For the Gobi Stage at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, sound equipment provider Rat Sound Systems relied on HARMAN Professional audio solutions to deliver impactful sound and a consistently unforgettable audience experience.
Starting in 1999 with a 25,000-person attendance, Coachella is now one of the most successful and beloved music festivals in the world. This year, the festival occurred over two weekends and brought approximately 250,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in the Coachella Valley. This year marked the festival’s highly-anticipated return after a two-year hiatus with a lineup including Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Swedish House Mafia with The Weeknd as headliners.
This year, the mid-size Gobi stage hosted a diverse bill of artists including electro-pop singer Rina Sawayama, alt-jazz combo BADBADNOTGOOD and rising queer country star Orville Peck among many others. To best accommodate a variety of genres and give the audience an immersive experience uninhibited by noise from the other festival stages, the Rat Sound team implemented a dynamic rig featuring JBL Professional VTX Series speakers and Crown VRack Series amplifiers.
“There are a lot of artists on the Gobi stage with a lot of dynamic and unique sounds,” said Kyle Pace, Project Manager, Rat Sound. “The main challenge at this stage is the tent structure and sound slapping from the back structures out in the field and sides of the tent. The JBL engineers came in and listened to the requests of what we were trying to accomplish. Using their smaller-degree boxes on top and the wides on bottom definitely helped minimize slapback from the rear structures and sides of the tent. The JBL system did a phenomenal job at projecting a clear and accurate representation of what was going in and out of the console.”
Using the streamlined, best-in-class rigging technology found across VTX Series speakers, the team designed two main speaker clusters each consisting of ten JBL VTX A12 and two A12W line array speakers. Featuring a high-frequency waveguide design and next-generation JBL transducer technology, the VTX A12 is built to provide mid-to-large stages with detailed sound and impactful output. Additionally, the redesigned Radiation Boundary Integrator ensures even coverage and minimal distortion or horn edge diffraction even at higher levels. The VTX A12W includes the same features as the A12 along with a 120-degree dispersion pattern for greater horizontal coverage.
“It’s so exciting to be back at Coachella, especially after the pandemic––it’s especially nice to be mixing on the VTX A12 PA,” said Anna Dahlin, FOH for Rina Sawayama. “It gives me all the clarity I need for a predominantly electronic show like Rina Sawayama, plus a solid sub to underpin the dance element of the music.”
Along with the A12 speakers, the Rat Sound team installed 15 JBL VTX B28 dual 18-inch subwoofers, which are designed to complement the rest of the VTX Series speakers with reinforced, transparent low end. Using innovative JBL Differential Drive woofers, the B28 delivers a powerful bass response as low as 25 Hz, making it a useful speaker for attention-grabbing live shows. Finally, JBL VTX A8 compact line array speakers, with 110-degree dispersion and mid-frequency Radiation Boundary Integrators, served as the front fill speakers and two delay clusters thanks to their efficient coverage and compact design.
“The drivers on the VTX speakers have a lot of clarity, precision and intelligibility,” said Pace. “I was able to make out and hear a lot of sounds that get buried inside of tracks. The consistency of the PA walking side to side and back to front was a breath of fresh air.”
“The VTX solutions deployed on Gobi were both musical and powerful,” noted Bill May, FOH for electronic artist TokiMonsta. “For my client on a festival stage with highly-produced tracks, it is very important to have heaps of headroom and a musical PA right out of the box. I was really impressed with this system and I’m excited to see it out on the road.”
For the backend, Rat Sound selected Crown VRack Series Amplifiers to provide ample power and optimum performance. Both the 4x3500HD and 12000HD amplifiers are all-in-one solutions for touring shows of any size, packing intuitive controls and reliable inputs into a compact and tour-ready enclosure. Lastly, JBL Performance Manager software provided the Gobi front-of-house with comprehensive, easy-to-use controls and a streamlined layout for programming, automation and more.
Across the two weekends, audiences at the Gobi stage enjoyed the rig’s crystal-clear and wide-reaching sound as they watched an eclectic lineup of artists and bands. Overall, the engineers who worked the Gobi stage found the system to be effective and worry-free, making for an enjoyable live music experience for everyone involved.
“Any time I walk into a VTX rig, I know it’s going to be a good day,” added Devin Foley, FOH for indie pop band the Marias. “They’re definitely one of my favorite boxes so far.”