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Tilting the Balance



This year's 1998 DMC World DJ Championships were staged on October 18th, 1998 in the Palais des Sports, located in Paris' 15th District. The 30-year old, 3,000-seat multipurpose venue is notorious for its tough acoustics, in part due to a domed roof structure. Every French live sound professional has a war story or two about a tough show in the venerable building, which plays host to a wide variety of events ranging from boxing matches to hobby shows to rock concerts. The 14-year old DMC World DJ Championship event, featuring competitors from thirty nations around the world, has been previously staged in England and Italy. 1998 marked the event's first time in France.

Sound system services for this year's event were supplied by Audiolite, a sound and lighting rental firm based in the city of Ploudaniel in the Britaine region of France. Audiolite, founded in 1991 by owner Thierry Thanguay, handles regional touring needs for local and international artists, and can supply complete show production services. The company's rental inventory includes several different systems, including commonly-acceptable mixing consoles from manufacturers like Yamaha and Ramsa, and speaker system products from Martin Audio. For the World DJ Championships, Audiolite supplied their new HLA system from JBL Professional.


The speaker system deployed for the world DJ Championships in the Palais des Sports included 16 JBL HLA 4895 3-way units and 12 JBL HLA 4897 bass units. These new-generation, lightweight array modules are built using a patented non-wood Spaceframe assembly, and at this venue Audiolite technicians deployed them in two main hanging arrays to cover the audience area, with two of the bass units at floor level on each side. Care was taken by Audiolite technicians to ensure a punchy, powerful low-frequency foundation, and to ensure even high-frequency coverage of the floor and angled seating zones. The HLA 4895's tiltable waveguides were used to position the mid/high frequency elements for near and far-throw seating areas.

"This is not really a very good venue for music," commented Marc Roitg, an independent engineer responsible for mixing the event audio. "I've had to focus a lot on 160Hz, 250, 400…the usual problems in a building like this. But this HLA system is very precise. The top end of the system, especially, is very smooth. In many ways it behaves like a large hi-fi system. I used it outdoors recently for a large rock music festival event near Brest in the western part of France, and knew from that experience that it would be an asset in this poor acoustical environment".

Marc Roitg and Audiolite engineer Jean Marc "J.M." Lecoat worked together to optimize the HLA system's acoustical response in the Palais des Sports through careful speaker array positioning, and precise signal controller adjustments. Since Audiolite locates its system controllers in the power amp racks, this process was helped considerably through the use of a special remote control software package, configured by Audiolite engineer Lionel Cimaz. Crafted in Visual Basic and running on a Compaq Contura model 4100 laptop PC, the clever software enables the remote monitoring and adjustment of Audiolite's BSS FDS-355 system loudspeaker system controllers.

The 5-way system controllers are housed close to the stage, near the speaker arrays inside each power amplifier rack. "Each amp rack is set up to control and power 4 of the JBL HLA 4895's and 2 of the JBL HLA 4897's," explained Audiolite engineer J.M. "This way each amplifier rack can act as a stand-alone drive package."

In addition to a system controller, each of Audiolite's HLA power amplifier racks houses a pair of Crest 9001 amplifiers (handling subs, low frequency and midrange frequency feeds), and a Crest 7001 to power high frequency compression drivers on the HLA 4895's. Four each of the HLA system's 16-ohm components in the low, mid and high bands are driven by a single amp channel. An open channel on the 7001 can receive a signal from the FDS-355, available to power centerfills, compact frontfill speaker units, or other utility needs.


For a high-energy, specialized event like the DMC World DJ Championships, soundmixers are not so much "mixing music", as they are managing playback tracks and specialized inputs, seeking vocal clarity with wireless mic systems, and ensuring the house sound meets the artists' and crowd's expectations. "We have to take what we get from the stage, and then try to optimize it," noted Roitg. "The first thing to look at is the quality of the DAT tracks they give us, and the output of the turntables and the DJ mixers. We are typically seeing a -20dBv signal, at 40k ohms…this then goes to a direct box, then down the snake to the front of house control position, where it hits the input of the console's input channel pre-amplifier. There naturally will be some signal degradation, which we have to overcome."

Audiolite supplied a Yamaha PM4000 mixing console, along with a host of signal processing: Belgian-made Apex 1/3-octave graphic equalizers, Drawmer DS201 noisegates, and BSS DPR901 II Dynamic Equalizers were available for dynamic signal processing and balancing. The M5000 Digital Audio Mainframe from tc electronics, reliable Lexicon PM70 and the popular SPX990 from Yamaha was supplied for spatial, signal delay and reverberation effects.

The stage monitor system, manned by Audiolite engineer Patrick Passerel, included a Ramsa WRS-80 console, Apex graphic equalizers, and Martin L200 wedges. Amcron-powered Martin sidefill stacks set the mood for the competing disc jockeys on stage. Passerel had to jockey for position with video cameras, lighting instruments and set pieces as he moved quickly after a 7:00 AM load-in to be up and running for soundchecks with individual DJ's and track acts by 12:00 noon.


The Audiolite crew had a wide variety of turntable, DJ mixers and DAT tracks to link up to, with each disc jockey favoring a specific performance style and approach to live audio. Pre-recorded special effects ranged ultra-low frequency sine wave sweeps and explosive, percussive sounds to sampled radio and television broadcast segments, announcers' voices and other types of program material. Some acts were ensembles, featuring a pair of turntable jockeys and a trio or quartet of vocalist/dancers performing on stage.

To keep the audience "up" during the six-hour marathon event, special appearances were scheduled by past champions like Cash Money (1988's winner, a Philadelphia-based DJ who hosts MTV segments and tours the world supporting his own Greens International Record label).

Disc jockeys from 30 different nations, ranging from locations like Morocco, Turkey and Italy to Norway, Korea, Japan and Australia, vied for crowd attention and points from the judges. The winner of the 1998 World Championship was the USA's own DJ Craze, a participant in regional and global competitions since 1995.

"Our strategy here is to make each segment of the proceedings powerful, and keep the crowd excited, but also keep a handle on the overall sound level so that the audience does not have ear fatigue over the course of the event," noted mixer Marc Roitg.

Clear, powerful sound is highly important to the organizers of the DMC event. Judges and audience alike seek to evaluate the skills of innovative disc jockeys working with innovative turntable techniques. The Championships have moved from small to large venues in its 14-year history, and the most recent U.K. event was held at Wembley Arena. The 1997 event was staged at the Fiera di Rimini in Italy. As the event's importance has grown over the years, the quality of the sound has become an increasingly important issue. The production values set for the 1998 event at the Palais des Sports in Paris included complete broadcast-quality videotaping for DMC promotional efforts worldwide. This aspect of the production put additional responsibilities on the live sound crew.

The challenges to the Audiolite crew included not only a rushed setup and a need for optimizing turntables and DJ mixers to ensure a clean input signal, but also seeking to guarantee that each DJ's individual style and special effects were accurately distributed to an enthusiastic crowd in an acoustically-challenging venue. Audiolite's efforts were rewarded: "The sound has been excellent, this is the best we've ever had for our international competition", noted Tony Prince, President of DMC International and host of the event.

Audiolite, founded in 1991 by owner Thierry Thanguay, offers full sound and lighting rental and production services. The firm serves special events and local and international touring artists. Audiolite can be reached at Z.I. de Mescaden, 29260 Ploudaniel, France. The Phone number is +33 2 98 837293 and the Fax number is +33 2 98 837315.