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Sound Reinforcement - Forums for Live Sound Professionals - Your Displayed Name Must Be Your Real Full Name To Post In The Live Sound Forums => SR Forum Archives => LAB: The Classic Live Audio Board FUD Forum Archive => Topic started by: [x] on April 10, 2006, 06:38:30 pm

Title: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: [x] on April 10, 2006, 06:38:30 pm
Does anyone know what's behind the grille of the Showco Prism stuff? Not an incredible amount of info about them on the internet, since they're proprietary. Are they sort of like Rat Traps? What sort of drive compliment do they use? It's a marvel that these enormous things are still so popular even in the age of simple, gracefully-swooping line array hangs. It's cool to read about them in Live Sound International.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Joachim Venberget on April 10, 2006, 06:47:28 pm
All I Know is that they got some JBL's inside. The subs are dual 2241's. Dont remember the drivers in the tops but i once managed to get a showco guy telling me about some of the JBL's in there but he  wouldnt say it all. They have always managed to keep the system secret.
Theres also several versions of the top-cabs that can be configured in different ways... I think the difference are dispersion and angles.





Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 10, 2006, 06:47:37 pm
I suggest a patent search.

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Tom Young on April 10, 2006, 08:04:55 pm
I think I recall the contents of Prisms discussed fairly authoritativey here on LAB several years ago and to some level of detail. There are several models.

Do I also recall they have a line array version/system, or was that Clair Bros ? (I know they are under same ownerhsip now).
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: David Holland on April 10, 2006, 08:09:39 pm
What I know about them is the design is at least 25 years old and they seem very outdated. I know it is a four way system and they recently switched from analog processing to the wireless Clair/Lake IO system. I worked 3 shows last summer at an outdoor amphitheater where a Prism system was used. Ozzfest was the first show and they used a Prism rig on the main and side stages. The side stage sounded awful all day it seemed like every band enginner was fighting the system the entire set.  The main stage did not sound decent until Iron Maiden's set it was ok for them. Then Black Sabbath hit the stage and after spiking and 4 or 5 frequencies on the Lake the system actually sounded decent.  Black Sabbath FOH engineer has been with Claire for 20 something years and knew how to tame the rig to sound good.

The other show where a Prism rig was used was the Back Street Boys and again it seems unless you have had 20 years of working with a Prism rig you are fighting the system to try and make a decent mix.  

The best sounding shows at this venue were a JBL Vertec rig for 3 shows and a DB rig.  

I just heard last week that Claire is using a Prism rig again on this years Ozzfest.    
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Joachim Venberget on April 10, 2006, 08:15:12 pm
Hmmm, Isnt it a 5 way system including subs?

Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Paul Tucci on April 10, 2006, 08:51:23 pm
David Holland wrote on Mon, 10 April 2006 20:09


... it seems unless you have had 20 years of working with a Prism rig you are fighting the system to try and make a decent mix.  
   


There is the problem. A classic case of head up the ass and a failure to separate the system from the music mix.

An accurate sound system will reproduce shit accurately. Have an engineer create a mix that is shitty and then the system reproduces it. Somehow the PA should know better? The only one at fault would be the person judging things from ignorance.

The guy at the controls has the best perspective to say the system is malfunctioning, not a punter who doesn't like the sound until miraculously, the PA heals itself for the headliner.

I had a Prism rig supplied to me in Dallas one Xmas. It was the 15th system of a 25 show PA du jour run. My first experience with the Prism. I tuned it, I mixed on it, I loved it. More importantly, so did the crowd, my producer, and M.L. It doesn't take 20 years to understand.
Your perspective is very different than mine.

Tucci
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Mats Fagerkull on April 10, 2006, 10:04:47 pm
David Holland wrote on Tue, 11 April 2006 02:09

What I know about them is the design is at least 25 years old and they seem very outdated.
<snip>
... it seems unless you have had 20 years of working with a Prism rig you are fighting the system to try and make a decent mix.  

I just heard last week that Claire is using a Prism rig again on this years Ozzfest.    


I'm with Tucci on this one. You don't do it wrong for +25 years and still become one of the best and most respected in business. Actually you wouldn't be in business that long if your equipment and crew were that bad.

I also don't think Clair/Showco would risk their reputation by using an inferiour product. If they, and more important their customers, still have faith in their Prism rig that tells me something.

/mats




Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 10, 2006, 10:08:09 pm
The Prism II (tm) is deployed.  I've helped hang a few as a local stage hand.  I asked what the changes were and was told basically "same idea, new beast" for the cab, and getting the Lake/Clair io processing to do what needed to be done.  Seems like a complete redesign, except for the rigging and footprint...

I've never mixed on a Prism or Prism II.  I'd like to.  I've heard enough shows on them that I think the rig is very unforgiving in the "garbage in, garbage out" way.

Funny... one show I was a house follow spot operator, in position but not used until the headliner went on.  Prism rig, ShowConsole.  The opening acts both sounded distorted to me, and I could see all kinds of red lights on the console.  The headliner sounded much cleaner to me, and I noticed there were no twinkly red lights on the ShowConsole.  Was it the desk, or the mixerperson?  Was it the Prism rig, or the mixerperson?

Read Tucci's reply.  I'd have paid money to be there when he tuned the rig... and I'd probably still be learning from it.

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Andy Peters on April 10, 2006, 10:41:20 pm
Tim McCulloch wrote on Mon, 10 April 2006 19:08

Funny... one show I was a house follow spot operator, in position but not used until the headliner went on.  Prism rig, ShowConsole.  The opening acts both sounded distorted to me, and I could see all kinds of red lights on the console.  The headliner sounded much cleaner to me, and I noticed there were no twinkly red lights on the ShowConsole.  Was it the desk, or the mixerperson?  Was it the Prism rig, or the mixerperson?


Was the system clamped down on the support bands?

That's the usual reason for support band engineers running the console into the red ... there's nothing coming out of the PA.

(Yeah, I know that running the console into clip doesn't make the PA get any louder, so it's still a BE problem, but you get my point.)

-a
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Corey McCleskey on April 10, 2006, 10:45:33 pm
Tom Young wrote on Tue, 11 April 2006 01:04

I think I recall the contents of Prisms discussed fairly authoritativey here on LAB several years ago and to some level of detail. There are several models.

Do I also recall they have a line array version/system, or was that Clair Bros ? (I know they are under same ownerhsip now).




the new I-4 rig is what i think your talking about.

I saw the one they put up for the rolling stones tour this past year (it was painted all gold) and that rig is a monster.

sounds pretty good from the times i've seen it.

i think  it was maybe bette midler's "kiss my brass" tour that i saw it on for the first time and remember being quite impressed with the coverage.


anyways, thats off topic.

back to the prism's
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Doug Fowler on April 10, 2006, 10:53:14 pm
One of the best festival rigs I EVER heard was at Blockbuster Rockfest, Tejas Motor Speedway, in 1997.

That thing was huge, hands down the biggest PA I have ever seen.  And it sounded like a million bucks, particularly for Collective Soul.  

There's not a thing wrong with Prism, in the big picture. The big picture is "can this system deliver what my audience expects to hear, within budget?".   As others have said, you don't stay in business that long with a proprietary rig that sucks.

Heard some openers that didn't sound so good?

Imagine that.... :-)

Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 11, 2006, 12:30:49 am
Andy-

The quick answer is, "possibly."  I didn't have a clear view of the system drive racks....

In another post I said "there are two types of BEs... those that have *music* come out of the PA, and those that have *sound* come out of the PA."  Once a mixerperson is past the stage of using SPL as replacement for sexual satisfaction, the musicality seems to improve.

I think that once a mixerperson figured out the dial-back, acceptance could take over, and the mix building could start.  Oh well.

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Jon Waller on April 11, 2006, 11:51:54 am

Apparently, Showco didn't stay in business.  My guess is they fell on hard times, possibly because they didn't become a line array house, and were bought by Clair.  It must be more expensive to transport and fly that massive system.

I saw James Taylor at my local 20,000 seat arena about 7 years ago, using the Showco Prism.  Sounded like the hard rock version of James.  Massive low end, but no upper bass or lower midrange intelligibility.  The highs carried the vocals, but much of the instrumentation was not very clear.  The multiple arrivals, spaced out in time, from the multitude of boxes which lose their directivity in the upper bass/lower midrange region cause this effect.  No doubt the vertically aligned boxes have greatly overlapping coverages.  At some seats, with some mixes, it is probably acceptable.  It was, however, an improvement over most earlier (70's era) systems.

A few years later, I saw him again with the Clair Line Array system.  Where I was sitting, directly on axis of the upper part of the side array, it was all 1K to 4K.  Absolutely no bass.  I went around to the center of the upper deck.  Fantastic clarity, in stereo!  Still a little too much upper mids, not enough bass.  The mix position was at the back of the main floor, right in front of a concrete wall!  Apparently, the B.E. didn't realize the wall right behind him would give a 6 dB level increase in the low end at his seat.  It probably sounded just about right to him.  The upper midrange/lower treble prominence in the upper level seats was caused by not enough line curvature for the EQ used.  The mix position was covered by a part of the line with more curvature.

It seems the two technologies err in opposite directions.  Combine this with operators who are not at the top of their game, and unsatisfying sound results.

Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Rich Mullen on April 11, 2006, 12:49:16 pm
We had a good acquaintance that worked as a site foreman for Showco. He came through on the NSUCK ....uh, I mean, NSYNC tour in '02 maybe and told us we could come by and hang. WE DID!

Soldier Field in Chicago with 13x10 Prism a side...don't quote me as it's been a few years. HUGE rig nonetheless. This was just after the buyout/merger whatever. We were hanging out watching & learning when the lead system tech came out near us to eyeball the bumpers while flying the rig. We watched as the boxes rolled out one by one clicked into place and away they went. During that time he starting talking about the Show Console and then we got into the rig. He said "well I guess we've been bought out so...' and he went on to tell us ALL about each color in the rig. Drivers, placement, loading, horns, etc.... Very smart, brass tax kinda guy. This discussion went on for quite a while. I remember sitting there mesmerized that we were hearing all that stuff.

IT'S COOL SHIT! I wish I could tell you all that was in them, but I just don't remember. SORRY!

What I can say is I learned as much on that day as I have in any time I can think of. The impression I was left with overall about Showco was that they are problem solvers. I liked learning that stuff most of all.

In response to some of the '20 year old crap' noise, I would just reaffirm what others have said..Showco and the Prism rig has been pleasing the people with the money for years. And I suspect will continue to please many of the same people for years to come. That's all that matters.

It's hard to argue with success!


Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 11, 2006, 12:52:35 pm
Showco was profitable when it was acquired by Clair.  I'm sure it still is.

There were other market forces at work when this happend.  Among other players, PRG was buying every 2nd tier production company (sound, lights, didn't matter) in sight in an attempt to consolidate market share, and create additional profits from administrative economies of scale.  Had PRG bought Showco, Clair would have been faced with a huge competitor that could offer turn-key, in-house sound, lights, and video.

By purchasing Showco, Clair got something like 70% (or more) of the "A" level national tour market and the additional capacity to service that.

And think about this:  if Showco's rigs were flakey, Clair would be retiring them.  I understand the decision to complete development of the Prism II and deploy it, was made in Pennsylvania (but I could be wrong).

I've heard enough bad sounding gigs on Prism, Vertec, and a couple other rigs.... and I've heard enough good sounding gigs on those rigs.  I can't comment about performance unless I'm the system engineer or mixerperson, and that's why I'd love to try a Prism rig... to have direct hands-on experience with it.  Without having that kind of experience, I don't think anyone is qualified to make judgements about a RIG.

I think the real question is, what is the price difference between a Prism rig and an I-4 rig for 15,000 punters in an arena.  "B" level National act.  Hmmm lets get quotes on S-4, too, and maybe Vertec.  We can assume the consoles and toys are constants... I suspect that a Prism rig will be less money than the I-4 Wink  The point is that different products have different prices, and often decisions are made by management that conflict with the desires of employees (like the BE).

The beauty of the Prism rig is the level of controlability you can get within the array.  That makes it suitable in the wrap-around deployment you see used.  A line array is controlled by changing the length of the line, inter-element angles, and trim height.  The coverage is what it is (exceptions exist).  Line arrays are good at what they do, when properly deployed, but they aren't always the right tool for the job.

Have fun!

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Bonnie Lackey on April 11, 2006, 02:23:45 pm
I would comment on the Showco Prism Speakers as we know them quite well, but ... it will just get me another telephone call so ... but they sounded great then and they sound great now.
Bonnie
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Dave Barnett on April 11, 2006, 02:41:37 pm
I remember seeing an ad in one of the trade publications sometime in the early-mid 1980s with a cutaway photo of the "New Showco Prism" box.  The one I saw looked like a Bose nightmare with speakers pointing every which way.  I kind of think it had to be a joke to throw the competitors off.

Imagine a cube with a pyramid inside.  That would be the folded horn woofer, with a cone at the base of the pyramid pointing toward the rear, deflecting off that and out the front as with any W-horn.  On each of the other faces of the pyramid, there were mid and HF components.  The opening was at the end with the point of the pyramid.  Sort of like one of the Danley systems only turned inside out.

It looked like an atrocity, which is why I find it hard to imagine that they ever did any high-profile shows with such a thing.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Tom Young on April 11, 2006, 03:28:23 pm
I believe what you saw was one of the products Showco produced during the breif period they got into disco system design (I kid you not).

I still have some of these spec sheets and based on these they (Showco) *were* most definitley members in good standing of the bizarro world of disco system design that permeated that era. They had humongous folded horns (ala Richard Long) and super-tweeter arrays that all defied any logic or common sense. Funny how disco system design paid little attention to MF's and the devices that did them.

Once whomever lead that particular marketing campaign came out of detox they dropped the whole line and refocused their resources back into what they do best: live sound.

The Prism systems designed for and used in live sound bear no resemblance to that disco crap.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: John Chiara on April 11, 2006, 03:55:47 pm
Doug Fowler wrote on Mon, 10 April 2006 22:53

One of the best festival rigs I EVER heard was at Blockbuster Rockfest, Tejas Motor Speedway, in 1997.

That thing was huge, hands down the biggest PA I have ever seen.  And it sounded like a million bucks, particularly for Collective Soul.  





And it probably literally did cost a million bucks. I've seen a few million dollar systems sound awful... I assume it is pilot error and not the systems doing.

Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: A Man on April 11, 2006, 11:24:16 pm
If the Prism rig is indeed on Ozzfest this summer, I'll be on it every day. I have used it once before at a radio station fest and typical to a festival, we only got a line check and yada-yada-yada so I don't think it would be fair to give an assessment based on that one day. I really look forward to mixing on it again.

When referring to the transducers, I was once told "the only thing that has remained a constant over the years is the rat fur" Wink
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: A Man on April 12, 2006, 01:46:22 am
John Chiara wrote on Tue, 11 April 2006 15:55





And it probably literally did cost a million bucks. I've seen a few million dollar systems sound awful... I assume it is pilot error and not the systems doing.




Aren't you the same guy who says every gig sounds awful though?  Evil or Very Mad ....
(Snarky-ness ON.)...and what rig will you be mixing on this weekend????   Rolling Eyes  
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Mikael Holm (the old one) on April 12, 2006, 12:13:10 pm
Doug Fowler wrote on Tue, 11 April 2006 05:53

One of the best festival rigs I EVER heard was at Blockbuster Rockfest, Tejas Motor Speedway, in 1997.

That thing was huge, hands down the biggest PA I have ever seen.  And it sounded like a million bucks, particularly for Collective Soul.


Million bucks but over million watts of rated amplifier power too!

Back in 1998-1999 it was said on Showco's website that they had used 1.3 megawatts on some rock festival ("the largest festival PA in the world ever") and a little bit lower powered rig on some huge countryfest.

Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Edward Challanger on April 12, 2006, 01:49:34 pm
Did you have an link to schowcos  website ?
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Tom Manchester on April 12, 2006, 02:41:04 pm
Were the Prism's an in house design or were they contracted and designed by someone else? I know alot of the amps and stuff they had were rebranded Carvers, QSC's, etc.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Andy Peters on April 12, 2006, 02:56:54 pm
tthorsten wrote on Wed, 12 April 2006 10:49

Did you have an link to schowcos  website ?


Would you believe that it's the VERY FIRST SEARCH RESULT WHEN YOU GOOGLE FOR "SHOWCO"????

-a

(Edit: OK, so the Showco/Clair website is totally under construction except for the contacts page.)
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Lee Brenkman on April 12, 2006, 05:58:00 pm
You're scrambling the two parts of the Clair/Showco combine

Clair Brothers did indeed have made or modify Carver and QSC amplifiers for their own proprietary speakers.  The 12AM wedges were originally packaged with Clair branded Carvers.

The Prism system was developed "in house" at Showco.  The analog processors were as well.  The amps were, as they were in most Showco rigs nearly forever were Crown.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: yam4000vca Jim Gould on April 13, 2006, 12:18:33 am
A few years ago I mixed a couple tours on a Prism system and had no problems at all with it. I actually liked the way it sounded.
I also think the idea that ShowCo was doing poorly and were bought out is not totally true. I was on tour with a ShowCo system when the merger happened. There were some surprised crew guys that day but I truly think it was a business move by Clair to absorb a major competitor. This type of thing happens in business.
Oh yeah, and by the way, good sound can be derived from something other than a line array.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Doug Fowler on April 13, 2006, 08:52:42 am
The rockfest and countryfest were both at Texas Motor Speedway about the same time IIRC.  Probably about the same PA, something like someone else described: 10x13, 10x14, something like that.

The delays were 4x4, probably.

fwiw (not much.... Smile
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: theo mack on April 13, 2006, 04:20:19 pm
I mixed a bunch of shows on a pris rig in 2001.
I can't remember the sys techs name (Stuart maybe?) but as long as he a 1/2 hour to week the stereo 4 band parametric (meyer I think)it sounded good and loud. coverage was good too.

It was the older showco analog rack x-over ( i think it was analog ? ).
He did a couple deep narrow cuts in the top that were standard show to show and some mid bass cuts that changed.

He was mixing the headliner, the band "LIVE" I had the opener.

He was great to us. no system gain down for us, or unplugging of subs like I have experienced once in a while in the past.

Of course, I strongly believe the headliners set Should be a bit louder than the opener. I think that is why we had few issues.

Anyway, the prisim rig was great in 2000 to 3000 seat venues for me.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: phil reigh on April 14, 2006, 03:52:55 pm
I get out to concerts whenever I can.  I've heard the Prism system sound phenomenal {ZZ Top, Recycler tour) and I have heard it sound not so good.  I blame the FOH engineer, usually, or else the artist has told the FOH engineer he wants it a certain way.  I have also heard the Clair I4 system, same deal, usually great, sometimes so-so.  FYI, originally Showco started Vari-Lite.  Vari-lite grew and took over Showco, as I understood it.  Then Vari-Lite was sold to Leviton, the electrical manufacturer, who wanted nothing to do with the sound business, and Clair had a chance to buy Showco.  Some of the clients wanted Prism instead of the faithful S4 series II or the I4 rig.  Clair said "We can do that", and made a very smart business decision to buy Showco when they had the chance.
Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: Too Tall (Curtis H. List) on April 16, 2006, 01:18:16 pm
[quote title=Andy Peters wrote on Mon, 10 April 2006 22:41]
Tim McCulloch wrote on Mon, 10 April 2006 19:08


snip

Was the system clamped down on the support bands?

That's the usual reason for support band engineers running the console into the red ... there's nothing coming out of the PA.

(Yeah, I know that running the console into clip doesn't make the PA get any louder, so it's still a BE problem, but you get my point.)

-a



Been there done that.
This was warming up for Night Ranger.

It is a “two step” approach.

First while setting up the headliner management comes to me and lets me know they are going to limit my volume. I say, yes I understand.

The warm up band I am working for gets its own small mixer so I ask their manger and the head guy that brought the PA to help me set a level so I have my board outputs kicking around “0” when I hit the threshold on their compressor.

So during sound check with my band we get the gain structure right and we are ready to go.

Show time, I un-mute the mains and…there does not seem to be very much volume.
Hmmm…

I go over to their drive rack and there is smiley the manager guarding the compressor which he has set even lower then we agreed on so I’m seeing as much as 12dB gain reduction with my main outputs kicking around “0”.

Nothing to do but go back and deal with it.

It so happens in this particular instance they screwed themselves.

For one thing my band did not have a vocalist. Just guitar, bass and drums

So the drums took the biggests hit, but I could really compress them without totally destroying their sound. It no longer sounded natural, more like a drum machine, but it worked.
The lead guitar was not a problem since he could make a stab at covering the remodeled movie theater with his stage amp.

The bass guitar stage rig had to cover more then I liked, but he did too many runs up in the mid range to get away with clamping him much and gain anything.

When I was done I had two visitors.

The head guy from the sound company apologized and told me he would not have allowed the manager from Night Ranger screw us so bad if he had known how good the warm up band was. I guess he figured he might have blown potential jobs in the future.

The BE for Night Ranger who happened to be a studio guy came by. He complimented me on the mix and assured me he had nothing to do with my volume problems.

As he was soon to find out they actually did me a favor.

The ancient, nasty, rotten speakers brought were owned by what was widely acknowledged as the worst sound company of its size in business in the state.

My experience is the worst drivers made can sound ok AS LONG AS YOU DON’T PUSH THEM VERY LOUD!!!

He had maybe 6dB over what I was allowed to push the system and he tried for another 12dB and more.

When leaving I told him “Good luck. You’re gonna need it” and walked out just as the PA was starting to sound REALLY painful.

Title: Re: Showco Prism speakers
Post by: David Buehler on April 17, 2006, 10:21:40 pm
Actually...

For what its worth, Varilite was split into 2 parts during the sale.

Varilite production services was sold and aquired by PRG giving them the largest lighting inventory in the world.

Genlyte Thomas Group acquired all assets of Vari-Lite's manufacturing and sales division including the Vari-Lite name, brand and all patents associated with the VARI*LITE products.

Leviton Lighting Management Systems was built from aquiring NSI, Macro, and Colortran. Varilite has never been in their control.