Production manager/FOH engineer Hugh Johnson has been using VUE Audiotechnik h-15W and h-15N loudspeakers with hs-28 subs for front fills on the current Vince Gill tour.NASHVILLE, TN—Throughout his storied career, country music mainstay Vince Gill has taken his own considered approach to things, so it stands to reason that his current 2015 tour, playing theaters, festivals and events across the U.S., has its own unique take on house sound as well. While the production is using local systems at each stop, production manager and long-time FOH engineer, Hugh Johnson, ensured that the tour would carry its own front fills to complement the “PA du jour.”
“Playing the venues we are, it makes no sense to carry a full PA,” said Johnson, “But at the same time, it’s important to have the tools to get the best sound out of the systems we encounter. That’s why I’ve carried my own front-fill system since our full-production days ended. These VUE Audiotechnik components are so musical, and they give me coverage for the front rows that is lacking in so many line array systems.”
Johnson’s approach to front fill starts with full-range, self-powered stacks on both corners of the stage. They consist of VUE’s h-15W and h-15N loudspeakers paired together atop the hs-28 dual 18-inch subwoofer system. Between those corner stacks, he deploys up to eight a-8 loudspeakers at the lip of the stage.
“The h-15s are trapezoid boxes—one with a narrow dispersion pattern and one wide,” said Johnson. “The wide box, the h-15W, has a 100-degree horn that faces almost straight on. The 50-degree box (h-15N) is on the inside, toed in so that it crossfires to hit the middle of the downstage front rows. That covers the little pie-shaped piece of real estate in the center that most line arrays have a hard time getting to.”
On the stage deck, the hs-28 subwoofers are oriented horizontally and make use of the boxes’ hybrid subwoofer design intended to reduce distortion while optimizing amplitude and phase response, with separate on-board power supplies and DSP algorithms for each 18-inch driver.
“This subwoofer is turning into one of my favorite loudspeakers,” said Johnson. “It’s rare among 18-inch systems in that it actually delivers a musical note, not just thump. For instance, the bass guitar coming through the hs-28 sounds really nice and even, very melodic but with plenty of impact.”
Eight compact a-8 loudspeakers also cover the front rows via an 8-inch low-frequency driver and a 1-inch compression driver. “Depending on the stage and the PA, I’ll use anywhere from six to eight of them spaced along the stage lip,” he said. “They’ve got a rotatable 70-by-55 degree horn, which we’ve set to give us 70-degree dispersion when they lay on their side. I’m easily covering the first two, three rows with them.”
Out at front of house, Johnson is also carrying a pair of VUE i-6a speakers as nearfield monitors. “I mostly just use them as my personal fill speakers for the mains, with one on each corner of the console doghouse,” Hugh explains. “At a lot of theaters, I might be stuck under a balcony or in some other bad position. But by timing the delay just right and just barely cracking the nearfields open, I can get a good picture of the venue sound.”
Johnson decided to bring the VUE boxes out on the road after first taking them into Sound Image’s Nashville shop to hear them in a closer environment. Having now had them on tour, it won’t be the last time they hit the road with Gill. “I will absolutely be taking them out with me again,” said Johnson. “The front fill system has performed remarkably well. The key is to make a seamless transition between the VUE front fills and the house PA, and it has just been effortless in getting them to match up. I usually get my system tuned in about 10 to 15 minutes a day.”