Meyer Panther Set to Pounce
Meyer Sound’s new flagship line array is practically a one-man lift. We head to Vegas to be some of the first to see and hear Panther in action.
Panther is on the prowl. Conceived and delivered during the pandemic, Panther is quite an achievement. The headline is ‘150dB / 150lb’ (68kg), which, let’s face it, are astonishing numbers. In the flesh, Panther cuts a modest and sleek profile. Based on 2 x 12-inch LF drivers and a three-inch HF unit, it’s almost impossible to conceive that Panther outperforms Christian Heil’s groundbreaking original concert touring line array element, V-DOSC (launched in the ’90s), which packed eight drivers and weighed over 100kg (without any onboard amps). Or, for further comparison, dig up the 20-year-old specs on Meyer Sound’s first crack at large-scale (self-powered) line source, the M3D, which weighed in at 188kg!
DO THE MATHS
If the Meyer Sound promise is a serious reduction in weight and size without compromising performance, then Panther is a very attractive proposition. What’s more, Panther is more cost effective than the previous flagship, Leo, so we’re entering ‘shut up and take my money’ territory here.
If you need proof, then Meyer Sound has a ready-made testimonial for you. The first 200-odd Panther units went out with the Ed Sheeran ‘Mathematics’ tour. It’s hard to over-estimate just how important this use-case is.
1. The previous Ed Sheeran tour (pre covid) relied on Leo and other Meyer Sound inventory, and proved to be the most successful international tour at the time, packing out stadiums everywhere.
2. The initial system design discussions with PA provider, Major Tom, for ‘Mathematics’ helped precipitate the Panther R&D — in other words, the tour gave Meyer Sound the confidence to hit the Go button on Panther.
3. The ‘Mathematics’ tour is in the round, with the PA fully integrated into a highly innovative stage design. It demonstrates how a lighter, slimmer, yet powerful, PA element can play a crucial role in supporting leading-edge production designs — in other words, bulky PAs don’t need to act as a boat anchor on stage sets, including ones based on immersive PA designs.
4. No one wants to be a new-PA guinea pig. It’s reassuring to have the world’s biggest concert act being the guinea pig for you.
So when Chris Marsh, the production director and FOH engineer of the Ed Sheeran tour and a director of Major Tom, talked to John Meyer back in mid-covid about his aspirational wishlist for an as-yet-unrealised loudspeaker to meet the demands of the ‘Mathematics’ tour, John resolved to galvanise the full fire power of his R&D team behind building what would later be known as Panther.
When other manufacturers with more conventional ownership structures and/or private equity backing, largely chose to pull their heads in when covid hit, John and Helen Meyer had the nerve to back themselves, their people and the future health of the live music industry.
Now, as tours and festivals go beserk in the northern hemisphere’s lead up to summer, Meyer Sound’s decision to go all-in on Panther feels almost obvious, but it’s worth recalling how every business owner felt when the full dread of covid lockdowns hit in 2020 — certainly not bullish. Meyer Sound has arguably stolen the march on its competitors with Panther thanks to some uncommon courage.
The industry got its initial look at Panther in the first week of March at an outdoor venue in Las Vegas. Fortuitously, I was able to attend, while en route to the ISE tradeshow in Europe. A lucky break, given almost no other media outlets could, which afforded me amazing and exclusive access to the Meyer Sound team.
Of course, the launch was primarily intended for rental partners, which came away from the event reassured that Panther sounds great, goes loud, and does so in a compact, easy-to-truck package.
As Panther began to stretch its legs in Vegas (with the help of a six 1100-LFC subs aside in end-fire mode) smiles broadened and the sound of distant car alarms going off broadened them even more. Meyer Sound’s marketing department confirms that Panther is the most successful PA launch in its history and that’s before just about any audio person (or parked vehicle) had the chance to hear it in action — Panther is a compelling new product, especially to rental partners stretched by the live-event logjams they’re experiencing in the US and Europe.
Panther’s sustainability credentials are many and various. In the past, big international concert tours have been emblematic of celebrity hypocrisy — pose with a Sumatran orangutan one day, truck a gazillion tons of production around the planet the next.
Touring needs to be leaner and meaner. Not only to assuage Bono’s conscience but because fuel and wages are expensive and millions of dollars can be saved by reducing the weight and size of your PA over the course of a long tour.
Panther is a winner in this regard. But Panther also embodies Meyer Sound’s world view. It takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, far beyond the pragmatism of saving truck space and power bills. This will be significant to some of Meyer Sound’s rental partners and integrators, and even more significant to a greater number of end users and financiers.
An environmental bottom line is increasingly becoming a reality on many projects and tours and Panther is well placed to lead those tenders.
RIP BIG CAB?
Panther signals the end of the big line array cab. Not immediately, of course, but I can’t see any of the big players working on a new design that doesn’t take a leaf out of Panther’s book.
All of the top-draw loudspeakers sound awesome and have highly capable design, control and diagnostic tools. So it’s getting harder to separate the big names, from a performance standpoint. Allegiances will, of course, remain. But I can hear the clamour for a Panther-like PA becoming deafening… if those car alarms are anything to go by!