Wacken wakens to weighty woofers

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As recently reported on WDR's famous 'Rockpalast' music show, the 'Metal Train', began its journey in Switzerland, snaked its way through Bavaria, up the Rhine valley, across to West Falia turning right up into Saxony, before finally coming to halt in Wacken, Schleswig-Holstein. Wacken, I hear you ask? Curiously enough it is a small village of just eighteen hundred people some eighty kilometers north of Hamburg. What was a specially charted train filled with heavy metal fans doing here?

Back in 1990 a local heavy metal band named Skyline was desperate for gigs, and organized their own open air event on a meadow near the village of Wacken. A first audience of eight hundred fuelled the development towards a regional and then a national heavy metal festival. All of a sudden the tiny home of cows and peasants had turned into the site of the world's biggest heavy metal event. The cows are still there, and Wacken is just an average small village like many others. Except for a few days in August when most villagers are involved in 'their' festival; baking cakes, selling tickets, managing the traffic, after all eighty thousand visitors call for a solid parking infrastructure. Of course one of the big moments for everyone is the traditional opening concert staring the Wacken Fire Brigade Band.

Leading German sound company Crystal Sound has been supplying all of Wacken's PA needs since it started to get serious in '96, supplying a variety of systems starting with point source and over the years inevitably moving to line array. This year, as the festival predictably reached capacity, they were persuaded to try something quite different, as MD of Crystal Sound Gerd Gruss explained. "We sent out a technical rider to sound engineers for all the leading acts that would be appearing this year. In it we proposed to use J-Series for side fills, a system we'd begun to invest in heavily earlier in the year. In Flames engineer Tom Kubik jokingly wrote back and suggested, ‘Hey, why not turn the side fills outward and use them as the main system?' He admitted later that he'd heard the J-Series on a Slayer tour earlier in the year and been really impressed. I was already of the opinion that the MOST features of the J-Series (Midrange Outperforms Similar Tops) made this a sensible suggestion, so we polled the other engineers and the promoter about this and an agreement was reached."

Gruss called in Vier Bayer and the developer of J-Series, Matthias Christner, for an authoritative opinion on how to rig the J-Series for this festival's side-by-side, twin stage format. "Being friends of loud rock music we were very excited to get involved," said Bayer, "and we had just completed a year's research on electronically steered bass arrays."

The set up featured matched stereo hangs of J8s with J12s at the bottom of each stage, with flown J-SUBs alongside. "The suboofer column offered the required narrow vertical dispersion to energise the audience right to the back. But to avoid the ‘power alley' effect occurring, we modelled in stacks of three high J-SUBs across the front of each stage, delayed to each other and aligned to the main system."

Friends of loud rock music are right; SPLs at the FoH position were 110 dBA with the LF achieving 100 dBA SPL at one hundred metres right across the field. "By running the ground stacked J-SUBs in INFRA mode we achieved seamless coverage, fading off to the sides of the audience area along with the mid and high end components, yet maintaining that body shaking punch everywhere else."

"All the engineers loved the sound system; no one was disappointed." So the festival motto may be valid for the J-Series, too: "See you in Wacken - rain or shine."

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