It takes an exceptional PA to make you feel that you're actually involved, rather than having the experience relayed to you, and for that reason LEO is our first choice... LEO manages to hit every seat in a stadium as if it were in the near field.”
Chris MarshFOH Engineer and Production Manager, Ed Sheeran
With a Meyer Sound LEO linear large-scale sound reinforcement system, Ed Sheeran has become the first solo artist to sell out five 80,000-capacity shows at London’s Wembley Stadium and Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium. For the one-man band relying only on an acoustic guitar and loop pedal, the production team was tasked with providing an “up close and personal” sonic experience, despite the massive size of the venues.
“It takes an exceptional PA to make you feel that you’re actually involved, rather than having the experience relayed to you, and for that reason LEO is our first choice,” says Sheeran’s long-time production manager and FOH engineer Chris Marsh. “It’s extremely important to give all of Ed’s fans the feeling that they’re having an intimate experience, even if they’re 200 meters away. You need to make sure every consonant, every catch of breath is heard clearly in the back corners, and LEO manages to hit every seat in a stadium as if it were in the near field. That’s the big difference compared to other PAs I’ve worked with.
“Other systems can bring the sound out to you, but with LEO, you genuinely feel like you’re in it,” continues Marsh. “That’s incredibly important with Ed—it’s all about hearing his songs like he’s right there with you, and that’s what happens with a LEO system.”
Marsh also appreciates the impact of the 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements. “Ed’s slapping of the guitar is a low-frequency transient hit that is much faster than any kick drum, and that’s why the 1100-LFCs are my favorite for sub-bass,” he says. “They throw far and are very, very quick.”
The system for the Wembley shows was built around 96 LEO-M line array loudspeakers configured as 20 for each main front hang, 16 for each side hang, and 12 for each crane-flown upper side hang. For even distribution up and around the tall stadium, 12 LYON linear line array loudspeakers, 32-each MILO and MICA line array loudspeakers, and two JM-1P arrayable loudspeakers were deployed as delays and fills. Sixty 1100-LFC elements were both flown and ground-stacked as directional arrays. Onstage foldback consisted of four MJF-212A stage monitors and side fills of two MICA loudspeakers and four 700-HP subwoofers. A Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system with 16 total Galileo 616, Galileo 616 AES, and Galileo Callisto 616 array processors provided signal distribution and precision tuning. UK-based Major Tom, Ltd. was principal audio provider for all five shows, with additional loudspeakers supplied by POOLgroup of Germany.
The systems were designed by Marsh in close consultation with long-time associate Lars Brogaard, managing director of Major Tom. Brogaard was insistent on deploying LEO to best effect, according to Marsh.
“We went to great lengths to get the loudspeakers up as high as possible, so they were aimed directly at the audience and not firing up from the pitch and bouncing off the roof,” reports Marsh. “An enormous, 25-meter high structure allowed us to hang our front arrays much higher than usual, and we also hired giant cranes for the upper side hangs and flew fewer rear delays than is usual for Wembley.”
Sheeran used a Sennheiser Digital 9000 wireless system with an MD 9235 condenser capsule on the vocal mic. Marsh mixed Sheeran on a DiGiCo SD7 digital console.