Immersed in Jazz - Yamaha AFC Image Delivers Natural, Balanced Sound

Yamaha’s immersive AFC Image system was a highlight of the 22nd annual Takeo Moriyama Jazz Night, held at Japan’s Kani City Cultural Creation Center in September 2023. Delivering very natural, localised sound, the audience enjoyed a much more realistic experience than a conventional L-R PA system can provide.

Kani City Cultural Creation Center is a socially-inclusive cultural hub in Japan’s Gifu prefecture. Nicknamed ‘Ala’ - Italian for wing, because of its symbolically large roof - the venue has staged the Takeo Moriyama Jazz Night every year since it opened in 2002.

Takeo Moriyama is one of Japan's leading jazz drummers, who has a very close relationship with the venue. Living in Kani, he hosts a weekly drum school at Ala, with some of his students having gone on to become professional drummers.

The Challenge

“With conventional PAs, there are too many areas where the sound is different from what the operator intended,” says Mr Hiroki Toyoda, Takeo Moriyama Jazz Night’s front of house mix engineer. “With a conventional L-R, two channel PA system, the audience seated near one set of speakers will only really hear the sound from those speakers, which gives them a very unbalanced audio experience. This is frustrating and, I think, slightly absurd.

“In contrast. an immersive system is totally different. It delivers a very natural, well-balanced sound throughout the venue. This is the way I have always wanted people to hear a performance.”

“We have always experimented with new ideas for the Takeo Moriyama Jazz Night,” adds Mr Hayato Ikeda, chief sound engineer for Ala’s performance spaces.

“We have been working on immersive audio since 2018, but at the beginning there were no dedicated products, so it was a trial-and-error approach using existing equipment. In 2022 and 2023, with the cooperation of Yamaha, we have been able use the AFC Image immersive system.”

The Challenge

The Solution

Yamaha AFC (Active Field Control) Image is an object-based control system, which allows the sound image to be freely localised and moved throughout three dimensions in a variety of settings, such as theatre, opera, live music and permanent installations.

The Solution

Three NEXO GEOS 1210 x 4 line array as loudspeakers for 'AFC Image'

It allows quick and precise control via a sophisticated graphic-based interface, with a zoning function which allows object playback to be assigned to specific sets of speakers. It includes a three-dimensional reverb system, which creates a realistic reverberation and sound field in the listening area, while a rendering area conversion function optimizes DAW and console panning operations to the shape of the real space.

At the 2023 Takeo Moriyama Jazz Night, left, centre and right arrays - each comprising four compact NEXO GEO S1210 loudspeakers - were flown above the stage and were responsible for the playback of the AFC Image system.

'AFC Image' sound image screen

Left and right ground stacks were also installed, which were used to enhance the volume of the performance. Taking advantage of the Haas effect, the ground stacks were used to boost the volume of the performance, while the audience still enjoyed the full AFC Image immersive experience.

4 x NEXO GEOS1210 + 2 x LS18 subwoofers

“I realized the importance of the Haas effect when I started working with immersive audio,” says Mr Ikeda. “By delaying the sound of the L-R system, the live sound is localized by the AFC Image system first.”

Mr Hayato Ikeda, Head of Sound, Facility Stage Section, Kani City Cultural Creation Centre

AFC Image treats each sound source as a moveable ‘object’. At the Takeo Moriyama Jazz Night, this meant when the saxophone soloist came to the front of the stage and moved around, Mr Toyoda moved the object on the AFC Image control tablet's touchscreen in real time, making the sound of the instrument follow the movement of the soloist.

Wind instrumentalists moving on stage during live performances

The 3D reverb built into AFC Image was also used, harnessing 19 proscenium, wall and ceiling speakers which are permanently installed in the venue. All of these were time compensated, which gave the reverb a very natural sound.

“With a normal PA system, the reverb comes from the same speakers as the instruments, but with the 3D reverb, the instruments are heard from the front and the reverb comes from the walls and ceiling. I used it for ballads, wind instrument and accordion solos, as well as other pinpoint applications, and it sounded extremely natural,” says Mr Toyoda.

Mr Hiroki Toyoda, sound engineer

Real-time control of the sound image on the tablet as the player moves.

The dedicated processing and separate, high end speakers means AFC Image delivers an exceptionally natural sound, as if there is no PA, which is very different from conventional immersive audio using existing equipment.

3D Reverb settings screen

“The sound is just better, especially the balance. To put it simply, we can deliver the sound experienced at the best seats in a concert hall to almost every seat. Areas where the sound used to be unbalanced are almost completely eliminated,” says Mr Ikeda.

“This is evidenced by how many positive comments we received from the Takeo Moriyama Jazz Night audience. From the sound provider's point of view, I don't want to go back to a conventional L-R, two-channel PA system.”

“I would like everybody to experience immersive live audio,” adds Mr Toyoda. “I hope that it will become accepted as a mainstream form of live entertainment sound reinforcement.”

CL5 used as the main console

QL5 used as a monitoring console

Gifu, Japan


Active Field Control (AFC) is an acoustic conditioning system designed to adjust and enhance the sound of a space while making use of the natural acoustic properties of the existing structure.