With more than 70,000 music fans and music from some of the top names in the rock world, the UK Download Festival proved a success on all fronts – and broke new ground with its sound systems.

DownloadWhile Def Leppard, Pendulum, System of a Down, Linkin Park and Alice Cooper provided the entertainment, SSE Audio were able to use a digital audio network thanks to the Dante compatibility available from the Lake LM26 – a first for the festival.

For the third year running, SSE Hire used its L-Acoustics K1 line-array system, with a Dolby DLP linking all the desks at FOH and an LM26 also at FOH handling the Dante transmission. Onstage, two LM26s either side gave SSE the required analogue outputs feeding audio into the LA8 amplifiers. This allowed digital audio to be run via Dante down SSE’s own fibre-optic network between FOH and stage, running analogue back into them as redundant back-up only. With a minimal amount of processing to achieve the desired sound, everything then ran through the main FOH system comprising of a hang of L-Acoustics K1 per side, including K1-SB elements, side hangs of K1 and stacked SB28 subs. V-Dosc was deployed as delay hangs, with SB28 subs and Kara modules providing front fill.

‘The main thing that we were trying to achieve was to integrate everything into one system, and use one fibre backbone for all of the subsystems that make up the PA returns,’ says SSE Technical Manager Simon Gladstone. ‘Obviously, at no point did we want it to give us less features or flexibility than we have been used to, and ultimately, we want the system to have a superior sound quality. Being able to use the Dante has enabled us to achieve one part of that, and obviously using the Dante has meant that we didn’t need to have 150m of copper inserted into the signal path and degrading the quality.’

Lake processing racks
Dante is a combination of software, hardware and network protocols, developed by Audinate with the objective of delivering uncompressed, multichannel, low-latency digital audio over a standard Ethernet network. Dante is designed to have many advantages over traditional analogue audio distribution. Audio which is transmitted over analogue cables can be adversely affected by signal degradation due to electromagnetic interference, high-frequency attenuation, and voltage drop over long cable runs. Whereas with digital audio distribution over Dante, the audio arrives unaffected at the other side.

The use of LM26 with its Lake Processing and Dante invited comment on the sound: ‘As soon as we switched it on, everyone noted the improved audio quality,’ says Gladstone. ‘As the weekend went on, it became apparent that there was a lot more HF presence in the system, which you didn’t get with the analogue system. I can only put that down to 100m of copper degrading the HF in the analogue domain.’

As well as allowing users to route the audio signal in a digital format, the LM26 also provides dual redundancy, meaning that in the unlikely event of any failures of the digital signal, the LM26 will automatically switch to analogue, a back-up factor that SSE considered essential to have in place for such a major event such as Download. ‘We used an analogue back up system on the Chase and Status tour, but you would have had to physically repatch the wires,’ Gladstone says. ‘This is the first time we’d actually used it within the LM26s themselves, and we are all really impressed at how quickly it switched to analogue when we pulled both fibres just to test it. It was literally less than half a second of audio lost and then it came back straight away.on the analogue system.. As with all new technology, until something is proven in the field its vital to be able to revert to something tried and tested, as in this business delivery is everything and this gave us the peace of mind we need.,.’

Nick Pain, the SSE System Engineer who ran the sound at Download this year, was also impressed with the performance of the LM26s units: ‘Download 2011 is the best I have ever heard the system sound. The HF and overall presence is far better than we have previously had with long runs of analogue, and on Dante it is excellent. One other thing that I was impressed with was the redundant switch over. It’s reassuring knowing that there is an automatic backup transmission path in case things go wrong. In fact, a lot of commented on how good the sound was. Nothing is different in the system except the LM26s.’

Full use of Versarray

Download was also one of the first European festivals to use a full Versarray 212 system earlier in June, when Peavey kitted out the Jagermeister stage.

Last Republic
The Last Republic on the Jagermeister stage
‘After the success of the system on the Agora stage at Frankfurt Messe, it was a logical choice to use the same system for the Jagermeister summer festivals,’ says Peavey’s Jock Shannon. ‘Last year we used a Versarray 112 system, but with the rise in profile of the stage, along with the quality of the bands, it was essential to have a system to match this. The Versarray 212 provides sufficient power and headroom to fully compliment the quality of musicians playing on the stage.’

More festival action is planned for Versarray systems, as Peavey will provide the same rig to Jagermeister stages up and down the UK at a string of this year’s major summer festivals.

Although the amount of boxes may vary depending on the size of individual stages, the core set-up comprises two hangs of Versarray 212 mid/high enclosures, with Versarray 218 subwoofers providing low-frequency reinforcement beneath the stage. Crest CV-20 56 Premium and HP-Eight (40-frame) consoles are used for FOH and monitor work respectively; and all power is provided by Crest Pro 9200 and 7200 amplifiers.

Fortcoming festivals include Sonisphere at Knebworth (8-10 July), where The Defiled will headline the Jagermeister stage; Splendour Festival in Nottingham (24 July), which will be headlined by Feeder; and Kent’s Hevy Festival (5-8 August), where Funeral for a Friend will perform on the Jagermeister main stage.

More: www.sseaudiogroup.com
More: www.lakeprocessing.com
More: www.peavey.com

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