The jazzopen concerts are a special highlight in Stuttgart’s event calendar. This varied music program has been delighting tens of thousands of visitors every summer since 1994. The main venue for the series of concerts is the Schlossplatz (or Palace Square) in the heart of the city.
In 2023, a d&b Soundscape system was used for the first time on Schlossplatz as part of the jazzopen concerts held from 18 to 23 July.
Soundscape in a 180° setup with seven line arrays
A 180-degree setup was used, which guests interested in sound technology would have seen in the form of seven flown line arrays. The seven loudspeaker lines consisted of d&b KSL modules. Two KSL8 (top) and five KSL12 (bottom) units in each setup formed a compact yet powerful line array. While the middle five loudspeaker lines were directed straight ahead, the two outer positions were pointed slightly outwards and served as monophonic outfills for the side areas along the edge of the square on the first days of the event. On the Saturday and Sunday, following alterations to the layout, they formed part of the Soundscape 180° setup for the concerts of Joss Stone, Grace Jones, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Simply Red.
Four DS100 signal engines were used in the FOH in Stuttgart: Three of the processors used with En-Scene software were assigned to the FOH desks (opening act, top act 1, top act 2), and a fourth unit was kept on standby as a spare – so it was possible to work with overlaps. A PRODIGY.MP from DirectOut Technologies, which served as a routing matrix and format converter, was used to switch between the available DS100 units, each of which supplied more than 50 rendered output signals. Signals were output from the unit via a MADI port and, after a further format conversion (PRODIGY. MP), on Dante via fiber-optic cables to the amp cities – this meant that separate Dante networks were available, which cleverly circumvented any potential problems that could theoretically occur with a single network. The Dante signals were converted into AES/EBU using d&b DS10 Audio network bridges before being fed into the amplifiers. The amping was mainly the responsibility of D80 four-channel amplifiers, with the delay loudspeakers being driven by three D20 amplifiers. The amplifiers received digital input signals (AES/EBU) via d&b DS10 Audio network bridges.
The arrays were driven using ArrayProcessing. The data required for this was generated in the ArrayCalc simulation software and relayed to the associated amplifiers using the R1 Remote control software. The ArrayProcessing feature optionally available in ArrayCalc incorporates powerful filter algorithms that calculate and optimize the sonic performance of a d&b line array across all listening areas.
On Schlossplatz, 15 d&b SL-SUBs formed a powerful subwoofer ensemble which was distributed across the floor in front of the stage. The crew had placed four models from the d&b A-Series (AL90 and AL60) upright on each of the voluminous subwoofers in eight positions, serving as front fills – the fanned-out arrangement ensured even coverage, which is a sensible idea in conjunction with Soundscape (overlapping of the sources desired for precise signal localization).
The monitoring in Stuttgart also came from the d&b audiotechnik portfolio and included various M2 and M4 wedges, which were used in accordance with the wishes of the performing artists. Two side fills were also available, each consisting of two V-SUBs and three V8s placed on top of them. The monitor setup was rounded off by two V7P loudspeakers installed in the roof, which enabled singer Grace Jones to take to the stage for her spectacular opening number as a mythical creature in an XXL dress – the huge skirt concealed a riser extended high above the stage floor.
The stand, which closed off the rear of the concert area on Schlossplatz, was supplied with numerous loudspeakers serving as a delay line: Ten V10Ps were distributed across the entire width of the roof, supplemented by eleven Y10Ps for the VIP areas located at the upper end of the stand.
Smooth communication: d&B DS100 and zactrack SMART server
The sound system featuring d&b Soundscape was not the only technical innovation that caused a sensation on Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz. That’s because the work of the sound engineers was supported in 2023 by a 3D tracking system from zactrack GmbH, which was used on demand to complement the audio solutions from Backnang.
A SMART tracking system with 15 tracker units was available. The trackers, along with the three SMART chargers, were positioned by the monitoring point near the wireless microphone technology, while the SMART servers were hidden beneath the stage. In addition to musicians and singers, presenter Stefanie Anhalt was also tracked in Stuttgart, as could be heard when she took to the podium, among other times. The zactrack system was managed by Patrick Röling from NeMEDIA.
In Stuttgart, the zactrack SMART server was connected to the d&b Soundscape system via a network cable; the common language was the OSC protocol (“Open Sound Control”). Presets for d&b Soundscape are available in the zacktrack system, enabling communication in a plug-and-play process once the IP address has been set. Position data was used in Stuttgart for the X and Y axes. To ensure consistent localization, the DS100 places the selected object in the position transmitted by the SMART server. The common reference for the SMART server and DS100 is a defined zero point taken from the d&b ArrayCalc file in Stuttgart.
For security reasons, Patrick Röling had installed a second SMART server on Schlossplatz, which ran in backup mode. Communication with d&b Soundscape worked nicely, and assuming the stage performers had agreed to the use of the zactrack system, the audience was able to enjoy an impressive sound experience – when there were stereophonic electric guitar effects, for example, or when a guitarist moved right across the stage.
Precisely targeted sound in audience areas
CloseUp GmbH has been involved in the (audio) planning of events for a number of years and has already successfully managed countless productions in the fields of music and industry.
We have been in contact with the jazzopen organizers since 2008. With our expertise and our thinking on the subject of audio, we have been able to play our part in the design of the jazzopen for some considerable time. Just last year, there was already a lot of thought going into the use of d&b Soundscape at the concerts on Schlossplatz – as an alternative to the 2.1 setups that have proved their worth in the series of events for many years, said Bodo Bergmann, managing director of CloseUp GmbH together with Tobias Nievelstein.
Needless to say, experienced audio professionals like Bodo Bergmann and Tobias Nievelstein have a real interest in focusing the sound on the audience areas without creating unnecessary reflections. “We only want to send electroacoustic signals to those areas where guests are actually located", said Bodo Bergmann in summary. "When a manufacturer like d&b audiotechnik supplies systems that create a cardioid dispersion pattern by themselves, this is undoubtedly an advantage in terms of the conditions on Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz".
Bodo Bergmann describes the Schlossplatz premiere of d&b Soundscape as “uncharted territory” and points out that CloseUp is open to innovative technologies: “We are always happy to listen to new solutions”, explains the managing director.
In terms of the sound produced with d&b Soundscape, Bodo Bergmann sees “a real benefit for concert guests”, who are known to spend a fair amount of money on tickets and quite rightly expect excellent sound quality. This is designed to please everyone present in equal measure, fully in keeping with the d&b philosophy of “Democracy for Listeners.”
Cool, cooler, Grace Jones
Grace Jones has always been in a class of her own, and the term “performance” aptly describes the character of her remarkable stage shows in the truest sense of the word. Born in Jamaica in 1948, the singer, who is also an actress and model, had no shortage of extravagant outfits on Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz.
Peter Claes was responsible for the FOH mix for Grace Jones’ performance, looking after the artist and her band for the first time and taking full advantage of the possibilities presented by d&b Soundscape.
I have been a fan of Grace Jones since I was twelve years old. My aha moment came in a concert hall in my hometown, where the crew used the track ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ to tune the sound system. I myself have been using this song for many years to get a feel for the sound system available at the venue, said the genial Belgian, who has his own YouTube channel.
Peter Claes has been working as a sound engineer since he was 15 years old, and his decades of experience paid off in Stuttgart: The sound in the square at Grace Jones’ concert was an unparalleled treat!
To prepare for the show, Peter Claes, who had already been able to gain some experience with Soundscape in the past as part of an art project, used the multitrack recording of a live concert, which he drew on in a recording studio to pre-program his Avid VENUE | S6L digital mixer. “That was only in stereo, of course, and today in Stuttgart will reveal how a concert by Grace Jones works in Soundscape”, said Claes shortly before the start of the show. From the FOH desk, Claes sent 44 individual signals to the DS100.
The premiere went wonderfully well, and the sound system with Soundscape far exceeded my expectations! I was actually worried that the sound would be more diffuse compared to a conventional left/right system, but the object-based mix sounds highly differentiated in my opinion: With Soundscape, an object is an object and has no frayed edges. I was able to create my mix very openly and transparently today and achieve a pleasing depth, while the sound remained very much “in your face” without being aggressive. I am really very happy with the evening and the sound that I was able to produce with the aid of Soundscape. The Soundscape system simply creates more space for my work, said Peter Claes, FOH mix for Grace Jones.
Joss Stone: mind, body, and a whole lot of soul
Joss Stone is considered one of the most successful soul/pop singers of the 21st century, but she is also a model and talented actress. The British artist began her career at the tender age of 14, impressing judges with her powerful and extraordinarily mature voice in a BBC talent competition.
At the Stuttgart concert featuring Joss Stone and her band, d&b Soundscape was used, although it was not possible to fully exploit its potential because the Dante card on the console brought along by the production team did not have enough free channels to send all signals individually to the DS100 assigned to the desk. As a result, the drums, for example, were combined into a two-channel group. A total of 16 signals from the mixing desk were sent to Soundscape.
Simply Red are one of the most successful British bands of recent decades. In 2023, Simply Red released their latest studio album Time, tracks from which were presented to a delighted audience at the jazzopen along with the band’s greatest hits.
After the concert, the opportunity arose to have a brief chat with FOH mixer Davide Lombardi, who regularly accompanies Simply Red and whose references include well-known names such as Peter Gabriel, Amy Winehouse, Oasis, Beck, Ed Sheeran, Kate Bush (with whom he gained the distinction of “Engineer of the Year” in 2015) and the Foo Fighters, not to mention Andrea Bocelli and the London Symphony Orchestra.
A successful premiere for d&b Soundscape
The jazzopen is one of the largest and most renowned jazz festivals in Europe and, despite its name, is not limited to a single musical genre: “Jazz is of course at the heart of the jazzopen, but we have always embraced a mix featuring other genres”, organizer Jürgen Schlensog (managing director of OPUS Festival-, Veranstaltungs- und Management GmbH) told SWR.
In addition to Grace Jones, Joss Stone, and Simply Red, other artists who performed on the big stage at the 29th jazzopen included Deep Purple (July 13), Die Fantastischen Vier (July 14), Parov Stelar (July 15), and Beth Hart (July 16). The “Pop Podium” on Schlossplatz once again wowed the crowds with its special atmosphere.
The jazzopen concerts on Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz were already using audio solutions from d&b in 2022, featuring a classic constellation based on GSL loudspeakers.
The premiere with Soundscape was both successful and informative for everyone involved, and the insights gained in July 2023 will undoubtedly be incorporated into the sound reinforcement concept for 2024. In summary for 2023, it can be said that the localization at the concerts was outstanding and the visual impression was always in keeping with the acoustic perception. The premiere was a resounding success!