The Killers broke Glastonbury’s sound level records when headlining the festival last month, according to Martin Audio. The professional loudspeaker company was responsible for sound at the Pyramid Stage and six others at the festival.
Martin Audio claim The Killers’ set was the loudest in the history of Glastonbury at 106dBA. While it’s long been possible to turn the speakers up even louder, festivals must stay below strict off-site noise limits as agreed in their licence. Technological improvements in sound management have allowed festivals to turn up the volume for the crowd without breaching the off-site limits.
While The Killers reached 106dBA during their Saturday night headline slot off-site levels only went up to 62dBA, under the agreed limit of 65dBA. Festivals monitor changing conditions such as wind speed and air temperature while making adjustments to their sound output, both to ensure the best possible sound quality in the crowd and minimise the noise heard by local residents.
The Killers previously told NME of their frustration with sound restrictions when they headlined Glastonbury in 2007. Frontman Brandon Flowers said: “I remember there was some kind of restriction on the sound and the dB levels, things like that, and there were problems with the PA. I remember being frustrated to get to that point and have these unforeseen things put a cloud over the experience.”
PSN Europe reported 72 Martin Audio MLAs, a type of speaker array, formed the four speaker stacks either side of the Pyramid Stage, plus compact units hung from the Pyramid’s structure. These MLA units were also used in eight stacks of ‘delay’ speakers dotted around the sometimes 150,000-strong crowd. A further 38 subwoofers ran the width of the stage.
The Killers’ Front of House Engineer Kenny Kaiser said: “I’ve been touring with MLA for the last five years, but I’ve not had much experience with it outdoors and I was a little scared. But this system was phenomenal, everything was there, and MLA still has a very long lifespan in my opinion.”
For the first time this year, Pyramid Stage production drew some of its power from a newly-constructed anaerobic digester. The green dome, visible on a hill near the stage, generates green electricity from cow slurry.
The audience at The Park stage can vary from 200 to 20,000, boosted by the secret TBA sets that appear. Mark Bott, Project Manager for SWG, was quoted as saying: “we aim for between 4,000 to 6,000”.
Ahead of The Foals surprise appearance on Saturday evening, the crowd swelled out onto the hill above The Park, well beyond the normal sound range for the stage. (pictured above)
The John Peel Stage, which Sean Paul headlined on Saturday with a secret set, was upgraded from compact to full-size MLA cabinets for 2019. The BBC’s coverage of the stage required subwoofers that would normally be placed across the front of the stage be split into two stacks either side.
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Mark Bott said: “It’s really important the barrier line is as close to the stage as it can be to ensure a connection between the audience and the artist remains. It’s this connection that the BBC is trying to capture and it’s as important for those inside the tent.”
Subwoofers were also placed either side of The Park stage to meet the BBC’s requirements, presumably allowing space for TV cameras at the front of the stage while keeping the crowd as close as possible.
The Left Field tent, where Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell appeared on Sunday, used W8LM cabinets, which Mark Bott said handle speech perfectly.
Block 9’s new 15,000 capacity arena IICON (pictured above) was the festival debut of Martin Audio’s new ‘Wavefront Precision Longbow‘ speaker stacks. What first looks like a second row of speakers actually faces forwards towards the stage, creating an immersive 360-degree experience.
Consultant Sound Engineer Simon Honywill of RG Jones said: “I thought that rather than just having this incredible structure and then just straight forward left right standard deployment, let’s go a bit crazy and do it in surround sound.”
“Each night there was a specially-commissioned presentation where the stage structure is projection mapped combined with 6.1 surround audio which worked highly effectively. Then for the DJ sets, we used a Trinnov Altitude 32 system to effectively up mix the stereo output to the 6.1 surround system and the results of that were frankly outstanding.”
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