Berlin?s Classic Open Air Festival 2011 debuts digital technology

For the first time, a digital audio infrastructure was put into practice at this year’s Classic Open Air Festival in Berlin.

The set-up was based around two all-digital Eclipse mixing consoles from Innovason and digital microphones from Berlin-based manufacturer Neumann.

An Ethersound network linked microphone interfaces, stageboxes, monitor mixers, FOH mixers and the built-in recording facility. This type of system is designed to offer much greater flexibility than an analogue setup, right from the planning phase. This means short-notice amendments are easier to deal with, even during live operations, as there is no fixed point-to-point wiring to consider, while routing remains highly flexible and independent of the hardware.

Martin Kaiser, from TSE AG, and the event’s technical director, said: "Another powerful benefit is its immunity to interference, especially at events with complex lighting systems. The deployment of digital microphones means that the background noise is now below the threshold of audibility for audience and musicians. The cumulative background noise from the large number of open channels needed when an orchestra is miked up would otherwise be quite audible. In addition, when we were sound checking the string section we were immediately impressed by the superb sound quality of the digital mics (Neumann KM 184 D and KM 143 D). We hardly needed to use any eq at all. The TLM 103 D large diaphragm microphone proved to be a highly effective choice for the double basses."

As the gain setting can be stored in the digital microphone prior to signal splitting, the various downstream devices, such as the monitor and FOH mixer require less trimming. The signal generator and LED indicators built into the mic facilitate the process of correctly matching microphones to instruments during line check and sound check. In practice, this feature can save time, as these adjustments can be carried out directly from the mixing console.

Manfred Bamberg, FOH sound engineer, commented: "Being able to store all the parameters and copy the channel settings is a tremendous help. On tour, the M.A.R.S. recording system built into the 64-channel Eclipse console even lets you perform a ‘virtual soundcheck’ without the musicians being present by playing back a recording of the previous day’s performance and using that to adjust the basic mix. When the musicians arrive, no more than minor adjustments should be needed."

Wolfgang Fraissinet, President of marketing/sales for microphone manufacturer Neumann, added: "The companies that provide sound systems for major events are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of digital audio technology – and of digital microphones. Their successful debut at this large and prestigious event here on our doorstep marks a very important milestone for us."