For sound designer and FOH engineer Dag Stephen Solberg, a trip from one end of the musical spectrum to the other could be made in the company of one Soundcraft Vi6 digital audio mixing console.
Well, more than one, if you count the additional desks being used for monitoring and submixing tasks. But it is the impressive sound quality of Soundcraftâ€™s front of house console that made it first choice for Scandinaviaâ€™s largest outdoor pop concert, the VG-Lista Topp 20 in Oslo, as well as the epic outdoor production of â€˜Turandotâ€™ by Opera Ostfold, with nearly 450 performers.
Solberg took charge of FOH mixing duties at both events, working with one of Norwayâ€™s leading concert services companies Frontlite AS to overcome some significant concert sound challenges.
In Oslo, despite appalling weather, 90,000 people packed into the Radhusplassen for a free concert of the best pop music that Norway has to offer, including Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak, the countryâ€™s most popular live band BIG BANG, and the legendary A-Ha as headliners. Sponsored by the largest Norwegian newspaper, and broadcast live on NRK, the one-day event is staged in the centre of the city on a site bordered by the harbour as well as civic offices.
Although the VG20 concert is well-supported by the local administration, Frontliteâ€™s team canâ€™t let rip! At FOH, Solberg is limited to 103dB (weighted). He describes his objective at the desk as â€œtrying to make it sound fat so that you can feel the SPL without it tearing your head off!â€? His tools are a substantial and highly directive line array system, and a Soundcraft Vi6 handling 48 channels of digital audio.
â€œAlthough Iâ€™ve tried and liked all the other digital consoles, my first choice is the Vi6,â€? says Solberg. â€œIt is a third of the size of some alternatives, and perfect for a festival situation like this where we have visiting engineers. People find it really intuitive to use, and itâ€™s still possible for two engineers to work on the surface â€“ one can grab the band, the other the vocals. And it offers excellent automation.â€?
Solbergâ€™s colleague Espen Andersen works the monitor mixes from another Vi6 stage-side, a partnership that was repeated for the Ostfold Operaâ€™s season of â€˜Turandot.â€™ Staged in an old fort in Halden, near the Swedish border an hour from Oslo, this yearâ€™s production featured 350 people on stage, in addition to an 80-piece orchestra.
Once again serviced by Frontlite, one of the only companies in Norway capable of handling a production of this size, the FOH platform included a Soundcraft Vi6 delivering 96 inputs, and a Soundcraft Si3 as sub-mixer handling another 56 channels. Solberg mixed sub-groups of the orchestral string sections to the 96-input Vi6 monitor console.
â€œI must emphasise the sound quality of the Vi6,â€? says Solberg, â€œI believe it is one of the best-sounding boards on the market. Itâ€™s become my number one tool for mixing. This was my first chance to use the new Si3, and I was very impressed, both for its ease of use and for its audio performance.â€?
For this production of â€˜Turandot,â€™ Solberg and his team needed a large number of wireless channels. â€œIn Halden, there is a big problem with the availability of wireless frequencies because of the digital TV transmission. Bearing this in mind, I consulted with LydRommet, the Norwegian distributor of AKG, and we were able to specify the new AKG DMS-700 digital wireless system for the shows. With very little prep time, we were still able to get 44 wireless channels up and running satisfactorily in less than 30 minutes. I believe we were one of the first users in the world!â€?