Located throughout Milwaukee’s extensive Summerfest grounds, IrishFest is known as the largest and most comprehensive celebration of Irish music and culture on the planet. Spanning up to 18 stages, their loudest and most premier stage — named the Ciderboys Rock Stage after 2023s headlining sponsor — required a large-format line source PA system that performed at the highest levels. AudioBiz, a well-known and equally well-respected representative firm in the area, suggested a large-format ViO system from dBTechnologies.
The array comprised two main hangs of nine L212 three-way boxes per side, supplemented by three L1610 down-fills flown on the bottom of each array. dBTechnologies’ new high output, constant curvature box, the ViO C12, served as side-fills to fire sound across the stage, backed by X206 point-source cabinets as front-fills. S118 and S218 subwoofers handled the low-frequency extension, and W15T powered wedges performed monitor duties onstage. IrishFest production manager Rick Bauer, his colleagues Brian Christ and Shawn McLoughlin from AudioBiz, as well as various FOH engineers from individual bands, discussed the coordination and technology it takes to successfully provide sound reinforcement for a festival of this scale.
“Honestly, the system performed perfectly,” beamed Bauer. “It was the second year we had dBTechnologies on the main stage, which is the loudest stage at the festival in terms of the type of Celtic rock acts. The sound was always clean. Everything I could hear was a pure representation in terms of placement of instruments left to right but also with a sense of front-to-back depth. The subs were powerful but clean. Everything just felt right. I’ve been to concerts where there are bad systems and your ears hurt, even at lower volumes. Even when the engineers were pushing things, the sound was never fatiguing or brittle. Importantly, I didn’t feel like I was hearing a ‘line array,’” he added.
“I just felt like I was hearing the band. The most important thing I can emphasise is that we used a similar dBTechnologies system last year, and I had several engineers from bands ask me, “Are we going to have the same setup we had last year? Because we loved it.” We had multiple engineers asking if they were going to get the same ViO system as before. When I said yes, they got excited. Engineers being excited makes my job easy.”
One such engineer is Paul Hoolahan, FOH Engineer for Skerryvore, a headliner act that plays traditional Celtic instruments alongside synths, driving bass, and drums. “It’s been great,” he replied when asked how the ViO handled his diverse input list. “I have to say that last year, working with the ViO rig for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised. There’s so much headroom. It’s also nice and flat, which I really like. It gives me a blank canvas for doing what I want to do with the digital console and all the instruments.”
Mack Long, engineer for folk rock band Hermitage Green, agreed: “The ViO system is very clear. Any EQ moves I make sound very natural and accurate,” he noted. “Nothing sounds harsh; it’s all very pleasant. We also had no separate subwoofer mix, just the main left-right mix feeding the subs, and they took whatever I threw at them! I’m mixing at about 98dB and there was no ear fatigue. It’s a beautiful rig for sure.”
Team AudioBiz put their reputation on the line by suggesting the ViO rig for the Ciderboys stage, so Shawn McLoughlin and Brian Christ of AudioBiz were also queried about their confidence in dBTechnologies. “For us it’s the quality and horsepower delivered at their price point,” said McLoughlin. They’re competitive with the big dogs, but dB are the new kids. Well, they’ve been around for 50 years, but in terms of US brand perception, they’re a fresh name.”
“That’s changing, though,” noted Christ. “This is our second year at IrishFest with this system, and we’ve had several clubs and production companies check it out at the event, and a lot of them are blown away at what dB has to offer. Then you tell them the price and they go, ‘Wow, this is really affordable given how much technology and power it packs.’”
“Staying in the know about the latest technology is the fun part — it’s an ongoing love affair,” suggested Bauer.
However, perhaps the most succinct summary of the dBTechnologies’ ViO performance came from Darren Clarke, engineer for The Coronas. “The PA sounded amazing,” Clarke exclaimed. “Good rig.”