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RE/P Files:The Coming Of Age For The Once-Maverick Touring Sound Business
Stanal Sound with the new Concert Series loudspeaker system for Neil Diamond's 1985 arena tour...
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The rear cluster comprised an amount of gear equivalent to one-half of a main left or right array. Configured for 180-degree coverage, the cluster was made up of 12 Model 4873 boxes, six Model 4866 long-throw boxes and six Model 4860 down-throw boxes. To provide more than just a stereo mix, a separate mixing console, with operator Richard Albrecht, was positioned high above the backstage area, facing the rear-fill cluster. Albrecht did a remix of 16 separate subgroups fed directly from Miller’s main house mix position.

“Some time ago, I noticed a hook-and-ladder fire truck going down the street,” Miller recalls. “Because the truck is so long, they used a separate driver with his own steering wheel. Well, we like the people in the rear seats to get their money’s worth. If I am out in front of the stage [mixing the show], I certainly can’t hear what is going on back there. The separate mixing board gives us much better control for that different acoustical environment and, using subgroup feeds, still gives me a certain measure of control over the mix.” (Figure 8)

An aside from the author: To my knowledge. this is the first instance of a sound reinforcement company supplying a separate mixing console and operator for a rear speaker cluster used for large venues. Stan Miller has traditionally used Neil Diamond’s show for unveiling new techniques and innovations in live sound system technology. Over the past 15 years, these have included such new strategies as stage mixIng, flying speaker systems, subwoofers, and delay-line speaker towers for large audiences. While other live sound companies have been on similar development tracks over the years, Miller’s consistent list of “firsts” with a single artist—in this instance, Neil Diamond—is perhaps without parallel.

Figure 8. (click to enlarge)

For the Diamond tour, Stanal supplied an extensive stage monitoring system that rivaled the main speaker system in complexity. Although a standard central monitor mixing area existed, three of the on-stage musicians (including the band’s musical director) received subgroup feeds, and were provided with auxiliary mixers. These three individuals had control over the program material content in their own stage monitor speakers. (A complete description of the stage monitor system for Neil Diamond’s tour is beyond the scope of this article.—Author)

“It has been interesting for me to note, over the years, that the things we develop for Neil often work so well that they end up being adopted by the live sound industry at large,” Miller says. “It is quite an honor to have been able to mix the same artist’s show for 18 years. When that level of trust is developed on the part of an artist and his sound engineer, those are the situations where it is possible to advance the overall ‘state of the art.’ Instead of having to rush things into development for last-minute tours, we are able to take a good, hard look at what direction we want to take things next. It is a mutually beneficial situation.”

Table 1. (click to enlarge)

Concert Series Systems
The new Concert Series system enclosures have each been given a 4800 series designation (Table 1). In addition to the series 4800 of speaker enclosures and accessories, such as cables and dollies. JBL Professional has completed formulation of the 4900 series for complete, packaged sound systems. Both direct-radiating and horn-loaded systems will be available, complete with dedicated signal processing and power amplifiers. Electronics racks and road cases also are available.

The system packages include fully loaded enclosures, JBL/UREI electronics, and pre-assembled racks and cables. The heart of each system’s drive rack is the Model 5234A electronic-frequency dividing network. A variety of signal-path variations are available to accommodate different numbers and types of enclosures (Figure 9).

Figures 9 and 10. (click to enlarge)

“Our system design philosophy is to use a high-quality class of matched components,” advises JBL’s Mark Gander. “Some people today are using crossovers with bandwidth shifting and independent limiting and compression for protection on the system sections. Our approach is not to do bandwidth shifting because of the radical changes in power response which can be incurred, and not to do limiting or compression unless every crossover section is linked to the others, to prevent wild psycho-acoustic anomalies.” (The Model 5234A, used for the Concert Series, has a custom-designed, plug-in crossover card, incorporating power-response equalization and high-pass filter for low-frequency driver protection.)

Within the 4900 series systems, increasing numbers of multiple cabinets and companion electronics are available to achieve pre-specified acoustical power outputs. The 4943 system, for example, comprises all components needed to supply a maximum of 140 dB (measured at one meter, continuous program) of full-bandwidth (20 Hz to 20 kHz) audio frequency sound reinforcement from a program material input (Figure 10).

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