Having Meyer Sound installations throughout festival venues allows our audio team incredible versatility to support a wide range of artists and ensembles.”
Ryan McMakenArtistic Director, Savannah Music Festival
The Savannah Music Festival, now in its 34th season, is one of Georgia’s most celebrated music events, showcasing performances by legends and newcomers spanning jazz, classical, roots, and blues genres. The 2023 season, which ran from March 23 through April 8, presented the largest lineup to date, with nearly 100 performances throughout the city’s historic downtown district. Headliners included Los Lobos, Regina Carter, Galactic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and a two-night showcase with blues legend Buddy Guy.
Since 2015, Meyer Sound has provided sound for all of the festival’s amplified venues, supplied by Tucker, GA-based Rock N Road Audio. This year, Meyer Sound’s PANTHER large-format linear line array system made its debut on the Trustees’ Garden outdoor stage, with LEOPARD, ULTRA‑X20, and ULTRA‑X40-based systems supporting the Lucas Theatre for the Arts, the Metal Building at Trustees’ Garden, the Ships of the Sea Museum, and the Charles H. Morris Center.
“Having Meyer Sound installations throughout festival venues allows our audio team incredible versatility to support a wide range of artists and ensembles,” says Savannah Music Festival Artistic Director Ryan McMaken. “This year, the PANTHER system at our outdoor stage at Trustees’ Garden provided exceptional coverage with unimaginable headroom. We’ve been thrilled with that PA during presentations of Buddy Guy, Eric Gales, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and others.”
Technical Director Chris Evans, a 14-year festival veteran, serves as the lead audio engineer, overseeing a staff of ten. The technical team begins designing systems in December for venues ranging from 300-seat indoor spaces to the Trustees’ Garden, which hosted audiences topping 2,700.
Meeting such diverse demands calls for highly scalable sound systems. “We really take the time to make sure that we’re putting the right systems in the venues to complement the acts,” Evans explains. “We may have a solo artist on a stage, then the next day we’ve got a 13-piece Latin orchestra on the same stage. It’s a very dynamic festival in that regard.”
This year saw a heightened focus on the Trustees’ Garden, with an expanded lineup and a new 55-foot stage. Sound support comprised 24 PANTHER large-format linear line array loudspeakers and 12 1100‑LFC low-frequency control elements, with ULTRA-X40 compact loudspeakers, UPA-2P fills, and MJF‑210 stage monitors, all managed by Galileo GALAXY 816 Network Platforms.
Evans says PANTHER’s clarity and consistency let him focus less on the system and more on his mix. “No matter where you sit in there, it literally sounds like you’re right next to the stage,” he says. “One engineer said to me, ‘It feels like I am sitting in front of my studio monitors right now mixing this band.”
“There’s no right way to mix, there’s no right way to approach it, but the outcome should always be the same,” he adds. “With these boxes, it’s a lot easier to get there. I really just have to sit down and mix now. I don’t have to worry about the PA”
Deploying a bigger-than-ever outdoor stage in a dense urban area meant keeping levels under control. Here, Evans says, Meyer Sound’s support, both in the months leading up to the event and onsite, was instrumental.
“When you walked into that venue, it was full coverage,” he explains. “Then you could walk to the boundaries and start to hear the dropoff, and that’s exactly what we were looking for. Considering the size of this PA and the size of the venue, you would think that we’d be rattling windows two blocks away, and that’s just not what has happened.”
Noise-abatement strategies included deploying a cardioid subwoofer array, which virtually eliminated low-frequency energy behind the stage; and steering PANTHER coverage inside the boundaries of the venue using MAPP 3D modeling.
“We designed and aimed the system to have its down point happen just outside of the fenced area,” explains Michael Maxson, Meyer Sound’s Director of Strategic Applications. “With the precision of the PANTHER horn, you could get in and out of the pattern in that 80-degree coverage. It dropped off 10 dB on the outside, and it was really seamless.”
Telemetry data provided a detailed window into system performance. “You can see if you’re hitting the limiters, or if maybe your top boxes are a little bit louder than the bottom boxes, and scale accordingly,” says Evans.
In contrast to the outdoor stage, the Metal Building at Trustees’ Garden, a repurposed steel foundry, is the smallest festival space. Here, two ULTRA-X40 mains, two ULTRA-X40 outfills, and two UPM‑1P front fills covered the 300-seat venue. “In the past, we would’ve had to put maybe twice as many speakers in there,” says Evans. “The ULTRA-X40 and the ULTRA-X20 in our smaller venues have changed the way we do things.”
The smaller system saved time and money while placing minimal strain on the historic building’s limited power infrastructure. “Some of these smaller boxes draw so little current, I’m not worried about popping breakers or anything like that when we are not using our dedicated audio power distribution; situations like small performances outside or in the lobbies,” he explains. “That’s what it is to me, the ease of implementation and not worrying whether I have the right tool for the venue.”
Not only that, he adds, the system sounds transparent. “When we first started using the ULTRA-X40s, every one of our patrons noticed a difference. It sounds much more natural now, less reinforced.”
The Savannah Music Festival offers a world-class experience, and sound is a major part of that, says Evans. “I was here before we started using Meyer Sound systems, and I will say that the sonic evolution of this festival is almost immeasurable at this point.”
Launched in 1989, the Savannah Music Festival is one of the most celebrated arts events in Georgia. The festival returns to Savannah from March 28–April 13, 2024.