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The Who’s PA: 1975–1976

In 1975, additional wedge monitors placed at the front of the stage for vocal foldback, so each position has two, representing the front-stage foldback setup used on virtually every stage today.

In October 1975, Bob Pridden began working with Showco Sound of Dallas, Texas, for the Who’s sound system. The Showco PA was used November and December 1975 and March, August and October 1976.

1976, with floor wedge monitors visible across front of stage. Courtesy whocollection.com.

1976, with floor wedge monitors visible across front of stage. Courtesy whocollection.com.

1976, from atop the stage, with floor wedge monitors visible across front of stage.

1976, from atop the stage, with floor wedge monitors visible across front of stage.

1976, from atop the stage, with floor wedge monitors visible across front of stage.

1976, from atop the stage, with floor wedge monitors topped with lenses visible across front of stage.

The PA for 1975–76:

The size of the PA, designed by Showco, was varied to suit the venue, and usually averaged 56,000 watts.

  • JBL bass, mid-range and high-range speaker and horn units
  • Crown DC-300 power amplifiers
  • Three Mavis mixing desks
  • One Alice mixing desk
  • One Scully 4-track tape machine
  • Two vari-speed Revox tape machines
  • Two WEM Copicat echo units
  • One Eventide 3-channel 400-millisecond electronic delay
  • One Eventide Instant Phaser unit
  • Shure and Neumann microphones.

1976

The Showco PA, for the largest concerts, the system was as follows:

  • 75,000 watts peak power
  • 54,600 watts RMS divided into four frequency bands and distributed to transducer components as follows:
    • 28,800 watts RMS to the bass cabinets (40–250Hz)
    • 10,800 watts RMS to mid-bass (250–800Hz)
    • 7,800 watts RMS to midrange (800–6,500Hz)
    • 7,200 watts RMS to high frequencies (6,500–18,000Hz)
PA speakers, driven by Crown DC-300A power amplifiers:
  1. 48 folded-horn bass enclosures with JBL K130 4x15 speakers; each enclosure powered by one 600-watt mono amp.
  2. 36 fibreglass mid-bass horns, with JBL K120 2x12 speakers; one amp powers two horns.
  3. 24 2350 90° radial mid-range horns with two JBL 2482 drivers; one amp powers four horns.
  4. 12 high-frequency horn cabinets, each with two JBL 2309 horns and two JBL 2420 drivers; one amp powers four cabinets.
  5. 12 Showco 60°x12° long-throw radial mid-range horns, each coupled with two JBL 2482 drivers; one amp powers four horns.
  6. 24 2356 outdoor long-throw mid-range horns (one JBL 2482 driver each); one amp powers six horns.
  7. 10 outdoor high-frequency assemblies, each with four Showco high-frequency horns; each horn coupled with one JBL 2420 driver; one amp powers two assemblies.
  8. 8 tweeter assemblies, each with 24 piezoelectric tweeters mounted in a semi-spherical array; one amp powers two assemblies.
Front-of-house and monitor mixing board
  • Two Showco 30-channel, 8-output Superboards; each channel has a three-stage parametric EQ.
  • Two four-way crossover master panels are used to control the division and assignment of the four frequency bands.
  • Two graphic equalizers.
  • Two Urei 1176-LN limiters.
  • Patch bay.
  • Oscilloscopes.
  • For vocal effects:
    • Eventide three-channel 400-millisecond electronic delay
    • Eventide Instant Phaser
    • Roland Space Echo
  • For guitar effects:
    • Three WEM Copicat echo units (each with tape measured to specific length to vary the delay)

Bob Pridden controls the onstage monitor mix with Mavis boards from stage-left behind the PA speakers; Dick Hayes mixes guitars, vocals, effects and overall balance. Showco’s B.J. Schiller mixes the drum and house mix.

Monitors (designed by Bob Pridden)

Two systems: one for pre-recorded tape playback residing at the back corners, the other at stage-side for live sound foldback.

  • Four stacks, each comprising:
    • Two JBL K130 15 speakers mounted in 4560 bass horns.
    • One 2350 horn connected to a 2482 driver.
    • One oval horn fitted with a 45° slant lens, connected to a 2482 driver.
    • Two 2402 tweeters.
    • One 90° radial horn with 2420 driver.

Plus front-stage floor wedge monitors for vocals, one or two per position.

1975

Ca. 1975, overhead view of arena stage setup, showing flown stacks and placement of front-of-house mixing desk platform.

1975

Ca. 1975, stadium setup for PA, showing considerably larger array than arena setup, above.

6 Nov., 1975, Ludwigshafen

6 Nov. 1975, hall setup (i.e., no flown speakers) at Friedrich Eberthalle in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Photo courtesy Affendaddy. See Affendaddy’s photo stream on Flickr.

March 1976, stage setup at Winterland Auditorium, San Francisco. Courtesy thewho.org. © Dennis McCoy.

March 1976, stage setup at Winterland Auditorium, San Francisco. Courtesy thewho.org.

June 1976, with stage-left view of floor wedge monitors and dual foldback stacks behind John to the right of his Sunn/Stramp amp rack.

June 1976, with stage-left view of floor wedge monitors and dual monitor stacks behind John to the right of his Sunn/Stramp amp rack.

Ca. 1976, Bob Pridden running the desk at stage left.

Ca. 1976, Bob Pridden running the Mavis desk at stage left.

Notable event: 31 May, 1976

The Who set the record for the loudest group ever. Tasco built the PA specially for the Charlton show at a cost of £7,000(?), and was reportedly audible 10 miles from the stadium. The Guinness Book of World Records entry:

Loudest Pop Group

The amplification for The Who concert at Charlton Athletic Football Ground, London, England, May 31, 1976, provided by Tasco PA system, had a total power of 76,000 watts from eighty 800 W Crown DC 300 A amplifiers and twenty 600 W Phase Linear 200’s. The readings at 50 m (164 ft) from the front of the sound system were 120 decibels. Exposure to such noise levels is known to cause PSH — Permanent Shift of Hearing or partial deafness.

The £100,000 lighting system for the show: 30x Par 64 1,000-watt lamps, 32x Leko 1,000-watt lamps, Hydraulic “Genie” towers, Electrosonic control desks, Electrosonic Dimmer packs, Strand Patt 765 follow spots, 38 “00” three section truss, Vermet towers, Ramport Lasers.

Richard Barnes:

“The whole tour was a massive operation involving … 30 tons of equipment … Although loud, the sound was clear and sharp. The sound system specially built for the show by Tasco, and costing £7,000 just for that night alone, had never before been used in England. The long throw bass speakers ensured that even people at the back got high quality sound … At the climax of Listening to You all the £100,000 lights including the huge arc lights set up behind the group, facing out into the audience, were switched on, and the effect from this simple piece of theatrics produced one of rock’s greatest and most climactic moments…”

The Who’s permanent road crew at this time:

  • John “Wiggy” Wolff (Lasers/Production Manager)
  • Bob Pridden (Sound Engineer)
  • Roger Searle (Lights Tech)
  • Mick Double (Drum Tech)
  • Alan Smith (Sound Engineer/Guitar Tech)
  • Alan Rogan (Guitar Tech)
  • Tony Haslam (Lights Tech)
  • Jim Hubbard (Lights Tech)
  • Bill Harrison (Bass Tech)
  • Dick Hayes (Sound Tech)

Resources and Information

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to John Hughes (john@pureneasy.fsnet.co.uk) for assistance with this page.

Sources and related sites:

Articles

  • “Rock hall hails Heil’s wizardry. Metro-east native created equipment for stars.” From the Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat (archived version), Tuesday, 9 May, 2006
  • “Bob Heil: A Living Live-Sound Legend,” from Musician’s Friend, May 2006
  • Guitar Player: The Who’s Sound System. How it grew from 200 to 75,000 watts. By Steve Caraway and Tom Wheeler. November 1977.

Manufacturer’s sites