d&b Soundscape enjoys an early adventure on Glastonbury’s Acoustic Stage.
Festival tents are renowned for their difficult acoustics, but the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury is an eminently prestigious tent nonetheless. It was here in summer 2017, following conversations between Tom De Brabant, Acoustic Stage audio crew chief and FOH sound engineer, and Steve Jones, d&b Education & Application Support, that d&b secured permission to conduct a significant field test of the ground-breaking new Soundscape system.
The plan was to fly the additional loudspeakers required for Soundscape, in this case five hangs of T-Series between the conventional left / right V-Series line arrays, supplied by Encore Group. Then, De Brabant, mixing at FOH on a Midas PRO6 with full Dante implementation, would mix through the d&b Soundscape for all acts without their own mix engineer, or so it was originally envisaged. De Brabant was to be joined on site by Adam Hockley and Chris Drew, d&b Education & Application Support, and between them they took Soundscape through its very first festival trial.
An early pre-event challenge, but not before the lighting and rigging had been decided, was convincing the production team to allow the additional loudspeaker rigging positions Soundscape required. Fineline Lighting, the company responsible for the rigging and lighting on the stage, were soon on board with the requirements for Soundscape, the whole crew were enthusiastic about the prospect of using something so new and innovative.
Before the first sound check there was an air of apprehension amongst the team around using Soundscape. Once the first checks had been completed, the team immediately relaxed. De Brabant commented “The production team were very excited. Using Soundscape, you’re not fighting to get an instrument, or a particular part of the mix, to stand out. You can focus on the creative part of mixing instead. If it were a left / right system, we would typically use a larger system such as V or J. Using Soundscape on The Acoustic Stage meant that we could use smaller cabinets, so we used Ts in between the V arrays, and it was surprising how little you had to push the Ts to get clarity.”
One of the first main acts to perform on the stage was Australian singer-songwriter Emily Barker. When she and her band stepped onto the stage the audio team had the first opportunity to really engage the d&b Soundscape with a full band line-up. De Brabant at front-of-house was visibly amazed when his mix came together so effortlessly. He says, “When the next act turned up with their own engineer and played through the stereo system, it was like a new television only showing black and white rather than 4K Technicolor. The space in the mix disappeared, and everything sounded flat and distant.”
From then on, certain of the stability of the d&b Soundscape, the team decided to throw caution to the wind. Each visiting FOH engineer was given a brief explanation of the Soundscape system. During line-check, Hockley placed the inputs to the DS100 as he saw their stage positions, this remained until the engineer was comfortable with the mix. Some of the engineers opted for leaving their sources as they were on-stage, commenting on how natural it felt. Others really embraced the creative potential and relished the opportunity to play with the positioning or the width of different inputs across the stage within their mix.
Tom De Brabant says, “Touring sound engineers go along to the Glastonbury Acoustic Stage to listen. For us to have Soundscape there in field for a field test was very special. d&b was pushing the boundaries of what it can do with sound reinforcement. It was incredible how stable it was, how well it was received.” De Brabant continued, “The definition and space that Soundscape added to the mix was impressive. It opens everything up. It just sounds right.”