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Tilting the Balance


22-Year Old Audio Rental Firm Supplies Popular Touring Acts With New Technology From JBL


When International touring artists perform in foreign countries, many surprises often await them. When a group travels with its own sound equipment package, things can be relatively consistent. However, when a touring group relies on regional sound production companies, results can be mixed. Sound system professionals can do their best with advance work and onsite system adjustments to minimize unpleasant surprises for the artists they work for, but the truth is that available rental sound systems in many corners of the globe can range from 'superb' to mediocre at best.

Molotov, one of Mexico's hot new acts, recently undertook a nationwide tour of Spain, stopping in 16 different cities on a whirlwind tour that had them performing on systems from more than one dozen different rental sound companies. The band's hit single, "Mighty Power", is currently in heavy play rotation on European MTV. This has led to a dramatic increase in the group's live concert profile in Europe.

The band's twin bass guitar lineup and powerful, hypnotic guitar/drum rhythms place serious demands on the portable sound reinforcement systems they require for concert use. "We always try to get the best rig we can, but in reality we must work with what the promoter supplies for us," commented Molotov's front-of-house mixer, Jose "Chico" Luis. "In our home country, we have service providers who are used to our needs. Here, we must take what we get."

For Molotov's show in Granada, Spain, Sonoal S.A. of Almemia in Southern part of the nation was selected. The firm brought in 16 of its new HLA model 4895 3-way array modules and 8 HLA model 4897 bass units. "The HLA system is very clear, with low distortion," noted soundmixer Jose Luis. "My challenge is to ensure that the audiences hear live music that sounds like Molotov's records, and the music is really powerful. We demand a lot from a concert system."


Sonoal S.A., based in Almeria on Spain's southern coast, has supplied portable sound systems for many of Spain's popular music acts, and regularly supports international artists who come to the country. The firm recently purchased the new HLA system from JBL Professional specifically to provide high-level, full-bandwidth sound to a wide variety of concert artists.

"There are many choices today in speaker systems," advised Sonoal owner Daniel Osorio Herrera, who founded the company in 1976. Together with his brother Juan "J" Antonio Osorio, he has supplied audio services for everything from symphonic and opera productions to heavy-metal music festivals. "There is probably no single system that would make everybody happy…some engineers think they prefer this type, some prefer that type. It is like fashion. So, the truth is that as a businessman, if I wish to actually stay in business and make a profit, I must go with the proven names in equipment instead of just spending money every time there is a new trend. A rental firm must have equipment that is universally-respected, that can sound good for many types of customers, and that is flexible enough to handle many different types of events."

Sonoal relies on mixing consoles from Midas. "In fact, we were the first company in Spain to receive Midas 200 desks, which we've used reliably for some time now. That has proven to be an excellent investment. We mainly rely on Crest amplifiers, which most touring audio engineers are familiar with. Our most recent new equipment investment has been the HLA system from JBL, which is rather new but is becoming more popular as time goes on. When people use it, they are quite impressed with its clarity and power."

Sonoal reports that, while the company often services international artists that come through the country, about 80% of their overall business comes from regional acts based in Spain. "For the regional bands, having the lowest price is usually their first consideration. For the international touring groups, having the best quality system is what they look for. So it is a fine balance. A system has to both pay its own way on smaller events, and be able to satisfy the high-end clients."


For Molotov's show, held in Granada's 8,000-seat Palacio Deportes Zaidin, Sonoal technicians set up main left and right stacked arrays, each made up of 8 HLA 4895 mid/high units loaded with JBL's new Differential Driveď technology (10" and 14" cone speakers) and 4 HLA 4897 2-18" carbon-fiber (non-wood) bass enclosures equipped with JBL's Linear Dynamics Apertureď vent design. These special, aerodynamically-modeled ports increase the efficiency of each bass cabinet by enabling more VLF (Very Low Frequency) energy to be developed by the direct-radiating design of the 4897 through reduced air turbulence in the port area. The 4897's rigid construction also increases output by reducing the amount of sound lost to cabinet vibration such as occurs in traditional wooden enclosures.

Each 4895 3-way unit and 4897 bass unit is built into JBL's patented Spaceframeď, and both units are the same exact size and are fitted with identical hanging hardware. This enables sound technicians to readily assemble speaker arrays with different performance characteristics as needed. A plus when configuring arrays to meet the architectural configurations of different venues is that the 4895's tilting waveguide lets low, mid and high frequency elements be positioned as desired.

To power the HLA speaker system, Sonoal relies on power amplifiers from Crest Audio. Each amplifier rack houses Crest Model 9001's to handle the 4897 bass units and the low-frequency sections of the HLA system. A Crest Model 8001 is used to power the dual-coil mid-frequency drivers, and a 7001 powers the high-frequency compression drivers. "The system is very efficient, when it comes to power consumption and overall output," noted Juan Fava, system engineer for Sonoal. "We get a great amount of power output from a relatively small amplifier stock."


On their tour of Spain, Molotov was supported by different opening acts in each city. "Our band will often try to get a complete sound check," noted front-of-house mixer Jose "Chico" Luis. "If we can't get the musicians in, then the stage technicians often check out everything. Our crew almost all play some instruments, so that is a help."

Sonoal supplied Chico with Klark-Teknik graphic equalizers and a K/T real time analyzer. Compressor-limiters from dbx and special effects processing from proven manufacturers like Lexicon and Yamaha rounded out the electronics racks. A JBL DSC280 system controller was located at the front of house position, and Chico made his own subtle adjustments to suit his needs for Molotov's sound. "We supply all the professional tools that are commonly expected by a touring engineer," noted Sonoal owner Dianel Osorio Herrera.

As Molotov's set started up upon completion of the opening act's performance, Chico worked to achieve a thick, low-frequency rich mix that was supported by the band's two bass guitarists, who played simultaneously. "Each plays a different part on each tune," he noted. "And one of our featured lead vocalists is also one of the bass guitarists, so that is unique as well."

Thousands of Spanish music fans happily sang along with the band's major hit singles, recognizable from the region's theavy radio and MTV play. "Like the record, that's what they expect", noted Chico. "Although we are from Mexico, the people know Molotov here in Spain from the sound of our music, not from personalities or anything like that."


In addition to supplying concert audio services for touring rock acts, Sonoal is well-versed in sound reinforcement needs for civic ceremonies and religious pageants, classical and orchestral productions and jazz, traditional and other types of music festivals. The company can be reached by contacting:

Daniel Osorio Herrera, Owner
Carretera de Ronda
375 O4008 Almeria
Phone 349 5025 0887
Fax 349 5026 3956
E-mail:  sonosur@arrakis.es

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