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Sheeran Panthers

Meyer Sound’s PANTHER array unveiled

By

4 May 2022

Over two nights, late in April at Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium, more than 80,000 Irish fans burst into cheers of jubilation when the first pummelling chords of “Tides” opened each of Ed Sheeran’s shows as he kicked off his fourth world tour. Most attending these first “+ – = ÷ x” (“Mathematics”) Tour shows would have known that they were to be performed in-the-round. Few outside the production crew would have known that these shows also marked the global launch of Meyer Sound’s PANTHER; the large-format, linear line-array loudspeaker. 

Supplied by UK-based Major Tom, Ltd. and suspended from impressive mast and cable net rigging, the system was anchored by 212 PANTHER loudspeakers. The Dublin shows claimed another first. They were also the first to deploy a Milan-protocol AVB network from FOH mix all the way to the loudspeaker cabinets. Although the PANTHER-based system is substantially smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient than the LEO line array loudspeakers that Sheeran’s prior touring inventory was largely based on, everyone on the production team were confident that the new rig would perform with equivalent results. 

However, according to Production Director and FOH Engineer Chris Marsh, the Dublin debut suggests their expectations may have been overly cautious. “For the past 11 years, one of the main criteria for the tours was that Ed has to be heard clearly at every seat in the venue,” says Marsh. “I’ve always been impressed by how well the LEO arrays could bring that sense of intimacy to the back rows of stadiums. In that regard, I was surprised by how PANTHER — a lighter, smaller box — could do the same. I managed to get a bit of a walk-around during the support acts, and I was immediately aware of the remarkable clarity at distant seats.”

Marsh emphasised that the clarity went beyond a fan’s ability to understand Sheeran’s lyrics. “Clarity is usually thought of in terms of the high-end, of sibilants and diction, but PANTHER was also very tight in the low-mids too, which is something you tend not to hear from further away. Everything was present and clear — including the subtle nuances of reverb tails that are often lost at distance.”

For the Croke Park shows, the system deployed fourteen hangs of PANTHER arrays in two rings. The six inner arrays were each comprised of ten “L” long-throw versions, and two “M” main versions. The eight outer arrays contained ten “L” versions, two “M” versions, and two “W” wide-coverage versions. The three horn dispersion configurations enabled system designers to tailor coverage for uniform levels and frequency response at various distances. Controlled deep bass was supplied by six flown arrays of 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements configured in gradient arrays of ten each. A total of twenty LEOPARD loudspeakers were set around the circular stage as front fill, and the stage bass was supplied by six stacks of three 1100-LFC elements in gradient arrays.

Mixing the shows behind his DiGiCo Quantum 7 “was a remarkable experience,” says Marsh. “With LEO, I felt that everything sat nicely in the mix, with ample open space. But now I feel that PANTHER gives me even more space — an even larger canvas to paint on.” The primary, Milan Certified GALAXY 816 Network Platform at FOH connects to a Milan End Point (MEP) network, configured as a star topology, which consists of one GALAXY 816 platform, three GALAXY 408 platforms, and twenty Luminex Gigacore 26i switches. As failover backup, the always-active parallel analog inputs were connected via a primary and secondary redundant Milan network with dedicated GALAXY units.

The tour system was designed in consultation with Meyer Sound Director of System Optimisation Bob McCarthy, with on-site assistance from Senior Technical Support Specialist Josh Dorn-Fehrmann. Veteran audio system engineer Charlie Albin handles system alignment, tuning, and monitoring duties for each show.

According to Marsh, the advantages of PANTHER also extend to the efficiency and sustainability of the tour. “With the way it rigs, the fourteen hangs go up and come down very quickly. We are also taking up a lot less truck space than when we are using other systems. The entire audio system fits into three trucks which is something we wouldn’t have been able to do with a LEO-based system — or likely any other.”

Ed Sheeran’s “+ – = ÷ x” (“Mathematics”) Tour, with 64 shows across Europe and Oceania, is currently scheduled through to 12 March 2023. It is the follow-up to the 2017 to 2019 “÷” (“Divide”) Tour, which currently holds Pollstar’s all-time records for both gross receipts and total attendance.

CONTACT

Meyer Sound: meyersound.com

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READ ONLINE NOW
Online
Issue 93

REVIEWED

Ableton Live 12
What’s in. What’s out. What to expect.