Hellfest is not as frightening as it sounds! For 3 days, 40,000 rock and metal fans gather in the countryside of western France (Clisson, just outside of Nantes) for this annual festival. Headlined by Def Leppard, Kiss, and Volbeat, this year’s event saw NEXO’s new STM system make its Hellfest debut on the two main stages.
French rental company Melpomen has provided the audio kit for Hellfest since its inception in 2006, and, as Melpo has been a big NEXO user for nearly 20 years, the festival has always been NEXO-centric. With STM onboard this year, that meant more headroom and more control than ever before, according to Thierry Tranchant, Melpo’s president.
“We have a very good relationship with the festival organisers, so when we explained that we needed STM because it is such a fantastic, powerful system, and it’s so easy to rig, they just took our word for it,” he says, backstage during day one of the event.
“We’ve designed it so that the maximum level of the system is 118dB, so we have a serious amount of headroom to play with.” And evidently so: the headliners were coming through loud and clear at just 104dB from FOH –some 55 metres back from the stage. Tranchant says the throw from stage was actually 70 metres to the end of the audience area.
“We’ve always had a great sound from GEO-T at Hellfest, but I have to say working with STM is quite a step up. Sonically, the HF and the mid frequencies are just perfect, and we now have an extremely solid and powerful low-end,” Tranchant insists. “The additional power, in fact, is so evident that we only need to use two-thirds of the amount of STM cabinets in comparison to what we would need if we were using GEO – that is really impressive.”
As is tradition at Hellfest, there are two main stages located next to each other and the bands ‘flip-flop’ between the two to ensure that the festival soundtrack is uninterrupted. “There is no silence at Hellfest!” jokes Tranchant. The two PA systems effectively run as one, continuously. When a band was playing on main stage A, the B stage system dropped 6dB in level, and vice versa.
Both stages were equipped with identical STM systems which were set up to run on 180Hz (Bass to Main) and 60Hz (S118 Subbass to B112 Bass) crossover frequencies. Each stage had a dedicated L/R main hang of 15x STM M46 Main Modules and 15x STM B112 Bass Modules per side; and two stacks of 15x S118 Sub Modules in a cardioid configuration on the floor. This totalled 180x sets of STM.
Amplification was handled by 20x units of NEXO Universal Amp Racks, each containing 2x NXAMP 4x4s, which Tranchant says are some of the best he’s ever worked with.
“The power the NXAMPs give out is more than enough, and in terms of reliability, they’re absolutely perfect,” he says. “Also, the NXAMP’s power supply is particularly clean and there’s no pickup consumption like you often see in many other amplifiers, so it’s really a very efficient product.”
System design was achieved using NEXO’s proprietary NS-1 software package, and includes GEO T sidefills, GEO S12 front fills and even Alpha cabinets on stage. “All systems are 100% phase coherent, something NEXO has been working on for the last two years,” confirms Stuart Kerrison, from the company’s Concert Sound Division. Completing the NEXO story, the distinctive 45ºN-12 monitors were on stage for the majority of the performers to use, although most of the headliners chose to use in-ears.
Stuart Kerrison, a fellow Aussie looking quite proud of Nexo STM (and understandably so)
“I used the 45ºN-12s two years ago with Iggy Pop and even he thought they sounded really good, so I knew they must be the real deal,” Tranchant says, with a smile. “We’ve got 48 of them here for Hellfest and they’re working very well; the fact that you can configure them as you please is a major advantage when working in any festival environment.”
Melpomen’s team was led by crew chief David Prevost, with Cedric Bernard and Christophe Rousseau at FOH, Samuel Biraies and Wilfrid Hubert on stage.