Music

ViRAY Keeps Up with Jones

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Legendary singer, songwriter and keyboardist Howard Jones this year celebrated 40 years in the music business. A career which first took the charts by storm in the 1980s, when Jones was a pioneer of electronic music, continues to flourish, supported by a huge worldwide fanbase and a seemingly unquenchable appetite for live performance.

Having toured extensively in Europe, Asia, and North America during 2023, Jones returned in October to conclude his live schedule with a UK theatre tour. The ten-night tour, which included nights at the London Palladium and Birmingham Symphony Hall, demonstrated the star’s great versatility. A full-on synth-driven electronic attack was complemented by acoustic trio and solo sections which showed off Jones’ considerable talents as a pianist. In both formats, his vocal delivery was exceptional.

Liverpool-based production specialists Adlib took care of the audio, with the tour opting for a CODA Audio system based around the company’s ViRAY compact line array. CODA has been FOH engineer Chicky Reeves’ choice for Howard Jones since he began working with the artist in 2016, having first encountered the brand some years earlier while on tour with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). He describes his first experience with ViRAY:

“I’d initially been reluctant to stray from what I was used to, but having been persuaded to take the system out with OMD, I haven’t looked back. When we set up for our first show, which was more of a production rehearsal with an audience, I walked in as the system tech was finishing setting it up. He had a track playing that I knew quite well and I was immediately smitten with the sound. I knew the track, I knew the room, and I’d never heard this combination sound so good before. I was absolutely stunned. After that, we took it on several tours – when I started with  Howard, he asked if I had a PA preference, and naturally I told him ‘CODA’!”

The dynamics of Howard Jones’ set are wide-ranging and demand a system that can deliver power and detail in equal measure according to the tour’s system tech, Steve Norman:

“Howard’s material is exceptionally varied in the sense that some songs are pretty full-on with big electronic drums and huge synth sounds, and then three songs later he’s sitting at the piano playing a solo number on which a double-bass and acoustic guitar join in. Having a system that can deliver subtle nuances yet can also deliver full-power sound is critical. In my book, only one system can do it – that’s CODA Audio ViRAY.”

The system configuration on the tour was different every night to cater for the unique characteristics of each theatre. Flexibility was paramount, with no two shows the same. Some shows deployed the full system, whilst others saw a split flown/ground-stacked system enhanced with various fills for ‘hard-to-reach’ seats. The complete inventory comprised 36 x ViRAY units, 4 x SC2-F and 8 x SCP-F subs, 2 x HOPS12-T, 8 x HOPS8 and 2 x G712. The system was driven by CODA’s LINUS14 four channel DSP amplifiers.

Steve Norman continues:

“The thing with a CODA system is that what would typically be a challenging room becomes like every other room. The various accessories provide you with the tools to deploy the system in a way that provides the most uncompromising solution. The wide, full band horizontal coverage of ViRAY solves a lot of issues in theatres. It’s actually amazing how side-on to the box you can be, yet still experience a full range sound.”

Chicky Reeves concurs:

“For this tour especially, as we played a variety of venue sizes, we found the system was easy to scale up or down. The coverage was clean everywhere – no comb filtering between boxes or arrays, excellent correction for room modes – everyone could hear everything. As for the subs –  crikey! Howard’s music requires solid low end for those drum machines and FM basses, so exceptional subs are vital. Nothing in the low end ever felt slow or soggy – we got immediate punches from every kick and room-rattling bass, but never with that feeling of an oppressive low end.”

For Chicky, the tour proved to be a further affirmation of what he already knew about the system’s power and detail:

“The CODA system is a PA I can make really loud without being painfully so. It’s never ‘screaming’ at the audience, just surrounding them; enveloping them within the music. It’s amazing!”

Tour Manager Simon Bettison shares Steve and Chicky’s enthusiasm for the audio quality of the system, but is also keen to point out other key advantages:

“Logistically it was ideal. Compact, easy to rig, relatively light and perfect for this size of theatre show, taking up as it does less than half a truck and needing only one system tech. Also it’s agile enough to work in venues where we needed to hang and ground-stack along with smaller fills on balconies etc. In short we enjoyed the perfect combination of great band, great techs and a great system.”

Steve Norman describes the system as a vital interface for the energy exchange between artist and audience:

“The shows were pretty spectacular to be honest. To be able to sit and immerse yourself in Howard’s songwriting through the medium of brilliantly mixed, super high-quality sound, was a joy. Sometimes amidst all the tech dialogue we can overlook the emotional side of what’s going on. The system is there to connect people with the music in the best way possible and I’m absolutely sure Howard and the band could feel the energy on this tour – the standing ovations and rave reviews say everything about that. In a word – brilliant!”

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