After making arrangements for the interview – a few months to wait due to the full agenda of the company – I went to Marti Audio’s offices and warehouse, located almost on the border of the city of Rosario.
Listening to Ariel Marti’s answers it’s not hard to discover why his schedule is so full. Artists of national and international order such as Charly Garcia, Mercedes Sosa, Fito Paez, Los Auténticos Decadentes, Vicentino, Divididos, Rata Blanca, Jon Anderson, David Byrne, Helloween, Maná, La Ley, Ricardo Montaner, Dyango, among others, rely on Marti Audio’s services.
Musician, composer, producer, professional audio technician, (the latter task has also led him to often become a D.A.S. Audio consultant, with whom he has had a close relationship for many years), give us the idea of a sound system designer with complete and detailed knowledge of each and every audio component thanks to his beginnings with the rudiments of amplification and, of course, experience.
One of the highlights of the talk that caught my attention most was when he said he never intended to start an audio company but circumstances led him to do it. And this is just one of the comments like this in the course of the interview.
The following are the most interesting parts of my conversation with Ariel Marti.
ZioGiorgio.es: Tell us a bit about your beginnings
Ariel Marti: Like most of us in this environment, we’re either musicians or electronic technicians who specialize in audio. In fact, I come from a family of musicians. I started wanting to amplify my voice to sing in different places with valvular amps round about the end of the 70s. After that I went on to study electronics because there were no audio schools in Argentina.
So I was evolving from a musician’s perspective and not from the perspective of a rental company. I always had in mind the needs of musicians and I never did it for money. I never wanted to create a sound company; the circumstances just led me to it. After seeing my gear and realizing that the sound was really good at venues, as well as the nice price I could offer, other musicians started calling me. I also had some friends who owned bars, who started asking me if I could operate sound. One thing led to another and one day I found myself working in stadiums.
ZioGiorgio.es: How is your relationship with musicians at work?
Ariel Marti: It’s a fairly complex subject. Musicians have a very special character. I’m a singer, and singers are usually managed by musicians (in the best sense of the word), we guide them, we know how to say things. When a musician delivers a solo, a harmony, he/she is offering him/herself and is therefore very sensitive, and a word said in the wrong way and at the wrong time can hurt. We also know that musicians have a different character, at least that’s my point of view.
As a singer, I’ve always had a very gentle way of saying things to musicians. I know how to speak to them.
On the other hand, I don’t have any deals with rude musicians; we don’t even answer them, and I have forbidden the guys who work with us to answer them too.
ZioGiorgio.es: How many people work with you?
Ariel Marti: It depends on the type of work. We sometimes hire freelance people to operate sound. For a show like Cosquín we needed 14 people. We also hire people for assembly work, loading and unloading, system distribution. I talk a lot with them to see what kind of work is better for them, but the final decision is mine. There are also three of us to take care of entire system settings (those who have studied and trained abroad). It is essential that the whole team shares the same vision of work, if that does not happen, and even if you have the best rig, you cannot achieve your goal.
ZioGiorgio.es: What should a person have and be able to do to operate sound with your consoles?
Ariel Marti: After my experience with many artists in the country (Gustavo Cerati, Luis Salinas, Soledad Pastorutti, La Mosca, among others), I can say that the system should be an extension of your body, and to achieve that you have to know how far each part of this body can go and reach.
Whenever I have an opportunity to teach students, I tell them that if they do not know how to download a cabinet from the truck, they will never get to be good operators. They usually laugh at this, but I tell them it’s a serious thing because if they cannot handle the material well, if they don’t pay attention to prevent someone carelessly throwing the cabinet on the floor, they won’t know why the fourth box in the # 2 array on the right wing is making a strange noise.
ZioGiorgio.es: What is your opinion of the students who graduate from audio and sound schools?
Ariel Marti: Think they are operators. It’s like an electronic engineer who finishes his/her scholastic career and thinks he/she is an engineer. Electronic and sound engineering are both areas so broad and it’s not just a matter of moving a button to see if you can get a better sound. You have to know a lot of things. You need to know what system is in front of you; how it is configured. The way a system responds is very different when used in a 2-, 3- or 4 way mode. The frequency ranges start to respond differently, therefore the equalization is different. Nor, can we expect a 2-way system to respond in the same way that a 4-way system does. You need to know the system to achieve the best performance.
I often talk with professionals and some say that schools have consoles but none have a “talent button”.
After years of work, some workers can have a loss of hearing and cannot hear well but they certainly know what the public wants to hear, and that’s more important.
When I started working with La Mosca, I reduced the number of channels from 48 (used by the previous sound people) to 24. Sound guys were used to working in the studio and for that reason placed microphones everywhere, which held back the essence of the band’s sound. La Mosca is a Murga-Rock band, and that essence does not sound excellent if we look at each and every little component. We must find the final product; the applied EQ should be for the final product and not on every tiny element. Otherwise the band sounds just like any other band, not like the essence that distinguishes them.
You know when you realize you’ve got the essence of the artist? When the public becomes euphoric. One thing is to make it sound good and quite another is to achieve the essence of the artist.
ZioGiorgio.es: Does that mean people have changed the way they listen?
Ariel Marti: Yes. And the same applies in other areas. When colour TVs came we thought they were wonderful when compared to the previous models, and today we now have 3D TV. The way we listen changes. I think we are learning to listen. Sometimes when upgrading a rig we think it sounds worse than the previous one, but that may be because our ear becomes accustomed to a certain distortion. By winning audio quality it seems that the system has less power, but when we measure the decibels we see that the power is higher, and what has changed is the audio quality.
ZioGiorgio.es: What advantages have Line array systems brought?
Ariel Marti: Trying to speak in simple terms, Line array systems “focus” the audio on the sound space with a frequency consistency greater than conventional equipment. For instance, with Line array systems we “focus” the audio at 50 meters with frequency consistency, while with conventional systems this type of coherence is lost as the distance increases.
Line array systems generate a cylindrical emission wave while previous conventional systems generated a spherical wave. In the latter equipment the dB power slope in meters is squared, whereas in Line array that slope is linear. The concept of Line array systems is copying the old columns of the 50s. The designers realized that with this model, when they aligned one speaker with another one, and based on the length of the column, the frequency response was as if it were a single speaker, and with a single speaker cancellation is practically nil.
Each speaker is mounted on an acoustic suspension; there are always small differences between these suspensions that become evident in certain frequencies producing cancellation. This can be perceived, for example, when a musician plays a chromatic scale at a given speed and we hear some notes lower than others.
ZioGiorgio.es: What is the purpose of using Down-fill, Front-fill and Side-fill systems?
Ariel Marti: Down-fill systems are represented in those 2 or 4 boxes that are hung on the bottom of each of the two main wings, to cover an area of 20 or 30 meters. These systems have coverage of 120° (horizontal). The main wings are, however, sometimes so far apart that the 120° coverage of Down-fill doesn’t cover the space, especially at high frequencies. In those situations, a number of cabinets are placed in front of the stage, calculated according to the distance and the slope in dB we measure in that sector. Those boxes are called Front-fill.
At the top of the main wings special cabinets (long throw) are placed or we apply a special equalization to arrive as far as possible while maintaining consistency and equalization.
The Side-fill is a system that is very similar to PA, but in this case it points to the musicians on stage.
With sound something similar occurs to what happens when we turn on a fan: it pushes the air at the front, but it sucks in the air at the back.
When we hang an audio system there is a kind of vacuum at the back, and even more so when, for example, we use a system of 180,000 Watts like the one used in Cosquín. The musician hears the monitoring alone without problems, but when you turn the main sound system on, monitoring disappears.
What do you do then? You can change monitor phase; you can use more power on the monitors, or add a Side-fill that pushes dynamics into the stage area.
Monitoring is very complex. On stage there are many different dynamics: a drum set, guitar amps, bass amp. All elements can produce cancellations or can add to monitoring. A Side-fill system must, in fact, add to the monitoring.
Sometimes operators said to me, referring to a musician: “This guy is crazy. He asked me to raise the monitor for the guitar, he moved back one step and said “OK, OK”, but I did not touch anything.” I tell them that: “the musician is right, because when he stepped back, the guitar lined up its phase. Do not underestimate the musician. He spends many hours in a rehearsal room and knows what he wants.” Constantly, I correct that kind of things with my company technicians. The musician knows what he needs and the technician should be able to interpret this.
In 2011 D.A.S. invited me to Villarobledo’s Viña Festival 2011 to listen and give my opinion on the latest presets they had developed, where an example of what I’ve just said took place. Being a musician I noticed that when a guitarist played a chromatic ascending scale some parts were not being heard; I mentioned this to the acoustic engineers of the company and we concluded that we had a simple settings problem. That happen in one show, and for the next show they made the adjustments and the line-array won.
At that time we had the great opportunity to have the Aero 50 (D.A.S.) hung next to a L-Acoustics V-Docs and there I discovered that all they were doing wrong was simply the focus.
That experience was very important for us all as we discovered the importance of each element of the array; even if the system operates as a unit, if each item is not in focus there will be problems.
The engineers continued their work and achieved incredible presets. Today I can say that a D.A.S. Aero 50 has nothing to envy to any top system in the world. Aero 50 has gained a lot in control of the team and consistency. Today, you can stand 70 meters away from an Aero 50 and you can feel the sound as if you were standing just a couple of centimetres away.
ZioGiorgio.es: What kind of advantages can we get from measurement software?
Ariel Marti: With the emergence of digital crossover we have an advantage that we could not get without changing the position of cabinets. I would say that today we can place cabinets anywhere since we can align them digitally. Before, that could not be done; you had to align elements physically.
With prediction software we know where low frequencies will not be heard, although those frequencies will give us gut problems two meters away.
ZioGiorgio.es: How do you calculate the number of cabinets you need?
Ariel Marti: It depends on several factors. For example, a while ago I had to operate sound for an act of the President and for an event organized by the opposition to the government. I knew beforehand that the act of the President needed a system with very tight delays because the public attending would be quite euphoric, and would scream and so we used a number of elevated lead posts. In contrast, with the people of the opposition to the President that was not going to happen because there was going to be a quiet audience. Then, I hung the array at 14 meters and focused to 15 blocks and from that distance people heard what they said.
I recently worked at a festival where several artists were going to perform. I knew that every day we would have a different audience. With some artists the public would scream moderately, but with others I knew that the girls would scream so loud that they could cover the system. Based on that, I calculated some more Watts, as I usually do. System design is very, very important; system design and experience are essential.
ZioGiorgio.es: How did you begin your relationship with D.A.S. Audio?
Ariel Marti: In the second part of the 1990s, EAW launched the KF850 cabinet, which offered improved sound projection compared to previous systems. Always talking about conventional equipment, the cabinet had cancellations but with better focus. At that time, I was designing cabinets together with an engineer from Rosario, who worked with QSC and other major U.S. companies, but I decided to put that aside and contact a carpenter who work for one of bigger sound companies of that moment in Buenos Aires, who had built nearly 120 boxes like EAW which were giving very good result. With him I decide to build 4 boxes because they were very expensive. At that time all my gear was stored in the garage of the house – including the van.
When I started using these cabinets, EAW launched another cabinet, and I said “I can’t change gear every year,” I hadn’t paid off the previous one and I already had to change to the new model. So, I decided to sell these systems and buy original equipment to which I could add my personal touch. Everyone laughed because I was selling boxes (EAW) that were still fashionable.
I looked for equipment that I could customize, my goal was to create the Marti sound. So, I found D.A.S. who wanted to enter the field of professional audio (they were already present in the DJ sector). They offered me a very smooth financing package and supported me so I could show D.A.S. equipment in Argentina.
With reforms I built a 4-way team (they only had 3-way equipment) and with that I could work in a stadium with a small number of cabinets thanks to the performance we got. People started asking: “how can he work in a stadium with such a small number of cabinets?”
ZioGiorgio.es: So the decision to change to D.A.S. proved successful …
Ariel Marti: It took a year; I had to cut prices so people could try out he madness I had in my mind. Then, I went to Spain on tour with La Mosca and I attended some acoustics courses, and there I met the chief engineer of the company, I spoke to him about my idea and a closer relationship was therefore set up.
ZioGiorgio.es: What is your opinion regarding analogue and digital consoles?
Ariel Marti: I think that high-end digital consoles are just beginning to approach the sound of analogue consoles.
To give you an example, I can tell you today – and I have the opportunity to do so – if you remove any of these high-end digital consoles (Midas, Venue, Yamaha) and connect a Yamaha PM4000 analogue instead using exactly the same remaining equipment components, the sound difference is huge. You seem to have changed the sound system; it becomes nicer, sweeter, with more headroom.
ZioGiorgio.es: So, what console do you use when an important artist hires you?
Ariel Marti: Usually a PM5D (Yamaha). Even without the audio quality of a PM4000 (Yamaha), at present there are a lot of connections that cannot be used on an analogue console. Even though I must work a little harder to come close to analogue sound I’d rather do it using processors included on each channel.
Another very important point is that we can now go from the console to the power amps in the digital medium, so that there are no losses caused by continuous stages of analogue-digital conversion.
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