The story behind Meyer Sound‘s PANTHER is one of our teams using creative methods to engineer an innovative large-format linear line array loudspeaker. The entire design process was done during the pandemic, with our engineers working remotely at separate locations most of the time.
The story does start, though, at one of our few on-campus meetings in Berkeley—appropriately masked in the parking lot, scribbling on the whiteboard we wheeled out there. John Meyer had decided it was time to completely rethink our flagship line array product. The size, weight and power consumption of LEO, our largest and most powerful system, were proving a hinderance for “green” touring. The size of LYON was fine, particularly its narrow width, which allowed slimmer array profiles than comparable competitors. But it was still a bit on the heavy side, and although power consumption was good compared to externally powered systems, it could be improved.
The challenge handed to us by John was to keep the size of LYON, but with the acoustic output and long throw closer to LEO, and reduced weight and power consumption. Of course, linear response could not be compromised in the process. He was confident this could be done by leveraging the latest amplifier and power supply designs, new driver materials, innovative enclosure design, and by applying our own depth of experience in horn design. He also wanted full network integration in each loudspeaker using the Milan AVB protocol. Easy, right?
We knew immediately that the only way to realize these goals was with a holistic design process. We needed to have everybody on the same page every step of the way, so that amplifiers and processing, enclosure and ports, drivers and horn design, were all carefully coordinated.
This was particularly true to meet goals for weight reduction. Certainly, the all-new, four-channel Class D amplifier made a significant contribution—it was not only lighter, but the advanced power factor correction and higher voltage rails deliver more peak current to the drivers, with less current draw for greater overall efficiency.
New driver materials also allowed us to reduce the combined weight of the 12-inch LF cone drivers and the 3-inch compression drivers, while still providing a higher acoustic output.
Meyer Sound Introduces Flagship PANTHER Line Array
The smaller and lighter amplifier package, coupled with lighter drivers, meant that the enclosure could be redesigned as well, using different materials of different thicknesses to further reduce weight. This also allowed us to redesign the LF ports for greater overall efficiency. The result is a system with more than 150 dB SPL peak output that weighs in at 150 pounds.
Another goal was to augment the long-throw capability so that systems could be configured using only PANTHER, with no need for the larger LEO loudspeakers. Accomplishing this would require a new horn. We relied on input from Bob McCarthy, our director of System Optimization, who said that based on current and predicted applications, what our customers really wanted was an 80-degree horizontal with a very smooth roll-off between the -3 dB and -6 dB points. To achieve this, however, we needed more depth than allowed by the LYON-size cabinet. Once again, holistic design stepped in and extended the cabinet front face a few inches in a shallow wedge shape, and this in turn became an integral part of the aesthetic design with the new embedded logo grille.
The 110-degree and 95-degree horns we gained from LYON allow the PANTHER system to fill any venue with consistent coverage across the audience. Combined with the reduced weight, the flexible coverage makes PANTHER well-suited for a broad range of applications, from massive outdoor festival sites to larger theaters and hotel ballrooms.
John Meyer was adamant that PANTHER bring us completely into the new era of fully networked systems, but we also recognized that there would be a transition period for customers still reliant on hardware with analog outputs. So, we designed the input module with parallel, always-on analog and Milan network connections. PANTHER inputs use the new outdoor-protected Neutrik connectors for a standard IEC IP55 rating without a rain hood.
Despite the pandemic, we managed to bring PANTHER to market on schedule, and thanks to our continuing investment in materials and design standards, we reduced the cost well below that of LYON—and most comparable competitors when factoring in amplifiers and processing.
PANTHER is a product of close teamwork, holistic design and careful calculations, so it will, quite appropriately, debut on Ed Sheeran’s mammoth + – = x (“Mathematics”) Tour, with systems provided by longtime Meyer Sound rental partner Major Tom Ltd.