It’s not easy to debut new live sound products in real world situations. Few engineers want to risk the introduction of new technologies with a touring act, when everything is already working and the band is happy. But festivals? Where most of the gear is fixed and only the major acts bring in their consoles? They are an ideal test-bed for the introduction of new technologies, and in George Edwards, general manager of Delicate Productions SF, production provider of audio, video and lighting for BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival, manufacturers have found a willing partner in trying out their wares.
Edwards, one of the principals in planning and designing the technical layout of BottleRock for the three years it’s been running, loves to try out new technologies. This year alone, besides the new LED screens, he introduced three brand new main P.A. systems: The new Martin Audio MLA-8 on the main stage, Alcons Audio on another stage, and VUE Audiotechnik with its new aI-12 main hang and new 2×21-inch subs. VUE introduced a second technology in showcasing its Dante connectivity from FOH to the company’s H-8 powered monitors in 18 VIP rooms flanking the main stage area.
On the Miner Family Winery stage, the new aI-12 debuted and represented the culmination of five years of development at the company, starting with aI-4 and aI-8, and now a line array element that can handle any size of hall or venue. The aI-12 consists of two 3-inch beryllium tweeters, whose pistonic action is said to reproduce crisp and clean highs; six midrange drivers are flanked by two 12-inch woofers with neodymium magnet assemblies. Sixteen 2×21-inch subs lined the ground in front of the stage, in cardioid pattern.
The line-up of 19 VUE H-8 powered monitors to supplement the VIP booths at the main stage. Photo: Steve Jennings
“This box has exceptional vertical control,” says VUE’s Jeff Taylor, who worked with Delicate in setting up and tuning the system. “The way it handles the vertical and horizontal is the biggest physical advance since the introduction of the line array.”
“I’ve worked with Kenny Berger and designer Michael Adams for years,” adds Edwards. “We introduced their first systems, and I trust them to come up with a gret product. So far, it sounds great.”
Meanwhile, over on the main Jam Cellars stage, VUE wanted to showcase its Dante connectivity, and Edwards wanted to try something new for the VIP attendees, who pay a lot of money to watch in the creature comforts of lounge chairs, sofas, full bars and a seat above the madding crowd. Edwards supplemented each of the 18 VIP rooms with a VUE H-8 powered monitor, each time-delayed down the line and tuned to the main hang.
To feed the H-8s, which required a roughly 600-foot cable run, Edwards developed a signal flow that went into the FOH rack Dante, to a Cisco router, then to a transceiver to link to a Tec10 military-grade fiber that ran up to the stage, around the corner and back under the bleachers to a tech station beneath the extensive VIP section. It then went back to a transceiver, and Dante was distributed to each of the HI-8s up above. It worked wonderfully.
The output from the FOH rack. The yellow cable is the Tec 10 military grade fiber that carries the Dante signal 500 feet to the VIP booths. Photo: Steve Jennings
Edwards also introduced a few more new technologies and techniques, including making use of the router at FOH to work up a layout allowing for up to eight preconfigured consoles to be dropped in, hooked up, and ready to go after a very brief changeover.
At the same time, he partnered with a new company called Erevu, which allows for real-time monitoring of levels at all four FOH positions, along with a remote, roving mic monitoring levels outside the festival grounds. BottleRock takes place in downtown Napa, on state-owned property. They have to watch levels. Here they monitored from a central station, and from their smartphones as they walked the festival grounds.
Look for more about VUE as the system makes its way onto riders, and look for more on Edwards in an upcoming issue of Mix. He’s blazing trails in system design.