As an audio professional with experience stretching from the Paleo festival in the 1970s, through working with many of the world’s highest profile artists, to his current role of designing high end audio installations for events and venues, Pierre-André Aebischer knows a thing or two about sound. This experience is why he chose Yamaha’s STAGEPAS 1K all-in-one portable PA systems to demonstrate the advantages of multi-channel, immersive live audio.
Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, Pierre-André has always been fascinated by immersive audio. He has recently started using eight Yamaha STAGEPAS 1K systems under the banner of Superdiff.com for a range of immersive audio projects. These have included the Stokata.io ‘invisible orchestra’ project, a one-off show Les Grands Espaces, as well as a regular experimental multi-channel event Immersive, demonstrating how immersive sound can improve the live experience.
“I needed some small, portable multi-channel line arrays for a system which could demonstrate immersive audio in a live music situation,” he says. “I needed narrow vertical coverage, wide horizontal coverage and reasonably long throw, to make sure everyone in the room had the best experience and could hear all sounds coming from all the loudspeakers. They also needed to be self-powered, with coherent amplification and processing, easily transported, and with as few cables as possible.”
The STAGEPAS 1K system was an ideal solution for Pierre-André’s needs, thanks to its high quality reproduction and because it includes a subwoofer in each array. This lets him quickly steer the low end content from one location to another.
“When moving from theory to practice with live immersive audio, there is a lot to learn,” he says. “It requires lower SPLs, offers cleaner, clearer sound quality and accurate localisation, delivering huge benefits for audiences. It minimises interference like comb filtering, ensuring instruments sound as much like their original source as possible. The sense of space it creates is also very reassuring for the ear/brain system, replacing the need for high SPLs from traditional systems and making for a comfortable and peaceful listening experience.”
He continues, “You will ideally have one loudspeaker for each instrument, making accurate localisation possible, even with your eyes closed. You can also let the listener’s brain do some of the mixing. If the ears can accurately localise and isolate every instrument, the brain will naturally emphasise certain sources that it likes, while minimising others.”
To prove these benefits, Pierre-André deploys the eight STAGEPAS 1K systems in a line or 180º arc, each system running independently and reproducing as few different instruments as possible to minimise interference.
“A 360° system is perfectly adequate, but extra care is needed when using rear points for music because of the obvious timing issues for different locations within a space,” he says. “But people like the immersive nature of 360º sound, even if the rear speakers are just used for things like wind noise or animal sounds, so I have tended to use those for sound effects.”
Pierre-André composes the music for all the demonstrations, recording it to a digital audio workstation (DAW) and then routing it to the loudspeakers in a variety of ways.
“For the Stokata.io project, each input source was independently sent from the DAW to an individual output of a mixing console and from there to one of the STAGEPAS 1K systems, effectively using the mixer as a router. While for others, like Les Grands Espaces, the mixer pre-amplified several guitar effects, freeze and looped tracks, which were then routed to the eight output channels via an external object mixer. “This allowed me to map the trajectories of sounds and ‘pan’ them across all eight loudspeaker systems,” he says.
“In the same way that demand for line array systems exploded in the early 2000s, I believe that the demand for live immersive audio will soon be on the verge of a huge expansion. Yamaha STAGEPAS 1K systems have helped me to open people’s minds to the amazing possibilities that this brings.”