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New Gear? Beyond The Hype It’s Up To You

Save your hammer for when you’ve got something to nail, and reach into your toolbox when you don’t...

By Gary Zandstra December 22, 2016

It’s Johnny LineArray to the rescue! (Or maybe not...)

Now I know when it’s hot and when it isn’t. A corporate outdoor party needs levels strong enough to get people partying (feel it in your feet) but they also still like to network, so levels weren’t what any of us would call loud.

However, it still has to be hot enough to project over the noise created by the kids driving by in their Vin Diesel sub-woofered Nissans.

Due to the voodoo coupling of the line array, the sound at 500 yards was more than a little too loud for the folks on their balconies back at the hotel. While they were looking out at the ocean, sunset, palms and our little get-together, the sound of our musicians was in their faces. Not very romantic.

No matter how much I attenuated, the SPL at the balcony railings didn’t get down to an acceptable level. Thus: wrong tool for the job.

The hotel had to do some mass comping of rooms on that side of the hotel, and even moved some diehards to the back (with no ocean view). A few cases of bubbly on our client’s bill and we got out without a lynching. (Those honeymooners and seniors can get pretty mean in a herd.)

Another example: I once got some comps to a “post-Sammy” Van Halen show. The gig was at our local arena, now named after an insurance agency instead of a dot or telecom. The system used a line array with 18 boxes in a “J” hang, stage right and left, with subs under the stage. At 90 degrees off stage on either side were more boxes in a shallow “C” arc. Pretty meager amount of gear for a loud band.

I got what I thought were going to be O.K. seats in the mezzanine about 20 rows up from the deck, on a diagonal off the stage-right corner. Nice sight lines, above the folks standing on their chairs. The band fires up… and I’m in the null spot between the two arrays. Now I know why the seats were free! All I could hear was the return slapping off the back wall. If I moved 75 feet in either direction, sound was fine. But again: wrong tool.

Form Follows Function
I heard one of the “boy bands” outdoors using Brand B loudspeakers (with the recently merged Brand C barcode on the back) at the same facility that I heard one of the most storied rock groups with its Brand D line arrays. Kind of a neat case of extremes; the world ’s most popular non-band (they’re singers) versus a legendary band.

Musical and audience tastes aside, the Brand B system – a little long in the tooth by hype standards – sounded darn good, while Brand D – savior of our industry – was less than good. A buddy who was with me at the rock band show and had not worked this peculiar venue asked “Does it always sound like this?” I’m talking specifically about what a big rig does in a place that holds 80,000 people, not the balance of the mix, which was fine in both cases.

Sometimes a more traditional approach, such as ground-stacked horizontal arrays, is still the appropriate choice.

The moral of these stories? The myriad advantages that new technologies can offer should always be considered as functions of getting a particular job done in the most satisfying manner. We can count on the manufacturers to come up with new and innovative ways to improve our results and propel us forward.

You only have yourself to trust when it comes to plunking down hard-earned greenbacks for new gear. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, works harder than the people in the sound reinforcement industry.

So do justice to yourself, as well as your clients, and keep an open mind when shopping. Don’t let the glitz and glamour of the gear blind you to what’s best for your business. Leave the glitz and glamour to the folks onstage we all work for.

Save your hammer for when you’ve got something to nail, and reach into your toolbox when you don’t. After all, we’re professionals, and our ears are what we get paid to use, not our egos.

Gary Gand has been designing and mixing sound for 40 years and is president of Gand Concert Sound, Elk Grove Village IL., just west of Chicago.


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About Gary

Gary Zandstra
Gary Zandstra

Consultant, Dan Vos Construction, Writer for Worship Facilities and ProSoundWeb
   
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.
http://garyzandstra.com

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