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Covering 120,000 People at Glastonbury

At the Glastonbury Festival, held in late June near Somerset, England, RG Jones Sound Engineering was faced with having to cover 120,000 people in attendance at the massive Pyramid Stage.

The Who were among the acts that RG Jones Sound Engineering provided audio for at Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage this year, via a massive Martin Audio MLA System.
Somerset, UK (July 13, 2015)—At the Glastonbury Festival, held in late June near Somerset, England, RG Jones Sound Engineering was faced with having to cover 120,000 people in attendance at the massive Pyramid Stage.

As it did last year, albeit in a slightly different arrangement with the addition of extra delay systems and a second FOH position, the company opted to use a Martin Audio Multi-Cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) system. System tech, Andy Davies, said, “We drove each acoustic cell in each MLA to direct sound at the audience, and then cut it off sharply just beyond the perimeter of the field to dramatically reduce noise pollution. As a result, acts including The Who, Florence and the Machine, Kanye West, Paul Weller and Motorhead could comfortably play at 104-105dBA. When a FOH engineer doesn’t have to constantly worry about sound levels, they focus on what they do best—mixing—and so they enjoy the experience more and that translates to the audience experience too.”

FOH engineer for Motorhead, Arnie Annables, noted, “I wasn’t looking forward to Glastonbury because of the noise restrictions; as you can imagine, we like to play loud! However, things went surprisingly well and I was very happy with the outcome. The system sounded good, not what I am used to, but my ears were pleased. The RG Jones guys did a fantastic job looking after me, as did everyone on stage; it’s been a real pleasure.”

Mixing on a DiGiCo SD7 desk, Christopher Lee, FOH engineer for Pharrell Williams, said, “Pharrell likes the bass and mix to be identical to the record, so the subs were a real surprise to me, right up there where I needed them every time. I was really impressed, not just with the configuration, but also with the excellent tuning of the system.”

System design was similar to last year, including 72 MLA for the main hangs, eight MLA Compact for stereo infill at the pit barrier and a total of six delay positions of both MLA and MLA Compact as required.

One key change this year was the addition of two extra delay systems. RG Jones’ Project Manager, Simon Honywill, explains, “This was primarily because Glastonbury production decided to split the FOH control platform from one to two platforms located left and right in front of the stage. They also moved the platforms closer to the stage, and along with them, the first set of delay towers.” With the center of the field opened up visually, the aim of the festival site was to increase the experience for the audience right at the back of the field close to the camping area, a space previously regarded as out of coverage for the Pyramid stage. These changes necessitated the extra MLA Compact delays.

There was also a broadside array of 38 MLX stretched across the entire width of the stage to provide sub-bass support to the entire system. “The system has knitted together really well,” continues Davies. “It has allowed us to put more energy through the middle two delays and push a big thrust of power up the center of the site. We then use the outer delays to fill in and keep coverage going out to the edge, which has worked really well.”

During sub heavy Kanye West, Honywill reported that at 800 feet from the stage, his clothing was physically moving. “We had 22 MLX cabs facing forward and another 11 facing backwards to give us cancellation and to make sure we’re not disturbing the other stages on site,” explains Davies. “We also electronically arc’d the array so there was delay time incrementally added from the middle box out, giving coverage to the sub array that matches up with the site really nicely.”

Toby Francis, FOH engineer for Kanye West certainly enjoyed his moment: “I thought it went really well but I also listened to all the other bands during the day and they sounded great. Kanye was on a crane right in front of the PA for a number of songs, and it still sounded tight and controlled. What I really liked about the PA is that even at the volume limit for the festival it sounded big and full. The Glastonbury limits are considerably lower than Kanye would prefer it, so yes I was really impressed.”

Martin Audio