Not often do we get to experience a next-generation sound system in all its glory before an official release, let alone at two of Europe’s biggest festivals. Here Colby Ramsey speaks to Pioneer Pro Audio about how it blew Lovebox and Tomorrowland crowds away with its new three-way system this summer.
When Pioneer Pro Audio’s new three-way PA system was picked up by Tomorrowland at Prolight + Sound earlier this year, a great opportunity for both parties began to materialise.
Not only was this an opportunity to feature a brand-new sound reinforcement system at one of Europe’s biggest EDM festivals, it was a unique chance to ‘beta test’ the product in a live environment before its official release in mid-September.
Consequently, Pioneer Pro Audio’s Alex Barrand and his engineering team have been working closely with rental companies for festivals this summer such as Tomorrowland, Lovebox, Hospitality in the Park, the FabricLive arena, and Garage Nation; covering as many different musical genres as possible to really push the new three-way system and see what its maximum capabilities are, as well as building presets and limiter configurations for when it first launches.
“Lovebox was a really good example of a pure techno party environment, so we worked closely with the technicians at Fabric to get that particular sought-after sound,” says Barrand, who helped manage the setup at both Lovebox and Tomorrowland festivals in consecutive weeks at the end of July. “Because it’s in the city centre, there’s a lot of sound restrictions in terms of what you can and can’t do.”
We were about 80 metres from the stage and sonically you could hear everything perfectly, which was really impressive.”
Fundamentally, Lovebox was a larger setup than the one used at Tomorrowland, utilising eight of the new XY three-ways and five XY-218S horn subs. At this stage, Barrand and his team were able to measure the three-ways with acoustic simulation software to get the right splay angles for each box, “and so we really learnt a lot about the directivity of the sound at Lovebox,” says Barrand. “We were about 80 metres from the stage and sonically you could hear everything perfectly, which was really impressive.”
For Tomorrowland it was more of a smaller, boutique-style indoor setup for around 250-300 people so just two XY three-ways and two XY-218S were used per side of the stage. As a result, Barrand was able to lock in some extremely useful presets for each different sub-genre of EDM to accentuate the system’s configuration versatility.
“Being just two wide, we were still able to measure the cancelletion and splay angle points correctly like at Lovebox,” Barrand explains. “We were really lucky to have the opportunity to fine-tune the system to such an extent at Tomorrowland. It was really interesting for me to learn a lot more about the system and what better way to do it than in a live environment.”
The new system used at Tomorrowland and Lovebox is a three-way bi-amp version of the company’s XY Series PA that contains a 12-inch custom made B&C driver, the same that is used in the L-Acoustics K1 but with some extra modifications that make each driver 1500w RMS.
“We knew the three-way was a product that we really had to nail in terms of spec and sound quality, and deliver something beyond even our own expectations,” says Barrand. “The power in terms of the low-end punch definition is definitely there. It was a hard, long process but it’s exciting now to see it growing in different festivals and seeing different people’s reactions.
“We were looking for the flattest response we could possibly get naturally rather than adding any dynamic procession to the box to make it sound good,” Barrand adds. “There’s a lot more definition in that system if you array it three-wide or three-deep, and a lot more factors to consider in terms of how it all comes together within a larger system rather than it just being about the drivers.”
For amplification, Pioneer Pro Audio’s XY series has been using Powersoft right from the beginning, as Barrand reveals: “I had a great relationship with them from my Ministry days and I brought them naturally on board when I joined Pioneer. I was a strong believer in working closely with a reliable amplifier brand during the product’s development so we can match the sound and make sure the characteristics are true all the way through.”
Pioneer Pro Audio plans to bundle together some packages encompassing its new XY-series and Powersoft’s K series amplifiers after sculpting them to particular specficiations, “but first we need to establish how we’re going to do that for each market with different distributors that use different brands,” states Barrand.
Even with regards to the logistics of the system, the rental companies who worked with Barrand and his team at Tomorrowland commented on how easy it was to transport. Ergonomics remain a key factor because the system needs to be set up and taken down as quickly and efficiently as possible, so it was very well executed on that side as well.
“Everyone I spoke to was amazed by the system, but for me I guess there’s something to learn at all times and of course sound will always be very subjective,” comments Barrand. “These two festivals were very unique in their own right and the level of production that goes into both of them is incredible”.
Pioneer’s prerogative going forward then is likely to be the full introduction of its XY-3, enabling them to get a system off the ground in some of the larger club environments: “We’re definitely going to be focusing on the touring market in the next five years with some larger-format systems and there’s some really exciting stuff in the pipeline,” Barrand reveals. “So I’d like to say the XY-3 is the start of something big.”