More than 80,000 Irish fans burst into cheers of jubilation when the first pummeling chords of “Tides” opened each of Ed Sheeran’s two shows in late April at Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium. The shows were the first of the in-the-round “+ – = ÷ x” (“Mathematics”) tour. This fourth world tour of Sheeran also marked the global premiere of Meyer Sound’s new PANTHER large-format linear line array loudspeaker for the production crew.
Supplied by U.K.-based Major Tom, Ltd. and suspended from daringly conceived mast and cable net rigging, the system was anchored by 212 PANTHER loudspeakers. According to a statement, the Dublin shows also were the first anywhere to deploy a Milan protocol AVB network from FOH mix all the way to the loudspeaker cabinets.
Lighter Loudspeakers, More Clarity
According to a statement, Meyer Sound’s PANTHER-based system is substantially smaller, lighter and more energy-efficient than Sheeran’s prior touring inventory. That inventory was largely based on LEO line array loudspeakers. Thus, everybody on the audio production team was confident that the new rig would perform with equivalent results. Production director and FOH engineer Chris Marsh remarks that the Dublin debut suggests their expectations may have been overly cautious.
“One of the main criteria for the tours since we started 11 years ago was that Ed has to be heard clearly at every seat in the venue,” says Marsh. “I’ve always been impressed by how well LEO arrays could bring that sense of intimacy to the back rows of stadiums. And in that regard, I was surprised at how PANTHER, a lighter and smaller box, could do the same. I managed to get a bit of a walkaround during the support acts, and I was immediately aware of the remarkable clarity at distant seats.”
Marsh emphasizes that the clarity went beyond simply a fan’s ability to understand Sheeran’s lyrics. “Clarity is usually thought of in terms of the high-end, of sibilants and diction, but PANTHER was also very tight in the low-mids — something you tend not to get when that far away. Everything was present and clear, including subtle nuances like reverb tails, which are often lost at distance.”
According to Meyer Sound, the system deployed 14 hangs of PANTHER arrays in two rings for the Croke Park shows. The six inner arrays each comprise 10 of the “L” long-throw versions and two of the “M” main versions. The eight outer arrays also comprise 10 “L” versions, two “M” versions and two “W” wide-coverage versions. The three horn dispersion configurations enable system designers to tailor coverage for uniform levels and frequency response at various distances.
Six flown arrays of 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements controlled the deep bass. These elements are configured in gradient arrays of 10 each. A total of 20 LEOPARD loudspeakers are set around the circular stage as front fill. Meanwhile, six stacks of three 1100-LFC elements in gradient arrays supplied the stage bass.
Mixing the shows behind his DiGiCo Quantum 7 “was a remarkable experience,” says Marsh. “With LEO, I felt everything sat nicely in the mix, with ample open space. But now I feel PANTHER gives me even more space, an even larger canvas to paint on.”
The primary, Milan Certified GALAXY 816 Network Platform at FOH connects to a Milan End Point (MEP) network, configured as a star topology. This consists of one GALAXY 816 platform, three GALAXY 408 platforms and 20 Luminex Gigacore 26i switches. As failover backup, the always-active parallel analog inputs connect via a primary and secondary redundant Milan network with dedicated GALAXY units.
Handling the System
Meyer Sound director of system optimization Bob McCarthy, helped designed the tour system. Senior technical support specialist Josh Dorn-Fehrmann also provided on-site assistance. Alongside them, veteran audio system engineer Charlie Albin handles system alignment, tuning and monitoring duties for each show.
The advantages of Meyer Sound’s PANTHER also extend to the efficiency and sustainability of Sheeran’s tour, according to Marsh. “With the way it rigs, the 14 hangs go up and come down very quickly. Also, we are taking up a lot less truck space than if we were using other systems. The entire audio system fits in only three trucks, which we could not do with a LEO-based system or likely any other. Finally, although I don’t have the telemetry data yet, I’m sure the power consumption is way down from what we had on our previous tour, and those were end-on shows.”
Ed Sheeran’s “+ – = ÷ x” (“Mathematics”) Tour is currently scheduled through March 12, 2023, with 54 shows in Europe and 10 in Oceania. It is the follow-up to the 2017–2019 “÷” (“Divide”) Tour.
Meyer Sound, located in Berkeley, Calif., provides integrated solutions for sound reinforcement, spatial sound and acoustic systems.
Click on “View Slideshow” on upper-right corner for images of the PANTHER loudspeaker system at the Ed Sheeran tour.