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Yamaha and South West Audio achieve UK festival first as Glastonbury’s John Peel stage goes all-digital at 24/96


Taking place in the legendary Somerset fields of Worthy Farm from 27th-29th June, the 2008 Glastonbury Festival will see a major ‘first’ taking place, thanks to Yamaha and South West Audio. It will be the first time a major stage at a major UK festival has enjoyed the benefits of 24-bit 96KHz, digital audio from microphone right through to power amp.

The iconic John Peel Stage is the third most high profile arena at Glastonbury and features artists who are at the vanguard of contemporary music. This year it will host performances by 32 artists over the weekend, including British Sea Power, Spiritualized, Biffy Clyro, The Futureheads, The National, Band of Horses, The Kills, Reverend and the Makers, MGMT and The Cribs.

There’s an obvious synergy in the fusing of highly contemporary music with a cutting edge audio system, so the John Peel Stage was the obvious platform for Yamaha and South West Audio (SWA) to put a mark in the sand for the future of festival sound.

Nick ‘Biggles’ Pemberton is both a Yamaha Technical Sales Specialist and freelance sound engineer and it is he, in collaboration with Yamaha Installation Manager Scott Fraser, who has designed the audio system.

“The console side of the system is driven by engineer demand,” says Nick. “The industry has now moved to many sound engineers speccing digital consoles as standard, so SWA stated that they wanted digital consoles on the John Peel Stage… and that they had to be Yamaha PM5Ds.”

Complementing a PM5DRH at both the FOH and monitor positions is a DSP5D - Yamaha’s new rackmount extension which has all the facilities of a PM5D except the control surface. A dual Neutrik Opticon fibre optic trunk links FOH and mons, while a digital audio EtherSound network links the control - via an MY16ES64 interface card and three DME8o-ES satellite interfaces - to 16 of Yamaha’s latest T5N amplifiers, which power a large EAW PA system.

“With monitors being mainly in-ears, there will be no analogue in the system at all,” says Pemberton. “All signals will be split to monitors and FOH at the stage box, with a further set of splits taking the signals to the BBC for broadcast and a recording truck, which itself will feature a Yamaha M7CL digital console.

Of course, as well as audio quality, reliability is a fundamental requirement and Glastonbury is infamous for providing the sternest possible test of any electrical equipment!

However, although new, the system is already well tested. Leading theatre sound company Autograph is already using a similar system on two of their West End productions, with great success. And it has full redundancy built in - just in case the unimaginable does crop up.

In addition, Yamaha is offering training on the system to anyone who requires it. In early June, audio engineers will converge on Yamaha’s offices at Milton Keynes for some comprehensive pre-festival sessions.

“The way we are approaching it is to have an identical system rigged up and say ‘This is what is on the John Peel Stage this year. Here’s your chance to try it out and get some comprehensive training before the festival’,” says Pemberton. ”That way, any engineers who will be using the system can be fully prepared.”

“I believe it’s a really great system,” he concludes. “It has already proved itself and we want to show it off, to demonstrate the future of amplified sound in the most challenging environment. It will be a stern test, but with full redundancy built in I am fully confident that its reliability will match its sound quality.”

South West Audio’s Mark Bott adds: “Last year we significantly increased the amount of Yamaha digital equipment we deployed at Glastonbury. This year we will be again deploying a number of LS9s and M7CLs on the Park Area stages, but we felt it was time to take things further on the John Peel Stage.

“With our previous experience of Yamaha digital systems and the fact that their Ethersound networking is tried and tested, we have been more than happy to work with Nick to really showcase what can be achieved. The relentless schedule of the John Peel Stage will certainly test the system and I’m sure it will be one of the highlights of the festival.”


Products PM5D , T5n , DME8o-ES

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