Ole Witthøft

Orange Stage: Sound makes festival-goers feel safe

Technology can't possibly be human, you might think. But then you haven't heard of the sound system on the Orange Stage.

The speakers at the festival site in Roskilde look like an invasion of spaceships from Star Wars. Standing tall and black, they look a little scary. The speakers are huge.

But you don't have to scratch the surface much before an exciting universe of technology opens up.

The festival speakers from Meyer Sound in California are something special.

Let's turn a concert experience upside down for a moment

What are the 3 worst things that can happen at a concert? (we disregard power cuts and the band catching the collective flu).

This can ruin any concert experience:

  • That the band members cannot hear what each other is playing
  • That the audience cannot hear the band
  • The crowd gathering

A good sound system can fix all that.

That's why Meyer can do much more than just play loudly.

Send a warm thought to these towers when you see them


Notice the banana-shaped speaker clusters

This is what characterizes modern concert speakers like Meyer: they consist of a seemingly endless row of small speakers hanging on top of each other.

Those banana-shaped clusters are an engineering feat, and from now on you'll never go to a concert without first checking if they have cluster speakers. It's important.

The acoustic principle behind the special design is called line array and it is very different from the speakers in your living room.

It's a bit geeky, but there you go. An ordinary speaker in your living room is a point source. This means (roughly speaking) that it emits sound like ripples in water.

Line sources, like the Meyer loudspeakers on the Orange Stage, are something else entirely. They emit sound as a wave. In other words, with a much greater intensity.

The great thing about the line source is that the sound doesn't get louder even if you move closer to the stage. And that's really smart! This means that the audience, quite unconsciously, does not want to gather around the stage.

The sound doesn't get louder as you get closer anyway, so why not stay standing at a distance?

Just ask festival spokeswoman Christina Bilde what matters most to her during the festival. I can reveal that it's not long guitar solos that she cares about. Safety, she says. The most important thing is the safety of the audience.

That's why it's super smart that you can control concertgoers' behavior with technology instead of fences and controls.

The sound system also ensures that the sound is uniform throughout the 165 x 120 meter space in front of the Orange Stage. It's acoustics (the world's most invisible science) working to keep guests comfortable.

Doesn't that sound almost like a kind of technological humanity? It does to me.

The speakers cover the space with sound

The speakers from Meyer Sound are digital. Before you say: Oh yeah, so is my dishwasher, I'll tell you that here's something you should pay attention to.

I will modestly interject that my own company produces award-winning digital wireless speakers for home use, while Meyer Sound are true pioneers when it comes to digital speakers for concerts.

The clever thing is that you can control the sound of the speakers. Unlike ripples in the water (which spread in all directions), a digital speaker can control the sound to cover a specific part of the concert space.

Try walking around the square while the music is playing and notice how the experience is presented to you and how subtle the nuances are.

And even wilder: Go to Roskilde and notice that the sound is much weaker behind the Orange Stage than it is in front of it. Special loudspeakers provide a form of noise cancellation so that the citizens of the city are bothered as little as possible by the loud sound from the stage.

The people behind the mixing desk are trained to use this sound system. When the big names are on stage, the sound people's job is not just to blast sound into people's heads.

They have to bring art to your ears. And that job takes on new and better conditions when the speakers are digital. There's a true experiential production happening in front of your astonished ears, and a sublime soundman delivers a product that you should notice and recognize.

So listen and enjoy.

It is sound that sets art free

The technology also keeps the sound on stage under control. This means that the bassist, for example, can clearly hear the drums. The singer can clearly hear the choir, and the guitarist knows exactly where to solo.

It's the sound system (and nothing else) that makes all this possible.

The fantastic sound gives performers the confidence to better express themselves to the audience.

And you know what? That's the whole point of audio technology. To set art and people free.

Therefore, respect to the RF, which emphasizes the quality of sound for the benefit of all of us.

Have a great festival!



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Ole Witthøft
Ole is the founder of System Audio. His 3 greatest passions are music, design and technology. Every day, Ole is working on some kind of projects, and you find him in the workshop, in the production, behind a computer or on one of his many presentations around the world.
Sound makes festival-goers feel safe | SA

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