The Detroit Jazz Festival celebrated its 36th season last weekend with an impressive roster of Jazz talent representing the genre in its varied forms. This year, artists on two of the festival's stages were joined for the first time by VUE Audiotechnik's new al-4 and al-8 line array systems, provided by Aerial Enterprises of Whitmore Lake, MI.
"We've been the exclusive audio supplier to the festival for over 30 years," explained Aerial's Dave Bartlebaugh, who also serves as production manager for the festival. "We'd been hearing a lot of positive things about VUE, and were very curious to hear their systems in action. We've known Jeff Taylor for many years, so when I found out he'd joined the company, I immediately contacted him about trying a couple line arrays at the festival."
Bartlebaugh, along with Aerial's Jim Lillie, deployed VUE al-Class systems and complementary h-Class components at two of the festival's nine stages.
The Mack Avenue Records stage featured Stereo al-4 subcompact arrays of eight elements each. A pair of VUE V4 Systems Engines provided power and processing. For the low frequencies, three VUE hs-28 powered subwoofers were placed in a cardioid arrangement. Finally, a pair of VUE hm-112s driven by a single V4 Systems Engine handled downstage center monitor duty.
At the larger Carhartt Amphitheater stage, Aerial deployed the VUE al-8 line array. Two hangs of eight elements each were powered by four VUE V6 Systems Engines. Four VUE hs-28 subwoofers were arranged in end-fire cardioid configuration.
Midas PRO series consoles handled mixing duties at both stages, with a PRO2 running the Mack Avenue Records stage and a PRO6 at the Carhartt Amphitheater.
"The VUE systems sound really good," said Lillie. "The low frequency SPL from the al-4 is impressive and both systems seem extremely accurate. They both sounded good out of the box and needed little very little EQ. We're impressed."
While testing new gear is certainly fun for audio enthusiasts like Bartlebaugh and Lillie, both understand that real success comes in the form of happy customers, and with so many visiting engineers, there is little room for mistakes. Fortunately the VUE line arrays made a positive impression across the board.
"From the moment I walked up to the console and pushed the faders up I felt instantly comfortable with the VUE system, remarked Claudia Engelhart, who mixed guitarist Bill Frisell's performance in the Carhartt Amphitheater on the al-8 system. "It was beautiful, really smooth and totally responsive. I could literally feel it in my body it was so clear. I loved it."
The smaller VUE line array also earned its share of accolades, with transparency and sheer output most often cited among its most impressive qualities.
"I think the al-4 kicks major butt," said engineer Dan Hubbell, FOH engineer at the Mack Avenue stage. "Right out of the box it is the best sounding line array for vocals that I have ever heard. It's ridiculous, just flippin' ridiculous."