Sónar Día, a three day festival divided into distinct Day and Night programs, features much electronic and experimental music, alongside more contemporary offerings from the likes of Duran Duran and the Chemical Brothers, or the current vogue for EDM artists such as Skrillex and DJ Fresh.
The fact that Sónar Day‘s main stage plays within the confines of what appears to be a fortress, surrounded as it is by high walls, presents a distinct challenge for Barcelona based sound provider Tour Serveis. “This was why the moment we realized the potential of d&b’s new ArrayProcessing tool we wanted to use it here,” said System Technician Josan Bravo. The technical director of the festival Pedri González supported Bravo’s enthusiasm: “The location for our festival is ideal for a city venue in terms of infrastructure, transport, and public comfort and safety, but the issue of sound has always been difficult. When Josan told me what he believed was possible I endorsed his ideas immediately.”
The Sónar Village audience area is wider than long: the main system throws 60m. The width of audience area is around 140m, but only 75m is covered by sound, as required by Sónar. The surrounding buildings are part of the Barcelona Expo complex and are, on average, 20m tall; the building directly opposite the stage also features large areas of glass. “It’s a system technician’s nightmare,” said Bravo.
“I have worked this festival before,” Bravo continued. “Tour Serveis provides d&b systems for two live music stages this year and we have decided to use J-Series for the main stage, Sónar Village. Technical managers put great emphasis on addressing the negative influence of the architectural reverb, so we aimed the system properly and took advantage of ArrayProcessing’s benefits in order to keep energy off the back wall. The result has been obvious. It has proved to be a remarkable improvement of the audio experience for the audience, and a better work experience for the front of house mix engineer and the artists that perform on stage. ArrayProcessing offered the potential to control the vertical dispersion of the system and allowed us to cover the audience properly all the way to the back, and still eliminate reflections off the back wall.”
Working with Jonas ‘Jones’ Wagner from d&b Education and Application Support, and with support from Juanma De Casas from d&b’s Spanish office, Bravo jumped straight into his first ArrayProcessing gig like it was a cold pool at the end of a long hot day. “We configured ArrayProcessing for a big reduction of the SPL at 55m from stage. It was amazing. If you listen to the system in the stage position without ArrayProcessing it’s like an audio mirror in front of you. When ArrayProcessing is on that reflection just disappears.”
Wagner details what Bravo achieved. “The system was J-Series mains left right, with V-Series off to the sides. Low end was all ground stacked and arrayed, a mix of J-SUBs and J-INFRAs. As Josan said, we aimed for a big broadband cut for the last few metres before the back wall, we applied two settings -20dB and -40dB. This allowed the FoH team to adjust for audience size during the day; thin crowd in daytime was -40dB. We also applied some cut to the main field in daytime as the reflections off the ground could also rise to hit and reflect off the back walls. But just a cut of -20dB was needed for the evening when the crowd was full.”
Bravo was also pleased to find that engaging with what appears a complex issue in terms of audio system management was so straightforward. “Workflow is quite quick and simple. You have to draw your venue and design your sound system as usual in ArrayCalc. Then you can add a few predetermined ‘slots’ with different ArrayProcessing targets, targets that you have determined as possible solutions to your problem. You then listen to them and you can change or adapt ArrayProcessing’s parameters if required, depending on desired results. Besides stopping those reflections dead, now, for me tuning is faster. For example when you use ArrayProcessing the target frequency response is fixed according to d&b sonic expectations. What does that mean in reality? A fill system still sounds different than the main system because a fill speaker like a Y7P has an even, linear frequency response, the target response of the arrays has more low mid. But it means that the frequency response all over the audience area is the same, it just differs by the level drop per doubling the distance, which can be defined in the ArrayProcessing calculation. Overall ArrayProcessing is an extra positive to d&b value, an optional tool that takes consistency and homogeneity to a new level. For me, in the future there are some venues, especially where you encounter sloped floors or balconies, where this would be mandatory. For Sónar festival ArrayProcessing has been decisive. Avoiding back wall reflections has launched sound concept to a new level. ArrayProcessing has allowed what the sound engineer at FoH hears to be exactly the same for the audience. Now that’s democracy for listeners.”