Races At The Speed of Sound
Reprinted from Pro Sound News June 16, 1997
car racing is the number-one spectator sport in the U.S. today.
As exciting as it can be, though, watching modified Chevys and
Fords zip around an oval track 250 times can sometimes get tedious.
Which is why NASCAR races are, like other major sports events,
increasingly accompanied by live music shows. This summer, a
major series of performances will play on a double bill with
stock racers; country singer Mark Chesnutt and rock veterans
the Doobie Brothers are among the artists that are performing
the 12-show Speed of Sound Tour, sponsored by consumer electronics
maker Kenwood and electronics retailer Circuit City. Shows will
cover the U.S. from the Talledega Motor Speedway in Florida to
the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth to the newly constructed
Los Angeles Speedway. Aside from the music and the cars, what
will these venues have in common? "Noise, and lots of it",
laughs Mark Cockriel, president and chief engineer, On Cue Systems,
a Phoenix-area SR company supplying sound for the tour. "Ten
of the shows are before the races, and that's when you can really
hear what engines sound like. It makes it interesting getting
ready to do the show."
order to fight that situation, Cockriel used a JBL HLA (Horn
Loaded Array) Series speaker system and said it made a difference
in the clarity, projection and intelligibility of the music shows. "I
was pretty amazed that we could get an open-air venue like a
speedway to sound that good," he said. It was On Cue's first
commercial implementation of the HIA system and only Cockriel's
second use of a production model (he had worked with a JBL prototype
previously); On Cue did a system demo with a flown cluster rig
only the week before.
HLA system for the NASCAR shows consists of 32 boxes dispersed
on 10 wheeled, aluminum carts, with two top cabinets and one
sub per cart. Every other cart has an amplifier rack feeding
two carts with JBL SR 6670A amplifiers; crossovers are BSS Omnidrives,
as are the Varicurve EQs. Each cart also has an Aphex Dominator
system as part of its front end.
FOH position has a Crest VX-52 console; the monitor consoles
run by On Cue monitor engineer George Blake, alternates between
a Soundcraft Series 4 and a Ramsa WR-S840, feeding On Cue's proprietary
cart approach helped us get the system set up quickly under the
circumstances," explained Cockriel. "The cars aren't
the only things that have to be fast on these shows." He
added that the carts also solved the problem of width of coverage. "We
had to cover a large portion of the grandstand, so there was
a wide area to get sound to," he said. Spaced 50 feet apart
in front of the 50-foot stage, the cart's components were splayed
at approximately 30 degrees, "And from that we let coverage
overlap naturally" he said.
resulting sound, however, was better than he expected for a ground-mounted
system. "That's the incredible part," he recalls. "For
a festival type of venue you'd at least want the speakers in
two stacks on either side of the stage to help with projection.
But the HLA system simply didn't need that. It's a horn-loaded
system that doesn't sound like a horn. You get the projection
of a horn but the sound quality of a great speaker cabinet." Cockriel
grimaced at the fact that to extend coverage around the sides
of the grandstand, he had to route a small amount of the mix
through the two side speaker zones of the track's own sound system. "It
was designed for racing, [speech] not music," he says. The
Fort Worth Star-Telegram concurred, giving both Chesnutt's show
and the sound a high rating.
complication was that the FOH position was located 200 feet away
from the front of the stage due to a flooded infield from Texas-sized
springtime rains. "I was checking the sound from 400 feet
away for this show," Cockriel says. "I knew that not
only was the grandstand far away but the console mixing position
would be, too." The elements proved not to be a problem
beyond that, though. Cockriel said there were minimal lobing
or phase-shift problems due to gusting wind. And, he added, just
as well, since he had his hands full getting the stage set up
and trying to catch the race itself after the show. "We
saw every wreck that happened," he says. "But fortunately
none of them were on stage."