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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)

House Processing Equipment
A formidable array of processing devices lined the wall behind the house consoles.

Four separate equipment racks were packed with enough gear to stock a major recording studio or two (Figure 11).

Rack #1 contained 10 Valley People Kepex II compressor-limiter-gates, which were applied to each individual drum. including the snare. OmniCraft G-4 noise gates were used on the effects returns. Four dbx 160 limiters were patched into channels assigned to handle bass guitar, bass pedals, and two kick drums. Four sides of EXR Exciter were used on the left and right overhead drum mikes, and on the toms. A spare crossover and a Dietz parametric equalizer completed the rack.

Rack #2 housed a Crown RTA-2 real-time analyzer, connected to an AKG C414-B mike for ambient frequency response readings. Two Technics M-85 stereo cassette decks were included for recording and playback. Also contained within this rack. were the main sound system processing gear.

Console outputs first were put through a pair of Klark-Teknik stereo third-octave graphic equalizers, and then through a custom Brooke-Siren crossover.

These English-made units are built specially for Turbosound with additional phase correction circuitry, adjustable at the front panel, and are specifically recommended for use with the TMS-3 system. A four-way stereo crossover drives the stacked speakers, with crossover points at 60 Hz, 280 Hz, and 3.7 kHz. The flying clusters had a separate three-way crossover that allowed the TMS-3 cabinets in the air to start receiving signal at 30 Hz.

The third house electronics rack contains most of the show’s special effects devices. A Lexicon Super Prime Time Il (with 40 programmable memories), a standard Léxicon Prime Time, and two Eventide H949 Harmonizers were available for vocal processing. Also included was an URSA MAJOR space Station for reverb effects on the drums, a DeltaLab DL-I for vocal special effects, and a new Lexicon 224X digital reverb unit that served as the primary drum and vocal reverberation system for the show. “It’s interesting, this 224X,” says Kingsland. “It offered very long reverberation times [up to 70 seconds — Ed.] with a good, natural sound.”

Rack #4 primarily houses the channel-insert gear, including eight dbx Over-Easy compressors that were placed on vocal mike channels. Two de-essers were included for dialog and sound effects, along with six dbx Model 905 parametrics for vocal channel inserts. Omni-Craft GT-4 noise-gates and Bi-Amp Quad-limiters were put inline with the synthesizers as a safety factor for the main sound system. Other processing devices included a flanger for the drums, two more parametrics and compressor channels used as inserts on the lavalier mikes, and two sides of dbx noise reduction for the Otari tape deck (two tracks being run with dbx, and two without). An Eventide H910 Harmonizer was included in the rack for the Fender Rhodes; six more EXR Exciter sides were inserted on the vocals. A few more spare Dietz limiters completed the rack.

Figure 11

Speed Of System Construction
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the sound system put together for Styx is the fact that it was built in the month prior to the tour going out. Audio Analysts did not receive final confirmation of the tour until December 17, 1982. (Styx has been known for last-minute decisions in the past. Rob Kingsland sent mild shock waves through the concert sound business in 1979 by mailing out a bound set of specifications for essentially this same system, bids being sought for a tour hardly eight weeks away!)

According to Albert Leccese of Audio Analysts, “The recession actually helped us to prepare for this tour. Warehouses were full, and many of our suppliers were able to ship items right from stock.” Leccesse offers that the company’s biggest worry was the monitor consoles. “1 flew straight to England and laid out the specs,” he recalls. “Graham Blythe and Phil Dutteridge at Soundcraft were very helpful; those guys got these consoles out in less than 30 days.” Betty Bennett, general manager of Soundcraft, Inc., confirmed that the console manufacturer had only three week’s notice. “We were just getting ready for the holiday season, and Audio Analysts ordered two of our new monitor consoles. We had not even seen them here yet in the States. And Albert wanted delivery in three weeks.”

According to Alan Wick of Turbosound, the purchase order for the TMS-3 cabinets was received on December 16, 1982. By January 21 the boxes had been loaded, painted, and tested in Audio Analysts’ Plattsburgh facility. Consoles, speakers, cabling and electronics were all hastily . . . and expertly . . . put together as the parts arrived. Personally, this writer would not have known that the system had only been bits and pieces 30 days prior to the tour, had he not been told. The system seemed to be a well-built and finely-tuned package, right down to the last road case.

Show Sound
As stated earlier, the smaller, high-ceilinged San Diego Fox Theater can offer great challenges to a sound engineer and his system. During the course of the first night’s performance, I spent a great deal of time trying to locate spots in the room which had poor sound. I found none. Words were clearly heard even in the back row of the high balcony, though the low-frequency response was, expectedly, somewhat attenuated up there. The TMS-3 system, to my ears, was able to clearly reproduce the music program material in such a manner that I was not even aware that I’d been listening to 115 dB peaks until I stepped out into the lobby to find my ears ringing.

Inside, the system was very easy to sit and listen to. Odd frequency peaks and harmonic distortion were practically non-existent. The lack of distortion in the system definitely helped to make listening to it a pleasure. The PA looked good, and sounded better. A wide range of audio effects actually attracted the audience’s attention to the high-fidelity sound system. And, for a system assembled in 30 days, heard on the first night of a complex tour, that says a lot.

Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI grew to become the monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.

Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.

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