3G Live Sub-merges the Las Vegas Motor Speedway
It’s one of those amazing contradictions that, when you think it through, actually make sense. “Each year we’ve been growing the systems we design for the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). When we started, the ratio between sub and top cabinets was two to one.” Julio Valdez is the leading system technician for 3G Live and the man who has provided the audio design input for the annual EDC at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “This year we have put in well over seven hundred d&b audiotechnik loudspeaker cabinets for the various stages. Drawn almost completely from the J-Series, this year I have been able to reduce that ratio by a factor of twenty five percent with no loss of bass definition or power.” How can that be possible? Ian Gotts, Head of Stage Production at Insomniac Events, the company that present EDC, was in no doubt, “Once we have shown Julio the basic layout and coverage areas, he comes up with the audio design and he never fails to deliver.”
Electric Daisy Carnival is a leading event in the amazing and ever expanding dance electronic phenomenon, “Dance has really exploded in the US in the last four years,” confirmed Gotts. “We have a really good working relationship with 3G Live and they have seen and watched that growth, and invested to suit our ever expanding demands.” To put some perspective on that, Valdez’s final design for EDC 2012 is more than three times the size of that used for the recent Olympic opening ceremony spectacular in London. “That’s an enormous amount of equipment,” confirmed Valdez. “We were able to provide the lion’s share in house; where we were a little short we were able to call upon the resources of the d&b user network, Spectrum Sound in Nashville coordinating.” Even so, that huge growth, coupled with Dance’s insatiable desire for bass, contradicts Valdez’s assertion of reducing the sub to top ratio.
“It’s a matter of evolution and advancing technology,” he explained. “When I first worked on an EDC show in Los Angeles in 2009 3G had just invested in the d&b J-SUBs. We were all thrilled with the idea of being able to fly an inherently cardioid sub cabinet. Using ArrayCalc I would plot to achieve 114 dB across the audience area plus or minus one dB. What we achieved was frightening, I remember hearing crazy amounts of sub energy at front of house, and at the back behind the delays was the same. But I found I just couldn’t get that ground shaking energy into the furthest bleachers at the sides. What’s changed is a combination of things, led by the arrival of the d&b J-INFRA.” The J-INFRA extends the range of the J-Series down from 32 Hz where the standard J-SUB rolls off, to 27 Hz. “The other thing was the start of 3G’s romance with creating true sub arrays, but the path to modeling the correct arc required some experimentation. The thing is for EDC you’re working with a very, very large space. It’s not often you get the opportunity to experiment in such large environments.” For Valdez his damascene moment came at EDC in New York.
“We created an array stacking a combination of J-SUBs and J-INFRAs. Using the funky new feature d&b has added, I was able to export my model from ArrayCalc to the d&b R1 Remote control software. When I turned the system on my immediate reaction was, ‘Have I done something wrong?’ I walked the room and discovered that low end coverage was extremely consistent for every part of the space, just as ArrayCalc had predicted. What I’d felt was missing was that hump of energy at the FoH position I recalled from 2009. I turned off the array settings and there it was; that frightening amount of energy.”
Some might see this as a dilemma; does Valdez keep the array and give everyone an even listening experience, or leave that enormous low end hump in the middle and amaze all the visiting EDC engineers? “I did neither and ended up satisfying both. I modeled the arc so I could steal a little energy from the sides, especially in the VIP area; and put it in the middle to give the engineers the power they expect. The thing with this style of music is that sweeping down effect; that characteristic drop in the music when a repetitive note cycles ever lower til the ground shakes. To achieve that in a very large space like EDC I deploy another weapon, d&b B2s for delay. In simple terms the bass energy starts to lose impact around two hundred feet. I placed B2 stacks at about two fifty feet, left, centre and right; that’s about forty feet downstage from the FoH position. At these kinds of frequencies, and by not configuring the B2s into a cardioid array, you end up with quite a lot of back firing energy toward the stage. Even though I time align the B2 delays for the audience beyond them, the back wash is, much to everyone’s surprise, a real advantage behind. That means I don’t have to steal as much energy from the VIP area, and the engineers love it; it’s like being wrapped in low end, totally immersed.”
This year’s EDC saw audiences grow from a peak ninety thousand on the final night 2011, to one hundred and ten thousand each of the three nights in 2012. “The move to the Motor Speedway has been advantageous in so many ways,” Gotts concluded, “Not least in terms of space and location. Although we have now pretty much filled the in-field within the raceway, its good quality space. For our audiences we are recognized as having the best production around and great sound is one of the things we are renowned for and take pride in. In that respect Julio deserves all the praise he gets: he’s a great sound designer.”