GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—To provide modern and impactful live sound for rock veterans REO Speedwagon, Styx and Loverboy on their Live and Unzoomed Tour, San Diego-based and longtime JBL partner Sound Image enlisted a selection of JBL Professional and Crown audio solutions.
After dominating the 1970s and 1980s as two of rock’s premier hitmakers and live acts, Styx and REO Speedwagon joined forces along with hard rockers Loverboy for a massive summer co-headlining tour on the Live and Unzoomed Tour, a celebration of high-octane arena rock following the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour required an audio rig that emulated a classic rock show while also incorporating the dynamics and impact of modern live sound. To meet these requests, Sound Image deployed JBL VTX Series speakers with Crown I-Tech amplifiers for immersive sound and wide coverage.
“The main goal was simple—to provide a fun and exciting experience for the audience that makes them want to come back to our shows again and again,” said Joe Walsh, Front-of-House for REO Speedwagon. “Even though these bands are considered ‘legacy’ bands, we had to approach our live mixes in a contemporary manner that audiences expect in 2022. Modern live mixes require fidelity, punch and control, and we needed a system that was easily configurable and scalable while still providing the tonal balance and low distortion we are striving for.”
A staple for touring and mid-to-large venue productions, the JBL VTX V25-II-CS made up the majority of the Live and Unzoomed sound rig, with over 50 speakers used as the main and side hangs. Equipped with JBL’s patented D2 Dual Driver, Radiation Boundary Integrator and Differential Drive technology, the V25 II built upon the strengths of its previous iteration with balanced coverage, crystal-clear highs and distortion-free lows even at high output levels. Additionally, the speaker’s aluminum front design and newly designed compression suspension system make for lightweight and streamlined rigging.
“We prefer to have a full-range sound coming from the flown arrays, which the VTX drivers provide,” said Chris “Cookie” Hoff, Front-of-House for Styx. “The bass guitar to kick drum frequency range is crucial to us, and the V25 provides the phase response and frequency response in that area that we were looking for.”
Along with the V25, the live rig also includes eight JBL VTX V20 speakers, featuring the same design as the V25 in a smaller enclosure, as front fills. Despite its compact design, the V20 was specifically designed for even horizontal coverage up to 105 degrees and delivers notably high output compared to other similarly sized speakers.
Alongside the line arrays, the JBL VTX S28 provided ample low end and impact as both grounded and suspended subs. Built with two 2269H 18-inch transducers and a cardioid mode for reinforced rear rejection, the S28 ensures low-end clarity and detail that complements a rig of any size. Additionally, the S28 thrives as suspended speakers thanks to the same rigging system found in the V25.
“We prefer to not punish the front rows with low information that is intended for someone at the back of the venue,” explained Walsh. “That long-throw information is much better suited to coming from above people's heads. But in addition to the tight low-end punch of the V25/S28 combo, the linear phase response in the mid to upper frequency range is crucial to great sounding vocals, as both of our bands have.”
Finally, 72 Crown I-Tech 12000 HD Amplifiers provide ample power for the entire rig. Designed with the latest in touring amplification technology, the I-Tech 1200 features the BSS OMNIDRIVE HD engine for processing time and clarity that far exceeds its predecessors.
“Reviews have been positive, crowds have been great and the bands are having a good time playing for their multi-generational audiences, who have been singing along all night,” said Hoff. “HARMAN was there every step of the way, providing insights and suggestions to any questions we had throughout the tour.”