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Morris Leasing & Electro-Voice raise the bar for live sound on Kenny Chesney tour

July 23rd, 2008

Morris Leasing revolutionized the country music industry throughout the late “70s, “80s, and “90s with country superstars Alabama, boosting the band’s crossover appeal with a rock tour production approach to their live shows, helping launch them towards massive multi-platinum success. Since Morris Leasing joined forces with Electro-Voice for Alabama’s farewell tour in 2003, the partnership has continued to grow year after year, as Phil Scobee explained:

“Back when we were gearing-up for the Alabama farewell tour in 2003, it was time to design and build a new PA system. That’s when I started working closely with Electro-Voice, and I put together my first all-EV (X-Line) system design. After that tour was finished I had this great EV system left over, and I moved it over to Kenny’s tour, with whom it grew exponentially-as did the tour.

“At that time X-Line had been well established with the Rolling Stones, but the P3000RL remote-control DSP amplifiers were brand new,“ Scobee continues. “I was excited to be the first to use this important new technology-including the earliest versions of IRIS control and supervision software-which was very exciting. From there we went forward, working together on the development of the IRIS-Net and NetMax systems we use today. Now the technology has finally caught up to what I envisioned back then, and it continues to be an extremely rewarding working relationship. I always knew the X-Line was a great PA, but now we can reap its full benefits, tying the whole package together with this new technology.“

The Kenny Chesney tour plays some of the largest NFL and college football stadiums in the U.S.A., and Scobee’s PA design is scaled accordingly, drawing from a rolling stock of 112 X-Line boxes and 68 mid-sized XLC127+ boxes powered by a total of 144 P3000RL amplifiers for the 2008 tour.

The system is designed with main arrays of 20 full-range and 20 Xsub boxes per side. The full-range arrays feature 18 Xvls 90-degree boxes and 2 Xvlt 120-degree boxes. The 20-box-deep arrays are made possible by a unique custom-made rigging package from EV; the usual maximum capacity is 16 boxes. In addition to the 80 X-Line boxes used for main PA, Scobee deploys additional X-Line boxes and XLC127+ mid-sized boxes for additional coverage according to venue layout.

“For an arena show we add in what I call a “270’ hang-two arrays of 16 XLC127+ boxes to cover the sides of the venue,“ Scobee explains. “Carrying these kind of numbers and formats of boxes means we can precisely address the various shapes and sizes of any venue we encounter on the tour, from a shed to an NFL stadium. In a stadium hang, for example, we use additional arrays in between the main arrays and the 270, consisting of 12 X-Line boxes (10x Xvls, 2x Xvlt), and two delay tower systems, each with 16 more XLCs.

Obviously, a system this large requires some serious horsepower, and Scobee’s design ensures headroom to match: “I don’t like to put more than two boxes per channel on a amp, I try not to run below a four ohm amp load. It’s amazing to see a stadium show at 106 dB FOH, look over at the IRIS-Net display, and see that your amps still have 10dB of headroom! Stu Schatz (EV Tech Support) told me “You don’t have a PA, you have a lethal weapon!’

“I love the P3000RL amps,“ Scobee adds. “Though I’d been a loyal user of another manufacturer’s amps for a long time, EV asked me to try the P3000RLs. After our shop closed one night, I took a speaker off the shelf, took one of my old standby amps and the P3000RL, set them up on the workbench and did some listening tests. The EV amp sounded so much better I had to inspect the other amp to see if something was wrong. That made me curious, and I A/B’d every amplifier from every manufacturer I could find. I was absolutely blown away by the sonic quality of the P3000RL, and from that point on I was going to use them in my designs regardless, as that was my main concern. Adding the DSP and IRIS-Net to the mix was just the icing on the cake. Once I saw what we could do with IRIS-Net-load analysis, impedance checks, crossovers, etc-it was obvious the P3000RL was the way to go.“

“IRIS-Net has streamlined the setup and centralized control to an amazing degree,“ Scobee continues. “We can manage the whole system from a couple of laptops, fine-tuning it from a remote position in a stadium if needed, and remote-monitoring the performance of every component. I designed the rig so everything is numbered and goes in its proper place. For example, box one at the top of the PA always hooks to the exact same speaker cable, and always connects to the exact same amp. This means I have a controlled setup that I can monitor throughout the tour, right down to a single cable or driver. That said, I’m amazed at how reliable all the components are. We have the best of both worlds: not only has the system proven extremely reliable in and of itself, we are also monitoring every detail at all times in case something does happen. In fact I would say we’ve only had failures due to user error, rather than physical defects.“

The 2008 system design sees the debut of complete system processing exclusively via NetMax with FIR-Drive (X-Line) and IIR filters (XLC-127+)-the result of a collaborative effort between EV and Scobee. “We have four NetMax N8000 units: two on stage left, two on stage right. The addition of FIR filters was very exciting, and again represents the strong working relationship we have with EV. Earlier this year Guillermo Wabi (Electro-Voice Concert Sound Product Manager) and I were discussing some tuning operations I was trying to achieve, and that I knew the box could handle. During the course of our conversation, Guillermo suggested visiting our shop to carry out some tests with the new FIR filters. He came down with EV tech and engineering team members, and we spent a three-day weekend, EQ’ing, listening and trying different things. These presets were then fine-tuned in the anechoic chamber at EV HQ in Burnsville, and sent back to me for further testing. The filters were then taken down to the Houston Rodeo where our good friends at LD Systems also demo’d them; LD systems were impressed enough to actually run the FIR-loaded NetMax systems for the 2008 rodeo. We are using those DSP presets on all our X-Line boxes for the Kenny Chesney tour and I’m blown away by it.“

“Just as the PA system design is a mirror image hang on stage left and right, so are the NetMax systems, with two at stage left and two at stage right,“ Scobee adds. “Everything is broken down into left/right sends: the mains, the 270 and 240 arrays, the floor subs, everything. Even though I may be sending a mono signal, I’m using independent processing on either side of the stage. This cuts down on confusion, and also gives the system redundancy, if something was to go down on one side of the stage-we can connect it to the other side and keep on going. There’s a total of eight zones of left/right feeds: air subs, floor subs, main PA, center, front fill, 240, 270, and rear/delay-for a total of 16 left/rights or eight stereo sends.

“The matrixes off the Midas XL8 at FOH feed the NetMax systems, which in turn breaks things down to highs/mids/lows/subs, etc. Bryan Vasquez (FOH Engineer) generates a left/right mix which gets assigned to the matrixes, then Matt Naylor (Systems Tech/Crew Chief) can make any kind of large EQ or processing adjustments quickly on the XL8 through the Klark Teknik Helix (built into the XL8), with immediate graphic/parametric functionality right on hand. He can make any further tweaks or delay adjustments in the morning on NetMax via IRIS-Net. This all gives the guys out front mixing the ability to make a quick change, a little more front fill or a little less floor sub or whatever, without the systems tech having to get into his computer, which could slow things down considerably. This is new for ’08, and represents the high level of streamlined interoperability we strive to enhance every year.“

Now that the system is all software-driven, Scobee’s design has eliminated a whole drive rack from FOH position. In addition to shrinking the equipment footprint, the system has become significantly quieter-in a good way: “One of the first huge benefits I noticed when we went from old school processing, if you will, to NetMax was when we first powered everything up and turned the PA on. I yelled over to Matt and said “I’m waiting-when are you gonna turn the amps on?!’ and he said “Buddy, they’ve been on for five minutes!’ Just losing the physical analog pots in all those devices lowered the noise floor so much we could barely tell that the PA was on. You can usually tell when 144 amps are running!“

Though responsible for one of the largest touring sound systems in the world, Scobee remains modest, always looking forward to his next system design innovations: “Sound is objective, and this system is heard by millions of individuals, each with different ears. What I can say is that the design is functioning properly. The inherent sonic quality of the PA is there. We have plenty of horsepower and SPL where it needs to be, and we also have improved the setup and control end of things. We use the best equipment and technologies at our disposal to achieve the best results possible at this level of touring, and work closely with the team at Bosch Communications Systems to continuously improve the system year after year. This is about a partnership, and this is the best-sounding partnership out there.“

http://irisnet.electrovoice.com

Photos: George Georgallis, Steve Lotzer, Monte Wise

###

Contact persons for readers and press inquiries:

Guy Low

Sr. Copywriter | Public Relations (ST/MKT-COM)

Bosch Communications Systems

Telex Communications, Inc.

12000 Portland Ave. S.

Burnsville, MN 55337

USA

www.boschcommunications.com

Tel: 952 736 3935

Fax: 952 736 4582

guy.low@us.bosch.com

James Edlund

Public Relations Manager (ST/MKT-COM)

Bosch Communications Systems

Telex Communications, Inc.

12000 Portland Ave. S.

Burnsville, MN 55337

USA

www.boschcommunications.com

Tel: 952 736 3901

Fax: 952 736 4582

james.edlund@us.bosch.com