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Meyer Sound Touring System Propels Crowd-Rousing Pretenders
On their winter tour of the United States, the Pretenders are filling houses ranging from 700 seats up to 4,000 seats with near capacity to sellout crowds. On most nights, however, the seats themselves quickly become irrelevant.
"Usually the crowd gets up during the first song and they don't sit back down until they're in their cars," says Andre Pichette, the systems engineer who fine-tunes the touring Meyer Sound rig nightly. "It's great energy, but it's not loud at all. We average only about 95 dB A at the mix position. On the way out a lot of people stop at the house console and tell us, 'Thanks, that was great sound.'"
The touring production system, supplied by Montreal-based Solotech Location, employs Meyer Sound's MSL-4 Horn-Loaded Long-Throw loudspeakers as the primary building block, with 24 MSL-4s available as needed. Also along for the ride are eight Meyer 650-R2 subwoofers for deep bass and four MSL-2 full-range loudspeakers for front and side fill.
The Meyer Sound rig is making the long trek from Jacksonville, Florida, to Seattle, Washington, at the behest of FOH mixer Chris 'Privet' Hedge, a British touring veteran (Joe Cocker, Genesis, Mike and the Mechanics) now on his first go-round with Chrissie Hynde and company.
"I've used the MSL-4s on tours before, with Mike and the Mechanics and Neil Finn," remarks Hedge, "and I've always really enjoyed them. They're great for carrying balanced musical information, the voices in particular. And that's crucial for shows like these. You can have all the low end you like, but if you haven't got a good clear vocal sound you haven't got a song. The show can be made to feel louder or quieter by the positioning of the vocal within the mix. This type of audience doesn't want to be blown away with volume, but they do want it powerful."
Hedge adds that the tight coverage patterns and flexible deployment options offered by the MSL-4 have proven their worth on the tour. "In many places we can't fly a system, so using a line array is out," he says. "But with these trapezoidal boxes you can point them wherever you like, stacked or flown."
Solotech systems engineer Pichette quickly determined that, for most shows, a ground stack of six MSL-4s per side serves well as the core configuration. But he also found the MSL-4s easily adaptable to a wide variety of throw depths and angles: "You can stack them with or without the horns coupling, and you can fly with two, three or six per side. You can set the bumper angles as you need to for the best balcony coverage. Sometimes you can't fly high enough for a straight shot at the balcony, so you set them at an up angle. The rig is very flexible for doing that."
The fact that the MSL-4s are integrated, self-powered systems also has made life on the road just a bit easier for the two lead engineers and their crew. For one thing, the daily system reconfigurations are now a streamlined, 'plug 'n' play' proposition. "You just plug one into the Soundweb and send it off wherever you like," notes Hedge. For his part, Pichette notes that the reduced amp rack count (only two, compared to eight for all-conventional systems) has opened up more stage space and made a one-truck tour much easier to accomplish. Also, he adds, the MSL-4's exceptional efficiency can prove a headache reliever in some older, smaller venues. "We can go into a small theater with only 100 amps three-phase," he claims, "and we're okay."
For Privet, however, the overriding concern is of a more subjective nature. His ears have enjoyed (and endured) thousands of hours in front of various loudspeaker systems, and over the years certain preferences have emerged—the MSL-4 among them. "It often boils down to a question of personal choice," he acknowledges. "I just like the sound of these boxes. They are very soft and musical, if that's what you want from them, but they can still sound tough if that's what you need for a strong rock sound."