Soundbox Productions ((Stoney Creek, Ontario) recently provided sound reinforcement for a live drive-in concert at Canada’s Ancaster Fairgrounds featuring rock band Big Wreck with a system headed by Adamson Systems Engineering CS-Series powered loudspeakers joined by a host of supporting components.
While drive-in concerts have become commonplace during the pandemic, increasingly they utilize traditional live sound reinforcement rather than transmitting over FM radio. Both options were provided for this event, with Colin Moore of Soundbox noting, “It’s all about the experience, so it’s becoming a mandatory part of the production specifications, and bands and audiences prefer it that way.” You can still socially distance and have great sound, he continues, adding, “Maybe one out of every 10 cars had their doors closed and the radio on, but most people were listening to the PA.”
And for good reason, adds in Big Wreck front of house engineer Dan Preston. “With some rigs, the guitars are producing frequencies through the cabinets that they’re not producing through the actual amp and, as far as the guitars, in particular, Ian Thornley has an expansive sound – a big, wide tone that needs to be reproduced accurately. I was able to do that here without having to fight the PA. I actually had to dial back my effects from a prior mix considerably. I use a lot of rolling and trap delays with Big Wreck and, with this PA, I didn’t have to fight for them to be heard or separate at all.”
Soon after Adamson officially launched the CS-Series, Soundbox purchased CS Upgrade kits for its entire Adamson S-Series inventory; 28 CS10 and eight CS7 full-range enclosures and CS119 subwoofers. “And based on their performance we’re really happy we did,” Moore adds. In all, for Y108 Presents Live at The Drive-In with Big Wreck, Soundbox deployed eight CS10s and six CS 119s per side joined by three racks (one Network Distribution System, one Power Distribution System, and a CS Gateway rack at FOH for tuning and control).
While the decision to upgrade wasn’t specifically motivated by the changes the pandemic has brought about in the live concert industry, the CS-Series on-board amplification and DSP, Milan-ready AVB connectivity, and compact footprint all speak to both current and pre-pandemic challenges. “Having efficient, light weight equipment we can package and transport quickly, for less expense, is more important than ever,” Moore explains. “We’re shaving a lot of weight off our truck packs by moving to this new infrastructure. As far as efficiency goes, this benefits Soundbox because we don’t need to send thousands of pounds of amp racks out and that also funnels down into an application-to-application scenario. For instance, say a band touring in a bus and trailer want a side-fill rig, they don’t need an amp rack. At the most basic level, they just plug-in power and an XLR and there’s your side-fill package. That’s impressive.
“It’s pure physics,” he adds. “The power wiring has gone from 100 feet to roughly six inches between the amp and the box, which plays a huge part in terms of how much horsepower these speakers have.” Beyond that, it also cuts down substantially on the amount of infrastructure and effort, in terms of packing, transporting, and running the cabling and additional racks a passive system requires.
Further, the amplifiers have been built specifically to drive the components in that loudspeaker. “That’s the beauty of the CS-Series,” says Jeremiah Karni, Adamson Head of Education & Applications. “You have the benefits of minimized speaker cabling which means less signal loss through long cable runs, and over a decade of R&D aimed at creating the best possible amplifier and signal processing; an amp that’s designed, built and manufactured, by Adamson, in-house here in Port Perry, Ontario.” And to keep both weight and overall infrastructure as lean as possible, he adds. “What required four 10-U racks before is now two 6-U racks, and the amplifiers only add about 6 lb per cabinet, whereas other powered loudspeakers in a similar range are quite a bit heavier.”
Of course, the primary consideration with any sound system is how it sounds. “Right out of the gate (to my delight) when I was checking my L+R+Sub matrix sends individually, the hang itself produced so much of the lows. If it wasn’t configured already,” Preston says. “I’d have dropped the subs down to 60 or 50 Hz right away. For what I do this was a treat. I like to push my snare and guitars down pretty low with rock bands to make sure that they (and not just bass and drums) have some level of concussive force when required, and I was easily able to do that.”
While other PAs Preston’s mixed through do react similarly: “Not in this size format. I was very pleased and impressed. The lows were produced with clarity and tightness and let me place instruments exactly where I wanted them without convoluting my mix, and without pushing some elements into the subs, which is unheard of for this type of component sizing.”
Additionally, the option to purchase CS-Series loudspeakers as a stand-alone solution or upgrade existing S-Series loudspeakers by simply switching out the cabinet’s rear module, speaks to Adamson’s ongoing commitment to aid users in leveraging their existing inventory and future-proofing that inventory via a complete system platform encompassing loudspeakers, software, and rack-mounted power, network and control elements.
The accompanying software is designed to enhance the user’s capabilities in terms of design, deployment, and control in both live and fixed install applications, Moore notes: “Sonically speaking we’re very impressed, but we’re equally impressed by the CS control software Adamson has developed and continues to add feature sets to – it provides a lot of flexibility.”
Soundbox Head of Audio Jamal Bleasdell concurs: “From design, you can switch right over to deploying all the settings to the boxes, and since each box has its own amplifier you can see how all the components are doing. If something is failing, you get a report saying that this horn or that driver isn’t working the way it should be. So, you get a lot of information right off the top.”
Housed in a single rack at FOH, and custom-created for the CS-Series, “The CS software is a big part of Adamson’s future,” Karni explains. “It’s a single, uniform system control platform, not just for monitoring amplifiers, but with the design software and control architecture behind the DSP platform included, which makes for a simplified and unified workflow for the end-user.”
“The array optimization algorithm is a recent addition to the software,” he continues. “It’s not a new concept. But it is a unique implementation that uses a series of FIR filters to smooth out the tonal response of the line array, and you have the ability – not just to change level – but to adjust the phase response of individual boxes, which is also a huge benefit.”
While this was Preston’s first time mixing on a CS-Series PA, if he has his way, it won’t be the last: “Overall, I found the rig properly balanced and clean. My main bus EQ had minimal tweaks, and honestly, that was to taste, not to alter my start point; I’m looking forward to working on this rig again down the road.”