Nashville, TN (March 10, 2022)—The title track of George Strait’s recent Honky Tonk Time Machine album may allude to the past, but his recent shows supporting the record have been focused squarely on the future when it comes to the sound. The star has been playing in-the-round shows for his on-going residency at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena and the occasional arena or stadium show, all heard via d&b audiotechnik SL-Series loudspeakers provided by Nashville’s Spectrum Sound, with a GSL system deployed on stadium shows and a KSL system on the arena stops.
With 12 musicians and background vocalists on stage, including Strait himself, things can get pretty loud. There’s a mix of wedge monitors and in-ear monitors in use, and then throw in an in-the-round situation with PA above and an arena-sized audience, and sound on the deck can feel close to overwhelming. Recognizing a need to tame the volume, the audio team is on a perpetual search for ways to pull that back.
FOH Engineer George Olson’s first large deployment with d&b was at ATLive 2021 this past November at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, using all GSL and KSL loudspeakers. The audio team saw it as an opportunity to see if the rig could be a solution for future use, and pretty quickly, it was apparent that they were on to something. Mike Anderson, Reba McEntire’s production manager and Strait’s personal guitar tech for over 17 years, recalled that during soundcheck, everyone asked for monitors to be turned down. “The first thing I noticed about the KSL was not just that it was quiet on stage, but I was able to communicate with the band easier,” he said. “I didn’t need to use so many hand signals, as we weren’t yelling over the PA. Traditionally there would be so much bass rumble on the stage that they felt it would be hard to stand still. You’d have to brace yourself; but all that is gone with the KSL and SL-SUBs…and George’s acoustic sounds better as it’s not feeding back from what’s coming off the back of the PA.”
Paul Rogers, Strait’s production manager and former front-of-house engineer, concurred. “The first time I heard the d&b SL-Series was at ATLive,” he said. “I was up onstage during soundcheck and was wondering when they were going to turn on the PA. It hit me that we weren’t dealing with any of the issues of a loud stage and was curious as to what they were using to achieve this; turns out it was the d&b KSL system. Load in and load out has been so much quicker with Spectrum and the d&b loudspeaker system. It’s amazing that the system draw is lessened, the smaller footprint of the KSL, and the crew call is faster for the area we cover. In the past, we had to try all sorts of tricks to try to lower the stage sound, but nothing like we have now.”
What they have now for the Strait to Vegas in-the-round shows is a GP Productions-supplied control system based around DiGiCo SD12 and Allen & Heath S5000 consoles; Shure Axient wireless; and Shure PSM1000s in-ear monitor systems. Meanwhile, Spectrum Sound is providing 144 d&b audiotechnik KSL loudspeakers, 16 SL-SUBS, 12 Y10P point source cabinets, and 89 D80 amplifiers, including monitor amps.
What won over FOH engineer Olson has been the reaction of the background singers onstage. Located in the center of the 40×40 stage, they are often the gauge of how much volume is on the stage, he said: “The problems we have in the round are more apparent than if you are doing a show end-stage. 144 boxes in a 50-foot radius can create a lot of coupling on stage, so the KSL system has been a long time coming when looking for how to quiet a stage down. They noticed immediately that something was different and were never told that there was another speaker in the air. If they’re not complaining, we’re in pretty good shape.”