Andy Coules reports back from this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival, where he had the opportunity to tame the new LEOPARD line array from Meyer Sound for the first time...
It seems like the time between hearing about a new piece of gear and actually being able to use it is getting shorter and shorter; new products and innovations are making the journey from announcement to available quicker than ever. So I was quite pleased when I had the opportunity to mix a show at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on the brand new Meyer Sound LEOPARD compact line array loudspeaker.
The LEOPARD (together with the 900-LFC sub) debuted at Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt in April, and went on to win the NewBay Media Pro Audio Group’s Best of Show award at the InfoComm show in June. It promises to distil the best the LEO family has to offer into a compact package and has already generated a buzz of anticipation in the live sound industry, so let’s see what all the fuss is about.
The LEOPARD is a compact active loudspeaker designed to be used in an array of at least six boxes. Each box is 62.4cm wide by 28.2cm tall and 49.9cm deep (without handles) and weighs just 34kg – to give you an idea of their weight, six boxes plus two 900-LFC subs can be flown using only a 1/2 ton motor. It comprises two 9in long-excursion cone drivers and one 3in compression driver (coupled to a constant directivity horn through a patented REM manifold) and boasts an operating frequency range of 55Hz to 18kHz (dependent on loading conditions and room acoustics). The amp is three-channel, open loop and Class D, which promises less distortion, less power consumption and less heat generated.
The LEOPARD is the smallest member of the LEO family and is designed to either be used alone in small to medium-sized venues or to integrate with LEO or LYON elements as supplemental down or out fill. When used standalone it pairs up with the 900-LFC low frequency control element, which can be hung as part of LEOPARD arrays without transition hardware, and provides low end reinforcement from 31 to 125Hz.
The venue was the indoor 2,000-capacity Jazz Lab at Montreux, and the system comprised two hangs of 10 boxes per side complemented by 15 900-LFC subs in a cardioid configuration. The subs were floor mounted, due to the height limit of the venue, and I was warned that this might impact the coherence of the system and sacrifice a little of the ‘punch’ of the bottom end. I wasn’t involved in the rigging or configuring of the system but I was told that it was very straightforward to set up.
So the first thing I did was play a selection of tried and tested sound check tunes to hear what the system could do. It coped admirably with just about any genre I could throw at it – EDM was tight and crisp, rock music was full and punchy, classical music was detailed and dynamic. I was aware that I was fortunate to be in an acoustically well treated room and a quick wander round revealed a precise sound with an even frequency response, but I could tell that the focus was tight with very little sound being ‘sprayed’ where it wasn’t needed. I was also quite pleasantly surprised at the lack of noticeable reflection from the floor when the room was empty.
Once the room filled up there was very little need for any adjustment to compensate for the change in the acoustics caused by the audience. The impression I had gathered from auditioning the system in an empty room was very close to how it sounded when full.
When it came to the show itself, the system delivered a full bottom end, a detailed middle and an extremely crisp top end. When compared to the flagship offerings from Martin, L-Acoustics and d&b (all of which I’ve used in recent weeks) I felt it had just a little bit of extra ‘fizz’ in the top end, which gave an enhanced degree of clarity without any noticeable distortion – even at the biggest peaks of the performance it never sounded harsh. It never felt like I was pushing the system close to its limit; I always felt that there was more if I needed it. Taking into account the size of the boxes the output power-to-weight ratio is quite astonishing – something I’ve never experienced in such a small line array.
After the show a fan came up to FOH to declare that the sound had been “incredible”. He wanted to know if this was a result of the band or me and I immodestly declared that it was a combination of the two – however I should really have acknowledged the role that LEOPARD played in the sound that night.
Andy Coules is a sound engineer and audio educator who has toured the world with a diverse array of acts in a wide range of genres. andycoules.co.uk