Independence with d&b: it’s part of the mix

Terry Yerves: “I consulted with a number of people; touring colleagues and a selection of sound engineers

To be independent means different things to different people, but for the eponymous live music venue in the San Francisco Bay Area the name is unambiguous. Ten years presenting a cross section of local, national and international acts underlines The Independent’s commitment to the broad church of contemporary music. “Fundamentally music is about intimacy with the artist,” said the venue’s head of audio and production, Terry Yerves. “And for that to happen it’s got to sound good.”

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This is Yerves’ sixth year at the venue. “I started with The Independent in 2009, but I still do the occasional short tour from time to time if the dates allow. In 2014 we staged almost 300 shows so my touring work is very occasional. This is a five hundred capacity auditorium, a square box with an arched ceiling and concrete floor; the back wall has a VIP balcony above. The Independent has grown its reputation through quality of performance; it’s simply a great place to see a band, yet I knew from my touring experience that we could do better and in 2014 we began to address the issue of a new PA system.”

Yerves began by polling opinion. “I consulted with a number of people; touring colleagues and a selection of sound engineers who have worked the room and know its character. With my own touring experience to help me analyze what the different sources said, I began to form a consistent picture. I contacted Glen Hatch at Audio West, a d&b Partner located on the West Coast, through a mutual friend; their products were the consensus choice. I had plenty of experience with d&b myself, mainly a bunch of J-Series rigs, and had good experiences with it. Even so, what Glen suggested surprised me.”

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“In short this was a simple project,” said Hatch. “As a small concert venue with relatively benign acoustics, it just required a simple left/right system. Modelling the room in ArrayCalc indicated that V-Series would be ideal.” V-Series launched just as Yerves ceased touring, so his experience with the system was limited. “Just one of my final shows at a festival in the mid-West. Not the biggest event, they had a small V-Series rig. I must admit I was skeptical when I first saw it; just the size of the boxes concerned me. But as soon as I got to use it what I knew straight away was it was as good as any d&b system and sounded great, easily managing the audience size for the festival.”

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Audio West installed the system late 2014. “With Terry’s input I designed V8 line arrays each side, with a pair of the wider dispersion V12s below. On the floor we placed six V-SUBs across stage under the front lip.” Yerves was pleased: “Audio West did a great job; we were up and running in a day. I knew that coverage of the audience would be easy; it was no different for the balcony, covering perfectly without putting any unwanted energy onto the flat rear wall below. d&b systems are entirely reliable in that sense, doing just what they say in the specifications. But there was a bonus, the arrival of the D80, an amplifier not released when I had used the system just three years earlier. That only made Hatch’s assessment better, increasing the available system headroom beyond the needs of even the loudest band. Really it was a no-brainer. Then when we began to use the system we found it so efficient, it even used significantly less electrical power than its predecessor; that’s an important factor to The Independent which prides itself on its green credentials.”

All well and good, but what do the various touring acts that play there think? “We have asked many of the visiting engineers for their thoughts since the system was installed. In six months every single one has been pleased to see it. There is just no need to EQ the system, keep it flat. Yes it’s a bit bright during sound check but as soon as the audience comes in it dries out, anything you hack out the highs in the graph’ you’ll be putting right back in when the crowd comes. That leaves a lot of space for doing what engineers are supposed to do: mix.”

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