Outlook & Dimensions 2013

Our traditionally busiest summer period was capped off by the now ritual trip across Europe to what is fast becoming our second home in Croatia, where Neuron were asked to provide sound for multiple stages at both Outlook and Dimensions festivals for the second year running. This time around our adventures weren’t just restricted to land, as we were also due to provide additional equipment to cover audio on a couple of the infamous boat parties taking place during each event. By now we’re somewhat familiar with the fort, which is a festival site quite unlike any other with it’s towering solid stone walls, nooks, crannies and jutting plant life, and our plans for the installation reflected that.

Outside the Fort (Arena 6)

In the run up to Outlook, it was decided by the festival organisational team to move the roots sound clash arena from the Outside area where it was held previously into Fort Arena 1, providing our crew with a welcome break from having to shift our towering speaker stacks between festivals. This also had the benefit allowing us further time to tune  the system to it’s surroundings over the following 2 weeks of music, something that we were grateful for as we’d taken the plunge on a rather abnormal speaker setup this year…

24 Psyco Subs was absolutely breathtaking last year, but as part of our movement towards smaller, more efficient systems and a company wide drive to chase exceptional sound quality at any cost we entered into discussions early in the year to take onboard Void Acosutic Research Ltd’s newest flagship dance music monster, the Incubus. Almost everybody we spoke to told us were mad to try and convert this artfully sculpted, no compromise installation system into a tour-friendly package which only cemented our desire to achieve against the odds even further – thankfully for us, our good friends at Void HQ were more than willing to rise to the challenge and after a few weeks of consulting on the important parts such as handle placement, flightcasing and such the order was placed and production began in earnest, and in secret.

Incubus Hyperfold under construction at Void Acoustics HQ

During this time, we also decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to capitalise on the great impression left on all of our staff by Powersoft’s K Series amplifiers that had been running our bass section for the past two years. To this end, we implemented a range of K Series into not only the amplification for the entire Incubus, but our existing Arcline and Stasys systems as well. After extensive testing we also decided on taking on the incredibly powerful and flexible Armonia software suite provided by Powersoft’s DSP+AESOP hardware, which was installed into each individual amplifier giving us no less than 20 channels of signal processing, limiting, delay and equalisation across the Incubus speakers alone.

Custom Powersoft K series amplifier racks

Powersoft's Armonia software monitoring the stacks

Keeping this all under wraps when our entire crew were brimming with excitement was no mean feat, and those of you who follow our Facebook page may have seen an array of photos in the run up to the event covering all of the new toys we had purchased to ensure that each stage’s artist selection was complimented the very best kit on offer. Apart from a brief system check outside of our office that drew crowds of confused onlookers and no shortage of noise complaints from neighbours, we managed to get the cabinets onto our truck and off towards sunnier climes with little fuss.

Arriving on site, we wasted no time in stacking the cabinets, with a little help from our friend Phil from EnTEEtainment Ltd in a telehandler…

Air Array on a telehandler

The Incubus Air Array’s 90-degree wide dispersion allowed us to remove the need for in-fill speakers once they were carefully toed in to ensure even coverage across the front row, and the Sub and Hyperfold kick cabinet’s natural stacking height coupled with the frankly enormous mid-top enclosure actually meant that the system was marginally taller than even last year’s towers! Once stacked neatly and strapped in for the coming weeks, we fired her up and took in the sound of the full system for the first time.

Soundchecking the Incubus on site

With just a few tunes, we realised that the system had already exceeded our expectations and was one of the most high fidelity systems of this size that many of us had heard. Jonny Scratchley, festival director summed it up succinctly with a simple ‘WOW!’ when we turned it up to full tilt!

Swamp81 in full swing on Incubus

Across both Outlook and Dimensions, this sort of report was consistent and prevalent from  not only artists, stage managers and festival crew, but also the 2500 festival-goers who stood in front of the stage every evening alike. Something we were very grateful for indeed, as it was often coming from some of the world’s most discerning ears and acts booked by industry heavyweights such as Eglo Records, Swamp81, Leisure System, Church, the inimitable Three Chairs headed up by Theo Parrish and Moodymann:

Theo Parrish and Moodymann on stage at Dimensions

Benji B’s Deviation was also kind enough to give us a shout out on his Radio 1 show for ‘exceptional sound’, which you can hear a clip of below.

[audio mp3="http://neuronproaudio.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Benji-B-Void-Shout-Out_01.mp3"][/audio]

Above all, this system put a smile on the face of all of our staff every time they worked on it, and we're definitely looking forward to showing it off across the UK and the rest of Europe in months to come – bookings have already started rolling in so if you have an event where you really want to make an impact, give us a call!

– Words by Kyle Marriott

The Courtyard

Returning to The Courtyard in the middle of Fort Punta Christo, the updated brief for 2013 from Outlook / Dimensions director Simon Scott (who is not known for mincing his words) was clear and simple; “Could have done with a bit more bass in there.” Words every sound designer working on a bass music events hopes to hear from the client; far away from home and the EHO noise limitations that plague UK festivals. Neuron Pro Audio's designers set about putting together a system that would deliver the ultimate bass music experience.

A new combination of Void Acoustics cabinets was deployed in this system with the bottom end of the frequency spectrum at the forefront of our minds. Eight Psyco Subs were arrayed in a mono block to gain maximum low-end extension from these 18” horn loaded cabinets, which benefit massively from having a shared extended horn mouth. Two Arcline X double 15” subs per side were then placed on the outer edges of the sub array to cover the kick and upper bass frequencies, and were chosen due to their ability to play up to 130Hz without colouring the sound – quite a rare quality in a horn loaded sub. Not to be outdone by the Incubus system Outside the Fort, the Courtyard  also boasted an element of glamour; on top of the 18Kw of bass we added our new white Air Motion V2 conical horn loaded mid high cabinets. As with the Incubus Air Array these cabinets are a Kevlar / fibreglass moulded composite and really were a talking point amongst the festivalgoers.

At front of house the new Behringer X32 digital mixing console built in conjunction with Midas made a Croatian debut. We have recently added the console to our hire stock and were keen to put it through its paces. More of our new stock of Powersoft K series DSP amplifiers were implemented to power Psyco subs and Arcline X while our venerable Chevin Research platform was chosen to drive the Air Motion due to a tonally warmer class AB output stage. A full compliment of new Pioneer DJ back line was also in use with CDJ2000 Nexus and DJM900 Nexus preferred amongst the majority of artists over both festivals.

As soon as we fired up for sound check on the Wednesday afternoon before Outlook I knew we had created something special. The first and most noticeable element of the system was how impressively the Air Motion performed. The efficiency of the isometric conical design is simply amazing, two 850 watt RMS Air Motion V2 matched the fearsome bass with headroom to spare and provided uniform coverage from the front to the back of the 400 capacity arena. The sub / bass was tight, controlled and heavy all the way to the back of the arena with plenty of presence in the upper ranges meaning it handled a wide variety of musical genres very well across the two festivals.

In short this is one of my most favourite systems we have ever put together and shall most certainly be doing it again given the chance. It was a pleasure to receive nothing but positive comments from artists / promoters who included Egoless, Manchester’s own Hoya:Hoya with Krystal Klear, Illum Sphere and Jonny Dub, SBTV, BBC Radio1Extra’s DJ Cameo and Newham Generals to mention a few.

Noah's Ballroom

One of the most unique spaces on site, the cylindrical shaped Noah’s Ballroom affectionately named after festival director Noah Ball features one of the best atmosphere’s on site. The 200 capacity open-air space surrounded by 30 foot high walls has to be seen to be believed. The DJ booth is built into the fort walls and sits high above the crowd making it a firm favourites for artists whilst the dance floor below is easily filled and generally packed wall to wall with party goers.

With its limited capacity saving space gets a big tick on the brief when it comes to designing a system for this stage. Our trusted Void Arcline system returned this year featuring two Arcline X double 15” horn loaded subs and two Arcline 6 small format line array mid high cabinets per side. Its small format means that more space for people is saved but don’t let its appearances deceive you, this is a small system with a big sound.

The stacks were placed in close proximity to the walls meaning that minimising mid high reflections can be tricky in such a small space, particularly with a cabinet with 120 degree horizontal dispersion as featured in Arcline 6. The key is elevation and correct down-fill angle, Arcline 6 were elevated above the audience on winch stands and then angled down to minimise first reflections meaning that the audience receives the most accurate reproduction. Once again Powersoft K Series was implemented to drive the system this time processed via the Armonia software suite and Pioneer Nexus series DJ back line was also in use.

The Ballroom featured many of the club night takeovers over the course of the two festivals the most memorable being the Hit & Run on the Thursday of Outlook featuring Chimpo, Strategy, Rich Reason, Kydro, T Man and more.

– Words by Jonny Wharton

As ever, this is one of our favourite events of the year and a huge part of that is due to the wonderful crew and artists that we are privileged to work with. There are too many names to list them all, but alongside Noah Ball, Simon Scott and Jonny Scratchley we have to give extra special thanks to Amy, John, Alex and of course Kim at EnTEEtainment for keeping us sane and entertained in equal measure! See you soon, guys…