Transmission. New Gear
Funktion-One Vero teams with Yamaha PM10 Rivage for a trance extravaganza.
Okay, let’s get the jibes over with before we go any further.
This is more than an ‘aux cord’ story about DJs pressing Play and sound guys with their feet up tooling around on Facebook.
Transmission is a phenomenally successful trance franchise event, still zealously overseen by head honchos, out of the Czech Republic.
It’s a super-slick, super-spectacular, themed event. (Don’t bother trying to hire a laser on a Transmission weekend; they’re all taken.)
Over the daylight savings weekend in Spring, Transmission once again touched down in Melbourne (after a successful 2016 Australian debut at Hisense Arena). This year the event kicked into another gear, hiring out the cavernous Etihad Stadium.
Partygoers parted with $150+ to join thousands of others on the field of play where bigger-than-Ben-Hur staging, lighting, LED and laser were matched by an equally monstrous audio rig.
Full Throttle Entertainment was again selected to provide audio for the 2017 edition of Transmission after a successful performance at the 2016 event. Full Throttle Entertainment is the only Australian source of sufficient stock of Funktion-One PA, and the Transmission Festival is a Funktion-One aficionado.
It’s no secret that dance music events love Funktion-One, and Full Throttle Entertainment, helmed by Adam Ward, is a heavy hitter in the boutique festival market.
Far from a cut ’n’ paste gig, this was to be Full Throttle’s biggest and most challenging of its short yet eventful six-year existence.
First challenge was to cover the space. The promoters wanted every square metre of the field of play evenly covered with pristine, powerful sound. That’s something in order of 80m wide and 80m+ deep, with an additional VIP area behind the FOH position.
Full Throttle Entertainment let its Funktion-One Vero rig do most of the heavy lifting. With 12 cabs a side, Vero looks all the world like a large-format line array but designer Tony Andrews will be the first to tell you it isn’t. It’s a horn-loaded PA based on three different boxes that take care of different throw and dispersion jobs. Near the top of the array it acts like a line array and couples accordingly yet as you move down the array it behaves more like point source with a coherent sonic signature. Talk to a lot of loudspeaker designers and they’ll tell you that most line arrays are trying to do a similar thing under the guise of being ‘line source’, Tony’s just got the cajones to stand up and tell the market he reckons his approach is actually superior in many/most applications.
Outfill was addressed by a flown array of Funktion-One Resolution cabs, with some additional groundstacked Resolution loudspeakers. The arrays were arranged in a L/R, R/L configuration so everyone enjoyed a stereo image. Stereo is important for a trance festival, where a lot of wide imaging and phase effects keeps ravers’ skin tingling.
That’s all as might be expected. But the real fun begins in Sub Land.
The Vero array is not a trifling rig. It’s big, powerful, and its frequency response extends down to about 80Hz. Beyond 80Hz is where a festival like Transmission really distinguishes itself and is one of the reasons why Funktion-One has so many dance music acolytes.
The gig had three main sub arrays, each monstrous.
The Vero 221 (double 21-inch) sub does a lot of the work. They’re arranged in two configurations; both Tony Andrews specials. Something he calls a Delta Array, which I assume provides directional advantages. The other is horn-loaded. Actually it’s hornloading an already hornloaded box, by coupling an enormous plywood extension to an array of three 221 subs. It’s unwieldy but there are significant efficiency and throw advantages to doing this. All up, it’s like something out of a Mad Max rave party.
But the 221s are only assigned half of the bass duties, because Full Throttle Entertainment has something special up its sleeve to reproduce the audio you feel: four of the new Funktion-One 32-inch Super Subs. Yes, you read that correctly. 32-inch subs aren’t totally unheard of, but when you apply some 10,000W of power, a fully-sick unit from Strathfield Car Radio wouldn’t last a minute, so Funktion-One designers Tony Andrews and John Newsham put their signature touch on the massive 32-inch diaphragm and horn enclosure creating a combination capable of handling the massive forces, the extremely high output, 24/7 punishment, all while remaining musical. It’s a brute — about 1.5m high and as big as two or three chest freezers.
Adam Ward is coy about exactly how the subs are arrayed. There’s some secret-squirrel Tony Andrews smarts going on. But the principle is clear: minimise the number of arrivals by keeping the subs arrayed nice and tight.
With the subs effectively acting as one huge point source there’s less smearing of the transient impact. The kick drum is snappier. What’s more, the LF is more coherent — you can hear the notes, rather than filling the space with indistinct trouser-flapping LF woomph.
YAMAHA PM10 ARRIVES
This is also a story about Yamaha’s flagship PM10 digital mixing console. After a long gestation and a number of firmware upgrades, the PM10 is starting to feel fully market ready.
Adam Ward spent time with the console at the Integrate tradeshow in Melbourne and was immediately impressed by its usability. He asked the Yamaha guys to drop the demo system down to his warehouse to hear how it sounded.
“We had a listen to it in the shop and there was definitely a big difference in what we were hearing,” noted Adam. “That made us happy.”
Adam is more accustomed to trucking a hefty Midas Heritage 3000 to festivals and, thanks to dust and heat, he’s likely to continue doing that. “Something like the Rainbow Serpent Festival means four days solid of searing heat and freezing nights with dust that just settles into everything. The dust acts as an insulator and can quickly cook amps and processors if you’re not careful. The digital consoles just can’t handle the conditions… yet.”
But for a self-confessed analogue guy, Adam felt about as comfortable as he could, inserting a brand new, largely-untested digital console into his setup.
“It’s a very nice console and very easy to get around,” noted Adam. “A lot of digital consoles require you to jump down a black hole of menu pages to access settings. Easy and instant access is a big deal for an analogue guy such as myself.”
This was much more than an analogue guy having some kinda digital epiphany. The PM10 brought significant advantages to the setup and the workflow.
When it comes to digital audio distribution, Yamaha has gone all-in with Dante. For a festival in a stadium, Dante made eminent sense. That said, Adam Ward and his team were testing the cable run limits of the protocol.
“We put in about four kilometres worth of Cat 5 cable,” recalls Adam Ward. “It was about managing the limitations of Dante over Cat5 without making the leap in cost to running fibre.
“We had an 80-90m run from front of house to the distribution back of house and then another 80m to the outfill amp racks and to the Vero amp racks. The distances quickly rack up.
“Each run of Dante had a redundant duplication, and we had a whole additional network for another level of redundancy.
“We didn’t need any of it. Dante was so ridiculously stable it wasn’t funny.”
Normally a Lake LM44 system processors take care of system distribution, however the PM10
offered a different route: rather than using the Lake to fine tune the level adjustments to main L/R, side hangs, outfills, VIP area etc, Adam Ward used the PM10 to offer multiple Dante sends. The sub arrays’ level was given even closer scrutiny, having their own fader with further matrix sends.
“The PM10 allows you to have two master faders,” explains Adam. “So apart from the usual stereo master fader, we had Master Fader 2 controlling everything below 80 cycles. We called it the ‘Untz’ fader and it controlled the matrix feeding the various subwoofer arrays.”
And here’s the rub with having a properly designed and implemented 20Hz-20kHz PA, reproducing a music genre disproportionately represented by bedroom producers — the sub content can be light-on, over-cooked or even non-existent, because the producer often does not have the ability to accurately monitor those frequencies.
“This PA puts the bass under a microscope — you can hear the definition and you can really hear the differences between tracks, and poorly produced tracks are really exposed.”
Adam keeps a ready finger on the Untz Fader to assist where he can while doing his best to remaster individual tracks on the fly with appropriate EQ.
After the Transmission experience Adam Ward is a PM10 fan: “I definitely noticed some amazing things. First up, you can recognise the traditional Yamaha sound of the PM3500 or 4000. They had a very distinct sound especially on vocals, which always sat differently in a PM4000 mix. Something new to the PM10, in my opinion, is just how big it sounds. It’s a new console with a new sound, and I was really impressed with the warmth of the console, coupled with the 32 inch subs I was really blown away.”