This annual musical feast fuses homegrown Spanish talent and a handful of renowned international acts – this year’s headliners included Kaiser Chiefs, Two Door Cinema Club, and The Ting Tings, plus Spanish ‘supergroups’, Second, and Love of Lesbian.
From 2-5 August, 40,000 punters per day partied in sweltering heat at this beach resort from noon until 7am (yes, that’s AM!). Spanish sound rental company Acústica backed by D.A.S. provided kit for two of the three stages: the main stage and the beach stage – the latter of which at least provided some relief from the unbearable humidity, thanks to the light sea breeze.
D.A.S. also provided the PA for last year’s event, although the main stage setup was slightly different this time round, as system designer, Joel Damiano reveals.
“This year there is no cardioid element, but the principle is the same; there’s a delay on the subwoofers so that they make a ‘virtual electronic arc’, so instead of narrowing the coverage pattern, because they’re all in a line it brings it out a little bit. This means the people at the sides can get coverage,” he explains. “It’s an old school way of working, but it just works. And these days, bands seem to like all that noise and vibration on stage anyway – you wouldn’t get that if we were using a cardioid configuration.”
The PA for the main stage consisted of 16 Aero 50s per side and 12 Aero 12As per side for the outfills; an additional 16 boxes of Aero 50 were deployed for the delays, located just behind the FOH tower.
A total of 40 LX-218A subs lined the front of the stage, and a further two stacked LX-218As and three vertically stacked Convert 15A.nets per side were deployed for the sidefills. An LX-218A and an Aero 12A provided the drum fill, and three vertically stacked Convert 15A.nets per side with an additional four Aero 12As were positioned in front of centre stage to provide frontfill.
The beach stage was essentially a mini-version of this configuration: two hangs of 10 Aero 50s; the same monitoring; a sidefill setup that relied on three Convert 12As for the mid-highs; a little less sub; no delays; and stacks of D.A.S.’s powered Aero 8A ultra-compact line arrays for frontfill.
This event marked the first outing of the Convert 15A.net, D.A.S.’s latest loudspeaker, which marketing director Robert Giner is convinced is going to be a stellar product.
“The [Convert] 15A.net is a unique and exciting product for us; with the digitally convertible dispersion (DCD) and a 2,000W, three-channel amplifier, it’s versatile and it’s powerful. This is its first time out on the road so there is a lot of expectation,” Giner says. “The Convert 15A.net will come standard with connectivity, so you can monitor and control the system using our new DASnet software.”
DASnet is the manufacturer’s proprietary audio management application for its loudspeakers and processing; it also got its first concert outing at Arenal Sound.
“Here, we are using Aero 50 with Lab.gruppen [FP10000Q] amplifiers, so, via Ethernet from the amps, our DASnet software can not only control the amps, it can also monitor the inputs and the clipping,” Damiano explains. “Using DASnet, we can change the presets inside our speaker cabinets, mute the drivers or the woofers, add delay, create groups, even see the temperature; it’s a lot more than just a monitoring system.”
Two DSPs were used: a DAS DSP-2060 and DAS DSP-4080 – one for FOH and one for the stage, and further processing was achieved via Lake Controller software and a Lake LM 26.
“I use the FOH DSP to send the main L/R sends, then down here [by the stage] I have a second DSP which divides the PA into three throws: short, medium and long,” Damiano reveals. “Then I have eight sends for the subs and two for the long and short throws of the delay towers respectively – the same for the infills and frontfills.”
Although some of the artists opted to use IEMs, the powered D.A.S. [Road 12A and 15A] wedges and sidefills were in use throughout the festival.
“You know, at all 12 festivals I have worked on this year, it’s been louder on stage than out front; thankfully, our monitoring setup was very good – and powerful!” smiles Damiano. “It’s getting a bit crazy, actually, but high volume on stage seems to be what the bands want. If the police measure more than 102dBA out front then they can make us stop, but on stage, there’s no restriction, and that can be an issue – sometimes it just takes over!”
When tuning the PA, Damiano used Smaart Light 7, which he rates for its multichannel capability. Because of the massive area, however, the tuning process was quite a challenge.
“It’s impossible to make the audio perfect everywhere, but we always try to keep the same curve that we have on the main PA; I actually ended up changing the mic position more than 50 times,” he explains. “With the virtual electronic arc, the subs in the centre have no delay at all, and those outside are delayed to open the coverage; it works really well, actually.”
Because the vast audience space in front of the main stage stretched some 160m back, Damiano also had to make a number of tweaks to the system.
“For the long throw, we took out the mids; most people push the highs to compensate for the lack of power, but if you do that, you risk killing the dynamics of the equipment,” he says. “The mid throw we kept absolutely flat, and for the short throw we took 3dB off the high and played with the EQ a little bit so as not to kill the people at the front. This system hits hard right at the back, so you can imagine what it can do at 10m!”
During the Thursday night performances of both Second and Love Lesbian, I flitted between FOH tower and the photo pit. At FOH, the sound was phenomenal; and true to Damiano’s word, it didn’t kill you at the front either – OK, if you walked right in front of one of the subs, you felt it, but overall, it was pretty comfortable: loud, but pure; and not harsh whatsoever.
All in all, Arenal Sound was unlike any festival I’d ever been to. The bands were great, the crowd was super-friendly, the weather was fantastic, and the beer was ice-cold – what more could a festival-goer want? Aside from air conditioned Portaloos, not a great deal..!