Qs as well as sunshine and scenery at NZ's Rippon Festival
One of New Zealand's rarer birds, the Kakapos, has much in common with Rippon Festival staged at Lake Wanaka a National Park area on the South Island.The Kakapos are the only member of the parrot family to have a lek mating system, where small territories are occupied by males during the season. They excavate a hollow in the ground and then produce a low-frequency booming noise around 40 Hz using an inflatable air sac in the thorax. Females can hear this noise from up to five kilometers away.
The Lake Wanaka setting is far too beautiful to be described as a hollow in the ground, but the festival, like the Kakapos, is entirely native to New Zealand, in that Rippon, more than any other festival, celebrates the talents of New Zealand bands and musicians. Rich Green was front of house system engineer for the festival and he explained, without recourse to parrot analogies, why the festival is so popular. "I have worked the last three Rippon Festivals, and while there are larger festivals in New Zealand, Rippon would have to be one of the most successful outdoor shows in the country. It consistently sells out a couple of months before the show, approximately five thousand tickets and is very well organized by a dedicated local committee. It used to run annually but the last few shows have been every second year and I think this formula has worked well, perhaps making it just that much more special. The festival offers a very diverse range of music, rock, dub, drum and bass, indie, you name it. Sonically this poses its own challenges, of course, but the show flowed surprisingly well this year. The diversity of the event is definitely a big part of its charm, well that and getting merry in the sun."
Green has just switched to using a d&b audiotechnik Q-Series system supplied by Soundpeople out of Christchurch; a switch he's found entirely to his liking. "As far as the system goes, I couldn't be happier with its performance. The organizers and the punters were also pleased, as well as the bands, and incredibly, even the engineers gave the thumbs up. I don't think I have ever heard so many unsolicited positive reactions regarding audio quality." A convert certainly, but Green has a critical ear.
"I think it would be fair to say that with an audience of five thousand, six Q1s per side is probably the minimum requirement for this show and it would have been nice to have had one or two more boxes at the top of the array, the flat section, to increase the sound density in the far field. But that said, the system coped very well and although it was certainly running into gain reduction it never hit limit at any time. As far as coverage is concerned the natural amphitheatre is quite wide so we were definitely exceeding the specified coverage of the Q1 loudspeaker and as you would expect the SPL was low at the outer edges, but in the context of this show I don't feel that this was particularly problematic. Essentially the audience could choose whether to be "in the thick of it" in the middle section or just relax on the hillside at the top or outer section with a few wines. For infills and some outfill we used the Q7 loudspeaker.
Although Green wasn't attempting to attract females from five kilometres away, low-end propagation also proved an important issue, not least for some of the more challenging musical content. "The twelve Q subwoofers we used produced a very impressive output and we supplemented these with a further twelve JBL dual 18" subs. Yes, some of the bands required a very sub-heavy mix." He added wryly. "The Q subwoofers were placed on the lower decks of the scaffold towers with some of the JBLs below at ground level and the rest were spread in a long array across the front of the stage. This configuration produces a very smooth and continuous wave front with no nodes or antinodes. The two sub systems integrated pretty well but we would happily swap the JBLs for some B2s!"
"Highlight of the show was definitely Kora; they sounded spectacular! If you get a chance to see them it is well worth it, they are the band to watch at the moment and I am pleased to say that Soundpeople are hands down their preferred PA company."