Two Brit Awards for Zieba and "new" Electro-Voice X-Line system
It’s a double whammy for sound designer Derrick Zieba and his regular PA partner Britannia Row Productions – reporting success at both the Classical BRIT and the high-profile BRIT Awards, both of which relied upon Electro-Voice’s ‘new’ X-Line sound reinforcement system, recently re-energised by the addition of FIR-Drive processing (Finite Impulse Response filtering), and, according to Zieba, capable of giving the latest PA systems a run for their money.
Speaking from London’s Earls Court, after the annual showcase for the British music industry, Derrick Zieba is inspired by the changes that Electro-Voice has made to its flagship line array.
“It’s like having a new system right out of the box. One of the keys to the BRIT Awards in particular is that 50% of the show output is about vocals. This year we had a great presenter in Peter Kay, but, when the artists come out on stage, we have to deliver vocal clarity in the mid-range over the screaming crowd in the pit. Now the X-Line system has been embellished with the FIR-Drive software and hardware, it can achieve even greater definition in the upper mids and highs, yet has lost none of its punch and drive in the lower mid and low-end.” Zieba picks out performances by Jay Z and Alicia Keys, “with her subtle tones and his rap lyrics, it is a case in point. The system is still great for rock ‘n’ roll, as we saw with Kasabian and Robbie Williams, but, from my viewpoint, the vocals have never sounded better.”
Zieba and the Brit Row team have used this configuration for the PA before, with discreetly-flown hangs of X-Line mid-tops left and right of the very wide stage, with 10x Xsubs, and a centre cluster of six small cabinets to reinforce coverage for the front rows. There is a substantial delay system using a L/R/L arrangement, each with eight EV Xvls cabinets. “This delay system operates as a duplicate to the main PA,” explains Zieba. “Because the FOH position is offset, the engineers are able to mix using a L/R pair of hangs as their reference.”
The show took advantage of EV’s NetMax digital matrix system, added into the system for extra control from the FOH position. “The whole system is mastered through IRIS-Net control and supervision software,” explains Zieba. “However, NetMax helps us enormously by giving us accurate and recallable control of all the smaller speakers, allowing us to insert EQ and delay, and meter the results. It gives us the same level of control over the rest of the system that IRIS gives us over the main PA.”
The main PA is trimmed some 15 metres above the stage because, as Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant explains, “the BRIT Awards is essentially a TV show, so nobody wants to see sound equipment in shot. It is one of the specific reasons for using X-Line, as we can fly all the bass cabinets, keep the stage uncluttered and still give everybody in the house a full-range sound. It is a very good tool in this respect; we can get it up high and still achieve very even coverage.”
Derrick Zieba agrees, confirming that X-Line has always looked the part for artists and managers who want to know that the PA system will deliver the goods for their act. “But with the FIR-Drive enhancements, it is like having a different system under my fingertips.” He confirms that he will be specifying X-Line for the next Classical BRITS in May.
Derrick’s regulars now have 15 years of BRIT Awards under their belt, such as Brit Row’s X-Line systems specialist for the past five years Nico Royan, “the key person for making it sound as good as it does.” Zieba also pays his compliments to Electro-Voice for transforming the X-Line, joking that the only thing that will make him consider changing his system choice for the BRIT Awards is the impending demolition of Earls Court!