Brugal Merengue Festival

25,000 celebrate Puerto Rico's popular music festival


One of the most popular music festivals in the Caribbean, the Brugal Merengue Festival is one of the region's most highly anticipated events. This year's festival drew a crowd of 25,000 people who filled the Hiram Bithorn Stadium popular baseball stadium to capacity. The artist roster included performances by Latin Grammy-winning vocalist Milly Quezada, Sergio Vargas, and Kinito Méndez from the Dominican Republic, along with Gisselle, Manny Manuel, and Limit-21 from Puerto Rico. Longtime favorite group Conjunto Quisqueya made a comeback for a special performance at the event.

Caribbean Audio, one Puerto Rico's leading audio companies, was contracted to provide both sound reinforcement and backline (musical instruments) for this year's Brugal Merengue Festival. Wil López, former chief audio engineer for Ricky Martin and president of Caribbean Audio, discussed the challenges of the project. "Being a baseball venue," explained López, "the stadium is an open air facility. As a result, we not only had to deal with the fickle tropical weather where it can be sunny one moment and raining the next, we also had to contend with competing noise from the surrounding area-all while providing suitable coverage to a huge crowd. The event ran for eleven hours that day and presented a little bit of everything-including a torrential downpour during the afternoon." 40 new D.A.S. Audio Aero 12A's were deployed, flown 20 modules per side at a height of 32 feet in a left-right stereo configuration at the far sides of the 60 x 48-foot stage area. Low frequency support was provided by 16 LX-218A high performance powered subwoofers-ground stacked 8 enclosures per side, four units high by two units wide and located at the far sides of the stage.Stage monitoring included 18 D.A.S. Audio SML-12A low profile, powered stage monitors that, for the most part, remained fixed throughout the day. "As we provided all the instruments for the performers," said López, "we arranged the setup in such a way that there were monitors at all critical points onstage. As a result, there was very little movement of these loudspeakers-they were everywhere." For side fill, a combination of Aero CA-28A line array modules in conjunction with D.A.S. Compact 18, single 18-inch transducer subwoofers was used. Mounted up high on the truss and angled down at the stage, each side consisted of 3 Aero CA-28A's and a single Compact 18. Rounding out the stage monitoring system, the drum fill setup consisted of a single D.A.S. Audio SML-12A floor monitor used in tandem with a powered D.A.S. CA-215A subwoofer.

During preparations for the festival, Eduardo Ramos, audio engineer for multi-Grammy Award-winning performer Olga Tañón and Caribbean Audio's chief engineer, used EASE Focus acoustic simulation software for the configuration and modeling of the line array clusters.

"Since we were flying two clusters of 20 enclosures, Eduardo split the setup into two sections," said López. "One portion of the design was modeled for the four enclosures at the top of the array while the other configuration was designed for the remaining 16 boxes underneath. With a little tweaking afterwards, we ended up with a really nice setup that had solid throw across the field while providing consistent coverage in the areas up closer to the stage."

"When it came to flying the line arrays," López continued, "the D.A.S. system was impressive. As this was our first project with the new setup using this many enclosures, I contacted head of engineering and R&D, Javier Navarro, prior to the job. I explained to that I was going to fly 20 enclosures and was concerned about the weight. Javier assured me this was not a problem at all, but he did encourage us to use two hoists on the system. That's exactly what we did and the entire process couldn't have been easier. With a crew of eight, we put the entire system together and had it fully operational in eight hours. That's very quick for a system of this size and scope."

With the Brugal Merengue Festival successfully completed, López reflected on the project. "Everyone was really happy with the results," says López. "Considering the number of people in attendance and the fact that it poured during the afternoon, we couldn't have made a better choice for the loudspeaker system. The D.A.S. equipment was incredible. The protective flaps on the rear of the enclosures did a great job of protecting the electronics from the weather and everything functioned exactly as it was supposed to throughout the entire event."

"In terms of sound quality," said Ramos "No matter where you walked, the sound was consistent, clear, and had plenty of level. It was really gratifying for me to see how enthusiastically the crowd responded to the sound of the system-everyone was really into the music. Both speech intelligibility and music reproduced beautifully and the bass from this system was incredible. When our client first looked at the setup and expressed concerns about its size and ability to address such a large crowd, I suggested he wait until he could actually hear the system before coming to any final conclusions. Ultimately, he was very impressed and we now have the contract for next year's festival. In my book, when the project results in repeat business, that's the best compliment of all."

Text by R. Maxwell

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