Funktion-One has been showcasing audio system design concepts and its latest innovations on Glastonbury’s The Glade Stage for many years. This year was no different. Working with rental partner Audio Plus, the loudspeaker manufacturer deployed a Vero VX system at the festival for the first time. Funktion-One's Product Support/Live Sound Engineer Will Wright reports.
Last year (2022) saw The Glade Stage move out from under the trees into a bigger area, where a new ‘Starspan’ structure, with its opening pointing uphill towards the old railway line, created a much larger space for the audience. The open-sided structure provides a versatile environment for the crowd to extend out of the tent and up the hill during busy periods - at peak, hitting an audience size of around 15,000. During quieter times, people take the weight off and enjoy some music from a more conversational distance.
After learning a lot about this new location in 2022, we decided to design a system which would give us the ability to control the sound surrounding the tent in accordance with the flow of the audience. When required, it was possible to deliver loud, clear sound all the way to the edges of the audience area - approximately 90 metres from the stage barrier. This was necessary for some of the headline acts when the audience densely filled the whole area. It also made it possible, at quieter times during the day with less intense acts on stage, to create a welcoming environment for people to sit down and still enjoy the music with very high quality sound wherever they decided to be.
In order to try out different system ideas, we built a virtual model of the Starspan structure and surrounding area using our Projection software. The acoustic properties of the structure mean that, although there is a relatively big opening at the edge of the structure, getting the main PA coverage to extend very far out from under the canopy is difficult. This also applies to the outside edges. We decided upon a relatively conventional approach, using main left and right hangs with left and right delays and out fills outside to ‘wrap’ around the structure with sound. By using Vero VX for all these positions, we could achieve a consistent sound field throughout the entire area, with the out fills and delays picking up the main hangs seamlessly.
To take full advantage of Vero VX’s strong stereo imaging capabilities, the main left and right hangs were placed as wide apart as the structure would permit,.
Rigging the main PA was straightforward. The main left and right hangs consisted of seven Vero VX90, each flown from a VX-M Beam, single point adjustable flying system. This allows the array to be flown with all cabinets hanging straight before compressing the array into its pre-set angles and adjusting the overall tilt angle remotely. This allows both pan and tilt to be fine-tuned after the PA is at trim.
The delays and out fills, each consisting of four VX90, were ground stacked on platforms using the outrigger legs, which attach directly to the transport dolly. The legs were pre-installed at ground level before being lifted onto the platforms with a forklift. Angles were then set according to our Projection software prediction and the dolly strapped to the platform. This makes deployment very fast.
“By using Vero VX for all of these positions, we could achieve a consistent sound field throughout the entire area, with the out fills and delays picking up the main hangs seamlessly. ”
In 2022, we used a stack of 12 F124 off stage-right as the main source of bass, which was coupled with a secondary stack of five F221 behind it to form a gradient cardioid array. This year, we decided to build a stack of 16 F124, again, off stage-right as the main source. By making the stack taller, we improved vertical directivity right down to very low frequencies. This provided extremely consistent and well defined bass all the way to the back of the audience.
Rather than using a separate stack of loudspeakers to form a cardioid pattern, we integrated this into the main stack by facing four of the F124 backwards and applying some specific processing which was fine-tuned on site to provide the necessary rejection. The configuration of the backwards facing subs was designed by Tino Reschke (Audio Plus). The concept being to maintain vertical symmetry with the ground reflection and create a large vertical source facing backwards without using too many loudspeakers. The main bass stack was placed on this side for a few reasons, one of which was to focus the strongest area of cancellation towards the closest neighbouring stage on the festival site.
Using a large single source of low frequencies provides very even coverage. Putting it to one side is a compromise, made necessary by the presence of a stage (it wouldn’t be much of a gig without that). With the relatively low frequency crossover point into the VX, it makes the position of the stack relatively unlocatable for most of the audience. For the small area off stage-left who would notice the difference, we used four F221 in a cardioid arrangement. This was tuned to complete the spectrum being heard from the main hang on that side without interfering with the main bass stack. We also deployed two F221 at each delay tower. This allowed us to run the main subs lower for quieter acts and still get even coverage to the back of the audience.
The entire system was driven by 17 XTA DPA100-DSP amplifiers. These amplifiers have the power to drive the F124 with plenty of headroom and the fidelity to excel throughout the entire frequency spectrum. The DPA’s onboard DSP was used for speaker processing.
Control of the system was dealt with using globcon, an exciting new global control software which has been adopted by XTA and will also be available to control Funktion-One D Series amplifiers. Richard Fleming from XTA was on hand to assist Audio Plus’s Tino Reschke with programming some intelligent grouping, enabling fast and easy control of the system. As the signal matrix and distribution was bordering on complex, we decided to try out a Prodigy MP Multifunction Audio Processor from DirectOut. This allowed us to easily take a ‘Left Right Sub Fill’ set of signals from the XTA MX36 console switcher in both AES and analogue formats and distribute them to their relevant locations over Dante with analogue redundancy, while applying relevant time alignment to the signals. Also, by utilising the mic pre card, matrix mixing and on-board EQ and dynamics processing in the Prodigy MP, we were able to run the compere and VOG microphones directly into the system, allowing the FOH consoles total freedom between acts.
Everything, including consoles, was locked to the Antelope master clock at 96kHz. Most DJs used Pioneer V10 DJ mixers which were fed into a separate Dante network using ‘Tino’s magic boxes’. The Dante capabilities of the FOH consoles allowed for a digital signal path with analogue backup for almost all DJs. As there were some relatively complex live acts throughout the weekend, we used two independent FOH consoles: two SSL L550 Plus with their own 64ch madi I/O running on SSL Blacklight concentrators. This allowed visiting engineers to have a good amount of prep time to work on their show and ensured we had efficient changeovers. Both house consoles and visiting consoles fed into the XTA MX36 over AES with analogue backup.
System tuning was straightforward, even given the usual constraints of working on such a busy site such as Glastonbury (each stage is given a very limited amount of time for system set up). We chose to set the main F124 stack cardioid time alignment first to achieve the level of rejection we wanted at the right distance. Then we moved on to lining up the main left and right hangs with the F124s before bringing in the F221s, lining them up to fill in that small area mentioned previously. Time aligning the delays and out fills was simple. All done by ear by Tino, Tony Andrews and Andy Williams (K-Klass and Em Tec).
As soon as the first act started, we knew that the system was performing extremely well and was very easy to manage. Throughout the weekend the stage hosted a wide variety of acts, with various styles of DJs, electronic and live acts. From bands like Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Orchestra, to punchy electronic acts like Carl Cox playing his Hybrid Live set, to Channel One Soundsystem and their exceptional 10” dubplates. The entire audience experienced powerful, clear and emotive sound with each act easily creating a definite bond with the audience. A real stand out performance was from K-Klass who pulled in a huge crowd, filling the entire area with happy, dancing people.
Speaking from a front of house engineer’s point of view, The Glade Stage was a joy to work on. The system allowed me and all visiting engineers the freedom to do our job with ease and enjoyment. Building a balanced mix came very naturally, as there was so much headroom and space. Everything sounded effortless, meaning you could push a lead vocal through the mix without hindering the balance of anything else. It was also possible to mix using creative stereo panning, safe in the knowledge that the imaging was clearly audible a long way off centre axis. Having the chance to feel that direct relationship between the artist on stage and the audience feels like a real privilege at events like this, especially as it was so clear that the music was having such a profound effect on people.
This enjoyment extended late into the night, as the DJs provided good quality (lossless) source material. It’s impossible to overstress how important that is. At regular points I felt completely immersed in the experience, making very minor adjustments to the system and seeing direct results. Tenths of a decibel on an EQ band were noticeable and important at this point. With the area packed full of dancing people who were all completely immersed in the same musical experience as us, there was a definite feeling of responsibility to maintain this level of quality and protect the cleanliness of audio which we had achieved. Needless to say, this level of focus paid off as the communal enjoyment, there and then, was tangible.
This system deployment represents what we at Funktion-One believe in. Sensible designs and ideas which are born out of an understanding of both the realities of how live events are built and function, and a familiarity of how groups of people respond to music when the audio quality reaches a certain level, but also the importance and responsibility of the sound engineer at these times. It is not the responsibility of the audience member to recognise good sound, it is the responsibility of the sound engineer to deliver sonic art in its intended form, giving the listener the best chance of allowing this art into their consciousness and having a communal experience. We worked with everyone involved to find uncomplicated solutions whenever possible, working as a team to create convincing entertainment which felt real and natural. The technology used to create these events is impressive and interesting to the inquisitive mind, not to mention necessary to achieve our goals, but it is the understanding of the way in which humans enjoy music personally and communally which is the real road to good sound engineering.
We hope that if you were present at The Glade Stage 2023 then you feel, as we do, that it was a great experience. Otherwise, we hope you have found reading this informative and, hopefully, inspiring. Good sound is for everyone to enjoy and for us, as sound engineers, to understand.
The Audio Crew
Tony Andrews – System Design and Tuning
Will Wright - System Design, FOH, Rigging, Plant Operator
Stefan Imhof – Audio Plus
Tino Reschke – System Tech
Ben Wilbee – Monitors/Patch
Phil Couch – Monitors/Patch
Nathan Hernando – FOH, Console Programming
Oli Bruml – Crew