d&b Soundscape offers Hong Kong Bands new creative possibilities.
Alternative ‘post rock’ bands and instrumental progressive groups Naked and lay, more reverb and tfvsjs, who hail from Hong Kong, teamed up for a sonic treat of sweeping percussive sounds and hard-hitting guitars at Hong Kong Macpherson Stadium in March, employing the innovative d&b Soundscape to open up new creative possibilities.
Organised by White Noise, Exclamation Music and Backlinestore, the trio of gigs were billed as a ‘triple threat’, with a focus on an immersive audio experience rock show. Each group is known for its unique take on music and sound, using multi-instrument performances to wow their fans. There are no vocals in any of the performances, just an ornate and rich collection of instruments.
HK Soundscape debut
It marked the first time Soundscape’s ‘object-based’ sound positioning system had been used in Hong Kong, presenting an opportunity to accurately place each instrument within the listening area to create a far richer experience.
Local events specialist A Team Plus (HK) Ltd supplied the d&b loudspeakers, amplifiers, and d&b Greater China Ltd. provided the DS100 Signal Engine – the technology which forms the core of Soundscape processing. The team also used the two accompanying software modules: En-Scene, which extends the basic matrix function of the DS100 with an object-based positioning tool for every input; and En-Space, which enhances or builds the acoustic environment.
The front of the stage at the stadium was transformed from the standard two large series of Line Array speakers to five groups of thirty d&b Y-Series speakers, hung in parallel. On the top of the stage were eight Y-Series Front Fill horns and six sets of d&b B2-SUBs. In addition, six d&b Y7P loudspeakers are hung on each side of the venue, left and right, to ensure 360-degree coverage. A d&b DS10 audio network bridge and a series of D80 amplifiers fed the cabinets.
On FoH duties for Naked and lay was Zeno Yeung.
“The main impact of Soundscape was that for the first time, the audience could hear sounds from everywhere instead of just from the front. It’s like watching movies in the cinema. They were ‘into’ the music instead of in front of it,” he says. “Mixing wise, from my experience, it’s fairly different from the way we mix in stereo. Usually, we all try to fill everything into left and right. In order to do that we need to do some tricks to make all the channels sit nicely in the mix, such as scooping some frequencies on one channel to make room for another channel, so they don’t fight each other.
“With Soundscape, I’ve found that the channels don’t fight each other - the space was already there, all I had to do was to position them with the d&b R1 control application. With the En-Scene algorithm, I can have the depth that I was trying to create when I mix in stereo. Putting a violin behind the guitar on the mapping, En-Scene would just create the depth for me. It totally felt like cheating. Not to mention the image can be super wide according to how much I spread things out on the mapping.”
Naked and lay is a five-piece band with three guitars. With so much going on, Yeung could position them in appropriate places around the stage without them interfering with one another.
“The separation couldn’t have been clearer,” he says. “Music-wise, it really takes the atmosphere to another level. Naked and lay has many different emotions in their songs. Sometimes it’s kind of lonesome feeling, sometimes it’s chaotic. Soundscape really helped me to recreate the atmosphere that the band intended to create in their songs. For example, on one of their tracks there is a recorded ‘breeze’ sound, and I programmed this to ‘run’ around the whole stadium. It’s great - I can be more focused on shaping the sound of the band and translating the songs in the way they were intended to be rather than trying to fit everything into a 2-track.”
Wai Lok is a member of the six-piece band, more reverb, who is also a key performer at the event.
“We worked closely with our audio engineer to fully utilise the placement and movement of every musical element in the show,” he says. “As a performer, I always want to bring the audience closer to the performance and usually it becomes difficult in a large venue, however by knowing that even the audience in the last row can clearly listen to every elements of a piece, it brings oneness to the show and it brings ease of mind to all the performers, and I think these are the most important thing in a good performance.
“We’re always eager to find a sound system to convey our tunes honestly and we hope we've done it this time. We are really happy to see a sound system which is designed to be different.”
Also hailing from Hong Kong is tfvsjs, a five-piece instrumental rock band. Their FOH engineer is Yat Wah Li, who discovered the possibilities of Soundscape while in pre-production for the show.
‘The idea popped into my mind immediately – tfvsjs’ performance could surround the audience using different sound objects,” says Wah. “I started to reimagine each song, thinking about what we could do with this system.
“Since tfvsjs has two sets of drums and the music is very detailed, Soundscape helped to make each instrument more clearly positioned, which can express the instrument in different spaces and motions. It’s a rebirth of music by giving new life and new positioning to each song.”
Since his experience of Soundscape and the success of the tfvsjs’ performance, Wah is excited and looking to the future. “I want to let more music friends and producers know that Soundscape offers different ways to make music more interesting. We have more choice of venues through using Soundscape and more experimental production, breaking limitations.”