d&b's Js with Qs at the Concert for Europe 2006.

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As a way of passing the baton of State, you have to agree that this outdoor musical celebration, with an artistic reflection of the values that have made Europe great, created an unforgettable experience for the completion of the Austrian European Union Presidency. The President and the Chancellor of the republic, as well as prime movers of national and international policy, economy, media, arts and science were there without exception.

Staged in front of the glorious Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, this truly spectacular summer event featured the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Plácido Domingo performing a mixed program of classical favourites by Mozart, Shostakovich, and Schumann. Special guest, Juan Diego Flórez's, sonorous tenor delighted the audience with an equally varied selection, culminating with a crowd-pleasing rendition of "La donna è mobile" by Giuseppe Verdi.

Estimates vary as to the size of the final audience, "Maybe one hundred thousand," said Martin Rode from d&b audiotechnik, "Certainly more than the sixty thousand we expected," countered sound engineer Holger Münz. Whatever the exact figure, this was a huge audience spread wide, and audio contractors Crystal Sound needed to take great care to ensure everyone got to enjoy the full majesty of the performance. "I designed the system layout together with support from d&b in Germany," explained Münz. "We used the new J-Series system; we have used other systems here before, the concert has been staged annually since 2004, but this new system is just perfect."

The full system deployment described by Rode comprised, "A main stereo system of J-Series on the stage, with two rings of J-Series delays; one at ninety metres and again in an arc at two hundred metres; beyond that, at the three hundred and twenty metre mark, we positioned Q-Series loudspeakers. Nearfill in the stage area was provided by Q7s, with a further wide area fill of C7s approximately forty metres from stage to the extreme sides. Holger (Münz) set the delays with Crystal Sound's Production Director Michael Rabold. Controlled by ROPE C, all the EQ and delay was set in the D12 amplifiers, with a master time delay and filter from Soundweb at the FOH position. In fact no EQ was required really, just the standard HF compensation for the first two cabinets at the top of the stack."

A great program and a well-set system is not the end of this story, weather intervened, "the concert had been cancelled three weeks earlier due to ferocious rainfall," said Münz, "and there were showers this night. The audience however, were prepared, giving me my biggest problem of the night. They had all brought lightweight plastic raincoats just in case. At times when the showers were heavy the rainfall on the plastic Macs was like white noise. I had to push the volume to get the lower parts of the orchestra in a good relationship to the rain noise" A very different environment to the inside or a concert hall, despite which Münz kept the PA to suitable concert levels, dBA peaks at 100-102 reported Rode, which is entirely as it should be.

Rain aside, the free Concert for Europe was a resounding success, receiving the best reviews yet for this annual event. There's a lot to be said for the Austrian way.

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