JBL Concert Series Array supporting Neil Diamond
Anyone who spends any time with me knows pretty quickly that I have a deep love of all things vintage. Especially when it comes to vintage audio. I’m a pretty firm believer in the idea that today’s digital platforms, albeit highly stable and highly consistent, somehow lack the fullness and body that was produced in the 70’s and 80’s. I’ve brought my fair share of old cabs back to life. I’ve salvaged and re-coned many old drivers. One of my favorite words in the English language is “Alnico“. I will always enjoy twisting a knob or pushing a sticky fader more than logging into my iPad in order to mix a show. There are reasons why a select few acts like AC/DC still require an analog desk at FOH. If you ever take the time to really wrap your head around what it means for something to be truly digital, you too may change your mind as to it’s degree of authenticity. Digital device estimate information using ones and zeros. The sneaky word there being “estimate”. Digital music is an estimation or, a best estimate that is made buy an electronic process in an effort to get as close as possible to the actual sound or, the analog. So the question is then; why would so much effort (and money) be put into a technology that will simply try and get you back to where you started? Quite simply, space. Storing analog… well, anything, means using a lot of space. Tapes are big. Paper is big when you’re talking about a bulk amount. On top of the space requirements, analog media tends to erode and break down over time because of its exposure to the elements and environment. Digital data, stored virtually, will be as pristine and intact today as it will be 100 years from now. Plus, virtual recordings take up no physical space. It’s an economics exercise. The same way LED lighting worked for years to look like tungsten lighting which had been around for 100 or more years. Economics. Practicality. All those words that define why we are willing to give up a little quality, for a complete evolution of process. Now, I’ve gotten completely off track but, stay with me just a bit longer.
I have built my business around a central theme, and ideology you might call it. That thought is this. I believe that technology has put us in a position where we are constantly chasing the balance between what is most efficient vs. what has the most measurable degree of quality. We are more willing to compromise on fidelity so that we don’t have to lug a 600lbs mixing desk to gig after gig. Today, that same mixing capacity is housed in a 4 space, rack mountable black box that weighs nearly nothing. Instead of having to pull 200′ of heavy snake cable, risking along the way any number of tiny dings which could outright kill a channel or worse, several channels and in its place log into the wireless router which connects to your tablet. It’s a hard point to argue for sure. Does the audience hear the difference? Sometimes maybe but, more often than not, when an attendee enters the venue, looks up and sees those beautiful “banana stacks” flown overhead, what they hear next is almost irrelevant. Our senses have a tendency to mix in and out of one another and, in a sense, we are able to hear with out eyes sometimes. When your eyes tell your brain that it’s going to sound good based solely on what you’re seeing around you, your ears tend to become rather lazy. Your brain takes up the slack, fills in the gaps for you and you are presented with what you perceive as a great sounding concert. And since our perception radically influences our reality, by definition, modern technology sounds great to the observer. But we all know that’s not true. Even when it is.
A long time ago I sat out to build a pro audio rig that met a few simple requirements. A: I wanted something I could move around often. B: A rig that could take a little abuse and not care. C: Something that I could set up with myself and one other person in a reasonable amount of time. And D: The rig had to be able to be tuned and configured so that 100% of the time, out of the gates and without hesitation, it produced a sound that was big and fat, lush, and tonally accurate. And it had to get loud. Really loud. While not giving up any of the richness of the tone it created. What I ended with is a small slice of both worldwide and local history. I was able to literally stumble across some magic that had been left in a back room and forgotten. And since I’ve deployed that rig there’s yet to be one band walk away from it without drolling on themselves a little. I’m way off track now but, just a little longer and I’ll bring it home. I promise.
The Delta Rig was (re)Born
At the time, I had no idea what I’d stumbled upon. I figured I’d found some old trap boxes that would get me by until I could save the money for a more current rig. In reality what I’d found was both a significant part of local production history here in Little Rock -and- part of the technology that ushered in the modern age of concert audio. I had found 8x JBL Concert Series 4852A’s. At first glance they just look like heavy trap boxes. But after literally years of research and investigation into the rig, I at last had my head around it. First, the local backstory. In the late 80’s MP Productions, also here in Little Rock, sat out to put together a new audio rig to offer their clients for tour work. At that time the idea of buying a pro audio rig “off the shelf” was laughed at. Until that point you had company’s who would asses the needs of whatever tour they were looking at, and build a PA to suit. Yes, build, with their own hands. They’d load the cabs and hit the road. At the end of the tour what was left that could be used again was kept and the balance was discarded. Pretty cray by today’s measure. MP offered to buy all the correct drivers from JBL and in exchange, JBL would hand over the drawings for these particular boxes. JBL went for it. They also built the duel 18″ sub boxes that went with the tops. Loaded with 2x 2241H @600w drivers. The rig was a monster. So the 8 boxes I own now are actually clones. Made locally by guys who still work in the industry and loaded with the proper JBL 2206H 12″ mid bass drivers
and the 2245J 4″ Neodymium compression drivers. These boxes couple at around 22 degrees and gain approx. 3db per coupled box. I run them over 4 JBL SRX728S duel 18 (2268H) subs that will effectively destroy your face. Together I have a rig that, when bands see it’s me and I brought the delta’s, it’s always smiles all around. I’m no audio engineer and I can make these guys
sound impeccable every single time.
Whew….. And now this….
Eons ago the now defunct audio mag Recording Engineer/Producer did an extensive write up on the Concert Series and it’s components. They go into deal on the creator of the boxes, the company that harbored the designs and how through this line of cabs, the Vertech rig was born. And the rest is literally, history. Below is a link to the article that Prosoundweb.com published from its archives. Below that is a PDF i created of the article if, like me, you’d like to have a copy on hand. If you love pro audio, you’ll love this read. Let me know what you think.
Prosoundweb Posting: prosoundweb.com/channels/live-sound/re_p_filesstanal_sound_with_new_concert_series_speaker_system_for_neil_diam/
Downloadable PDF: The Coming Of Age For The Once-Maverick Touring Sound Business