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RE/P Files: Styx “Kilroy Was Here” Tour 1983

From the archives of Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine. a tour with several interesting twists

By David Scheirman January 18, 2016

Styx North American Tour 1983 (Credit: All images by David Scheirman)

Meyer Monitor Speakers
All stage monitor speakers on the Styx tour are John Meyer products, and are owned by the band.

Meyer advises that the amplifier used to drive one cabinet should produce at least 250 watts driven into 8 ohms.

As in the house system, Audio Analysts uses QSC Series Three amps to drive all of the monitor lines in a bi-amplified mode.

Three different Meyer speaker cabinets were in use for the Styx tour. the UM-I, the UPA-I, and the USW.

The UM-I Ultra-Monitor is the smallest Meyer speaker cabinet available. Intended to be used as a “spot” monitor, the cabinet contains a single 12-inch speaker in a ported chamber (Figure 8), and is used by Cooper as spot reinforcement at each vocal mike.

A high-frequency driver is mounted on a conical horn with a narrowly controlled pattern.

Six cabinets were placed along the edge of the downstage line, with a pair angled up at each of the three vocal stands; cabinets also covered the bass guitar and keyboard positions.

With the same single 12-inch speaker and HF driver, the Meyer UPA-1 differs from the UM-1 only in the choice of horn, and contains a radial to provide wider coverage. The box has a slightly different exterior dimensions than the UM-I to maintain a constant internal cubic-inch displacement. Four UPA-1s were used for wide-area coverage, and were placed offstage.

Figure 8

The drummer’s monitor mix was heard through five stacked cabinets: two UPA-I s, and three USWs. The latter is a dual-fifteen cabinet with an internal cubic displacement of five feet. These three subwoofers were stacked a mere two feet behind the drummer’s stool, and inadvertently projected the amplified kick drum well out into the audience seating area. The effect of this interference would not have been noticeable in an arena setting, but was evident in the smaller theater.

Setting Up The Monitor System
At load-in, Audio Analysts’ engineer Sean Webb placed the monitor speaker cabinets on stage, and cabled them up. First to go in were the flying side-fills, which were hung from the downstage lighting truss, and required immediate attention. For this application, a pair of Meyer UP A-I boxes were strapped together and hung from each end of the truss with nylon webbing and metal hooks. The cabinets were secured at an extreme downward angle with ratchet straps, as shown in Figure 9.

These small cabinets developed an amazingly high sound-pressure level from such a high over-head distance — strong enough that Rob Kingsland out at the house console was moved to comment that he noticed a slight interference with the house sound during the show’s louder passages.

Figure 9

After the Meyer speakers were positioned and wired, monitor engineer Mike Cooper used a White Model 200 real-time analyzer with pink-noise to perform an initial level check of the various monitor zones.

“We’ll use the analyzer, to a large extent to give us an idea what we are experiencing as far as acoustical problems go on a given stage,” he explains. “But, we don’t live by the analyzer .  after I see what needs to be seen on it, I then look for problems. Often things like poor mike placement show up. The ears though, are the real thing. If the display doesn’t correspond with the ears, go with the ears.”

Cooper explains that, for this act, vocals and drums are most important. “I really have to spread the snare and hi-hat over the stage,” he says. “And, the EXR Exciters go a long way towards giving me a really bright, present sound on the vocal mix anywhere on stage. My downstage mixes are important, but the sidefills actually carry the show, since these boys move around a lot.” In addition to the overhead sidefill pairs, a Meyer USW and UPA-I are placed at stage level on either side of the front vocal line, and fed separate left and right mixes.

Feedback, with all those monitors? “Not really,” Cooper claims. “I never have all of my 64 inputs open at the same time. Drums and vocals are a constant, but the many keyboards and guitars come and go. I probably average about 22 open channels at any given time during the show, and half of those are likely to be direct inputs, so acoustical feedback problems are not really that common. It really depends on two things: how loud the band plays; and how well we tuned them beforehand. But, the Meyer speakers give me just as much level — and it’s cleaner — as any huge tri-amplified stack I ever used for sidefills.”

According to Cooper, unlike some tours that basically are done in a spontaneous, “seat-of-the-pants” method, the Styx Show places a great demand on him for proper monitor cues. As he explains, “What happens is this: we have a lot of cues some instruments may be used on only one tune during the entire show, maybe only for a few bars. But it has to be there on time. I also have four tracks of tape return from the house console, and a film audio track to bring in and out. And there are three different [Audio-Technica] wireless lavalier mike channels, each one used twice during the evening.”

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