Blackbushe '78 Revisited
Sound at the Blackbushe outdoor festival
The music at Blackbushe was, as expected, excellent with some very fine sets, especially from Joan Armatrading, Eric Clapton and, of course, Bob Dylan. When I first approached the arena I found the very size daunting — the distance from the stage to the back of the arena being over 1600ft — but on listening to the sound I found it very clear, even at that distance from the stage. The volume was hardly surprising as the total wattage was over 120k.
The prime contractor for the sound was Stanl Sound of Kearney, Nebraska; in overall charge was president of the company Stan Miller, well known in the sound world for the high degree of clarity in his sound systems. The system for Blackbushe was laid out with three delay towers on a 475ft radius from the stage, the main tower signal having 390ms of delay and the two side towers 340ms. Sound sync was very good, there being only very slight phase distortion at the far sides of the listening area and some slight echo at the back. The delay was provided by an Altec 1660 delay line, a brand new unit which proved very interesting. It is adjustable in 1ms increments up to over 500ms, has card programming and up to five outputs, all of which can be switched for varying delays. There was also a Lexicon delay unit belonging to Britannia Row on standby, but this was not used.
The Britannia Row system, which is of course Pink Floyd's, was used for approximately half the stage set-up and consisted of the following: 10 RCA W bins, 20 Martin 215 bins and 12 Kelsey bins all using two Gauss 15in 5831 drivers per bin for the bass. Low-mid was taken by 20 Martin MH212 mid-range horns, 16 Kelsey mid-range cabs, 20 Martin HF2 horns, 5 Altec 329As, and top went to 24 JBL 2402/075s, 8 JBL 2420s. This was driven by Phase Linear and BGW for bass and mid, with RSD and Yamaha amps driving the high range. The amps were driven by a full range signal from the desk via a Midas 4-way electronic cross-over.
This is, in fact, quite a bass-orientated system, and consequently slotted in well with Stanl's mid-range orientated Altec-based system, with its prototype Yamaha PM2000 mixer, Stanl Sound's own crossovers, and 24 Altec 9440 800W fan-cooled power amps in turn going into 48 Altec 817 Cabs, each containing two co-axial drive units: 604 HPLNs which are high powered versions of the 604 Studio monitors. At 800Hz the signal is crossed to the mid-range horns, the 291 16B driver, and at 6KHz is taken back to the tweeter in the middle of the woofer. Also used were 43 29 horns, 16 203 twin multicells (also with 291 drivers), and eight new horns from Altec known as Manta Rays which are 20° by 40° constant directivity horns, with a 500Hz to 16KHz range and a very long throw, enabling the sound to be thrown right back into the far reaches of an auditorium or open arena without any squawking.
Dbx 160 compressor limiters were used on some channels and also on the overall system output. A device called a Boom-Box, also from dbx, was used for Dylan's set. This takes bass notes between 50 and 110Hz and synthesises a note one octave below, mixing it back in with the original sound. Basically a home hi-fi unit, when it's used on PA the effect is shattering! Also used in the system were Orban parametric equalisers and Altec 1650 third-octave filter sets.
The delay towers were provided by TFA Electrosound, as were the lights and stage. The delay sets consisted of 24 W bins, 21 folded horns, 21 flared mid-bins, 21 radial horns, six lens horns, nine long-throw horns and 27 high frequency horns, most of which were JBL, although some Altec and Gauss units were used.
Stage monitors and monitor mixing for acts prior to Bob Dylan were by Tasco. The lights from TFA consisted of 130 power spots on stage, two gladiator spots on the mixing tower and 60 white lights for brightening the stage during the day. Altogether the presentation of both sound and vision was very good; probably the cleanest outdoor sound I have heard in England. TFA's rolling stage unit providing the quickest big-act turnaround I have ever seen.
Thanks to Stan Miller, Robbie Williams, Simon Woodruffe and Neil Parkinson for information supplied.
Sound Reports & Views
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!