Improving background music through 100V horns

As followers on Twitter may be aware, we have a large number of systems out for various Christmas markets around the country at the moment. Some of which are using 100v line horn systems to cover wide areas as public address/emergency evacuation systems but also to carry background music.

The nature and physics of the traditional 100v horn dictates that the musical bandwidth of the horn speaker is limited and although there are better 2-way horn speakers now available which stand up to the challenge of a full-range sounding speaker, budgets dictated otherwise.

So to provide a system more suited to background music in conjunction with the horn speaker system, I incorporated several 100v or "constant voltage" 2 way speakers into the system design. These would be located closer to head height than the horn system, in areas around the market where people congregate such as near Gluehwein, coffee or Hot-Dog stalls.

The speakers we used were older (and yes, quite cheap) 6.5" speakers that had done their time and already provided a good financial return. The speaker terminals were protected to a degree from the elements using a cut-out PVC junction box glued to the cabinet using Sikaflex adhesive/sealant which was a substance I use in repairing the motorhome.

By selecting a low watt tapping, we were able to integrate them into the horns located nearby. The horns provide the mid cut or "bark" with the 2 way speakers adding bass and some treble fizz. Now it's not hi-fi by any means but the combination is certainly easier to listen to than horn speakers alone.

6.5" 2 way 100v speaker rigged below a pair of traditional 100v horns. The 6.5" speakers aren't hi-fi but make background music at this Christmas Market sound a bit better around hot-dog and mulled-wine stands.


Audio Solutions: Support Bands

It's not easy being the support act. Generally you get the bare minimum of stage space and soundcheck is whatever time is left before the house crew wants to go for food and so on. So after a bit of thought over the past six months, I think I've come up with a few ways that a support act can maximise it's sound check time and get the best out of its alotted stage time.

1. Type out a channel list and draw a stage plan with power and monitor requirements. Word and Excel are fine for this. Try and keep it all on one page. Now send it to the promoter, the band you are supporting and the house sound crew or the PA provider.

2. Be on time. That means too early.

3. Think about providing some of the following items to make the sound crew's life easier. They will like you for this and may be inclined to go that little bit further to make sure your set goes well.
  1. Latin Percussion Mic Claws for the Kick, snare top and maybe also for your under-mic-ed hats and under-mic-ed overheads with some Sennheiser 604's or Shure B98s for your toms. Less mic stands means less stuff to move on and off stage. This means that when you build your kit off-stage, it's mic'ed and ready to be plugged up onstage. Even better, also provide a working, labelled pre-made mic loom for the drum kit. A sound crew will love you for this.
  2. Z mic bars or the Audix CabGrabber for your combos. Again less mic stands to be schlepped onstage.
  3. If you use a lot of DI's for a keyboard or hard-disc set-up consider bringing a rack-mounted DI rack with some XLR cable pre-loomed and labelled. There are some reasonable quality units that don't cost the earth. They may not sound the absolute greatest, but the goal here is to get as much time onstage as you can. Better still, get a small sub-mixer to mix your multiple synth channels down to 2 channels

4. Try and have your gear in a manner that facilitates easy movement. That means the combos should be on wheels and keyboard/midi/laptop setups should be easily pre-wired offstage ready to power up and connect once you are onstage.

We've put together some packages that combine some or all of the above items. If you are interested in discussing your requirements, feel free to
get in touch.


More Than Just PA Hire

I blogged a while back on some things to consider when choosing a PA company, which centred around the level of advice and production values which professional audio hire companies can bring to your event. As the margins on ticketed gigs and other events fall, professional audio hire companies are bringing more to the table than simply providing audio systems and crew.

Outside of my work with Alex Fernie Audio Ltd., I've done a lot of consultancy in a technical management role for events requiring the integration of the various technical aspects to a production. The Irish National Lottery sponsored
Skyfest is one such event requiring the integration of large format PA systems, 100v line horn systems, RF and microwave transmission, large-scale screens and live performance with a fireworks display and the live TV broadcast of a lottery draw. I've also provided stage management services to festival stages, co-ordinating multiple act changeovers whilst ensuring the backstage, performance and viewing areas are safe for artists, crew and audience alike. These are skills I also bring by default when providing a system for a client.

Many professional audio hire companies are now also willing to share the burden of audio production management for festival organisers. Alex Fernie Audio provided systems on a large number of weekend street festivals in 2011 where we not only provided the PA systems for the various outdoor and indoor stages, but also provided and co-ordinated the backline and instrument hire for the client. For the past two years we have provided a similar service to the Kilkenny Arts Festival, taking care of both the PA and the backline/instrument riders for the over 30 acts involved over the ten-day festival.

Some, but not all, professional sound companies in Ireland offer these "added extras" as part of their festival rental packages. So if you are someone who is at the early part of planning for your 2012 events, it may be worth considering what your PA company of choice can bring extra to the table.


The Summer that was: 2011

With the clocks gone back and the evenings closing in, here's a quick run-down of some of the events that we were involved in over the summer of 2011.

June kicked off with the Havana Festival. This 3 day multi-stage event took place on the Bank Holiday weekend around the streets of Galway. The mainstage featured Salsa and Latin-Jazz acts from France, Ireland and the UK. As the stage was located at the bottom of the pedestrian zone and access would be required for delivery vehicles during the day, the entire stage, PA and lighting system had to be built and de-rigged each day. We used a 4 box aside of Nexo S12 in order to get sufficient coverage down the 80m street. As with many street stages, mixing was side-stage via an SC48, though we used a wireless link to be able to have control of the FOH sound from a position in front of the stage. There was also a smaller stage near the Spanish Arch and several smaller gigs in the pubs around Galway's so-called "Latin Quarter". Backline was also supplied - a lot of percussion and keyboards given the nature of the music. Other gigs in June were a small gig in Ballinahinch Castle with Bill Whelan (Riverdance) and the RTE chamber orchestra and the stunning Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae used a large Nexo S12 system with PM5Ds at FOH & MONs which we subhired from Litton Lane.

July opened with a launch of the Galway stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race 2012. Soon, however, we were knee deep in the 2012 Galway Arts Festival with its usual blend of music, theatre, dance and literary readings. I was stage manager also for the Big Top, which had performances from Bell X1, Duke Special, Blondie and De La Soul. PA for the Big Top was a Litton Lane supplied Arcs system. Finally the last week of July was Race Week and we provided a 30 box Nexo S12 line-array system for the mainstage. FOH boards were an SC48 and a Midas H3000. An SC48 took care of monitors. Also in use were Nexo AlphaE side-fills and 8 mixes of SSE MB4 floor monitors. The Stunning and Horslips were some of the headliners over the 4 day festival.

Into August, we had a few days to catch our breath before we loaded a truck bound for Kilkenny's Arts Festival. Ten days, 27 shows. The venues ranged from St Canice's Cathedral, to hotel ballrooms and other smaller church venues. We also supplied backline for all the events. Nexo S12 and PS10R2 were the main boxes used around the various venues, with consoles from Avid and Yamaha. Things were a bit quieter towards the end of August, though we did supply some Nexo S12, NXAMPs and MB4 monitors to Loftsound for Belfast's Mela Festival. September saw "Fever Pitch", a one day indoor festival in Croke Park's Hogan Suite, featuring Royseven, Ryan Sheridan and more. Finally, the Guinness Live festival was a multi-venue event "weekender" which brought Whipping Boy, Jerry Fish and Duke Special to Galway. Consoles, monitors, crew and backline were supplied.


RF transmission: 50 or 75ohm? Does it matter?

This has been a question I've been thinking about for a number of years. All BNC components in the transmission of RF in professional audio (connectors, antennae etc) are 50 ohm - so how much does it matter if we occassionally use 75ohm cable to connect them all together?

I eventually put the question to Henry Cohen, wireless guru at Production Radio Rentals in New York. He replied as follows:

"The reasons the use of 75 ohm coax is not a problem are:
  1. The front end of wireless mic receivers and antenna multicouplers (antenna distribution) are not truly 50 ohms. They're somewhere between 50 and 75 ohms. No RF engineer at any of the manufacturers will tell you their device is exactly 50 ohms over the entire bandsplit.
  2. Antennas are not truly 50 ohms. Remember that antennas are transducers and as such have a variable impedance based on frequency. The relatively wide band antennas used in production wireless can vary anywhere from less than 40 ohms to over 100 ohms depending on frequency and near field (less than 5-6 wavelengths) obstructions.
  3. Your 50 ohm coax is likely no longer 50 ohms given the wear and tear from flexing of the dielectric and connectors.
  4. If one refers to the Smith Chart, a [perfect] 50/75 ohm mismatch results in less than .75dB loss, while the real world presents far greater losses simply be having the talent move around"

LSI May '11: Interview with Jerry Harvey

Clipped this article from this month's Live Sound International, an interview with Jerry Harvey, monitor engineer for Dave Lee Roth and others. IEM innovator and founder of Ultimate Ears. Read....

B.Y.O.C or Bring Your Own Crew or "iDry Hire"

With Irish financial institutions presently unable or unwilling to finance new professional audio equipment, many bands, venues and other AV companies are unable to maintain their equipment upgrade and purchase schedules. If you are an operation that has access to trained sound crew, you may want to consider the dry hire of professional audio equipment for your events and gigs

Dry hire means hiring equipment without any transport or sound crew. At Alex Fernie Audio Ltd, all our Nexo systems, SSE monitor systems and Digidesign consoles are, to the trained and experienced user, simple plug and play. We want our systems to be as reliable and glitch-free as possible for our own shows, so we are happy to stand over our equipment for month long theatre or rock and roll tours.

Druid Theatre did a recent run in Dublin's Gaiety Theatre making use of a Nexo GEO S12 system on dry-hire. In 2010, Druid also took a substantial Nexo PS and S12 system for a three month UK and Ireland tour of "The Silver Tassie"

The Galway Film Fleadh, held every year in early July, minimize their production costs through the dry-hiring of a number of small speaker systems and wireless microphones for the various lectures and Q&A sessions that accompany the many film showings.

The Cuirt Literary Festival also benefit from the dry-hiring of equipment, using in-house technicians in the many venues to use and operate the range of lavalier wireless mics and small PA systems provided by us.

If you think that dry-hire could help your production budget, feel free to contact us via email or call +353 (0) 91 789848

New Hire Inventory

We've recently added a large number of Nexo PS10R2 speakers to out hire inventory. These are suitable as a high powered speaker on stand system, or as a good compact stage monitor. They also dove-tail well as front fills for our GEO S12 systems.

The PS10R2 is a significant upgrade on the original PS10, itself an amazing compact speaker. They come as standard as left and right pairs, with integrated flying points for use with PS/GEO S12 rigging equipment. The NXAMP now contains DSP for the use of the speaker as a monitor as well as standard FOH duties. In common with the predecessor, the PS10R2 has a rotatable horn for FOH or monitor applications.

We've also added some more RS15 subs and S1210's to our stock of Nexo GEO S12 system. So in the week just ended we were able to service theatre venue seating 750 at one end of the country as well as a stand up hip-hop gig for 900 at the other.

We've also made the long-term rental of a second SC48 from SSE Audio permanent as well as adding some more SSE MB4 monitors to our existing inventory.

Upgrading input modules (AI16) on an SC48

We noticed a slight noise issue with one of the preamps. Quick phone call to Digidesign and within 2 days they had sent over three entirely new AI16 input modules along with instructions on replacement. We set aside a full morning for the job, and started at 9am....

Remove 26 hex screws on the top panel and the top of the board lifts up on a hinge, revealing the brains.

After undoing the ribbon cable harnesses, you undo 2 thumb screws at the rear of the unit and the four screws on the front of the unit at the back of the board. Use a sharpie to mark the number and orientation of each ribbon cable. Time 9:10am...

Repeat for the other 2 input modules - a socket set is handy for getting into the hard to reach thumb screws lower down. Time 9:30am....

2 modules already fitted, 9:45am

Last module in, refit ribbon cables, following the marks we'd made with the sharpie earlier...

Top and the 26 hex screws replaced. Ready for testing 9:55am....


Full-Time (contract) Sound Engineer Required

Alex Fernie Audio Ltd is a leading Irish specialist in the design, supply and implementation of professional sound reinforcement systems. Located near Galway City, we have a client base that includes major Irish arts festivals, international touring theatre companies, local promoters and major event management companies.

Due to increased business in 2010 and expected contracts in 2011, we are currently seeking a senior sound engineer to work on a full-time contract basis alongside freelance staff.

The ideal candidate will:
  • Have a minimum of 10 years of verifiable employment as a sound engineer.
  • Have a minimum of 8 years of verifiable and varied employment in live sound reinforcement, with a majority of this experience catering to audiences of greater than 1000 people
  • Have an excellent and verifiable track record in providing high quality sound for audiences and artists alike
  • Be comfortable in a variety of roles at FOH, monitors or as system engineer.
  • Be willing and capable of performing minor repairs and/or trouble-shooting in the warehouse or on site if required
  • Be fully conversant with and have actively used at least three of the following digital consoles: Digidesign Venue/Profile/SC48, Yamaha PM5D/M7CL/LS9, Digico SD7/8/9, Soundcraft Vi/Si series, Midas XL/Pro series.
  • Be fully familiar with a variety of analogue equipment from Midas, Allen & Heath, KT, DBX, Yamaha and Lexicon
  • Have configured, rigged, tuned and actively used a modern high performance line-array system by at least two of the following manufacturers: Nexo, d&b, l’Acoustics, Meyer, Martin-Audio, EV.
  • Take an active interest in current and innovative developments in professional audio technology.
  • Be familiar with software-based analysis programmes from Rational Acoustics or Metric-Halo

Also, you will be expected to:
  • Have your own transport and a full, clean European driving licence
  • Have a customer- and/or artist-orientated attitude and focus to all work
  • Be a motivated and dynamic individual with a good sense of humour.
  • Be willing and able to provide advice and quotations to customers in due course and help the company secure sales
  • Be physically fit and capable of long hours and manual handling duties
  • Be capable of organizing and delegating duties to a team when on-site
  • Be aware of all relevant safety legislation and best practice when working on-site
  • Be able to supply own required PPE and essential personal audio tools and equipment

There is no closing date for applications, though we would hope to fill the vacancy before May 2011.

The successful candidate will be required to work 96 hours per month, to a maximum of 1152 hours in a 12-month period. Hours not worked in a given month will be carried forward to subsequent months. Hours worked overtime in a given month will be carried forward to subsequent months or paid at a rate commensurate with salary. A minimum fixed salary will be paid monthly regardless of hours worked.
The successful candidate will be expected to be available for work at all times during the period of contract unless otherwise informed or negotiated with the employer.

Gross salary scale will range from €24,000 to €28,000 per annum, depending on experience.

Interested candidates should send a detailed and relevant CV with reference, together with salary expectations, to info(AT)

Druid Theatre Company Purchase Nexo/Yamaha Touring system

Galway theatre company, Druid, have recently completed the purchase of a Nexo PS10R2 touring system from Alex Fernie Audio Ltd. The purchase, which includes Yamaha/Nexo NXAMPs, a Yamaha LS9-16 with MY16AT card as well as cable looms and line systems from Van Damme, will form the backbone of their touring audio system.
Having being a regular hirer of PS10 and Nexo systems from Alex Fernie Audio Ltd since 2005, it made sense for the company to invest in the new PS10R2. Druid Theatre are currently en route to the US, where "The Cripple of Inishmaan" will tour for the next five months. 2011 promises to be a busy one again for the theatre company, with new productions in the pipeline for the second half of the year.
The combination of the Yamaha LS9-16 with MY16AT card and an Echo Audio AudioFire12 will allow the company to run the sound for shows from a Apple Mac running Qlab Pro via MIDI as they have been doing for the past 2 years. The AudioFire12 is a 12in/12out firewire interface.
The purchase also includes a range of flightcases for amplifiers, consoles, cable and speakers.
Druid have also purchased some EV ZX1's, amplification and microphones for their redeveloped theatre space which, when not in use by Druid, is available to hire for theatre shows, as a rehearsal space or as a venue for press-calls or media receptions.

Planning an Election Campaign?

Car roof loudspeaker
Roof mount horn and amplifier

If it's election time, hustings, advertising this simple system will get your message across. Plug into the cigar lighter of your vehicle and fit he horn loudspeaker to your roof and you have a powerful promotional tool. When you are finished, unplug, remove the roof speaker and your vehicle is back to normal.

Buy for €340 (inc VAT)
Hire for €30 per day (inc VAT) or €120 per week.
Call us on 091 789848.