Launched in 1995 by Essence magazine, the Essence Music Festival is a New Orleans celebration of African-American music and culture that showcases a variety of classic and contemporary artists. Premier Sound Services (PSS) of Baton Rouge, La., brought in a bevy of Harman Professional equipment for the festival’s Coca-Cola and Verizon Superlounge stages, including JBL VerTec line arrays, Crown amps, Soundcraft mixing consoles and BSS, Lexicon and dbx signal processing.
The recent 2012 festival took place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and featured acts as diverse as Aretha Franklin, Keyshia Cole, Mary J. Blige, Gary Clark Jr., SWV, Dru Hill, the Stylistics and many more.
“This was a major festival and we brought in a major portion of our inventory,” says Russ Bryant, director of operations and co-owner of PSS. “For both Superlounge stages, we had to stack the line arrays on top of the subs as flying was not feasible in the venue. Because the rooms were very wide and had relatively low ceilings and structural columns just on either side of both stages, for each room we put one stack on the inside of each column pointing directly forward and one stack outside of each column at 45 degrees.”
The Coca-Cola Superlounge featured four main speaker ground stacks of three VerTec VT4888 midsize line array elements mounted on a VT4888-SF frame atop three SRX728S subwoofers. The speaker complement also included four VerTec VT4886 subcompact line array elements for front fill, four VT4886 and two VT4883 subcompact arrayable subwoofers for side and drum fill, plus 16 SRX712M floor monitors. Thirteen Crown I-Tech 12000 HD amps powered the main line arrays, with nine I-Tech 8000 amps for the monitors. A 96-channel Soundcraft Vi6 console handled front of house mixing.
The Verizon Superlounge stage employed four ground stacks of four VerTec VT4887A compact line array elements each, mounted on a VT4887-SF frame atop three SRX728S subwoofers. The system also included four VerTec VT4886’s for front fill, two stacks of two SRX722 speakers and one SRX718S sub for side fill/drum fill, plus 12 SRX712M stage monitors. Main amplification was provided by eight Crown I-Tech 8000 amps, two I-Tech 4000 amps and one I-Tech 5000, with six I-Tech 4000’s driving the monitors. PSS also used Harman HiQnet System Architect and JBL HiQnet Performance Manager to set up and control both stages.
Soundcraft Series Five 48×4 and 52×26 consoles were used for front of house and monitor mixing, while the system used a host of Harman signal processors including BSS FCS-966 and FCS-960 equalizers, other BSS compressors and noise gates, a dbx 1046 quad compressor limiter and Lexicon PCM96 and other stereo reverb units/effects processors.
“I can consistently depend on JBL no matter what the situation,” says Bryant. “I have used JBL speakers since I got into the business in 1984. When we decided to purchase a line array system, we considered all the speakers on the market but decided that VerTec best met our needs from a price/performance standpoint.”
“One day we’ll be hanging 16 VerTec boxes per side in an arena and the next, stacking VT4888’s and VT4886’s in a club with a national touring band. While other speakers may work for one application or the other, we’ve found that our VerTec inventory handles any requirement while delivering all the volume and quality we need. Also, since JBL introduced the VerTec V5 DSP preset tunings, VerTec has become even more rider-friendly.”
“In fact, we may be the most impressed by the VT4886,” Bryant notes. “We use them as front fills, side fills, drum fills and down fills under our VT4888’s and have even hung them 12 per side in smaller venues to do loud rock shows. It is the best-sounding, smallest, loudest box I have ever used. We have 40 in our inventory and plan to purchase more.”
“I also need to single out the Crown I-Tech HD Series amplifiers,” Bryant adds. “We use a variety of models and they are simply amazing. No other amplifier is as accurate—we’ve scoped them and verified this against other amplifiers –and is as pleasing to my ear. The internal processing allows us to run the V5 presets, and I find that the speaker limiting is sonically more pleasing and protects our transducers better. They were a big part of the superior sound quality we achieved at the Essence Music Festival.”
Visit Harman Professional at www.harmanpro.com.
For more information on Premier Sound Services, visit www.psssound.com.