This year’s Way Out West (WOW) festival in Sweden set a new attendance record as, each day, sell-out crowds of 27,000 swarmed onto a tree-dotted meadow at Gothenburg’s Slottsskogen park. The main attraction at WOW, staged 10-13 August, was a roster of rock headliners that included Blur, Florence and The Machine, The Black Keys, and Kraftwerk (doing a set in 3D, no less!).
However, unbeknownst to the throng of festival-goers (and the wider pro-audio industry, for that matter), WOW also heralded the auspicious arrival on the European festival scene of Meyer Sound’s new LEO large-scale reinforcement system.
The summer rollout of LEO has been an under-the-radar affair. A keystone component – the LEO-M line array loudspeaker – has yet to been unveiled at a tradeshow and is nowhere to be found on the company website, at the time of writing. LEO, and its companion Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system, is being discreetly broken in at select live events under the watchful eye of Meyer Sound’s worldwide tech support team. The debut at Gothenburg, handled by WOW’s audio provider Starlight, was a promising start.
“We did our first listening session right after rigging, and it was an absolutely staggering performance,” reports Starlight’s technical manager, Håkan Alfredsson. “The tonal balance is brilliant, and the power easily compensates for long distances. When even the lighting guys come out of their shed with big smiles, you know it’s something good.”
Independent audio consultant Thomas Malbeck, the primary system designer and a frequent associate on Starlight projects, was similarly enthusiastic: “In my opinion, LEO is the best-performing system I have ever worked with. Throughout the festival, the band engineers and the promoter were impressed with what they heard.”
At WOW, the new LEO rig powered the Flamingo stage, which hosted the headliners listed above. Four arrays of 16-each LEO-M loudspeakers, flown flanking the video screens on each side, addressed the broad swathe of the crowd. A contingent of 36 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements were arranged in two six-by-three end-fire arrays for low-frequency propulsion, and the entire lot was governed by an under-stage quartet of the shiny new Galileo Callisto processors. All three elements - LEO-M, 1100-LFC, and Callisto - are part of the LEO system. PSNEurope revealed the 1100-LFC to the industry in an April exclusive.
As in previous years, delay towers (eight MILO per side) were set 65m from the stage. However, according to Malbeck, the throw of the LEO system rendered them superfluous, and they were never used. “The system was much larger than really necessary for this festival, but we wanted to test it in full scale,” he says.
The LEO system is jointly owned by Swedish-based Starlight and AVAB CAC of Norway, as the two companies now operate under common ownership following a recent sequence of mergers (as reported in PSNEurope May 2012). Although this substantial investment in LEO was scrutinised at higher corporate levels, the basic purchasing decision was made by the audio veterans in technical management—Håkan Alfredsson at Starlight and Asle Nilsen, head of audio at AVAB CAC.
“We now have approximately the same amount of large-format line array speakers that we’ve had since introduction of V-DOSC in the mid-’90s,” observes Alfredsson, “but as both client needs and competition grow, we need to renew our inventory to stay on top. This is actually the first new large-format system we’ve bought in almost 10 years.”
Starlight continues to maintain a mixed inventory that includes multiple manufacturers’ equipment, including kit from Nexo and L-Acoustics. “It would be more cost-effective to concentrate on one brand, but we live in a market where customers are skilled and have their opinions,” continues Alfredsson. “We are not in a position to dictate their preferences, but we are very careful not to buy anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.”
Across the border in Norway, AVAB CAC is more focused on building inventory around a single manufacturer. “In my opinion, carrying inventory from several companies is not a good way to do business,” he insists. “The fewer brands you have, the better margin you can realise. Also, since we are a major Meyer Sound distributor, we see significant advantages in doing rentals and installations with the same product.”
During most of the year, according to Nilsen, the LEO inventory will be split half-and-half between Norway and Sweden, though both companies expect to move components freely across the border as needed for large-scale events. “All power and signal distro is the same here and there, so we can do that easily,” he remarks. Looks like LEO is set to be the ‘mane’ attraction all over Scandinavian. [Sorry, couldn’t resist that one – Ed]