Friday, March 18, 2011
A System Engineer’s Observations On Wrangling A Really Big Sound Reinforcement Rig
When I opened the file however, I was in for a bit of a surprise. The inventory was 24 pages long. This was a boat load of audio gear.
Having spent some extended time with just a couple of artists, a few years ago (2006 to be exact) I recently found myself in an unfamiliar position. I was not going to be touring with anyone.
It was therefore time to see what I was made of. Time for some “one-offs”—you know, those pesky little shows where you really don’t know what’s going on until you are actually doing it.
No stage looms, dialed-in consoles or “girlie” techs allowed on these babies. You’d better have your eyes wide open because you’re going on a mission.
As a young man, I worked for several regional production companies so I say “production” because these businesses were famous for trying to be the one-stop shop for the local promoters. You know, sound, lighting and staging in one size to fit all. (Sorry, this was before video became an issue),
To these establishments, shows of this nature were the bread and butter of their existence. These were the trenches that turned us into the sound engineers we are today. Our idea of touring, was a few dates in a row with the same artist who happened to be in the area, but that was It. All of the real touring was left to the bigger sound providers.
There were more of them back then too. In fact, today there are fewer and fewer touring giants in the industry. Yes, we too have been subject to consolidation. (And you thought that was just for Wall Street!) Since the turn of the century we have seen Showco and Clair Bros. become one entity… a scenario that most folks never expected to see. Sound Image and DB Sound are two more touring firms that have since joined forces.
Believe it or not, the fusion of these companies is a perfectly normal thing in the business world. Yes, there is a sound reinforcement food chain! And while big percentages of the touring market are serviced by these two companies, alone, I was about to find out that they also do their fair share: of one-offs.
After spending an extended time away from work to move and renovate a home on the coast in South Carolina I was ready to get back to work. (i.e.: ran out of money). A few phone calls later I found myself assigned to a couple of festival dates. (By the way, ‘festival’ is another word for REALLY BIG one-off.) I spoke with Greg Smith (Showco operations manager in Lititz, PA) and got the big picture. He would be sending me an inventory in a couple of days.
When I downloaded my e-mail a few days later, the attachment I was looking for was an Excel file full of specifics about the gear that would be sent for this show. When I opened the file however, I was in for a bit of a surprise. The inventory was 24 pages long. This was a boat load of audio gear. (Well, not a boat load, but at least four tractor trailers worth).
On a project of this magnitude my first step is to organize the information in a manner that makes sense to me. This may take a while, but it is ultimately worth it. Of course the inventory from the shop is already organized in a specific way.
But since I have the ability to manipulate the information in Excel, I will almost always do a bit of rearranging to make It more to my liking, sometimes even printing out multiple copies of different versions of the list.
This process almost always involves the use of highlighters as well to add another organizational dimension to the data. Items can be grouped together physically on the sheet, but they may also be related by color when they are not.
Incidentally, the act of doing tits is the first step to familiarizing myself with the gear and the project. I am always amazed at how much detail I remember once the event starts just from this initial organization.
The more you work with the lists, the more you will remember later. And this isn’t like the useless stuff you think you learned in school. You will actually apply this Information in practice during the course of the event.
For this particular show, I was not present in the warehouse when the gear was being assembled. I guess ‘warehouses’ (plural) would be more accurate as this system contained elements from both the Showco/Clair Lititz facility as well as Clair’s Nashville shop. My hat is always off to the staff that makes this process appear so seamless to us in the field. They put a tremendous effort into managing a big project like this and getting all of the correct pieces in the right places.
The advent of computers and inventory control software helps of course, but it is not as easy as you might think. Bits and pieces may be In a warehouse halfway across the country, but the team at Showco/Clalr always manages to do an excellent job of it.
When the system arrived it was loaded in to four tractor trailers. They were packed to provide equipment in the specific area it was to be utilized and labeled Stage Left, Stage Right, Front of House and Stage Deck. The FOH trailer also contained all of the gear for our delay positions. The simple act of packing the trucks in this way facilitated the deployment of the gear at the venue.
HOW BIG IS BIG?
In my conversations with the shop, I realized that this was going to be the largest audio system I have ever been involved with. The thought of pushing the big fader up was tantalizing. The event was to be held in the Superdome in New Orleans.
The main left and right system was made up of Prism enclosures in what is known as the ‘Stadium Rig’. It consisted of 12 columns (per side) of six tall loudspeakers hung to maximize acoustic power from the arrays.
Outside of these columns were four additional standard Prism columns. These are four loudspeakers and this is the part of the system that wraps around to cover the sides of the room. Of these, the first two (columns 13 and 14) were hung in the arrays with the stadium columns, while the last two (15 and 16) were hung in line with the rest but above them. I would estimate that they were about nine or ten stories above the concrete floor. These were used to cover several sections of seating in the upper stadium/arena beside and behind the stage that would be used when the crowds got big enough.
Next, add some sub-bass to fatten it up. Arrays of 24 subs were stacked on the floor on each side of the stage. They were placed so as not to block sightlines from any of the near seating areas.
Ample fill loudspeakers were also dispersed throughout the sub bass arrays to add clarity to the areas directly in front of them.
So, do the math ... including the front fill, the main system consisted of 184 Prism loudspeakers plus 48 Prism subs. Furthermore, we supplied a dozen under-hung enclosures to fill the seam between the front fill and the main array coverage.
Additionally, there were seven delay positions consisting of six T2 loudspeakers in each. They were placed specifically to deliver extra clarity and punch to the far reaches of the upper levels of the dome.
The amp racks and drive system were located at FOH just behind our consoles, and there were three rings of motors just to bring the cabling back from the loudspeakers to the center of the room. Including the motor electrics this was a tremendous amount of cable, and the center pick motor was actually a two-ton CM.
The T2 system was developed by MD Systems before they were purchased by Clair Brothers some years ago. This rig has been reworked several times since its inception and in my opinion worked really well in this delay application. It has some directional variability built in to the boxes, and a versatile rigging system that allowed us to focus their energy right where we wanted it.
Like the Prism system, T2s have benefited from the implementation of processing available in the Clair i/O, These crossovers are outstanding and have taken both of these mature system designs to the next level.
Through the years, many loudspeaker designs have come and gone. The widespread use of line array technology has been nothing short of a phenomenon in our industry. I love line arrays. Most of them sound great right out of the box. But in some applications there is no substitute for horsepower. When the bill calls for sheer volume and impact on an audience, I’ll take Prism any time. ‘When it’s time to rock the house ... there is no substitute. That’s why after 20 years these systems still sell out during the concert season. Some guys won’t leave home without it.
ABOUT THOSE DELAYS
With respect to the use of delay systems I’d like to mention a few more things. Due to the nature of the acts appearing at this show, the delay system was not a make-or-break element of the final results we achieved. With a different type of program they could have been everything.
While line arrays with their special projection characteristics and Prism with it’s massive speaker-face and raw power are able to provide plenty of SPL to the back of the audience, there comes a time when adding delay positions makes more sense than turning up the long-throw portion of the system When the program you are reinforcing is inherently quiet, an extra loudspeaker position physically closer to the listeners furthest away will give you better results,
Imagine a lapel mic worn by a soft-spoken person trying to speak to a stadium full of people.
Being able to energize loudspeakers physically removed from the proximity of the microphone versus turning closer ones up louder will provide much more headroom before feedback.
When a symphony plays a quiet passage the main arrays are quiet.. and the delay positions are quiet. When the score gets much louder, the same dynamic happens.
If you were trying to achieve this intimacy at the back of the room without the delay loudspeakers, the long-throw portions of the rig would have to be turned up very loud relative to the rest of it.
Even though they may not be aiming directly at you, I believe you can still hear the extra energy from these devices filling the room, as it struggles to deliver clarity to the farthest audience members during the quiet passages, and perhaps running out of headroom during the louder ones.
By utilizing delay loudspeakers you can keep the system’s output more uniform throughout the room. I would rather try to capture the nuance of the performance using this ‘old school’ technology and avoiding the non-linear set-up. To successfully focus audio energy in to the areas of the room where coverage from the tamed main arrays is inadequate, optimizing the drive settings for the delay loudspeakers is critical to achieve the best results.
The main premise is that delay loudspeakers should be heard, but not perceived. While the value for ‘delay’ is ultimately very important, it is not the only consideration. Achieving this transparency is done by balancing the frequency response, delay time, gain and coverage angles of the delay loudspeakers relative to the main arrays.
For example, the delay time might be extended by a small increment compared to the actual measured value for the distance to the main arrays. This is because with two sources we tend to localize sound to the one we hear first. In this case we prefer the main arrays at the stage. Next the gain should be adjusted so the level is as low as possible, while still being effective,
Again, we tend to localize sound to the louder of two sources, so make the mains louder by turning the delays down. Think “invisible” when you are making these adjustments.
The frequency response of the delay loudspeakers is also important as to how well they work.
The premise here is to use the delay loudspeakers to keep the sound at the listening position spectrally balanced. To determine the best response you must first go to the audience areas to be covered by the delay loudspeakers, At a moderate level, listen to the main system with the delays off.
You will find many times, that the spectral information reaching the far parts of the audience is not nearly as balanced as it is on the floor at the mix position.
There is also coloration from the room itself that will sometimes accentuate different frequencies, and the distance from the mains may diminish high mid and high frequencies.
Base the response of your delay loudspeakers on these listening results.
In this manner you can reinforce only what is necessary to the far reaches of the room to bring the balance of the system back to where you want it.
Be careful not to be too radical with your corrections here, especially at higher frequencies where directionality is very obvious.
I have heard a very well set-up delay system that had too much high-frequency information coming from it so while most of the mix seemed to be emanating from the stage… the hi-hat was perceived coming from a nearby delay loudspeaker.
Finally, one of the most common mistakes I see with delays is the use of wide horizontal coverage from a single position.
Rather, more delay positions, individually tuned and dispersing in tighter patterns directly away from the main arrays will give a much better result. Of course there must be a balance struck between rigging points and motors available, drive electronics to tune the individual positions, amps, cabling ... etc. In order for the delay loudspeakers to be timed correctly, everyone hearing them must be the same distance away.
By allowing this coverage to be too wide, it would create a situation where a portion of the listeners are farther away than others requiring different delay times to compensate for this distance. (See diagrams directly below).
The more you can keep the delay position listeners in a direct line from the main arrays, past the delay positions that only they can hear, the more seamless the Integration of tile delay system will be. In New Orleans, we used Smaart to set the initial delay times. Then we made fine adjustments based on listening.
If you don’t have all of the high tech stuff to do this, a simple tape measure will also give good results, (Perhaps not in the Superdome, but say outside where it is easy to get accurate readings dragging a tape measure around.) Set your delay processors to show the delay in feet as opposed to milliseconds and you can transpose the readings directly from the tape to the processors.
At the end of the day, with all of this speaker-face and about three quarters of a million warts to make it work, I was thrilled to finally get to turn it all on. From what I saw on the faces of most of the band’s mixers, it was working for them too!
Dan Laveglia is a system engineer for Clair Bros.
JBL EON515XT Test Drive Sweepstakes Offers Chance To Win Complete Harman Sound System
Prize package includes JBL loudspeakers, subwoofers and stands, Soundcraft console, and AKG wireless systems and microphones
The JBL Professional EON515XT Test Drive Sweepstakes began March 15, 2011 and runs through June 30, 2011, with a grand prize of a complete sound system including more than $13,000 worth of JBL, AKG and Soundcraft gear.
To qualify, customers can stop by any participating JBL retailers to “test drive” the EON515XT, then complete and mail the sweepstakes entry form to the address listed in the official rules. Official rules for the sweepstakes are on the back of the form and also available at: http://jblpro.com/eon515xttestdrive. All entries must be received by 11:59 PM PDT, July 31, 2011.
The recently introduced EON515XT active compact loudspeaker incorporates a 3-channel mic/line mixer with adjustable bass and treble controls, a JBL 15-inch Differential Drive woofer and a proprietary JBL high-frequency compression drive, both powered with Crown amplification. Estimated street price at JBL retailers is $699 (U.S.).
Specifically, the sweepstakes grand prize package includes four JBL EON510 loudspeakers, two JBL EON315 loudspeakers, two JBL EON518S 18-inch subwoofers, one Soundcraft LX7ii mixing console, three AKG D5 microphones, one AKG Rhythm Pack microphone set, three AKG WMS450 Guitar Set Band 7 wireless microphone systems, one AKG WMS450 D5 Vocal Set Band 8 wireless microphone system, two JBL SS3-BK loudspeaker stands and two JBL SS2-BK loudspeaker stands.
The grand prize will be awarded to one winner on or around September 1, 2011.
“We feel that the EON515XT is the most impressive EON we’ve ever made and we’re launching our sweepstakes to motivate people to experience it for themselves,” notes Richard Ruse, director of marketing, Portable PA, JBL Professional. “I think the opportunity to win a Harman sound system worth over $13,000 is pretty good motivation.”
JBL Professional website
Turbosound & Proel Form New Sales Channel To Serve Germany
"The creation of the Proel Group Germany as a direct sales channel solution is the logical distribution choice for us.” - Don Harter, Turbosound sales director
The Italy-based Proel Group has established a direct-to-market sales channel to manage its Proel and Turbosound brands and product lines in Germany.
“With our rapidly growing German customer base and our strategic drive to be more directly connected with our customers, the creation of the Proel Group Germany as a direct sales channel solution is the logical distribution choice for us,” says Turbosound sales director Dom Harter.
The new Proel Group company is headed up by long-time Turbosound veteran Tobias Schulte as Proel Group Germany market manager and Stephan Grawe as Proel Group Germany sales manager. Both are highly qualified industry professionals with over 30 years experience between them in the pro loudspeaker business, possess a strong familiarity with the Turbosound brand and a deep understanding of the German market dynamics.
“Turbosound addresses the live sound, installation and portable markets with cutting edge product lines and I’m astounded by the new products that are on our stand at Messe,” comments Grawe. “With this new direct distribution strategy and a German speaking back office process, we are committed to giving our customers the best service and personal support to position Turbosound prominently in the market – Turbosound is a giant brand that’s about to reclaim its pre-eminent position in the market.”
“I’m confident that our already large customer base in Germany will now enjoy unrivalled access to the Turbosound brand, and with the raft of new products coming on stream at prolight+sound and later this year we fully expect to significantly expand our customer base,” adds Harter.
Proel Group and Turbosound UK staff will be at stand 8.0H40 to show visitors the all-new range of Turbosound loudspeakers being launched at the upcoming Prolight+Sound/Musikmesse in Frankfurt.
Renkus-Heinz Introduces CTS Accredited RU Audio Training
The Intelligibility Course covers line source vs point source, technology theory and intelligibility
Renkus-Heinz is launching two InfoComm CTS Accredited RU training programs for audio technicians in the fields of intelligibility and digital beam steering. The senior course instructor is pro audio developer, instructor, AES moderator, author and journalist John Murray.
Both courses will be hosted at multiple locations across the U.S., including at the Renkus-Heinz factory in Foothill Ranch, CA.
The Intelligibility (Non-Manufacturer) Course - worth 4 RUs - covers line source vs point source, technology theory and intelligibility. Specifically, topics include understanding line source and point source behavior and their fundamental characteristics, understanding STI (Speech transmission Index) and how it can be used to assess a sound system’s intelligibility, and understanding the relationship between high-Q line-array directivity and the resulting intelligibility in difficult acoustic spaces.
The Manufacturer course - worth 2 RUs - is the Renkus-Heinz Iconyx Certification Course, which covers creating a network of Renkus-Heinz Iconyx steerable line arrays with a TCP/IP control interface via a laptop computer; optimizing an Iconyx steerable line array system via active beam steering for maximum evenness of coverage; and using EASERA SysTune to equalize an Iconyx steerable line array and assess its intelligibility using STI.
John Murray’s career began with a B.S. in Radio-TV Production and Engineering from Ohio University in 1975, and he spent 13 years as an A/V integrator, designing, installing, and commissioning sound systems of all types, and 13 years working for three audio manufacturers in product development and dealer training for electronics, loudspeaker systems and DSP products. An AES member since 1980, he has presented papers and moderated panel discussions, as well as his role as a Syn-Aud-Con seminar and workshop graduate, presenter and creator.
An InfoComm adjunct faculty member who has taught several classes for NSCA, in 2007 he was awarded ynstructor of the year for NSCA’s Technical College for his “Line Arrays: Separating Reality from Marketing Hype” class. His second audio education DVD, “Levels, Metering and Gain Structure,” is the basis for the NSCA’s first on-line accredited training course.
Currently, Murray is the principal of Optimum System Solutions (OSS), his new systems-optimization and intelligibility-measurement consulting firm. He also runs regional Renkus-Heinz Iconyx steerable line-array certification seminars and performs system commissioning and trouble-shooting for Renkus-Heinz dealers. He is also the senior technical editor for Live Sound International magazine.
Margie Ulm, marketing manager at Renkus-Heinz, states, “We are very pleased to offer these new RU courses to audio professionals throughout the country, especially with the high caliber of instruction that delivers each course.”
Course details can be found at www.infocomm.org and www.renkusheinz.com
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Acid Test: Up Close And Personal With The Adam A3X Monitors
What used to be a dream for many budding engineers is now reality - an affordably priced Adam monitoring system. But how does it stack up against the competition?
With the launch of the new AX Series, which replaced the previous budget A Series, ADAM extended its range adding two new speaker sizes: the big A8X with an 8.5” woofer and the small A3X.
Considering the very affordable price of the speaker (less than $300 on the street) the question has arisen of whether the A3X is worthy of its family or not. So, we decide to have a closer look…
We were surprised by the size of the speaker when we unpacked it. With its extremely compact dimensions (10” x 6” x 7.5”), the A3X can find a place in many small studios.
However, it’s slightly bigger than another speaker often discussed in this size, the Focal CMS 40.
On the other hand, it is a bit lighter, which will be an advantage for mobile home studio owners with fragile shoulders. Its design is no surprise, the speaker looks like all its bigger brothers: anthracite finish, two bass reflex ports, woofer without protection grill, and the famous X-ART ribbon tweeter.
It’s the ADAM mini-me!
The manufacturing quality is flawless and the speaker seems quite rugged. However, you’ll have to protect the woofer during transportation because it has no protective grill. For the lows it uses a 4.5” carbon fiber woofer, unlike the A5/7/8X that use carbon/Rohacell/glass fiber low-frequency drivers.
On the other hand, the ribbon tweeter seems to be exactly the same as the high-frequency drivers used on the other speakers in the series, which is very good news.
Inside the speaker cabinet you’ll find two 25-watt (RMS) A/B amplifiers. The speaker is not magnetically shielded so beware if you still use an old CRT monitor.
The power switch is on the front panel (far more practical than on the rear), as well as the volume control. You can link the volume control of the two speakers so that you can set the volume of both with only one control. Very useful.
On the rear panel you’ll find a balanced XLR input plus an unbalanced RCA input - no 1/4” TRS jacks. The settings allow adjustment of tweeter gain (-/+4dB) and nothing more.
The A3X provides no additional acoustic adjustment possibilities, which would come in very handy. The very low price of the speaker obviously has an impact on some details, like this one: don’t expect miracles!
The crossover frequency is set at 2.8 kHz and the input accepts signal levels up to +14dB (input sensitivity).
Obviously the monitors are capable, but how do they fare when giving them a listen?
We compared the ADAM A3X with three other speakers: the M-Audio DSM1, the Tannoy Reveal 601A and the Focal CMS 40.
The small ADAMs are the most affordable in this collection but not less powerful in any respect. We listened to songs we know very well and tested the speakers within a home studio environment.
After connecting the A3X, the sound produced by such small speakers really impressed us. The low-frequency response is quite impressive, considering the size, and the high end is very detailed.
The mids are a bit weaker, especially compared with the CMS 40. Of course, it’s worth paying attention to your position in front of the speakers: the sweet sport is not as wide as with the other monitors we tested, maybe because of the ribbon tweeter.
With the first listening, the ADAMs seemed to produce more low frequencies than the CMS 40, but as time went by, we noticed that the Focals deliver a more detailed mid range with an atrophied but more intelligible low range.
The A3X subwoofer.
Then we listened to our first song, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, to compare the ADAM A3X ($600/pair) with the Focal CMS 40 ($800/pair), given their similarity in size.
Cash’s voice sounded closer to the listener with the Focals, but the guitar sounded brighter with the ADAMs. The overall mix was more hollow with the A3X, while high-mids were more accurate with the CMS 40.
The depth of Cash’s voice got a bit lost with the ADAM A3X. Although you’d have the impression that the CMS 40 sound “boxy,” at first, in the end they seemed more linear than the ADAM.
We then chose to move on to another track, “Angel” from Massive Attack. The bass in this song revealed that the ADAMs can deliver a wider lower end, however the bass did sound more precise and has a more “intelligible” attack with the CMS 40.
It might be that the ADAMs low-end tends to mask or blur certain frequencies. The drum kick sounded dryer with the CMS, it has no resonance at all and you can only hear its attack. The electric guitars in the middle of the song sound a bit more like a “bee nest” with the ADAMs.
Next, we switched to Raconteurs’ “Consolers of the Lonely,” a song with vintage-sounding guitars and very powerful drums. The bass drum seemed to be less controlled and a bit softer with the ADAMs, while the Focals revealed a very dynamic response and produced punchy transients.
Sibilants of vocals cut through with the A3X and the Focals emphasized the mid frequencies of the guitars. The latter seemed to have a more linear and controlled response. In comparison, the ADAMs’ mid range seemed to be way back.
We then turned to Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl”. During the soft intro both monitors had quite the same response, but as soon as Michael’s voice comes in, we noticed a lack of low-mids with the ADAMs.
Regarding details in the mix (like reverb decays), both speakers sounded alike while the Focals score higher on stereo imaging.
The ADAMs had more “air” but the stereo image seems overemphasized and the high frequencies were way too upfront.
Another track we tried was Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, in which the Focals showed their lack of low frequencies so that the bass guitar and the resonance of the toms stayed in the background.
On the other hand, the different guitar tracks were easily identifiable. The hi-hat sound was very different with both speakers: the ADAMs had a much brighter sound. Altogether, both models did a very good job with this song.
On Gorillaz’s “Feel Good,” the drum kick was drier with the Focals, while the megaphone effect of Damon Albarn’s voice seemed a bit exaggerated with the ADAMs. The bass sounded more “boomy” with the ADAMs and it was less intelligible than with the Focals.
And what about the double bass on “Walk on the wild Side”? The resonance of the instrument was not audible with the CMS 40, you could only hear the strings! Lou’s vocals seemed closer and more present with the Focals. On the other hand, the snare drum cut better through with the ADAMs.
The A3X rear panel.
On Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven,” the double bass seemed shier with the Focals but the trumpet sounded smoother and warmer than with the A3X. The ride cymbal had a sharper attack with the CMS; in general, dynamic response and transients were more faithful.
With the ADAMs, the attack of the double-bass notes was a bit inhibited by the resonance of the body, which was not the case with the CMS 40. But the sound of the instrument’s body was almost inaudible with the Focals.
On our final track, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” the brass sound was tinier with the ADAMs and we noticed the same basic differences as on the other songs. Kettledrums had more depth with the ADAMs, while the Focals reproduced almost only the sound of the skin.
Owning a pair of ADAMs for less than $600 is now possible and, trust us, the small A3X were surprising.
The low-frequency response was very powerful, considering their size, and the X-ART tweeter produced a very detailed sound. The German manufacturer seems to not have compromised the manufacturing quality when lowering the price.
Plus, the speakers have some very practical details like the front power switch and the stereo link function. We can express our reservations about the accuracy of the low-frequency range, which was a bit imprecise, and the weak mid range (compared to the high-frequencies).
Moreover, the lack of real acoustic correction options doesn’t allow the user to compensate these disadvantages. With a very attractive value for money, we strongly recommend these speakers to all small studio owners who want high-quality equipment but have a limited budget.
Just take the few flaws of the A3X into account to avoid unpleasant surprises when mixing. Nevertheless, the ADAM A3X is without a doubt the best compact speaker in this price range.
Value for money
Detailed high-frequency response
Powerful low-frequency response
Almost no acoustic correction possible
A bit of masking in the low end, and the mids are a bit weak
For more audio/sound related content and resources, go to Audiofanzine.
L-Acoustics KUDO The Choice Of Thunder Valley Casino Resort
The new amplifier & loudspeaker package from the L-Acoustics line was installed in the resort's new Pano Hall.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort, located 30 miles east of Sacramento, recently wrapped up an ambitious schedule of renovations with the addition of a spa, outdoor pool and 17-story luxury hotel, which houses the resort’s new 10,000-square-foot Pano Hall.
Designed to host concert and comedy productions, corporate meetings, poker tournaments, banquets and many other events, the multipurpose, 1,000-capacity space is equipped with a mobile L-Acoustics amplifier and loudspeaker package supplied by Las Vegas-based Audio Video Design-Build (AVDB) Group.
A total of 12 L-Acoustics KUDO cabinets and eight SB28 subs, collectively powered by eight LA8 amplified controllers, comprise the main PA for Pano Hall.
Eight self-powered 108P cabinets are also available for front-fill, with six 112P for use as side-fills. Onstage, four ARCS and four SB118 subs serve as the side-fill monitoring system, with a dV-SUB enclosure on hand as a drum monitor sub.
Scott Oosthuizen, AVDB Group’s CEO and AV system designer, notes that KUDO’s “exceptional versatility and universal acceptance in the production and touring world were primary reasons we recommended the system to our client.”
“Plus, the enclosure’s adjustable K-Louvers allow the system to steer audio away from the parallel surface walls in the ballroom, which is always a very desirable outcome in any design. Less primary reflections from the side walls lead to better overall audio intelligibility in the audience seating areas.”
“As far as I’m concerned, KUDO is the best-sounding 12-inch-format line array system out there. It’s definitely a very versatile system and easily meets most rider specifications.”
Oosthuizen points out that Pano Hall’s new setup is billed as fully mobile touring sound system, allowing Thunder Valley to not only set it up in a variety of configurations within the ballroom depending on production needs, but also deploy it outside or off-site as well.
“Our mission here at Thunder Valley Casino Resort is to provide a truly first-rate experience for our guests and the KUDO system is very much in line with that philosophy,” adds Doug Elmets, spokesman for the resort.
“L-Acoustics’ reputation for uncompromising excellence is widely known throughout the live event production community and having this system is helping us attract high-profile artists that might not otherwise perform in a ballroom of this size. So, obviously, it’s been a big ‘win-win’ for both us and our guests.”
Industry Insight: The Problem Or The Solution?
Keeping up with ever-more complex technology
Professional audio equipment keeps getting better, as clearly evidenced by enhanced loudspeaker systems, high-resolution digital mixing consoles, ever-more-robust low distortion power amplifiers and digital signal processing “wonder boxes.”
Further, with the advent of new interconnect options, sound systems are beginning to gain immunity from ground loops that can serve up dreaded hum and buzz.
Suffice to say that the improved list goes on and on, with a lot more new equipment coming out soon!
At the same time, the public is ever more aware of sound quality, and this has certainly raised the bar when it comes to expectation. Whether it’s a church, theatrical production, concert or whatever – folks now have a higher expectation when it comes to what they hear.
So we’ve established that both equipment quality and public expectation have escalated.
My question: why isn’t sound quality at live shows/events getting better? (Or is it?)
It would be interesting to go through reviews of concerts over the past 10 years and see if there is any indication that audio at these events has improved at the same increment as the quality of the gear.
Based upon my own experiences, as well as those shared with me by numerous friends and colleagues, and also what I’ve read – I suspect not.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say that the issue of actual, definable sonic improvement remains murky at best.
As we know, sound quality in any venue can vary considerably during the same event at different locations in the coverage area. Even with this acknowledgement, it only seems logical that the overall average should be improving to a notable degree.
What gives? The answer might lie a little closer than we think. Could it be… us? System operators, mix engineers, whatever we like to call ourselves – are we part of the problem?
You’re probably thinking, “It’s not me! I know what I’m doing. He must be talking about someone else.” Perhaps. But the facts are the facts.
My point is not to accuse anyone of incompetence, but rather, to suggest that we all focus on proper training.
The role of sound mixer/engineer/technician has never been tougher. The wonderful new tools make for a mind-boggling amount of information to learn and implement correctly.
Anyone doing live sound must be up to speed on the total functionality of the console, digital loudspeaker drive system, amplifier diagnostic and control systems, programmable outboard gear, measurement and analysis tools… (It makes me tired just listing it out!)
And this doesn’t even take into account staples of the trade such as coverage and acoustical issues, safe and reliable power, basic electronics, microphone placement, wireless usage, and so on.
The staggering amount of new technology, some of it quite complex, requires dedicated training. Further, very little of this new breed of gear even existed a decade ago.
Consider for a moment that a typical, well-rounded mix engineer now needs to understand how to operate a litany of equipment:
Digital consoles as well as analog offerings, digital processing (with software!); countless power amplifiers; digital effects; measurement and analysis software; wireless microphone systems (don’t forget the wired varieties, too); and every line array series currently and previously on the market…
The broad list was compiled off the top of my head, and it’s barely a start! I started to add up all of the pages of the owners/operators manuals and technical guides for the products I typically encounter, and they total well over 2,000 pages! No one can simply pick up this amount of technical detail on the fly.
Thus, it’s well past time for more structured training programs. Manufacturers need to understand they have an obligation to provide a well-defined training curriculum on complex products; and customers need to understand that they will have to budget for the training, and then show up and pay attention.
Perhaps some new form of training center is called for, one that provides this type of educational service for more than one manufacturer in the industry.
Certainly “trade schools” like Full Sail and SAE do provide sophisticated training, but the courses are more designed to lead to a degree rather than offering practical, immediate instruction.
It might be a good idea for these institutions to consider “clinic style” training programs that last several days and thoroughly cover the kinds of complex devices and technologies noted above. Imagine a three-day “executive-style seminar” on digital console operation and application. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Thankfully, many manufacturers have begun their own equipment specific training courses, accomplishing just that.
Clearly, it takes a lot more knowledge and skill to run a live sound system today than just a few years ago.
Regardless of the exact form, it’s incumbent upon working professionals to make the commitment to training. Things are likely only going to get more – not less – complicated from this point forward.
It’s time to take full advantage of what can be achieved with the new tools of our trade. We need to get up to speed, now, or operate in a vacuum where untapped potential goes largely unmet. As professionals, let’s be sure to be the solution rather than the problem.
Michael MacDonald has been involved in the professional audio industry for more than 20 years. Beginning as a freelance mixer/engineer in the 1970s, he transitioned to working for manufacturers and has been employed by, developed products for, and consulted with major companies such as JBL Professional.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Industry Veteran Paul Giansante Joins Danley Sound Labs As National Sales Manager
Brings a wealth of knowledge and connections to his new role at Danley
Danley Sound Labs has appointed industry veteran Paul Giansante to the position of national sales manager to propel the company to the next phase of its development and beyond.
With a long history in just about every relevant audio role conceivable – from concert manager, to AV integrator, to general manager for leading loudspeaker manufacturers – Giansante brings a wealth of knowledge and connections to his new role at Danley Sound Labs.
Giansante has worked as a freelance audio systems engineer in the Midwest, providing engineering, design, installation, and operating services to houses of worship, theaters, and performing arts centers. He also served as concert touring manager with Meyer Sound Laboratories, where he increased the number of acts touring with the company’s gear. As Turbosound’s product and general manager, he engaged in product development, all aspects of marketing and sales, and customer service and support.
A diversity of other experiences bolster Giansante’s qualifications: senior applications engineer for several loudspeaker distributors; chief audio system engineer at DisneyFest Asia; manager/engineer at Signal Perfection Limited; freelance touring/design engineer in Europe; and project manager at Maryland Sound Industries. A tiny sample of the A-list acts he has worked with includes Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Dire Straits, Neil Young, and Whitney Houston. He can claim a comparable list of installations, including Pensacola Christian College Main Sanctuary; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin; Fremont St. Experience, Las Vegas; and Pleasure Island, Disney World in Orlando.
“Danley is poised to gain significant market growth in the coming years,” states Mike Hedden, president of Danley Sound Labs. “Without a doubt, Paul Giansante has the experience and the talent to take us to the top of the heap. He knows the loudspeaker market inside and out – from the manufacturer’s perspective, from the design engineer’s perspective, and from the application engineer’s perspective. What we see in Paul is the technical ability and the leadership skills to convey the creativity and practicality of Tom Danley’s innovative loudspeaker, subwoofer and amplifier designs to both the live and fixed-installation markets.”
“Tom Danley is an acoustic genius,” says Giansante. “By reconsidering the acoustical principles by which a loudspeaker or sub produces sound, his designs deliver untouchable performance at a realistic cost ratio. The basics for this company are in place: great product, right pricing, superb availability and an exceptionally talented staff. I plan to coordinate an accelerated and comprehensive sales management program that includes developing training and sales seminars to strengthen Danley brand awareness and grow sales.”
Danley Sound Labs Website
Outline Strengthens Its International Sales Team
Chris Hinds joins Outline, bringing valuable experience from his time running a live sound company.
Outline s.r.l. has announced the appointment of Chris Hinds as Director Of Sales for EMEA.
Hinds is one of the best known personalities in European pro-audio distribution and joins Outline following some years as European Sales Manager at Turbosound.
His market experience is informed by a varied career that includes running a busy PA hire company, hands-on experience in manufacturing, and national brand management for a major UK distributor.
In addition to direct responsibility for European sales, Hinds will be proactively developing the distributor network throughout the region.
“This is a really exciting opportunity to work with a company who are genuinely innovative, very progressive and with a clear vision of the future,” said Hinds.
“Obviously I’ve been aware of Outline for years, particularly because of their relationship with Britannia Row, but when I visited them I was just astounded.” “Their R&D and manufacturing technology, their knowledge and experience, and most of all their products are just so impressive. I’ve very proud to be joining the team’.
Outline CEO Giorgio Biffi commented, “Finding the right person is never easy but Chris feels like a very natural fit for us, and his wide experience and many contacts throughout Europe are a valuable contribution to our company.”
Community Loudspeakers Installed In Wagner College Football Stadium
The R-Series loudspeakers fit the college's needs of a box that was good for spoken word, but also delivered full-range musicality.
Founded in Rochester in 1883, Wagner College moved to their current location here in 1918.
Since then, the original 38-acre campus has grown to an idyllic 105 acres overlooking New York Harbor and the surrounding city.
The school’s athletics department boasts several NCAA teams, with the Seahawks football team among the most prestigious in the Northeast Conference.
The team’s home field recently underwent a modern renovation, including a new sound system installed by Farmingdale-based Advance Sound. Advance Sound’s Thomas De Pace explains the challenges in creating the system design.
“They wanted more than just a new football field,” says De Pace. “They wanted to reinvent their team’s whole atmosphere. Obviously, speech intelligibility is always important, but the school also has a very rich student culture, with several dance teams who perform at the games.”
“They needed something that was good for spoken word, but delivered great full-range musicality too.”
The system is centered around a pair of Community R.25 all-weather systems, with low frequency reinforcement via an R2SUB subwoofer. The loudspeakers are mounted onto the scoreboard using custom brackets created by Advance Sound.
Crown CDI-Series amplifiers power the system. An Ashly NE2424m processor provides DSP that also enables them to supply audio feed to the local TV station.
A Middle Atlantic UPS2000R power backup unit assures that, in the event of a power outage, the R.25 loudspeakers will remain functional for emergency announcements.
De Pace points out that the R-Series’ tight focus also helps the school to be a better neighbor. “There’s a large apartment complex about 35 yards away from the field,” he says.
“The R.5’s coverage pattern enabled us to direct the sound onto the stands and the field, without blasting the neighbors.”
NEXO System Purchased By Sound Works Productions
Sound Works chose NEXO because it's a system that can be used for a wide variety of shows.
Sound Works Productions, Inc. of Frankfort, Illinois recently purchased a NEXO GEO S12 line array system, RS18s and NXAmp 4x4s for their rental inventory.
The company, who has been providing sound reinforcement services for five years, determined that a NEXO system was a valuable addition to their audio artillery.
The new NEXO system consists of 14 GEO S 1210s, two S1230s, eight of the new RS18 ray subs and six NXAmp 4x4 amplifiers.
“Based upon hearing the NEXO system at a demo in Cerritos, California and the
EXTREMELY good customer service provided by Yamaha/NEXO and specifically our rep, Mike Eiseman, we knew the GEO S12 would be a perfect fit for our growing company,” states Daniel Nickleski, Vice President of Sound Works Productions.
“It is a box that can be used on a wide variety of shows, which is exactly what we provide for. Every time I put the box into use, it shocks me at how great it sounds.”
Sound Works Productions has used the new NEXO system for multiple rock concerts in the Chicago area, fashion shows in Florida and Illinois, along with Chicago-based musicals with multiple mid-west festival usages this coming this summer.
D.A.S. Audio Loudspeakers Installed In El Rodeo Nightclub
The new Aero 12A loudspeaker system was an ideal match for the upgraded space.
Situated in the Pico Rivera section of Los Angeles, the El Rodeo Nightclub is a popular social gathering spot and restaurant that recently completed a substantial facility upgrade to better accommodate the ever-increasing weekend crowds.
Live entertainment is a huge part of the club’s attraction and, to provide the best possible sound for the various bands that perform there, the decision was made to improve the house sound reinforcement system.
Now, the El Rodeo is the proud owner of a new loudspeaker setup drawn from the D.A.S. Audio Aero line.
Los Angeles-based International House of Music, Inc. was contracted to handle the El Rodeo’s new sound system installation as well as the club’s upgraded lighting facilities.
Oscar Naranjo, Jr., company manager and system designer for International House of Music’s commercial AV design/build division, discussed the challenges of the project and his decision to deploy D.A.S. Audio’s Aero 12A, a powered, two-way, mid-high, compact line array system.
“The nightclub section of the El Rodeo is very long and narrow—measuring approximately 250 feet by 80 feet,” Naranjo explained.
“With the stage positioned on the wide side of the room, the sound system needs to cover a very broad, but relatively shallow area. As a result, we were far more concerned with uniform horizontal coverage than we were long throw.”
“After considering a variety of loudspeaker systems, we selected the Aero 12A because they have exactly what we needed for this space: broad horizontal dispersion and throw that was more than adequate for the size of the room.”
“Being that the Aero 12A is self-powered, we didn’t need to concern ourselves with separate power amps and the rackspace to house those amps. As a result, the D.A.S. Audio system resulted in a cleaner looking setup, included amplification that is optimized for the enclosures, and made system cabling easier.”
The El Rodeo’s new D.A.S. Audio loudspeaker system consists of four hangs for a total of fourteen Aero 12A enclosures—seven modules per side. Two loudspeaker clusters are flown on each side of the stage.
One cluster consists of four Aero 12A’s that face straight out into the room while the second cluster on each side is angled outward to provide coverage to the extremities of the space. These two outer clusters each consist of three Aero 12A’s. Loudspeaker management is handled by an XTA DP448 processor.
“We modeled the room using EASE Focus, an acoustic simulation application for the configuration and modeling of line array systems,” Naranjo said.
“This software really helped us predict what the coverage throughout the space would be like. The combination of the Aero 12A’s self-powered design and its first rate, integrated hardware resulted in a very clean setup with uniform coverage throughout no matter where you happen to be. In the not too distant future, the plan is to augment the system with new D.A.S. Audio subwoofers—replacing the enclosures that are currently in use.”
The El Rodeo’s new D.A.S. Audio sound reinforcement system was installed in November 2010 and placed into service immediately afterward. Since that time, Naranjo says the music has been better than ever.
“The El Rodeo is a really popular club,” he notes. “The decision to expand the club is really paying off. The system is really working out great. We’ve received numerous compliments on the system from both the club management as well as musicians.”
“We’ve also gained additional business as a direct result of this installation. Two other local clubs heard the El Rodeo’s system and hired us to handle their installations. When one project leads to new business, it doesn’t get any better than that!”
D.A.S. Audio Website
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Teer Engineering & JBL CBT Series Loudspeakers Provide Expansive Sound At St. James Cathedral
“The church wanted a high-quality sound system that was state-of-the-art but easy to use -- and the technology had to be visually unobtrusive.” - John Teer
When the time came for St. James Cathedral to upgrade its sound reinforcement system, John Teer of Teer Engineering had a specific design objective: the loudspeakers had to blend into the church’s interior, but without any compromises in performance.
To meet the audio and aesthetic needs of the Orlando, Florida house of worship, Teer selected JBL CBT Series column loudspeakers.
Aesthetics was “a huge part of the project,” Teer states. “The church wanted a high-quality sound system that was state-of-the-art but easy to use—and the technology had to be visually unobtrusive.”
“Before we were involved in the project, the initial system design called for big, tour-grade line array clusters hanging right in the middle of the sanctuary, which was unnecessary,” notes Teer, whose Orlando-based firm designed and installed the upgraded audio system.
“The church needed a sound system for spoken word only, and the church’s pipe organ didn’t need any sound reinforcement. So, we recommended going with a smaller-format system with speakers that could be placed much closer to the listeners. We also wanted to locate the speakers closer to the parishioners because there’s a lot of marble in the space, which we had to deal with to make sure there wouldn’t be an excessive amount of reverb.”
“The CBT 100LA was perfect for the application. They have tight pattern control and excellent projection over a long distance,” says Teer. “We didn’t have the option of installing the speakers along the columns in the sanctuary, which would have been a logical solution, because we could not cut into them and run cable.”
Because of this, Teer installed nine CBT 100LA loudspeakers throughout the sanctuary, mostly in low visibility areas where the walls meet the ceiling. Teer also placed three JBL VRX928 line array loudspeakers for additional fill where the CBT loudspeakers weren’t practical. The system also features BSS Soundweb London processing, which handles more than 16 zones of audio.
“The system sounds great and the church is extremely happy,” Teer concludes.
WorxAudio Technologies Selects Dimodica Sales For Representation
The new partnership is designed to strengthen critical Florida and Puerto Rico territories.
WorxAudio Technologies has announced it has selected DiModica Sales, headed by Chuck DiModica, to represent the company’s sales efforts in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Well known for its sales representation and strategic consulting capabilities within the professional audio community, DiModica Sales will be tasked with increasing WorxAudio Technologies’ presence throughout these critical US sales territories.
Headquartered in Plantation, FL, DiModica Sales is an independent sales and marketing firm with a wealth of experience in residential and commercial audio, audio for video, A/V distribution and system integration, as well as touring sound.
As such, the company is uniquely qualified to represent WorxAudio Technology. Owner Chuck DiModica has operated the firm since 1993. Prior to that time, he was Vice President of the Pro Audio Division for Deerfield Beach, FL-based Ron Tunks Sales Inc.
Chuck DiModica commented on his company’s new relationship with WorxAudio Technologies, “With its comprehensive product line, WorxAudio Technologies represents a terrific sales opportunity for our organization.”
“Their loudspeaker systems are very highly regarded in the professional audio market and they have a well-earned reputation for their extremely musical and highly detailed sound. I believe the WorxAudio line will be eagerly accepted among the various parties that we conduct business with. “
“I look forward to developing a fruitful business relationship with Hugh Sarvis and the rest of the WorxAudio Technologies team.”
“We’re very pleased to have Chuck joining our effort,” says Hugh Sarvis, WorxAudio Technologies’ CEO and Director of Engineering.
“Chuck and his crew have a thorough understanding of the contractor and pro audio markets. I believe DiModica Sales will produce the results we’re looking for and I am extremely pleased to have his group representing us.”
DiModica Sales commenced sales representation for WorxAudio Technologies in February 2011. Additional information about the company is available on their website.
Emerging Picture: Serpent Story
Confessions of an audio herpetologist
We’ve all spent more than enough time dealing with snakes.
You know, microphone snakes, drive snakes, sub snakes, unscrupulous promoters…
The most dreaded job in sound reinforcement is peeling up and stowing a snake after a three-day metal festival where it runs right along the fence next to the beer garden.
By the end of a regional tour, snakes can swell to twice their normal size with sticky duct tape and used chewing gum.
And why is it always the pair in the middle of the multipin connector that fails?
Snakes have always been one of the difficult parts of live audio.
The snake trunk is the third-heaviest box in the truck pack behind rigging and distro cabling. Transformer splits are expensive and heavy.
Many of the packaging issues we face revolve around connector choices, grounding schemes and signal flow paths.
Sending analog audio signals to multiple locations requires serious attention to load impedances, ground loops, drive levels, phantom power sources and multiple input sensitivities.
In the early 1990s, the sound company I worked for started a serious investigation of alternatives to the copper snake.
We were moving into DSP front ends for our systems, and since we had some experience in the digital recording world (which led the way on digital audio in many ways), we knew that multiple A/D and D/A conversions left artifacts that were not good for the audio signal quality.
We wanted to maintain a digital signal flow for as much of the signal path as possible.
The technology available at the time for digital audio transmission was based on fiber-optic transmission of AES/EBU signals at 16 bits and 44.1/48 kHz.
We soon found that the dynamic range was inadequate for live performance audio, and the inability to control remote mic preamps made the system unworkable for front-end applications.
On the drive side it was barely passable but the killer there was that the system was not robust enough to make us comfortable deploying it in real world applications. As a result, we passed.
Cut to today. The quality of A/D and D/A conversion has reached analog proportions.
The signal chain is digital from the mic preamp to the amplifier input (beyerdynamic and Neumann are moving the digital threshold back to the microphone diaphragm).
Digital consoles have come to the fore. Transducers are still analog – everything else is digital.
The new Ethernet-type transport topologies that are surfacing are one of the last links in the digital chain.
The packet-based transmission method utilized by Ethernet requires that the data packets be reassembled in a buffer on the receiving end and then spooled out.
This has always been the stumbling block to using the technology in live sound. The companies that are building audio versions have found ways to reduce the latency created by this process and give us near-real time audio.
The nodal nature of these networks allows us to send and receive packets at multiple locations.
Now if you need a broadcast feed, a recording feed or inputs to a monitor console, you don’t have to deal with the analog interface demons.
Just hang a node off a CAT-5 (or now CAT- 6) cable (or a piece of fiber) and tell the packets to go there. In many instances the hubs and routers can be commercially available pieces similar to what is used in an office network.
So… where can we go with this? Imagine a world where your snake cable (CAT-6 or multimode fiber) can fit on a 1-foot diameter spool with room to spare and weighs 15 pounds.
The ends are RJ45 or ST connectors that can be bought at the local electronic supply store for a couple of bucks and terminated in two minutes flat. (In comparison, the power cord going to front-of-house is way bigger than the drive snake.)
Further, CAT-6 will be so cheap that if it’s been fouled by the beer garden patrons. you can just leave it. And we haven’t even started talking about WI-FI.
Might as well control the whole production on the same network with some software.
Revised set lists during the show when the singer starts losing his voice. Warnings about how badly we’re exceeding the SPL restrictions.
Oh well, time to go. I need to message the monitor engineer and tell him to get that ring out of the floor tom.
Editor’s Note: A herpetologist is someone who studies and provides information about reptiles and amphibians.
Bruce Main has been a systems engineer and FOH mixer for 28 years. He has also built, owned and operated recording studios and designed and installed sound systems.