmond.

“Those games involve a lot of announcer play-by-play,” Barrett continues, “but unless you were sitting right in front of one of the arrays, you were not going to understand what was being said. Also, the old system did not have any subwoofers, which is especially important for basketball, where there’s a lot of pump-up music between plays.”

Addressing these issues was clearly going to require loudspeakers with speech-range clarity and well-controlled coverage patterns. But the list of suitable systems was narrowed by the facility’s requirements regarding placement, particularly a directive late in the design phase that no cabinet could hang lower than “low steel,” which is the bottom of the ceiling’s lowest horizontal member.

“Permanently-hung cabinets below low steel might have interfered with the availability of rigging points for the concert systems that come in with touring shows,” Barrett says. “And that might have made it difficult for them to avoid interfering with sight lines.”

By limiting the vertical space available for arrays, the low-steel limitation made the size-to-power ratio of the boxes critical, and also placed a premium on loudspeakers that can achieve full performance even in arrays of very few boxes. Based on these requirements the design team selected distributed arrays using Electro-Voice EVH1152 two-way coaxial horn-loaded full-range loudspeakers.

An array of choices

“The choice of options available in the EVH1152 line is fantastic,” Barrett says. “You can customize your coverage — 40 by 30, 60 by 40, 90 by 90 — by picking the right box, and you can also rotate the horns if you need to. Plus the rigging packages that are available for these boxes are engineered to work together in a multitude of environments. That made designing the system a lot easier, which was very valuable. And we didn’t have to custom-fabricate any rigging; we were able to use all off-the-shelf components.”

“These boxes were just the right size that we needed for this situation,” adds Ambient production manager Mario Pregoni. “And we didn’t require any fly grids; we could do all the rigging directly from the cabinets themselves with eye-bolts. That kept the weight down and helped us avoid extra height so we could keep the hangs low-profile.”

Another reason for choosing the EVHs, Pregoni says, is that EV offers a complete system, including the speakers, power amps, routing, control and processing. “It’s all from one manufacturer, so you don’t end up with a mixed bag; you can be sure that it all works together without any compatibility issues. Plus EV has a track record in big arenas and stadiums, both overseas and in the United States, which was a good point in their favor. And it’s rider-friendly.”

Ambient’s Vice President, Tim Quigley, points out that in addition to these technical advantages, the EV system turned out to be cost-effective as well. “EV hit the right cost point. And the finance department was very flexible with their payment options. That was helpful, because the center is a quasi-state facility, and we had to buy the system up front and then wait to be reimbursed.”

36 EVH1152s are deployed in all, 32 of which are used in vertical arrays of two boxes each. Four of these arrays are hung on each long side at intervals of about 30 feet. Another three are flown on each short side. The remaining boxes are used in two horizontal arrays, which cover the two ends of the ice, and in a four-box down-pointing cluster for the center of the ice.

Subs from above

The mains are supplemented with 12 EVF-2151D subwoofers flown in six clusters above the arena’s central scoreboard and video screen. “We had to be sure that there was a good amount of impact for music playback,” Pregoni says, “and we couldn’t hang the subs anywhere other than where they are now. The 2151s were the subs that best fit that profile. They’re compact, but there are able to fill a big area. And we were able to preserve sightlines by hanging just two boxes per cluster.”

The system is driven by Electro-Voice Tour Grade power amplifiers: 18 TG5s and three TG7s. Audio is routed to the amps digitally via a set of two NetMax N8000 digital matrix system controllers. Each amp is equipped with an RCM-28 – the latest generation remote-control DSP module from EV. RCM-28 is a two-channel digital controller module for TG series amps that enables system control, monitoring and DSP, including sound-optimizing FIR filters. RCM-28 is the first EV product to support the new OMNEO media networking architecture (co-developed by EV/Bosch), which combines Dante audio networking with the OCA control networking platform.

Amplifiers with RCM-28 modules installed can be integrated into OMNEO networks that operate over standard Ethernet and can interoperate with Dante- and OCA-enabled products from any manufacturer. With an RCM-28 module installed, network, audio and system parameters can be completely supervised and controlled remotely through IRIS-Net software.

“EV Tech support worked closely with our in-house engineering staff to make sure that the software and the protocols for the RCM cards all worked smoothly, and they did,” Barrett says. “The support was fantastic. We appreciate the EV people, including Chris Aeilts, Stu Schatz and Paul Carelli, who came out to help make sure that this installation was a success.” Rick Swensen and Rob Howitt from the manufacturers’ representative firm AudioPros in Charlton, Massachusetts were also deeply involved in facilitating the project over the two years leading up to delivery and installation.

The best proof of that success is the fact that, as Pregoni puts it, “for the first time people are able to hear the music with definition, and the patrons at the games are no longer complaining that they can’t understand the announcers.” Quigley agrees, noting that he’s made a point of “talking to average people who actually go to events, just to gauge their opinion. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For example, a bookkeeper that works with us is a season ticket holder for the Providence Bruins, and she and her husband have been raving about the fact that they can actually hear announcements and play-calls.”

As for Ambient’s client, the operators of the arena, Quigley sums up their response succinctly: “They’ve been overwhelmingly happy with the results.”

Ambient Sound

Posted by Julie Clark on 01/10 at 02:06 PM
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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Adventures In Playing And Mixing The Same Show

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in music performance, I largely gave up being a musician and concentrated completely on learning the trade of being a sound engineer. Although I continued to play the viola for perhaps the first half of my time at USC in the Recording Arts program, I eventually quit the instrument altogether for what turned out to be 15 years.

When I moved back to Albuquerque in 2004, some of my old musician friends talked me into picking it up again and joining an orchestra. I was very rusty and had to proceed slowly and carefully so that I didn’t pick up any bad habits along the way.

Once I got back into playing, I was faced with a dilemma that I’d really not encountered much in the prior 15 years: that of whether or not I might use my sound skills, my music skills, or both on any particular job. I decided to keep the two worlds separate, feeling that two different mentalities were required to be as good as possible for either one. In other words, if I was playing music, I didn’t want to worry about sound, and vice versa.

This policy has worked well for me…until October 2013. That’s when my friend, violinist and conductor David Felberg, decided together with violinist Debra Terry that she would perform “The Dharma at Big Sur” by John Adams with the Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra. I’m a member of the orchestra, playing violin this season. When David told me about the project, I volunteered to take care of the sound mixing duties.

This particular piece of music has specific technical requirements, not the least of which involves the very rare 6-string electric violin. We’ve all seen the 5-string variety, which is basically a hybrid of a viola and a violin, with open strings on C, G, D, A and E. Well, I came to learn that the 6-string violin has an even lower string—low F, a 5th lower than the low C on a viola.

Debra told me that finding that F string was quite challenging, as there were only a couple of sources in the world. She showed me the instrument, and I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to play due to the close string spacing. She had mastered the solo violin part, of course, so my job became managing the process of specifying and procuring an appropriate PA system for the two concerts we were to put on in late October.

The Spec
It’s always great to have friends in the business, so I called up Marsh Shamburger, owner of AE Productions (a regional sound company) in Albuquerque, and told him about the project. Based on my list of requirements, Marsh detailed a list of equipment along with a nice rental price and the promise of an excellent system guy to go along with it.

Although the technical requirements as listed in the score of the Adams piece are quite specific, we felt that for the venues we were playing, a medium-sized and hopefully low-profile PA would be best.

The author (left) at front of house with violinist Debra Terry and system tech Scott Boers.

Marsh included two each per side of the new QSC KLA12 powered tops, and one each per side of KW131 powered subs. Center fill and a wedge for the conductor were JBL VP7212Ms. The console was a Yamaha LS9-32. In testing the PA, I was impressed with the ease of setup with these QSC boxes, and they sounded pretty good, too. Plenty of power and coverage for the performance venues—two churches that each sat maybe 500 people.

The show didn’t need a lot of microphones. The Adams score tech info recommended miking the orchestra, but stated that it was not required. I ended up using three Neumann KM184s: two on the harps just to make sure they were heard in certain passages, and one on the principal upright bass for some attack in the low end. I felt that the rest of the orchestra did not need balancing, only that the electric violin should stay on top. This was not always easy considering all of the extra percussion involved.

Debra’s 6-string electric violin had a headphone jack and a “line out” jack as well, each with a 1/8-inch connector. I made up a special cable with a Neutrik 1/8-inch right angle plug into a TA5F to connect with a Lectrosonics LMA transmitter. She used the headphone jack for her own monitor—I had suggested that she acquire “good earbuds” beforehand and to get used to them. This worked out quite well since she had control over her own volume, and the setup was very simple. The violin’s output was fairly low, certainly not a true line level, but it was plenty for the transmitter input.

System Tech
As I explained to Marsh during specification of the system, we needed a system tech who was really good with the LS9. Even though I’ve used digital consoles, including this model from Yamaha, I had to admit that I’m pretty rusty.

Marsh sent one of his young employees, Scott Boers, who turned out to be terrific. He was on time, had all of the right gear, was patient with me despite numerous questions on how we were going to do certain things, and he has a good ear to boot. He also made a couple suggestions along the way that I ended up agreeing with, including the one about miking the upright bass. Scott was just a pleasure to deal with.

The first church was right up there with some of the most interesting challenges I’ve faced. We’re talking about a room with polished stone floors, wood pews, and not one absorptive anything in sight. Fortunately, there were no slap echoes, just smooth, fairly bright, fairly long reverb. We’re talking an RT60 time of 3 seconds here…

After we set up the PA and tested it, I worked on getting rid of a certain “boom” in the bass, and then very slightly rolled off the top with -3 dB at 12.5 kHz to cut down on the “wirey-ness” of the upper solo violin registers.

I had Scott dial up a 25 millisecond delay for the left and right mains so that Debra’s sound would appear to come from the center cluster, since she was standing right next to it. This way, I felt, those in the center front half of the audience at least would not have the jarring effect of hearing the sound from one side or the other when the performer was right in front of them. This was especially important since no sound came from the instrument itself.

Back To Playing
Then, I picked up my good old acoustic violin and sat down to play the Dvorak 9th Symphony from the back of the second violin section. Whoa—this place had some serious reverb! It took another hour of rehearsing before the musicians and the conductor had a grasp on how to deal with playing in that environment.

Then we started in on the Adams piece, and I made my way back to the console to finish the rehearsal and get the balance right for the concert, to be held two nights later. My first concern was the perceived volume level—this place was kind of loud, along with the splashy reverb. But once we got going, it seemed O.K.

As we approached the end of the 2nd and final movement of the Adams, it did indeed get pretty loud. It took some serious pushing to make Debra’s instrument heard over everything else that was going on. The difference on the solo violin fader between the quiet parts and the loudest section at the end was more than 20 dB!

The first concert went well, although the wife of a trumpet player said she had a hard time hearing the soloist. Several others from the audience (including orchestra players who did not have a part in the Adams) said that the balance was good. I realized there may have been zones where the bright reflections of the church acoustics caused “hot spots” from the brass and percussion. Not much could be done about it, unfortunately.

Two days later, we did our second concert of the same program, but in a different church. The good news was that the acoustics were far better—there was still reverb, but it was much shorter and not nearly so splashy. The bad news was that it was a smaller room and a fairly serious challenge to fit everyone on stage. Nevertheless, we got it all to work. The balance was even better than on the first concert, and I received several compliments. At the end of the Adams piece, it was still pretty loud, but no one complained to me about it.

All Said & Done
I’d say the concerts were successful, despite my reservations about playing the first half in the symphony and then mixing the second half. It was pretty exhausting. And I did have to get all of my personal violin practicing done early due to my travels to AES the week prior to the dress rehearsals and concerts.

Would I do it again? Not if I can help it. But it’s good to know that I could if I had to. As a side note: I don’t miss unpacking, setting up, packing, and rolling cases before and after the gigs—I don’t know exactly how I used to do that day in and day out. I was younger then, I guess…

Karl Winkler is director of business development at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/08 at 06:35 PM
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CTS Audio Deploys JBL Professional VTX Line Arrays At National Catholic Youth Conference

System needed to accommodate a variety of needs in a large stadium environment

CTS Audio of Brentwood, TN, recently supplied a system headed by Harman Professional components, including JBL VTX line arrays and Crown Audio I-Tech HD amplifiers for the recent National Catholic Youth Conference at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Sponsored by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, the National Catholic Youth Conference featured a variety of spoken-word, live music and dramatic performances.

Working with production company Declan Weir Productions, CTS Audio, which has supplied the sound reinforcement for the bi-annual National Catholic Youth Conference for more than 15 years, needed an audio system that would accommodate a variety of needs in a large stadium environment.

The production was configured in the round, with the main PA system including a total of 90 JBL VTX V25 full-size line array elements (in six columns of 15 each), with 24 S28 subwoofers flown in the center of the main PA loudspeakers in a cardioid setup.

Eight VRX932 Constant Curvature loudspeakers provided additional fill. At each end of the stadium, 24 JBL VerTec VT4888 midsize line array elements served as delay loudspeakers. Crown I-Tech HD 12000 amplifiers powered the system.

According to Mike Taylor, vice president of CTS Audio, the main challenges of the event included proper time-alignment of the loudspeakers. “We were faced with a complex task of achieving direct sound rather than reflections in such a large stadium,” he says. “And with the design, coming up with a subwoofer arrangement that was even across the room was also a challenge.”

In addition, CTS Audio configured and monitored the audio system with JBL HiQnet Performance Manager.

“[JBL’s Associate Director, Tour Sound] Paul Bauman and [Harman Professional’s Application Engineer, Live Sound and Rental for North America] Raul Gonzalez helped us develop a solution utilizing Performance Manager,” Taylor notes. “This enabled us to model and program every loudspeaker in the system before even hanging a single box.”

Although CTS Audio has used VTX frequently since adding the loudspeakers to its inventory, this was the first time CTS supplied VTX for the National Catholic Youth Conference. “The event was a huge success,” Taylor concludes. “Two years ago we used VerTec and this was an improvement on an already good-sounding system. VTX is a whole different animal—the enclosures and the high-frequency range are amazing.”

JBL Professional
Crown Audio
Harman Professional
CTS Audio

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/08 at 05:46 PM
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Showtime Sound Utilizes EAW KF740 For All-Star Concert At SECU Arena

Because the stage was oriented sideways in the arena, there needed to be plenty of vertical as well as horizontal coverage from the arrays

Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW) KF740 line arrays headed up the system for the A-list acts at the sold-out Mistletoe Meltdown show, held in mid-December at the SECU Arena outside of Baltimore. On the bill were Avril Lavigne, The Backstreet Boys, Sara Bareilles, Gavin DeGraw and Plain White T’s.

Sound reinforcement system and support was provided by event production company Showtime Sound of Glenelg, MD.

“When I walked up to the KF740 rig and put some playback music on, the mix translated perfectly,” says Jason Decter, the FOH mixing engineer for headliner Avril Lavigne. “Usually I have to struggle a little bit to get what I want.”

It was the first time that Decter, who also mixes for Blink 182 and Weezer, had used the KF Series. “Never did I get into any soft limits or compression or limiting,” he notes. “The rig was open and airy and had great detail to it. What impressed me the most was just how clear and detailed the rig was.”

Shawn Hocherl, a vice president of Showtime Sound, designed the sound system for the night with 24 KF740 cabinets configured in two 12-cabinet side arrays, with several EAW KF300, KF750, KF755, KF850z and JF80 cabinets for front, side and out fills.

“The intelligibility of the KF740 and also the power it puts out for a medium-sized box blows us away,” Hocherl says. “They’re easy to fly off all our mobile stages, and they’re so light.”

Because the Mistletoe Meltdown stage was oriented sideways in the SECU Arena, Hocherl needed plenty of vertical, as well as horizontal coverage from the KF Series arrays he configured. “It covered the venue extremely well,” he adds. “The versatility of the KF740 is awesome. We use them more than any other cabinet we have.”

Decter hopes to work more with the KF Series loudspeakers, as well. Their instant usability made his job that much easier. “They took the stress out for me that day,” Decter said, “which was a nice change. We started the show, and it was over before I knew it. It was a little too fun that night.”

Showtime Sound

Posted by Keith Clark on 01/08 at 02:56 PM
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