‘We’re pushing the industry forward’: Meyer Sound talks new PANTHER line array

This week, US pro audio giant Meyer Sound launched its brand-new flagship linear line array system, PANTHER, which was hailed by company president and CEO John Meyer as the company’s “most significant loudspeaker introduction in over a decade”. Here, Headliner catches up with senior product manager Andy Davies to find out precisely why it’s so significant and why he believes it’s a “once in a generation” system.

With the ever-more complex and visually focused demands of today’s live events industry in mind, the new Meyer Sound PANTHER has been built to offer an acoustic output that is closer to the much larger and heavier LEO line array, yet matches the more compact measurement of the LYON loudspeaker. Designed to deliver in stadium-sized shows, it weighs only 150 lb (68 kg) and offers notable savings on current draw from the company’s previous generation flagship line array loudspeaker. Its dual analog/Milan AVB network input module facilitates flexible signal distribution options, and each cabinet comes as standard with an IP55 weather protection rating.

The electronics module in PANTHER is a new, lightweight design featuring a four-channel Class D amplifier coupled to an ‘innovative power supply’. The new amplifier package delivers higher peak current to the loudspeakers while presenting a stable load to the AC line. It also features new, longer-excursion 12-inch low-frequency cone drivers and new 3-inch compression drivers. These incorporate advanced magnet structures using new materials for higher flux density despite substantial weight reduction. Combined with a new LF port design, PANTHER has a maximum peak output of over 150 dB SPL.

The reduced weight means that more PANTHER loudspeakers can be flown on a single motor, and larger arrays can share the same truss and hang points with extensive video and lighting gear. Furthermore, larger and longer arrays can be flown outdoors while complying with new safety regulations related to weather, specifically wind.

The PANTHER range is comprised of three cabinets with different horizontal coverage patterns. PANTHER-M and PANTHER-W are 95 and 110 degrees, respectively, and will be familiar to existing Meyer Sound owners. Meanwhile, PANTHER-L features an all-new long throw horn with a tightly defined 80-degree horizontal pattern. Three options allow system designers to precisely tailor coverage in any size venue with uniform response and enable deployment of fewer arrays or shorter arrays in certain applications, such as in-the-round configurations.

Meyer Sound’s PANTHER will go into production and ship in February 2022. UK-based rental company Major Tom, one of the product’s initial launch partners, will deploy it on Ed Sheeran’s 2022 + - = ÷ x (“Mathematics”) tour.

To find out more about Meyer Sound’s PANTHER, Headliner spoke to Davies about the concept behind product and how extensive conversations with key industry players helped shape it…

We hope PANTHER challenges the industry. Andy Davies, senior product manager, Meyer Sound

How long has PANTHER been in development?

It’s always difficult to pin down a specific date for any product because we’re constantly looking at a development cycle, and that goes through everything we do. You could argue that there are aspects of PANTHER that have been in development for 20 years. Things like the acoustics layout of PANTHER and the internal style of the box has grown through the whole LEO family, so the layout of the high frequency drivers and the horn is something we’ve carried though the family and are constantly refining.

But PANTHER specifically came out of a lot of conversations we were having pre-Covid about what systems needed to look like in the future, what people needed and where the pain points were for big PA owners. We spoke to a lot of people to understand where everybody was at. Covid changed a lot of things, but interestingly it didn’t change a lot of the needs of the industry. The pain points were largely the same. Covid has actually allowed for better communication with users and that helped us from an R&D perspective. We had time to sit down and talk, rather than having a quick chat next to a speaker before a gig.

What were the pain points that kept coming up in those conversations?

Size, weight, and power. Time and time again, you’ve got the audio side of any event desperate to deliver the most fantastic audio experience, but that needs to live happily alongside the visual element, which has a big, immediate wow factor for the audience. The best shows are the ones where they all work together, so trying to help the balance between visuals and audio was a big thing. And that couples across into weight. But we were always underlining that the product has to sound amazing – there could be no compromise on audio quality. Those were the key on site requirements, but we also clearly heard the need for the industry to pay attention to the environmental cost of what we do. We knew that PANTHER had to fit into a world where green issues are part of the decision making process.

So how did you set about remedying those pain points with PANTHER?

It was a case of drilling down with the engineering team on how far we could push them. We have an incredible engineering team and when it comes to these kinds of challenges, we put everything in the box so we have a complete system. That gives us a lot of complexity to deal with, but it makes things a lot simpler for our end users. We go to a whole team of people and say our customer wants something that’s this powerful and this small and no heavier than this – where are we at? Is this achievable? And that was the throw down. There is a team, and every aspect of that team has really got to push. Can we do this? And the answer was yes. That’s where the development arc kicked off.

What were the biggest challenges in PANTHER’s development?

Weight was the single biggest target and we really have a passion for making self-powered systems easier and easier to deploy. Getting that weight down to a point where even in the largest systems we were coming out as lighter than unpowered competitors was a big challenge. Everything in our systems is bespoke to that system, and that’s what made this possible.

John Meyer described this as one of the most significant launches in over a decade. Why do you think that is?

It’s such a big step forward. The power-to-weight ratio has taken a transformational step with this product. That’s good for the industry, as we are saving on weight, but we are also doing it with a much lower current draw and that’s good for everyone. When we look at the environmental footprint of PANTHER it is smaller and lighter, uses less power and is backed up by our incredible commitment to supporting products long term, all key factors in reducing our impact on the planet. There are other aspects of performance that we continually refine. PANTHER has an all-new horn that is incredibly even and well behaved and that gives the user predicable coverage making it easier to deploy. And we’re not cutting back on the technology in there. We are bringing a networked digital signal right to the cabinet, with the software tools to support that. There’s a no compromise approach about PANTHER that puts a marker in the sand. It says this is what we are about. We are not just pushing ourselves forward, we are pushing the industry forward. These products come along once in a generation. As someone who has worked with other products and other manufacturers over the years, this is the first time I’ve seen a large-format line array that can go and do the biggest shows and also be a practical everyday loudspeaker box that you can use time and time again as a rental company.

What opportunities does PANTHER open up in the pro audio market for Meyer Sound?

We’re already a well-known brand and we have a lot of friends in the industry. I think PANTHER will open up more people to come and talk to us, perhaps people with allegiances to other manufacturers. The performance package we are providing with PANTHER is going to make people take notice. Of course, we hope it will attract new partners, but at the same time we hope it challenges the industry to think about where it is going, what sort of equipment we should be coming up with and how the industry should be moving forward.