With the Australian live music industry very much on the ropes after a shocking 2020, Gladstone Regional Council in Queensland decided to help out by staging two huge nights of live music headlined by runaway Queensland musical success story Sheppard. The ‘Air Beats’ concerts ran on November 20 and 21, capped off each night by Sheppard, and supported by a huge roster of local artists. Punters were corralled in ‘Beat Boxes’ made of scaffolding to ensure COVID safety, and local company Stage & Audio Event Solutions provided audio, video, and staging. JBL distributor CMI Music and Audio came to the party with a solution utilising JBL’s flagship VTX A12 line array system, ensuring superior sound over the huge 90 metres by 90-metre coverage area.
“When we originally bid on the council tender, it was all a bit mysterious,” relates Aaron Buchholz, Head Technician, Sales and Installations, at Stage & Audio. “We didn’t know who the headliner was going to be, or quite how large the coverage area was. We based our bid on our JBL VTX A8 system. When the scale of what council was proposing was made clear, we discussed various ideas using JBL VTX A series of products with Brian Vayler at CMI. The final solution was a combined A12/A8/G28 system.
With the VTX A12s freighted in, Stage & Audio hung a huge system consisting of 12 A12s per side supplemented by six A8s a side as outfill, and a further six A8s as front fill. 12 JBL VTX G28 subwoofers provided low end. “What a system!” praises Aaron. “We set it up, and established a baseline for tuning, and it was already just so good. After minimal tweaking, it just got better and better. Perceiving the VTX A system as loud is hard because it’s just so clear. There just isn’t any distortion, and the headroom is ridiculous. There were no red lights, and no compression or limiting on the top boxes. The high end is incredibly smooth; the new A Series horn is a completely new sound for JBL.”
It’s not just the sonic performance that impressed Aaron and the crew; the new, designed-from-scratch rigging system also rated highly. “Everything about the A Series is easy to work with,” elaborates Aaron. “From wheeling in the stacks to setting the pins with no weight on the boxes, to picking up the first stack and unlocking into the right angles, all with no effort. One person could do it all with one arm tied behind their back. There’s no lifting or any significant manual labour involved. Everything about the rigging is perfect.”
Aaron used JBL’s Performance Manager software to design and configure the system, utilising its easy-to-use, step-by-step workflow to nail the delay settings from the sub-array to the top boxes. “JBL’s Performance Manager software is a breeze to use,” confirms Aaron. “From configuration to the gig. It’s all networked up, and you have all the information you need in front of you when you’re using the system, including all your metering.”
Stage & Audio were already big fans of the A Series due to their significant investment in VTX A8. “The advantages of the A Series are impressive,” observes Aaron. “Because of the efficiency of the design, the number of amp channels required to run a system at high SPL is almost nothing. Our A8s are smaller, lighter, and easier to hang and transport than other systems, and we end up saving a lot of money on amps and power. The A12s are a big step up in power and coverage from the A8s, and I think they are as good as any of the other top-end line arrays on the market with 12” drivers. I’d encourage every engineer in Australia to get in front of them and hear for themselves.”