The advent of line array speakers completely changed the game for live music events and festivals. Before line arrays, most large concerts and festivals used point source speaker systems, which had significant audio limitations. The introduction of vertical line array speakers in the 1990s revolutionized sound quality and coverage, enabling festival organizers to create better layouts and enhance the attendee experience.
According to Dave, a veteran sound engineer who has provided audio for Coachella since 2001, line arrays “was the way of the future” and represented a major leap forward for festival sound. Let’s look at how this revolutionary speaker technology transformed music festivals.
Line Array Speakers Dramatically Improved Sound Quality
One of the main benefits of line array speakers is significantly better sound quality compared to point source systems. With point source, each individual speaker acts independently, creating sound waves that hit the audience at different times. This results in inconsistent audio, where the music and vocals sound very different depending on where you stand.
As Dave explains, line arrays overcome this problem by stacking speakers vertically. This makes the sound waves from each speaker arrive at the listener simultaneously, providing consistent coverage as you move horizontally across the audience. The sound feels closer and more immersive. Line arrays virtually eliminate the comb filtering effects and interference that marred point source speaker sound.
Line Arrays Allowed Better Festival Layouts and Coverage
Beyond improving audio quality, line array speakers enabled festivals to create better layouts with reduced noise bleed between stages. With point source speakers, it was extremely difficult to control sound direction and prevent audio from adjacent stages interfering with each other.
But with line arrays, sound engineers can angle speakers vertically and “aim” the audio precisely where they want it. This gives them the ability to focus coverage on the audience area and avoid bleed to other stages. It also ensures consistent audio throughout the festival grounds, eliminating dead zones.
Festival organizers leveraged these capabilities to safely place more stages closer together to reduce walking times for attendees. For example, Coachella was able to double the number of vertical line array speakers used while reducing noise pollution.
Line Arrays Transformed Stage Design and Video Usage
The introduction of line arrays also facilitated major changes in stage design and visuals. According to Dave, the large stacks of point source speakers and amp racks from 1990s festivals looked messy and obstructed views.
But the streamlined profile of line arrays allowed much cleaner stage designs. Stages could incorporate huge high-resolution LED video walls to immerse the audience in visuals and effects. For instance, the visual backdrop for Guns N’ Roses at Coachella evolved from a small projection screen in 2001 to an enormous LED display spanning the entire width of the stage.
It’s incredible how much line array speakers revolutionized music festivals compared to old point source systems. They delivered vastly improved audio quality for attendees while enabling better layouts and stage designs. Over two decades since their introduction, line arrays continue to be an indispensable part of the festival experience. Their ability to provide pristine sound and coverage has stood the test of time.