Nashville Live!

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Steve La Cerra



Education Guide

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As in the rest of the touring market, the digital console has become the norm. Porter says he “hasn't done an analog desk in years.” Lybolt concurs, observing that “groups with larger budgets are moving toward the high-end consoles such as the Studer Vista and DiGiCo D5. I do believe there's even a Midas XL8 out with Kenny Chesney, which I believe is the first XL8 in the area. There's a lot of Yamaha and Digidesign products out, all of which are good and serve their purpose. A lot of it is budget-driven. Those acts that are on a tight budget are on a Yamaha M7CL, while those with a midrange budget will have the PM5DRH. It's upward and onward from there.”

Though Lybolt agrees that many artists are not carrying racks and stacks, he does see that those who have the budgets are “getting into line arrays. There are probably around 10 acts here that carry stacks and racks,” he says. “Out of those I have four, and three of them carry line arrays. Toby, Rascal and Brad Paisley carry VerTec line arrays, and Brooks & Dunn are basically on the Sound Image G5 proprietary carbon-fiber speaker system. They have been on that for 13-plus years.”

Buford Jones is the touring liaison manager and manager of the Nashville office for Meyer Sound, and notes that “many artists are going out with only console packages. Speaking as a touring engineer for many years [Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Eric Clapton and George Harrison], inconsistency is the biggest issue because dealing with a different sound system everyday can be somewhat frustrating. Meyer does offer consistency in this market as self-powered Meyer systems sound the same no matter where you get them.

“On the subject of ‘stacks and racks,’” Jones continues, “some install rigs are much better than in the past. Back in the 1970s, if we heard ‘installed system,’ we thought of a public-address system rather than a true high-quality music system, but now installed systems are much more capable of handling music and can be considered as an option.”

Meyer's presence in Nashville is highlighted by its involvement in Soundcheck, a multiroom rehearsal facility that features Meyer sound systems in each room. “It's a showcase of pro audio gear that we have organized. Sometimes it is recognized as an ‘ongoing trade show.’ And that's what it is. Engineers can come in, and say, ‘I hear you have, for example, the Meyer MILO line array here.’ We can show it to them, but more importantly they can hear it in action. As a hands-on guy, I know you can look and talk about it all you want, but you really have to get your hands on the system and drive it yourself.” For a profile of Soundcheck, see page 62.


Although a lot of Nashville action is in the touring field, the install market is also very active. As Spectrum Sound's sales manager, contracting, Ken DeBelius explains, “The Spectrum Sound install department focuses on performance audio systems, particularly for larger venues. While this department initially did some ‘paging/announcement-type systems’ 10 to 15 years ago, our main market is now the 1,000-plus seat church or theater. Obviously, the HOW [House of Worship] market has found itself needing performance audio systems, and this trend continues to proliferate, even to the point that the typical ‘small-town’ 300-seat church is calling for an audio system to support contemporary worship. Of course, the budget is not always there for this small a venue, but it is surprising what people will step up to.

“In Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, Spectrum designed and installed a complete audio reinforcement and monitor system in a new 1,500-seat performance room, the Roanoke Rapids Theater,” DeBelius continues. “We used d&b audiotechnik Qi1 line arrays, Yamaha digital mixing consoles, JBL wedges and Sennheiser wireless in-ear monitors. The monitoring system is set up so that the wedges and in-ear monitors may be easily sourced from either FOH or from a separate portable monitor console in a custom rolling rack manufactured by our Spectrum Case shop.

“Although most of our installs are out of state, we have completed several large successful jobs here in the middle Tennessee area. Renovation/upgrade of audio reinforcement systems 10 years and older is a large part of what we do. With regard to the equipment, we tend to embrace the newer technology, provided it sounds good, makes sense and provides real value for the customer, and not because it's the latest fad. We will use both line array and point-and-shoot loudspeaker technology, depending on what the particular venue really needs for appropriate pattern control. Except for a very few smaller modest installs, most of our designs lean toward digital mixing solutions.

“Renovations to the audio systems at churches are always a lot of fun; we are presented with the challenge of getting them back up and running from one Sunday to the next. At Calvary Chapel Golden Springs in Diamond Bar, California, we renovated portions of their existing audio system. This worship facility, which hosts up to 12,000 people on a weekend, was not originally a purpose-built worship space, and the seating arrangement around the stage is more than 180 degrees. Designing a suitable loudspeaker system so that we had smooth resultant coverage was quite challenging. After doing some preliminary engineering work in EASE and demonstrating several options of loudspeakers, technical director Robert Rodriguez chose d&b audiotechnik. In the final implementation, we used a combination of Qi1 line arrays, supplemented by Qi10 and Qi7 fills. Robert also chose to replace their ailing analog console with the Digidesign VENUE.”

Allen notes that Hugh Bennett Productions is involved in a fair amount of corporate work that runs the gamut “from outdoor tent events like a ground-breaking to a church convention. It's very broad and can involve anything from P.A.-on-sticks to a full-blown ‘we have to cover 15- or 20,000 folks’ P.A. During what used to be known as Fanfare, we'll set up a stage and an audio system in the parking lot of the Hard Rock Café. That stage will stay there for a few days, and it's ‘blow and go’ like you'd expect for a festival-type situation. The upside about Nashville is there is so much customer loyalty that we don't step on each other's toes. Every sound company that is my size or bigger — and most are bigger — we all know each other and cross-rent from time to time; we all stay busy and usually stay out of each other's way.”

Although he doesn't live in Nashville, Dirk Durham, who has been the FOH engineer for Toby Keith since 2000, sums up the climate in Nashville: “Nashville has a family atmosphere. We rehearse with Toby at the Gaylord Center, and the community is very accommodating. If there's anything we need, if Sound Image doesn't have it, then it can't be had. Toby treats his people like family. I'm on a salary with Toby and although I might not make as much per show as some engineers, I work and get paid consistently. Toby recently bought a house in Oklahoma for his bass player of 16 years as a sort of ‘thank you’ for his loyalty, service and friendship over the years. That's the kind of people you'll find in Nashville.”

Steve La Cerra is Mix's sound reinforcement editor.

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