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Dave Matthews Band Upgrades to Meyer Sound MILO PA Speakers

Vying for the mantle of hardest-working band in the biz, Charlottesville, Va., heroes The Dave Matthews Band (DMB) spent four months crossing the U.S. on their marathon summer 2006 tour. Fans at every stop were treated to stellar sound, as the DMB’s long-time FOH engineer Jeff Thomas recently switched the band to a system of self-powered MILO high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers provided by legendary San Francisco Bay Area sound company Pro Media/UltraSound.

Thomas and the DMB have worked with UltraSound since early in the band’s career, originally assembling a sound system based around Meyer Sound’s legacy, unpowered MSL-3 reinforcement loudspeaker. Derek Featherstone, UltraSound’s director of rentals and touring, says that MILO is the latest chapter in the evolution of the DMB’s highly acclaimed sound.

“When Jeff Thomas and I first started talking 11 years ago about sound systems, the direction to go was with Meyer,” Featherstone recalls. “A decade later when we were looking for a compact, high-powered, tour-friendly line array and MILO was on the market and proven in the field, it was a natural fit for the band. MILO is practical in weight, and overall is a very tour-friendly product.”

“The tour is carrying 28 MILO cabinets, so we can hang as many as 14 per side,” explains UltraSound systems engineer Tom Lyon. “At several of the larger venues we’ve sub-rented a few more MILOs, so we could hang 15 per side plus a MILO 120 (high-power expanded coverage curvilinear array loudspeaker) on the bottom.” The tour also carries a complement of CQ-2 narrow coverage main loudspeakers for frontfill, as well as some UPJ-1P compact VariO loudspeakers for coverage in the front center. “We use the UPJs on their sides, with the horns at 80 degrees wide,” Lyon continues. “We’ve also got some MSL-4s (horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers) for sidefill in the really wide venues.”

“We still use MSL-10s and MSL-3s to cover the side and rear seats in arenas when 360 degree coverage is needed,” adds Thomas. “The MSL-10 is great for getting extreme vertical dispersion, certainly exceeding 20 degrees. You can get that out of a line array, but you may have to turn it on its side!” Depending on the situation, MSL-4 cabinets might be hung under the MSL-10 instead of MSL-3 units, or, for situations where a full 360 degrees is not needed, the coverage might come from MILO cabinets instead of the MSL-10 cabinets, with MSL-4 units underhung.

As Featherstone observes, MILO has had a positive impact on the band’s sound. “The line array gives you the ability to put more sound pressure level out to the crowd without the band being adversely affected by it. I think that’s helped develop the sound for a lot of bands, including Dave Matthews Band, where it’s becoming easier to maintain the sound at a stronger, but not necessarily louder. level. This gives the FOH engineer more freedom to move around a mix, allowing addition to the mix, rather than always having to pull things out. You’re doing a lot less defensive mixing with MILO.”

“MILO is such an easy system to tune and maintain,” says Thomas. “It’s very graceful, so Tommy gets to do his job as systems engineer, and I get to concentrate and focus on mixing. That’s good for the band and good for me. I’m mixing music, not EQ’ing a PA.”

The band has been quite pleased with the MILOs as well. “They enjoy the lack of feedback, the really consistent feeling in sound as you walk around behind those arrays,” Thomas explains.

The system’s M3D-Sub directional subwoofers were recently replaced by 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers. “We switched out the subs just before (Boston’s) Fenway Park,” Lyon explains. “We’d been carrying the M3D-Sub. Its cardioid bass pattern is designed to cut down the bass on stage, and it does that exceptionally well, but this band likes to feel the subs, so we switched to the 700-HPs, which seem to suit them better.”

“I think the DMB utilizes the subs’ power on stage to complement their in-ear monitor mixes, and the sub component is pretty crucial for them,” adds Featherstone. “You need some sort of stage sub feel, rather than just relying solely on ear monitors, otherwise it would be pretty sterile.”

Lyon has been using MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction software extensively throughout the tour to model the system’s coverage in the wide array of stadiums the band is working. “A lot of the venues, like Fenway Park, are very asymmetrical,” he remarks, “so we’ve gotten kind of creative with the MILOs in how we tilt the arrays, and in how we zone and EQ them. We’ve done a lot of different configurations, to adapt to each venue, and the MILO is very flexible in that respect.” Lyon uses Meyer Sound’s RMS remote monitoring system to keep an eye on the status of the loudspeakers during the show.

Thomas and Featherstone have also given the MILO array high marks for performance and flexibility. “Meyer Sound has been very proactive, listening to the feedback of field users and introducing many of those ideas into their new products,” Featherstone observes.

“The speakers they’re developing now pack better in trucks, they rig better, they’re much more user-friendly to hang,” adds Thomas.

“In the past, I think Meyer speakers were perceived as a specialty, high-end product, more than a traditional rock and roll PA,” says Featherstone. “Clearly they’ve successfully overcome that perception. If you look at the range of people using Meyer products these days, it’s very diverse. We used to be approached often by people wondering why a band like Primus would use a Meyer sound system – ‘Isn’t that only for the Grateful Dead, Andrea Bocelli, or symphonic music?’ they’d say. But I remember seeing Public Enemy out with a Meyer system 14 years ago, and I felt it was completely appropriate. Creating a speaker system that sounds true begins with how you configure and tune the boxes, and Meyer clearly realizes that.”
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