Tuesday, November 04, 2014
One Size Doesn’t Fit All: A Relevant Blast From The Past…
The cartoon at left (and larger below), which first appeared in Live Sound International at least 15 years ago, is always good for a laugh, but it also brings up a good point.
One of the difficulties we regularly face as live audio practitioners is working with a variety of parties in determining what’s best for a gig in terms of system size, scale, and complexity.
My approach is to first make there’s a solid foundation—basics such as enough console channels and processing, suitable loudspeaker size and quantity, appropriate stage monitoring, and so on. In other words, I’m not going even going to talk about miking up an entire choir with wireless lavs until the house system is at least adequate to deliver coverage to the entire space.
While most sound providers offer system packages of various sizes (usually with the biggest called the “A” rig, the next size down the “B” rig, etc.), not every package is the exact correct formulation for every gig. Variables usually come into play, and we need to be flexible in this regard.
We also must work to educate our various customer bases. Last month my company was asked to handle a corporate event in the same ballroom we’d worked successfully twice before. Knowing the room, we could have easily just supplied the same rig and had a “good enough” show. And in fact, the client, who was the same client as with the previous gigs, wanted us to bring the same system.
But in looking at the floor plan for this particular event, I realized that we should do things a bit differently—in this case, adding some delay stacks and also a few front fills. I talked at length with the client about coverage versus volume, and how the additions to the system would result in better overall coverage for the specific configuration of this event. After the show, he noted how much he appreciated our attention to detail, as well as the extra work involved in getting it exactly right.
So: foundation, flexibility, attention to detail, communication, and education. After that, by all means discuss the extras.
And click here for a pdf version.
Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.
Monday, November 03, 2014
Czech Republic Arena Upgrades With NEXO GEO
The O2 Arena in Prague is the latest large-format multipurpose venue to embrace NEXO’s GEO S12-ST sound reinforcement systems, high-output long-throw loudspeakers developed specially for stadium and arena use.
Built for the 2004 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships, the O2 Arena is home to the HC Slavia Praha and HC Lev Praha ice hockey teams and also hosts a range of other sporting and corporate events and concerts.
The venue needed to replace its existing PA system installed 10 years ago, a point source system that was, by the venue’s own admission, under-specified and under-powered.
The brief required a complete new PA/VA system to provide information and emergency announcements as well as music: also the new system needed to integrate easily into the Arena’s existing systems, and to represent good value for money.
“We looked at the best technology around the world,” says Jan Plihal, head of media technology at the Arena, finally choosing a NEXO GEO system with a total of 72 x GEO S12-ST specialist long-throw cabinets and 24 x RS18 subs.
Supplied and installed by NEXO’s Czech distributor MusicData, the GEO S12-ST cabinets are flown from a central ‘cube’, carrying large screens on each side, which descends from the ceiling for sporting, congresses and corporate events.
When the cube is lowered, it is still 24 metres from cabinet to the floor, and this is where the GEO S12-ST’s long-throw capability comes into its own. The compact 2-way ST cabinets have been developed from the standard GEO S12 design offering the high SPL and enhanced speech intelligibility required for stadium and arena applications.
The 24x RS18 subs – also flown - enhance events such as motor sports, BMX championships and the Davis and Federation Cup tennis matches. “These days, events like this are more and more a show,” says Plihal. “It’s not just about the sports, we have to think about commercials as well.”
Although a typical level for an ice hockey match is 90-94dBA, an SPL of 106dBA is possible in the Arena. The system is driven by 16x NXAMP4x4 TDControllers situated in rack cases in the roof, providing 256KW of power.
The Arena has also installed a new fibre optic cabling infrastructure to carry an EtherSound ring network for the audio. Auvitran network devices deliver the signal from control room to racks with full double redundancy, while an option to switch to analogue offers even more backup. If any amplifier should fail, the system will automatically switch to another one.
As the arena team requires a degree of control over every element of the system, MusicData sat down with Plihal to design a custom network interface, which runs on iPads connected to Wi-Fi. This displays highly visual information required for day-to-day operation, such as the ability to switch on and off each of the Arena’s 24 different zones set over three levels including the pitch. The interface also displays the voltage on the output of the amps, giving a complete visualisation of the signal travelling through the system.
The O2’s new PA system perfectly meets Plihal’s motto, “to be prepared for all”. “We have one of the best arena acoustics, with a reverb time of less than two seconds,” he says. “The NEXO cabinets have been positioned to minimise the small reverberation problems we get from the glass-fronted VIP boxes. We expect excellent audio for speech and music, and the implementation of the emergency system is the most important thing.”
Community Loudspeakers Enhance The Experience At Cypress Mountain Resort
Community R.5-99 loudspeakers at work at Cypress Mountain Resort.
Cypress Mountain is a world-class resort for all forms of winter sports and leisure. Located just outside Vancouver on Canada’s west coast, it was also host to the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Allstar Pacific Integration Media Solutions based in Vancouver was asked to find an audio system solution for the Patio Ski and Snowboard Park at Cypress Mountain. As the weather can include sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow, rain and direct sunlight, all within a 24-hour period, careful consideration had to be taken to find loudspeakers that could withstand these extreme conditions and ensure good performance for both music and speech applications.
After detailed evaluation, Myk Shaflik, Allstar Pacific’s System Engineer, felt the Community R.5-99 was the best fit, both from a performance perspective as well as ease of installation. Designed for high power music and speech, the two-way, 12-inch coaxial R.5-99 provides full-range audio with 90 x 90-degree dispersion. The system is sponsored by Skullcandy who wanted to use the product as a vehicle for advertising their brand. Allstar carefully added the Skullcandy logo to the grilles of the loudspeakers, ensuring the look that both the client and sponsor appreciated.
A single pair of R.5’s was used to achieve complete coverage of the park. With the ability of the audio to travel far up both sides of the main ski areas on the mountain, the loudspeakers provided the quality, clarity and coverage that Myk Shaflik wanted. The loudspeakers are powered by QSC RMX series amplifiers and a portable rack located in the power house allows for multiple applications from daily program music to competition reinforcement, with quick and easy setup.
Andrew George, Terrain Park Manager at Cypress Mountain, commented, “Having the opportunity to partner with leading edge sound companies such as Skullcandy and Allstar Pacific in bringing music to our terrain parks has been a fantastic experience. From events to our daily operations, our customers will agree that skiing and snowboarding is even more fun with a soundtrack.”
Ricky Martin Brings One World Tour To Mexico With Adamson Systems
Audio Systems del Norte provides complete Adamson System PA for Mexican leg of Ricky Martin tour.
Ricky Martin has sold over 85 million albums and has had 95 platinum records, six number one Billboard albums, six number one hit songs and received more awards than one can keep track of. He has performed in more than 60 countries across the globe and is possibly the most successful Latin pop star of all time.
Currently out on his One World Tour, Martin has had sold out shows in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey with another 18 shows recently added to his schedule.
Audio Systems del Norte, headquartered in Monterrey, has provided a complete Adamson Systems PA for the Mexican leg of his tour. Oscar Gamas, CEO of Sonotribe Audio Consultants in Mexico City, is responsible for designing and aligning the Adamson Energia sound reinforcement system.
Gamas specified a main PA of Energia E15 and SpekTrix enclosures. The left/right arrays each consist of 16 E15s followed by four SpekTrix enclosures. Outfill is handled by two more arrays, this time made up of 12 E15s each. Twenty-four Y10 enclosures – 12 per array – handle back fill duties. In some venues the Y10s are used for delay clusters in order to extend reinforcement to the rear of each venue.
“I am always amazed at the precision of the frequency and phase response of this system,” Gamas explains. “I can achieve amazing clarity even at a high SPL, and all of this with less EQ than other big brands in the business. I can match the frequency response and coverage of each system show by show without the sense of transition between them.”
For low end Gamas deployed up to 32 T-21 subwoofers to deliver the driving beat the Latin pop star is famous for. “The amount of flown subs and floor sub configurations varied in order to achieve the best low end response and control,” explains Gamas, who is also the system engineer on the tour. “Both the Sports Palace (Mexico City) and VFG Arena (Guadalajara) have difficult acoustics. In those cases we used 12 or 8 T-21s on the floor in a cardioid configuration to achieve control of the rear low end frequencies and flew the rest.”
By doing so Gamas achieved a better balance between the intelligibility of the main hangs and the low end of the entire PA when the system was EQ’d and time aligned. Adamson’s Blueprint AV software was integral in making setup fast and efficient with Gamas noting how accurate the software was from venue to venue. Alignment was done via Rational Acoustics Smaart v7.
“As a system engineer I am completely pleased with the efficiency, frequency response, tonal balance and headroom that one can obtain with this system,” Gamas concludes. “Between the E15s and T-21s, there is tons of headroom. Christopher “Privet” Hedge, the FOH engineer, has not stopped talking about how awesome the Adamson system is.”
Friday, October 31, 2014
Auralex Introduces V2 Upgrades To GRAMMA Acoustic Isolation Platform Line
Designed to acoustically isolate bass rigs, guitar amps, monitors, subwoofers and loudspeakers on stage or in the studio
Auralex Acoustics announces a V2 upgrade to the GRAMMA (Gig and Recording, Amp and Monitor Modulation Attenuator) line of acoustic isolation platforms, which are designed to isolate bass rigs, guitar amps, monitors, subwoofers and loudspeakers on stage and in the studio.
Like their V1 predecessors, these patented isolation platforms have an Ozite covering over an inert structural layer that floats on a 1-inch pad of proprietary Auralex Platfoam. The carefully engineered platforms allow the true sound of an amp or loudspeaker to come through by negating resonance artifacts.
V2 upgrades include a lower profile for increased stability, improved mid- and low-frequency definition, and a new easy-to-grab handle. The GRAMMA V2 line is part of the Auralex ISO Series (instant sound optimizer), specifically engineered to address problems associated with individual sound sources.
The GRAMMA V2 line includes three models:
Designed for compact guitar, bass and keyboard amplifiers, it measures 15 x 15 x 1.75 inches (w x h x d). Weight limit is 200 pounds.
Designed for mid-sized amps and loudspeaker cabinets, it measures 23 x 15 x 1.75 inches (w x h x d). Weight limit is 300 pounds.
Almost 30 percent bigger to float large loudspeaker cabinets, accommodating 4 x 12-inch, 4 x 15-inch and 4 x 18-inch rigs. It measures 30 x 19 x 1.75 inches (w x h x d). Weight limit is 300 pounds.
“Based on feedback from leading artists and engineers, GRAMMA V2 represents the next generation of isolation products for studio and live performance,” states Eric Smith, founder and president, Auralex. “With its new lower-profile design and its ability to provide improved mid- and low-frequency definition, GRAMMA V2 is sure to find its home in the arsenal of live and studio musicians far and wide.”
Renkus-Heinz IC Live Bolsters Contemporary Services At Ward Church In Michigan
Digitally steerable loudspeakers take it up a notch for the more rock-oriented presentation
A recent system upgrade at Ward Church in Northville, MI incorporates Renkus-Heinz ICONYX IC Live ICL-FR-DUAL digitally steerable loudspeakers to accommodate the addition of a weekly mainstream contemporary service that features a more driving and progressive rock musical style.
The existing sound system in the room includes a pair of Renkus-Heinz STX8 loudspeakers that had been mounted in the center above the stage. While the church had been happy with the STX8s, the more bass-heavy, driving style of music accompanying the new service called for a more powerful, full-spectrum solution.
“Overall, the sound quality was great for the more traditional service, but they wanted to take it up a notch for the more rock-oriented service,” explains consultant Nathan Cole of Sound Planning Communications, Redford, MI. “There was nothing wrong with the existing STX8 loudspeakers—they are good products and certainly could handle a contemporary service. What was needed was a re-installation of the speakers, some tweaking, and some additional supplemental boxes here and there to fill it out.”
After modeling the room, Sound Planning Communications split up the two existing center STX8s to front right and left positions and kept an existing STX8 in the rear for back fill.
Next, an ICONYX IC Live ICL-FR-DUAL loudspeaker was implemented on each side of the stage to cover the side fill requirements created by a drop to an 18-foot ceiling on each side. Additional subwoofers were also installed.
“The IC Lives gave great penetration into the lower areas,” says Cole. “And because of their width, they delivered great horizontal front-fill coverage. We didn’t need to do any down fill or front fill boxes because the IC LIVEs were covering all the way across.”
After installing a series of 4-inch acoustic panels to help avoid bass traps in the final phase of the project, church leaders were pleased with the result.
“They didn’t really recognize how inadequate the previous system had been until they started the new service,” Cole notes. “By re-positioning the existing Renkus-Heinz boxes and supplementing them with the ICONYX arrays, they now have a very warm, very punchy, nice sounding system for the space.”
Music Group Appoints Karan Kathuria As Senior Manager, Professional Division For Asia Pacific
Responsible for for growing Midas, Klark Teknik and Turbosound brands in the region
Music Group has appointed Karan Kathuria to the post of senior manager, Professional Division for Asia Pacific, which includes the key business segments of China and India.
In his new role, Kathuria is responsible for growing the Midas, Klark Teknik and Turbosound brands, as well as taking an active role in managing the distribution networks across multiple countries in APAC region. He will report to Graham Rowlands, who heads global sales for the Professional Division.
“Joining from Harman, Karan’s is a strong addition to our global sales team due to his impeccable track record,” Rowlands states. “Karan’s extensive experience in the A/V industry will play a key role as we continue to strengthen our position within the APAC market.”
“I’m excited and honored to be associated with such a successful organization that is committed to making major advancements in the global audio industry,” Kathuria says.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Church Sound: An In-Depth Loudspeaker Buying Guide
Buying loudspeakers is perhaps the most daunting task a church tech will face.
Today we have powered and unpowered loudspeakers; line arrays and point source boxes; flown and ground stacked; cheap and eye-watering expensive. In each of those categories, we have dozens of manufacturers with hundreds of models to choose from.
While it’s not possible in the space of this article to tell you what to buy, we will attempt to guide you through the process of selecting the proper loudspeakers for your space.
The Perfect Loudspeaker
First, there is no perfect loudspeaker. All designs make compromises in deference to the laws of physics. The right loudspeaker for one room might well be entirely the wrong one for another room.
Don’t get sucked into the trap of thinking that the loudspeakers in the church that put on that big conference are the right ones for you. They may be, but they also may not be.
Second, once you get beyond putting up one or two loudspeakers in a small room, I believe there needs to be some design involved. A competent integrator should be able to model the room and show you some options based on prediction software and help narrow down your choices.
Far too many churches make the mistake of just hanging some boxes in the room, pointing them wherever and hoping it sounds good. From experience, I can tell you that most of the time it doesn’t. Plan on spending at least some of your loudspeaker budget on an actual design. You can thank me later.
As I said, there is no “best” loudspeaker. What you want is what’s right for your environment. To get to that right loudspeaker, we have to ask some questions, and determine what we are trying to accomplish. Once we know the intended result, we can begin to make a selection that will effectively deliver the results.
It’s much like buying a vehicle; you wouldn’t buy a two-seater convertible if you intend to haul around a lot of mulch. Then again, a pickup would probably not be the best choice to drive a large family to baseball practice. With that in mind, let’s ask some questions.
What Is The Source?
Believe it or not, the requirements for a loudspeaker system that will deliver primarily the spoken word and one that will engage the audience with concert-level sound are quite different. Different churches have vastly different programming styles, and the PA needs change as we consider those styles.
In a very traditional, liturgical setting, the loudspeaker system really just needs to deliver the frequency spectrum of the human voice evenly throughout the room and with great clarity. The volume levels don’t need to be that high (relatively speaking), so we don’t need a bunch of drivers in the air.
Don’t be fooled, however; getting a system like this to sound good requires some careful design. It’s just not likely to be as expensive as a full-on modern service system.
As amplified music becomes more and more of a priority, the system needs to adjust. Some churches want concert-level audio, and the only way to get that is with a big PA. Even in smaller rooms, you’ll need to move a lot of air, and that requires a good number of full-range loudspeakers, as well as low-frequency drivers (subwoofers) to deliver the goods. Most churches fall somewhere in between those extremes and will need a system designed accordingly.
What’s The Vibe?
This goes along with the source; are we looking for quiet and contemplative or loud and energetic? Do we simply want to reinforce some acoustic sounds so they can be heard in the back of the room, or do we want to put the sound right in your face? Even in the extremes, we have options.
For example, if we’re going for more of a concert feel, what genre do we wish to emulate? Some systems will deliver a very edgy, rock ’n’ roll sound, while others are more hi-fi. Knowing what vibe you want to create will begin to dictate the system you ultimately install.
What Is The Environment?
Churches run the gamut from acoustically live, highly reflective cathedral-type rooms, to dampened and treated theatrical venues. Like everything else, the environment will effect the choice of loudspeakers.
Highly reverberant rooms will require speakers that have excellent pattern control to keep sound from bouncing off the walls, ceilings and floors. Very dead rooms will require more loudspeakers to energize the space and overcome all the absorption.
There is also the issue of aesthetics. Many congregants would object to a modern, black flown line array in a historic cathedral. In such a room, a smaller, less visually intrusive system is required.
Even in modern churches, sight lines, trim heights and other architectural features will dictate one loudspeaker type or another. Make sure your integrator is asking these questions.
Can We Hang ‘Em High?
Some rooms make it easy to hang—or fly—loudspeakers. In others, it’s impossible. In still others, it’s impractical or not necessary.
Before you get your heart set on 600 pounds of beautiful flown line array, make sure the roof structure can actually support it. And yes, it’s possible your roof cannot support that much weight.
In more traditional venues, wall or column mounted loudspeakers are often the best choice as they can blend into the architecture rather easily (especially if they can be custom painted). In some smaller, multi-purpose rooms, portable loudspeakers on sticks (stands) might be the best option.
Can We Afford Them?
Loudspeaker systems can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for small rooms; from tens of thousands for medium rooms; and upwards of a hundred thousand to almost a million dollars for very large rooms.
In those vast categories are all kinds of variations. Some well-known manufacturers are very good, and rather expensive. Other lesser-known companies can be almost as good and considerably more affordable. Not everyone needs or can afford a Mercedes; quite often, we can get by quite nicely with an Infinity or even a Nissan.
Just be sure to buy enough PA for your room. Too many churches buy on budget and end up unhappy with the results. Build in some headroom; make sure the system can go louder than you need it to so you’re not pushing it to the edge every weekend.
Those are some general questions and parameters you should be considering before beginning to hone in on your speaker selection. Now let’s consider some of the categories and subcategories of loudspeaker systems.
Powered Or Unpowered?
A decade ago, an audio amplifier was big, heavy and required a lot of current to work well. Today, even powerful amplifiers can fit into small spaces and don’t weigh nearly as much.
As a result, more manufacturers are opting to include them in their loudspeakers. There are some significant benefits to this approach. First, the amplifiers can be exactly matched to the loudspeakers.
Also, since the amp is in the box, cable runs are incredibly short, which means nearly 100 percent of the amp’s power is delivered to the loudspeaker, not turned into heat in the cable. Crossover points between the loudspeaker drivers can be optimally set, and often DSP is included in the box, which makes for a far more predictable system.
The downside is that if an amp goes on a loudspeaker that is 50 feet in the air, someone has to go up and change it. You also have to supply power to your powered loudspeakers, which means double the number of cables running to each box.
And the inclusion of amps also means that they will be slightly heavier than their unpowered brethren. This is not typically a problem, but it has to be considered.
Which is better? Like all things in audio, it depends. Often, powered loudspeakers are an excellent choice because many of the tuning decisions have been optimized at the factory, which means it should take less time getting them sounding great in the field.
On the other hand, if your installer wants to do something rather custom to accommodate a specific situation, sometimes the added control of separate components is better. The availability of power and space for amps also factor into the decision.
Thankfully, there are excellent choices in both powered and unpowered varieties, and it’s not uncommon to see the same loudspeaker available in both powered and unpowered versions.
Line Array Or Point Source?
Line arrays—multiple identical boxes hung close together in a vertical line—are all the rage right now.
And to be sure, they solve a lot of problems in certain situations. They typically boast good pattern control, are very efficient, and are easy to rig—characteristics that make them excellent choices for large venues.
Nearly every large tour is using line arrays right now for those (and other) reasons. They are not the right choice for every venue, however.
Smaller rooms (under 500) will often be better served with a more traditional point source box. In small rooms, it’s difficult to hang a long enough array to achieve good pattern control, and they get very expensive very quickly when compared to a point source system.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since line arrays are “new technology” they are inherently better. There has been a lot of development going on in both types, and modern point source loudspeakers can be incredibly effective when designed well.
A relatively new type of system is emerging as a great problem solver for certain rooms; the digitally steerable array. Using a larger number of small drivers and a bunch of digital signal processing (DSP), these systems can be life-savers for problematic rooms.
A digitally steerable array can vary it’s coverage both vertically and horizontally to keep sound going where the people are—and away from where they are not. Because they typically use a bunch of small drivers, the footprint is small, making them ideal for very traditional rooms where aesthetics are a big deal.
Get A Listen
If it’s at all possible, you want to listen to the loudspeakers before buying. Ideally, you would be able to hear them in your space. This may not always be possible, or it may not be free. You may have to spend some money to rent the ;pidspeakers, or at least pay for a demo.
If you’re looking at a smaller system, the local rep may be able to visit with some boxes. You may not get a whole system, but you’ll get a good idea of whether the louspeakers will work for you or not. Having a set of tracks of your band using virtual sound check is a terrific way to audition the loudspeakers.
And if you can’t arrange for the loudspeakers in your room, try to visit a venue that has them. This is less ideal, but will give you a good idea of what they sound like.
Which type of loudspeaker to buy comes down not to selecting the “best,” but rather the best for the room. Thankfully, the science of loudspeaker design has evolved to a point where we can accurately predict performance before hanging boxes.
Being able to try out different models inside the computer is a great aid to developing a great sounding system. The loudspeakers you select will vary depending on the room, style of service and what environment you are trying to create.
There are plenty of options out there, so with proper research and a good design, the end result will be a system that meets the needs for your church.
Mike Sessler now works with Visioneering, where he helps churches improve their AVL systems, and encourages and trains the technical artists that run them. He has been involved in live production for over 25 years and is the author of the blog Church Tech Arts.
All The World’s A Stage… But Does It Need Sound Reinforcement?
I recently attended two “straight” plays, i.e., the kind without musicians. Such events are all about the dialog (and the lighting, of course). One production had no discernible sound reinforcement and the other had totally overt and apparent microphones, loudspeakers and amplification, thereby opening an opportunity for me to compare and contrast.
One play was Shakespeare’s King Lear. Historians still dispute the identity of Shakespeare, but all agree that these plays were written without a sound system in mind. Shakespearian actors know how to deliver. The other play was set in a modern era New York apartment and even had loudspeakers on stage as a set piece. Both plays featured high-profile actors best known for their film and television work.
This set the stage for a sonic showdown: traditional unamplified versus modern amplified. It was a dead heat in the intelligibility category. No words were injured in the making of these shows.
The sound image award goes, hands-down, to the unamplified show. There was never a moment where the image did not exactly track the sources. An actor on stage left could talk to an actor on stage right and the sound individually tracked their locations. This held up even though our seats were way off to the side.
By contrast. the amplified show had mono sound that imaged all actors from all locations in the same overhead loudspeaker, which was hidden in plain sight.
There were very few sonic distractions in the “natural” sound show. No mic pickups were missed. No RF intrusion or bumped mics. The amplified show was operated extremely well, and yet the chances of getting through any show without some sonic mishap is somewhere around that of pitching a perfect game. There were a few moments that brought the sound system overtly into the patron’s brains and then things settled back down to normal.
And now in the category of sounding natural; the envelope please. The winner is amplified sound. By 20 dB. Why? Because the unamplified “natural” sound show was an artistic disaster (on many levels) but most noticeably for the unnatural sonic quality.
The actors were so focused on delivering their lines with enough LEVEL and AR-TIC-U-LA-TION that the sound quality was extremely disconnected from the dialog content. We were distracted and confused even though we understood the words. The difference in delivery between “I love you” and “I want to kill you” was barely noticeable. It was two hours of speeches but zero minutes of conversation.
On the other hand, the amplified show had tremendous dynamic range that the actors exploited to the fullest. The range of emotions in the play was extreme and the dialog was able to realistically link the way the actors spoke to the emotions of the moment. There was pin-drop whispering as well as full-throated bellowing. The “unnatural” reinforcement from the loudspeakers allowed for natural sound transmission from the actors.
The unamplified production, by contrast, required the actors to provide the complete sound system transmission, leaving them with a very small range of natural expressions (and even postures). This is the cost of traditional purity in the modern age. And it is totally unnecessary.
The Shakespeare in the Park production of King Lear used amplified sound to provide a fantastic experience for the theatergoers (sound design by Mark Menard and Sten Severson of Acme Sound Partners, and skillfully mixed by Craig Freeman).
We experienced the full emotional impact of John Lithgow, Annette Bening and other great actors working their craft. Distributed loudspeakers hang in plain view on wires above the Delacorte Theater (in Central Park, Manhattan).
Sonic image is ever present in the minds of sound engineers, but the image distortion must be very strong for the average patron to take note for more than a passing moment. A full range of emotions delivered from actors, by contrast, is universally applauded.
Here To Help
I won’t divulge the details of the “natural” show but will provide some context. The Broadway-area venue holds more than 1,100 people, and the lack of sound system was certainly an artistic rather than budgetary decision. They could afford it. It’s a “closet drama” with actors never more than a few feet away from each other. I kept expecting a sound cue of the next-door neighbor pounding the wall to tell them to shut up, as I would do if they shared my walls.
Movie actors (in movies) don’t have to yell the quiet parts; modern theatrical actors shouldn’t have to either. And yet these are the words that so many old-school theater personnel most fear: “I’m from the sound department and I’m here to help.” We now have the tools and techniques to support actors without taking over the show.
Modern microphones and loudspeaker systems are extremely linear and capable of providing reinforcement with minimal detection. They are small and make far less noise than the lights and staging. Current DSP technology gives us the ability to track actors on cue and other subtle manipulations that expand the artistic range open to actors. We are ready, willing and able, and we want nothing more than for nobody to know we are even in the room.
Traditionalism dies hard in any field, but in the world of the stage it’s always the sound department that’s forced to wear the prairie dress. Does anybody tell the lighting folks they need to burn lime, or forbid the stagehands the use of electrical winches? Is polyester forbidden in costumes? And yet the sound department is obliged to play by the rules of the 50s (1550s to 1950s), even on a closet drama set in the 1980s. As Tevya sings in Fiddler on the Roof, “Tradition!”
It was easy to detect the presence of sound systems in the olden days. The amplified sound contained a variety of clues that betrayed us. Loudspeakers were not good enough, mic placement options were poor, and we had only primitive capabilities for signal processing. It’s time to update the files because none of these things are true any more.
It’s easy to forget that theater is an inherently amplified event. The makeup artists greatly amplify the facial features. Stage props are overly contrasted with exaggerated features. A single floor lamp in an apartment lights up the entire room—evenly! Up close, however, the actors look like clowns, the stage looks like a cartoon, and the lights can be blinding.
But out in the house these amplifications serve the purpose of making a distant visual event appear much closer, and it all feels natural to us. That’s the magic of theater.
The actor’s voices also need to rescale to reach the house at a proper level. They must be amplified. The questions are simply how much, and by whom. If all of the gain comes from the actor, the price is unnatural diction, inappropriate tonal/emotional cues and stiff posture.
Any doubt about the veracity of this can be erased by the following exercise: (1) stand up and read the previous sentence in a normal voice, then (2) read it like a movie actor would, and (3) project like a Broadway stage actor. One of these is not like the others, and the fact that you know exactly what to do to imitate the stage actor tells it all.
If part of the required acoustic gain can come from the sound system, the actors can relax into a more natural speech pattern that matches the emotions of the spoken words. As the sound system carries more of the burden, the actors can reduce the need to constantly broadcast their voices. The downside risk is increasing vulnerability to loudspeaker detection. Modern sound systems can bend this much further than ever, but only if we have the cooperation of other departments.
The four key factors where interdisciplinary coordination pays off in favor of supporting the actor’s voices are location, location, location and noise. We need multiple positions so we can get loudspeakers that align well with the varying audience sightlines to the stage. If lighting and stage noise can be minimized, then everyone needs less acoustic gain and our range of stealth operation expands.
Bringing It To Life
Today’s audiences have moved on. The presence of loudspeakers does not offend them. Hint: they put loudspeakers in their ears all day. They expect the show to be as up close and personal as watching TV at home (or like the movie the play is based on), but with the added extras of live actors, 3-D staging, lighting and sound (without the glasses). It’s time now for the rest of the theater world to move on and use all of the tools available to them.
It’s true that a sound reinforcement system is not required for every production. But then again, neither are makeup, costumes, lighting and staging. The only mandatory attendee is the playwright’s story brought to life by the actors. All of the other disciplines are invited to enhance the conveyance of that experience to the audience. The question of “to be, or not to be” reinforced should be weighed in the context of how well we can actually enhance the actor’s transmission rather than romantic notions of tradition.
Writing this to sound engineers is like preaching to the converted. But maybe it will help toward getting some understanding the next time you hear “Sound system? We don’t need no stinking sound system!”
Bob McCarthy has been designing and tuning sound systems for over 30 years. His book Sound Systems: Design and Optimization is available at Focal Press (www.focalpress.com). He lives in NYC and is the director of system optimization for Meyer Sound.
Arto S.A. Deploys First Full NEXO STM Series System For David Guetta In Belgium
New M28s down fill modules complete the 4-piece suite of STM components
Noted DJ David Guetta visits Brussels annually to play a large indoor concert, and for the second year running, he recently performed for a capacity crowd of 16,000 at the Palais 12 using leading Belgian rental company Arto S.A and its NEXO STM Series modular line array system—including for the first time—the new M28 down fill modules.
The Palais 12 gig was the opening concert for Guetta’s forthcoming world tour. Setting up the sound systems for front of house engineer Hassane Es Siahi was Arto system tech Pierre-Laurent Babuine, who regularly works with Guetta.
For main PA, Babuine called on left and right arrays of 15 sets of NEXO STM, comprising 15 x M46 main and 15 x B112 bass cabinets, together with 32 x S118 subbass units.
Flown in adjacent lines of main and bass modules, the arrays were completed by two diminuitive cabinets – these smaller fill loudspeakers are the new M28s, which complete the 4-piece suite of STM components. Although M28s have been sighted at festivals this summer, Guetta is the first headline artist to use the complete STM Series system on his own stage.
“Before the M28 arrived, we were using additional M46 cabinets in the line and extra infill modules to cover the front rows of the audience,” explains Babuine. “With the M28, which offers a maximum splaying angle of 15 degrees and 120 degrees of coverage in the horizontal plane, we are able to deliver precisely targeted nearfill and minimize the need for additional onstage cabinets.”
At Palais 12, a large grandstand at the rear of the hall was built to provide hospitality space for the VIPs. A delay system comprising two arrays of 5 x M46 main, 5 x B112 subs and 4 x S118 subs delivered to the rear of the audience area and to the grandstand, with a dedicated PA (this time NEXO GEO S12 and LS18 subs) actually in the hospitality area.
NEXO’s new GEO M6 compact loudspeakers also played a role in the production, providing monitoring for the system techs working stageside. All loudspeakers were powered by NEXO NXAMP4x4 amplifier/processors.
The 2-way M28 provides 90/120-degtree horizontal dispersion and 0- to 15-degree splaying angle between modules. Loaded with dual 8-inch cones, it’s the same width and two-thirds the height of the STM M46 main cabinet. In a large-format STM system, it is arrayed in the same column with the M46.
“Because it was designed as an integral element of the STM family, there is true coherency between the voicing of M46 and M28 modules,” states NEXO’s Denis Baudier. “This ensures a very smooth transition between the main PA and the downfill, with no difference in tonality for the first ten rows of the audience. This saves a lot of time for system techs and FOH engineers.”
Yamaha Commercial Audio
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Tectonic Audio Labs Key To Sonic Upgrade At Seattle City Council Chambers
Single PL-12 Plate serves as lynchpin in solving the challenging upgrade
A/V design firm Sparling and installer Jaymarc AV of Seattle were tasked with solving coverage, intelligibility, microphone performance and gain before feedback issues that have been perennial challenges for the Seattle City Council Chambers.
This architecturally attractive chamber is also acoustically sound, but the existing loudspeaker solution wasn’t sufficient to cover the large space, and it also presented significant audio management issues. Sparling selected a single Tectonic Audio Labs PL-12 Plate as the lynchpin in solving the challenging upgrade.
“After demoing the Tectonic Plates, we felt that we had a viable solution to handle this large space,” says Sparling’s Steve Malone. “The unique performance characteristics of the PL-12—its wide full-frequency coverage, lack of room interaction, intelligibility and feed-back resistance—solved the client’s needs.”
“Prior to the upgrade, our traditional speaker system didn’t properly project the voices of Council members in their meeting room”, adds Seattle City Council IT manager Ian Smith.
As proof of design, Tectonic raised a single PL-12 Plate on a lift to provide a real-world demonstration. Council members had an opportunity to experience a direct comparison between the existing system and the PL-12. This demo took only a couple of hours and had no impact on the facility.
The installation of the PL-12 solved for all issues. Flexible placement was facilitated by VESA mount compatibility. One Plate, placed high up in the chamber’s center over the U.S. and state flags and aimed at the back row of public seats, was all that was required.
The 160-degree horizontal and vertical dispersion of Tectonic’s DMLs and wide dispersion large-format ribbon transducer provide full-frequency coverage to all seats throughout the chamber as well as overflow into the lobby area. System intelligibility is enhanced by no crossovers from 80 Hz to 6.5 kHz, and very low third-order harmonic distortion.
Sparling’s Malone concludes, “As a bonus, the Tectonic system, even with a single speaker, provides audible and intelligible sound out open doors to the council chamber’s lobby which accommodates over-flow attendance. This is not to be expected from traditional speaker systems.”
Tectonic Audio Labs
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Edmonton Church Upgrades West Campus Sound System With Yamaha Consoles
CL5 digital console at front of house as well as a CL3 console for broadcast recording
An upgrade of the sound reinforcement system at the 1,440-seat West Campus sanctuary of Beulah Alliance Church in Edmonton, AB, Canada includes a Yamaha Commercial Audio CL5 digital console at front of house as well as a CL3 console for broadcast recording.
Alliance Design of Edmonton was responsible for the upgrade, which utilizes the facility’s NEXO GEO S8 loudspeakers. The CL consoles are joined by a RIO 3224-D input/output box and three Rio 1608-D I/O boxes.
“The Yamaha CL consoles were chosen for ease of operation, small footprint, Yamaha legendary sonic clarity, and the built-in Dante networking software which is amazing, nailed our decision,” states Dwayne Plishka, system consultant at Alliance Design. “The consoles have been received with hi-fives from the staff.”
Plishka adds that the church previously owned a Yamaha M7CL so it was a natural progression to move to the CL consoles. The staff is using the consoles’ built-in Nuendo Live and Nuendo 6 software to capture the sermon message, which is then re-deployed along with video to facilitate multi-site delivery, multi-track recording for artist evaluation, and broadcast.
“The entire sound system has far exceeded all performance expectations with constant compliments from guest artists,” Plishka notes. “At any given time during services, musicians with strings, winds, drums, bass, electric guitar, and piano assist the guest artists and worship choir.”
The NEXO GEO S8 layout consists of nine boxes per side left and right with six NEXO PS8s for side fills and eight PS 8s on stage for monitors, driven by both Camco and NEXO 4x4 amplifiers. “The size, remarkable sound image, and audio amplification for the number of line array elements is surprising,” Plishka says. “Even guest artist support techs are surprised at the efficiency of the system.”
Alliance Design also installed platform lighting tha tincludes a combination of VariLite, Martin, Chauvet fixtures, and ETC components. The lighting console is a Martin Maxxyz, and dimming is ETC. Panasonic switching and Panasonic Cameras were also part of the upgrade.
Yamaha Commercial Audio
Flag Systems Delivers Balanced SPL To HARD Summer Festival With JBL VTX & Crown I-Tech HD
System meets demands for high SPL with heavy bass while controlling spill to surrounding areas
As an audio system provider with a 40-year history of working with top audio equipment, Flag Systems was again contracted to provide sound reinforcement and personnel for this year’s HARD Summer Festival in LA Having used Harman’s JBL Professional VerTec line arrays for over a decade, the company recently decided to upgrade to JBL VTX Series line arrays, exceeding all expectations at the show.
The HARD Summer Festival is an electronic music dance festival featuring top DJs that requires very high volume levels and heavy bass from the PA system, but also due to city noise ordinances, must have balanced SPL combined with pattern control.
Flag Systems was responsible for the audio at the main outdoor stage and one tent. On the main stage, it set up two hangs of 18 VTX V25 line arrays for the main LR system and four VTX V25 units as front fills. By using the same loudspeakers for the main hang and front fills, they were able to provide sonic consistency while maintaining high SPLs that smaller loudspeakers cannot deliver. To ensure a bass-heavy experience with controlled coverage, the subwoofers were set up in a delay-steered end-fire cardioid configuration of eleven 2 x 2 blocks.
The tent that Flag Systems was responsible for, dubbed “Pink Tent,” had a system consisting of two hangs of eight VerTec VT4889 line arrays and two of Flag Systems’ recently-acquired VTX V20 loudspeakers for front fills. Outside the tent for out fills and delays, there were two stacks of four VT4889 loudspeakers on risers and four of Flag System’s new proprietary SubX on each side. For the DJ monitors Flag used one VTX S25 and three V20 loudspeakers per side.
The entire system was powered by 102 Crown Audio I-Tech 12000HD and three Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD amplifiers. JBL HiQnet Performance Manager was used to manage the system.
“At the request of guest engineers, we needed a system that could deliver all of the low-end frequencies in an accurate and powerful fashion,” says Dale West, systems designer of Flag Systems. “We believe that the JBL VTX Series is a phenomenal sounding system. The high end of the D2 driver never needs a lot of EQ, staying extremely linear as the output level increases, and the subwoofers are equally impressive.
“In order to generate the balanced SPL we needed for this festival and still have cancelation behind the stage,” he continues, “we end-fired the subs because it allowed us to achieve this with fewer boxes when compared to a traditional cardioid configuration.”
“We used Performance Manager because it is an amazing tool for system alignment, control over circuit-based EQ’ing, level control and delay times to add digital arc delays for optimum horizontal sub steering,” West adds. “On a show like this where a system is pushed to its limits, it’s an absolute must to monitor system health, limiter threshold and component health. I never leave home without it.”
Flag Systems will again be providing VTX for the upcoming Hard Festival Day of the Dead taking place Nov 1-2 in Los Angeles.
D.A.S. Audio Helps Aggressive Sound Deliver Impressive Results
Northeast Ohio company deploys wide range of D.A.S. loudspeakers, including Aero Series 2 and Action Series
Northeast Ohio’s Aggressive Sound operates both locally and internationally, with the bulk of the company’s business taking place throughout the tri-state area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
As the company has expanded its operations, it’s equipment inventory has grown, especially in terms of a range of loudspeakers from D.A.S. Audio, including the Aero Series 2 and Action Series.
“We handle a diverse range of projects,” says Jeff Hair, founder and president of Aggressive Sound, “and this is why it’s so important that our SR systems deliver not only great sound, but also a wealth of features that enable us to handle any job that comes through the door.
“Among the various projects we handle, we provide sound services for acts such as Straight No Chaser and Manowar,” he continues. “In addition to acts of this nature, we also provide services to a 6-year-old festival called River Rock at the Amp as well as a 28 year old festival known as Rockin’ on the River. These two festivals draw crowds that range in size from 4,000 to 13,000 people, so it’s important that our sound systems be up to the task.”
For both events, the main flown line array setup encompasses two D.A.S. Aero 12A powered 2-way, mid-high line array modules for most shows. For the bigger acts, Hair notes that Aggressive Sound will substitute 18 Aero 40A powered 3-way line array elements in place of the Aero 12As.
For low frequency support, Hair employs anywhere from 6 to 18 D.A.S. LX-218CA powered subwoofers. “I really like the fact that the CA model incorporates the ability to turn the middle sub in the stack of three backwards, effectively turning the subwoofer system into Cardioid coverage. The LX-218CA is the best and most accurate subwoofer system I have ever heard in my 41 years in this business.”
Onstage monitoring is handled using a combination of D.A.S. Audio’s Action Series loudspeakers. Hair reports using eight D.A.S. Action 12A compact multi-purpose enclosures with monitor position, four Action 218A powered subwoofers, along with four Action 15A powered, compact point source enclosures. The drum monitor setup includes a combination of the Action 218A subwoofer along with an Action 15A enclosure.
For front fills, the company deploys four D.A.S. Aero 12A enclosures about 6 to 8 feet apart from one another. For out fills, he likes to use four Aero 12A boxes. “As we do with the infills, these boxes are mounted to D.A.S. stacking plates to allow proper pinning and accurate angling of the boxes,” he notes. Rounding out the equation, Hair also employs D.A.S. Audio’s DSP-4080 4 input / 8 output stereo / mono processor for loudspeaker management as well as the D.A.S.net computer control system.
“I’ve been to D.A.S. Audio’s U.S. headquarters many times as well as the factory in Valencia, Spain,” he says. “I’ve received hundreds of hours of personal, one-on-one training from the factory engineers and, in fact, from D.A.S. Audio’s owner and chief designer/engineer. Everyone has been just great.”
Meyer Sound MICA Provides Flexibility For Concert Series In Ancient Sicilian Amphitheatre
Flown loudspeaker arrays in the historic arena were not an option
The 2,700-year-old Teatro Greco in Sicily recently hosted a summer concert series with artists including James Blunt, Simple Minds, and Italy’s chart-topping Gigi D’Alessio.
Faced with limitations for amplification in the historic amphitheatre, the audio team selected the flexible Meyer Sound MICA line array loudspeaker system to ensure audio quality throughout the arena.
“Every time we go to the magical Teatro Greco, we are awed by the magnificence of this venue,” reports Roberto Rosu,front of house engineer for D’Alessio. “And thanks to the quality of the MICA system, the end result was amazing.”
Flown loudspeaker arrays in the historic arena were not an option, according to Freddy Dagata, audio project manager for Light and Shade di Alessandro Finocchiaro, the Aci Catena-based production provider.
“We really had a chance to appreciate the versatility of a Meyer Sound system,” says Dagata. “MICA worked very well when ground-stacked, and we had amazing coverage throughout the arena. We were able to satisfy all requests of the artists and their FOH engineers, as the system perfectly handled a wide variety of pop and rock styles.”
Flanking the stage were twin stacks of eight-each MICA loudspeakers, aided by additional left and right outfill arrays of seven-each M’elodie line array loudspeakers. Four UPM-1P loudspeakers provided front fill, while two UPA-1P loudspeakers anchored a center image on the wide stage. A Galileo loudspeaker management system with one Galileo 616 processor supplied system drive and optimization.
Located on a mountaintop with beautiful ocean views, the Teatro Greco of Taormina was built in the early seventh century BC, although most of the remaining stonework is from a later Roman era reconstruction. With a diameter of 120 meters, it is the second largest Greek amphitheatre in Sicily.