Montreal-based Solotech has once again been chosen by Justin Timberlake to be the audio provider for his latest 20/20 Experience world tour.
Now on its second leg of shows with dates across North America, the tour's crew is relying on Shure as its primary wireless supplier with veteran RF Technician Éric Marchand currently on the road with the band.
The tour employs ten channels of Shure Axient wireless for backing vocals and the horn section, plus four dual-channel Shure UHF-R bodypack systems on all guitars and bass. With the exception of Justin's vocal microphone, Shure gear was specified for the entire band, dancers, and much of the backline crew, who were covered by 26 channels of Shure PSM1000 personal monitors, with 24 of them running through a single pair of antennas using a series of four Shure PA821A wideband antenna combiners.
The production design of the tour has thrown a number of curveballs at Éric with a minimal stage design limiting the options for antenna placement and a secondary stage located beyond FOH creating another wireless reception challenge.
“The arenas we play are always sold out, so there was no way I could bring cables and antennas out closer. It was crucial to get good line of sight to the B stage, for both the receive antennas and the transmit antennas for the IEMs. So we designed the system to cover everything from antennas discreetly hiding in plain sight on stage. The actual wireless racks, along with me and my scanners, all live under the stage.”
Axient’s full remote control of all transmitter functions through ShowLink comes into play when Timberlake moves to the second stage, which is more than 100 feet from the antennas. To compensate, Marchand boosts the output power of the Axient transmitters. “That allows me to optimise my system for Justin’s mic on the B stage. I keep an extra transmitter on an alternate frequency for him, just in case. I know if I can get that happening, everything is going to be fine, because the Shure systems, both Axient and UHF-R, plus the PSM 1000s, are all going to be solid.”
The tour requires 20 monitor mixes, including Timberlake's, two guitars, bass, two keyboardists, percussion, four backing vocals, and the four-piece horn section. In addition, the six dancers share a mix, while the drummer uses a Shure P6HW hardwired system. PSM 1000 systems are also in the ears of the key backline techs: the monitor engineer; instrument techs for guitar, keyboard, percussion, and drums, and two more audio assistants.
Axient’s interference detection and avoidance system and frequency diversity feature have proven helpful, even though Marchand routinely uses two scanners to monitor the RF landscape. “My main attention is on Justin’s mic, so I have the Axient channels set up in Prompt mode instead of automatic. That way, it alerts me whenever there’s a channel with issues,” he says. “I also use the Spectrum Manager, which has a listen option, which is really helpful. That way I can check it personally and decide whether to change channels. I like to have my hand on the wheel.”