Held the last weekend of April in Wilkesboro, NC, this year’s MerleFest included a roster of longtime roots artists like Leon Russell, The Charlie Daniels Band, Avett Brothers, Del McCoury Band, Donna the Buffalo, Jim Lauderdale, Michael Martin Murphey, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
The festival is named for famed guitarist Doc Watson’s late son, Merle, a gifted musician in his own right. Doc passed away in May 2012, so this is the first year he hasn't graced the stage himself.
For the past 26 years, SE Systems of Greensboro, NC has provided audio production for MerleFest, and this year included a new NEXO STM rig shared and alternating between the main Watson Stage and the side Cabin Stage. The system consisted of 15 M46/B112 per side for mains, 16 S118 subs in cardioid mode per side, two M46 for front fills, and a three-stack of M46/B112s were used for out fills in the VIP area. A Yamaha DME64 digital mixing engine functioned as a converter from analog to Dante that was networked to all NXAMPs. 20 NEXO 45 N-12 line monitors were also used on the main stage.
"The NEXO STM system was very musical and even horizontally and vertically," said Chris West, front of house engineer at the Watson Stage. “The mix sounded the same on the ground and at FOH. The throw was incredible; we hardly used the delays."
“The NEXO STM system sounded natural, even at high volume,” said Haley Miller, monitor engineer at the Watson Stage. “When dealing with acoustic music, the environment plays a large part, so a natural sounding system is always a plus. On stage it was quiet, and sometimes we couldn’t tell if the PA was on; the system allowed great isolation from stage to FOH with no bleed."
Four new Yamaha CL5 digital audio consoles with Rio 3224 input/output boxes all connected with Dante were used on the Americana Stage for mains and monitors and at the Dance Stage for mains and monitors. “The overall impression was they sounded great,” said Myron Surber, sales associate, SE Systems. “The preamps were warm and the Premium Rack was a real plus with delays on the input channels and the additional 1/3 octave EQs.”
"The Yamaha CL5 is a great improvement on previous Yamaha consoles having mixed on both the PM5D and M7CL in festival situations,” added Josh Berneking, who mixed front of house for all the acts on the Americana Stage. “The CL5 is much better in that situation. The new premium rack plug-ins, especially the Rupert Neve EQ and Compressor, sound great. I also like the increased naming and labeling capabilities; and color-coding my channels was a huge help at the festival. I also found that it was similar enough in navigation to the M7s that guest engineers walking up to the consoles having no experience were able to jump right in on the desk and mix on the fly with very little help from me. The Dante network and stage boxes worked great; they were very easy to patch on, and setup. We were also able to connect my talkback mic to the monitor console through Dante."