The Midas XL3 Quad Board being prepped for Pink Floyd’s 1994 Division Bell show at the
Pasadena Rose Bowl by Dave Lohr, who mixed quad effects from the board. Photo: Mike Lethby.
London (November 15, 2010)–The unique, hand-built quadraphonic mixing consoles used on two Pink Floyd world tours will be auctioned in December.
The desks, used on the Momentary Lapse of Reason and Division Bell tours, will hit the block at Bonhams on December 15, with a percentage of the proceeds going to concert industry charity Stage Hand, the new name for the PSA Welfare & Benevolent Fund. The consoles are being sold by their owner, Britannia Row Productions (BRP), the sound company originally formed and owned by Pink Floyd, which has been independent for the last 26 years.
Every Pink Floyd tour since the late 1960s featured quadraphonic sound among the many live sound and lighting effects pioneered by the band.
Brit Row’s Mike Lowe with the Midas
Sound effects including helicopters, the famous chiming clocks and gongs of Dark Side Of The Moon and many more, were whirled around massive arenas and stadiums using banks of loudspeakers positioned in an approximate diamond layout, with one stack at the rear facing the stage, the two side stacks to either side on a line slightly behind the mixing desk position, with the main left-and-right PA handling the front ‘point’ of the diamond. The effects were sent to the speakers using one of the special hand-built quadraphonic (‘quad’) mixing desks.
Only six generations of quad mixing desks or external quad panning devices were made during the band’s performing history between 1969 and 1994, each using the best audio technology available at the time.
Britannia Row Productions Mike Lowe comments, “We have kept these mixing desks on our stock and looked after them very carefully because of their historic place in the Pink Floyd performance legend. With the onslaught of digital technology, the ways to deliver quadraphonic sound has radically improved and we felt the best outcome would be to offer them to collectors at auction and in the process make a donation to Stage Hand.”
Stage Hand (aka the PSA Welfare & Benevolent Fund) is a UK registered charity, supported by the Production Services Association (PSA), a trade body for concert and event crew. The Welfare & Benevolent Fund offers financial hardship support and retraining grants for those in the industry who are unable to work through illness or injury.
Bonhams consultant specialist Stephen Maycock said, “This is a unique and exciting opportunity for a Pink Floyd fan, collector or museum to own a piece of the band’s technical heritage. The desks are hand-built one-offs specifically designed for Pink Floyd’s tours, and because the music world has adopted digital technology on a large scale, it’s highly unlikely that anything similar will ever be made again.”
THE QUADRAPHONIC SOUND OF PINK FLOYD: A BRIEF HISTORY
1: 1967 – The Azimuth Coordinator. A quad panning device that featured two panning joysticks in a large metal box, it was built in 1967 by Abbey Road sound engineer Bernard Speight and used for the Floyd’s Games For May show at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was stolen after the show.
1969 – Its replacement, a second Azimuth Coordinator, was first used at a Royal Festival Hall concert in 1969. It was also used by record producer Alan Parsons during the recording of Dark Side of the Moon (an album which was issued in both stereo and quadraphonic versions). This device is now on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
2. 1972 – British pro audio manufacturer Allen & Heath is commissioned to build the MOD1. This quad console was built for Pink Floyd’s live use around 1972 and can be seen in their film Live in Pompeii. This was subsequently sold and is thought to have ended up in a lock-up garage in North London.
3. 1973 – Allen & Heath built a second quad board in 1973. This was used for the 1974 Winter Tour. Its whereabouts are unknown.
4. 1977 – Another British pro audio manufacturer, Midas, builds a pair of ‘mirror’ PF1 consoles (so called because they exactly mirror each other’s facilities). These were based on the Midas Pro4 console design. They had input and output sections and could be used as stand-alone consoles. They fed signals into a central, specially designed quad routing box, and were used on the 1977 In The Flesh (Animals) tour.
In 1982 a fire at Alexandra Palace in London, where Britannia Row had set up sound systems for the Capital Radio Jazz Festival, destroyed one of the Midas Mirror consoles.
5. 1982 – In response, Midas quickly built a one-off replacement to feed a quad panner built by Britannia Row electronics engineer Les Matthews for The Wall tour. This was built by and supplied to Pink Floyd by BRP. BRP is the sound company originally formed and owned by Pink Floyd, but has been independent for the last twenty-six years.
The original surviving Mirror board, the replacement for the destroyed board and the matching quad router are now on display in a Parisian Museum.
6. 1987 – The Les Mathews quad panning device went on to be used for the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour. (The tour was originally planned to last just 11 weeks, but ended up playing to 5.5 million people during 1987-89.) The device is one of the items to be auctioned at Bonhams on 15th Dec.
7. 1994 – Midas XL3 quad console. This was commissioned by BRP for the Division Bell tour in 1994. This is the second console to be auctioned at Bonhams on 15th Dec.
Both of the latter two units have been meticulously maintained in full working condition and the desk (on the right in the photo) that was built for Division Bell has seen occasional use since Pink Floyd’s last live touring show on October 29, 1994 at Earls Court in London.