SSE Hire gave its new L-Acoustics K1 system its first airing at the Download Festival at Donington Park from June 12th – 14th, providing sound reinforcement for the main stage.
The new system was a huge success and contributed to what many agree was the best ever Download – the festival has now been named Event Of The Year at this year’s Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. Organiser Live Nation arranged a stellar line-up boasting Faith No More, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Thunder and Def Leppard.
"We made history last weekend on two counts," said Download boss and Live Nation COO, John Probyn. "First, we produced the best rock festival that the world has ever seen and second, we listened to it through the best PA system anyone has heard. Comments from bands, agents, managers, environmental health officers and the public have been amazing.”
"Every single engineer had something good to say about the system – that's something I've never known before," said project manager Pete Russell, who put the job together once again this year, assisted by the rest of the SSE Hire team.
Tim Cleasby, who engineered Skin and Stone Gods said: "The system sounded great for both bands I mixed on the Sunday; loads of balls and plenty of clarity. I loved it from the first kick drum hit. It provided great coverage throughout the field so there were no worries about anyone complaining about not being able to hear. The SSE crew were, as usual, top notch and very accommodating and made my life very easy."
The layout of the site was completely changed from the previous year, so the audio system design also had to be reconsidered. This was done by SSE Hire's Miles Hillyard with the assistance of L-Acoustics Soundvision acoustical simulation software.
"Obviously, the objective is to deliver as much sound as possible, as evenly as possible, to the audience areas, while minimising noise off-site," said Hillyard.
Live Nation asked audio consultant Vanguardia to do a noise pollution prediction based on the new layout and the audio system design from the previous year.
"The modeling we did in conjunction with SSE showed that the stage relocation was likely to adversely affect a small group of properties near the site," said Deni Butterfield, principal acoustic consultant with Vanguardia. "It's very useful to predict noise issues in advance so the event promoter can liaise with the local authority and address possible problems with local people before they arise."
The initial predictions were based on a V-Dosc system and showed that levels would need to be restricted to 98dB 15 minute Leq at FOH to keep within licensing requirements. Following the redesign of the system by SSE using K1, the predictive data looked very encouraging with a 2dB decrease at off site monitoring areas while achieving 102dB at FOH.
The system deployed comprised two main L-Acoustics K1 hangs left and right of stage, each with 12 K1, six K1 subs and 12 SB28s in cardioid configuration. The system was supplemented by outer hangs of eight Kudo per side.
"The K1 subs at the top of the arrays were very effective at helping us to achieve a controlled tonal balance across the site,” continued Hillyard. “We also utilised the mechanically-adjustable K-Louvers on the KUDO boxes, which helped us to optimise the coverage and blend in with the V-DOSC delays."
Two outer delay towers were positioned 80 metres apart and 85 metres from the stage carrying eight V-Dosc and two dV-Dosc on each, plus a centre delay using nine Kudo.
"I was really impressed with the sub configuration," said James McCullagh, FOH engineer for Journey. "Huge punch out front and great cancellation on stage. A lot of people are trying the cardioid sub thing and not everyone is successful. Well done to SSE and all their staff on a fantastic sounding PA."
David (Shirt) Nicholls Slipknot FOH engineer exclaimed: "It's my new favourite system – I don't want to use anything else now. Blows the competition out of the water."
Following the event, Deni Butterfield from Vanguardia said: "We understand that the EHOs from North West Leicestershire District Council were very happy indeed with the way the weekend went. We still need to analyse the data we collected, but initial indications are that the actual measurements were very close to the predictive model, which is great."