From the June 1983 issue of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, David Scheirman catches up with Styx on their 1983 tour of North America.
To promote their latest album, Kilroy Was Here, the rock group Styx is spending much of 1983 performing in theaters and arenas across North America.
The chart topping band has been consistently filling the largest available venues for the past several years.
The current tour, however, offers several interesting twists: an initial “small-hall” tour of classic theaters; a new stage show in tune with the Kilroy theme, complete with motion-picture projection and robot costumes; and a new sound reinforcement company for the first time in nearly a decade — Audio Analysts, a concert sound specialty company with offices in Plattsburgh, New York, and Montreal, Quebec.
The 1983 American tour started in early March with a series of shows held in smaller, older theaters (Styx has shown an interest in promoting this type of venue since its Rockin’ The Paradise album told the story of a vintage Chicago-area theater due to be torn down by developers).
The first stop on this leg of the March tour was at downtown San Diego’s Fox Theater, an aging, high-ceilinged room with well preserved and ornate plaster proscenium moldings. The characteristics which make theaters such as this one so picturesque often can contribute to poor acoustics. The high ceiling and thrust balconies create three (or more) separate acoustical zones, each presenting the sound man with its own problem to be solved.
The high balconies typically get little direct sound, due to the physical problems involved with accurately focusing temporary loudspeakers at extreme angles (Figure 1). Seating areas underneath the thrust balcony often suffer from a lack of low-frequency response, and the high-frequency program material can become very irritating at the back wall due to the beaminess of horn-loaded systems. Forward seating areas either get “blown away” by excessive sound pressure levels, or else hear only a jumbled bunch of reverberated sound from the other two problem areas.
House System Loudspeakers
Perhaps the Styx tour’s greatest challenge faced by a sound company was that the same loudspeaker system to be used for the small-hall portion of the tour also had to serve the arenas. The show’s house mix engineer, Rob Kingsland, settled on the patented TMS-3 speaker enclosures from Turbosound, of London, England. “I knew that whatever speaker system I picked, I had to live with for six months,” explains Kingsland, who has been involved with Styx’s sound for the better part of the last decade, both in the recording studio and on the road.
“The TMS-3 system offers very high efficiency in a relatively small package, has excellent fidelity, and is versatile enough to handle both the small theaters and the large arenas. Of course, I am not bringing all of the system into the small halls; as you can see here [at San Diego] I have a total of 22 cabinets including the subwoofers. I’ll start the arena tour with 48 cabinets.”
As provided by Audio Analysts, the house loudspeaker system consists of two basic types of cabinets: the TMS-3 box, a three-way composite loudspeaker package, and the TSW-124, a TurboSubWoofer with single 24-inch speakers (Figure 2).
The TMS-3 measures only 33 by 40 by 23 inches, and weighs 298 pounds when fully loaded with two LF 15-inch drivers, two MF 10-inch drivers, and a HF driver mounted on a Northwest Sound 340F 90- by 40-degree constant directivity foam flare. Turbosound claims an unequalized response for this cabinet of 55 Hz to 20 kHz, +3 dB. It is designed for both stacking and flying. Typically, the cabinets are supplied in equal amounts of “left” and “right” boxes. When stacked, the mirror-image cabinets are designed to allow for vertical and horizontal acoustical coupling of the low-frequency chambers, and vertical coupling of the mids and highs.
Low-frequency speakers are horn-loaded in the TMS-3 box, one above the other. This low-frequency section of the cabinet, utilizing the TurboBassDevice, is a separately patented unit developed by Turbosound (Figure 3). Also patented is the TurboMidDevice that gave the cabinet, and the sound company, its name: each 10-inch speaker is loaded to a specially molded horn and phasing plug assembly. The plug resembles nothing 80 much as the front end of a turbo-jet engine — hence the name. The cone drivers provided with the TMS-3 are designed by Turbosound engineers, and assembled by a subcontracted acoustical transducer manufacturing facility. Turbosound supplies the cabinet with a TAD 4001 compression driver for the high-end.