"We're audio enthusiasts. That's why we're in this business, to provide the best quality sound to our clients and their audiences. And from what we've heard, the LEO Family is the best option for doing that today."
- Chris Hill, Co-Founder, Wigwam Acoustics
Established in 1979 and based in the Greater Manchester area of England, Wigwam Acoustics has grown to become a leading audio hire, sales, and installation provider with global reach. Its touring accounts include such chart-topping artists as One Direction, Coldplay, and Bjork, whom Wigwam has served for 22 years. In setting a course for future growth, Wigwam recently invested in a full Meyer Sound LEO Family linear sound reinforcement system including LEO, LYON, and LEOPARD systems along with 1100-LFC and 900-LFC low-frequency control elements—totaling 148 loudspeakers.
In this Q&A, Wigwam Managing Director Spencer Beard and Co-Founder Chris Hill discuss how the LEO investment fits into the company's long-term growth plans.
Hill: The company was started by Mick Spratt and Mike Huck, Mike being a Baptist minister, as an outgrowth of a large and successful youth ministry, the Wigwam Club. They were joined by Iain Beeston and myself, and Wigwam quickly grew to become one of Europe's leading audio suppliers. When I came to the company, we focused more on special events and one-off arena shows and also did some work for the Royal Family at private residences and high-end installations. Quite a broad mix, really.
Hill: It was around 1982, when I went to a concert at Sheffield City Hall to see A Flock of Seagulls with the Meyer Sound MSL-3. I remember seeing these odd-looking cabinets pointing at me, and I'd never heard anything like it in my life—the power and the clarity were remarkable for the time. I said to Mick, "I've no idea what this system is, but we'd better buy it."
The MSL-3 was the core of our main system for many years. We took it on a number of tours, including Chris Rea and Billy Graham revivals behind the Iron Curtain. It was extremely reliable.
Beard: In the past 15 years or so, the company has been focused more on UK and international touring at the stadium and arena level. We still do some prestigious installations, but the bulk of the revenue now is in touring.
Beard: That depends on several factors, including the client, length of the tour, and distances involved. Recently with Bjork, it was a control package, though it was quite extensive with multiple consoles and a digital snake. If a group is going out for two or three years, then sending the entire system can be viable, but for shorter tours the shipping costs can be prohibitive. That's when we look to local providers who can supply systems to our standards.
Hill: Yes. We've had a long, close relationship with Mark Littlewood, who is FOH engineer for One Direction. He used a LEO rig in Peru and told us he'd never heard anything that had that kind of vocal clarity, headroom, and low-frequency power. "I pushed up the faders and it was perfect," he said. Mark has heard every arena-size PA out there, and he tells us LEO is the best available.
Beard: Yes, we attended a LEO demo out at an amphitheatre in California shortly after it was introduced, and we were quite impressed. But at the time it was just LEO. We wanted to have a complete family so we could scale systems to any size of venue or any application with the flexibility afforded by a range of boxes, both line arrays and subs. Now with LEOPARD, for example, it works well as a theatre-sized main system, but it also functions as outfills with LYON or LEO.
Hill: A lot of acts we support at the arena level also do promotional shows in smaller venues, from small theatres to old warehouses and TV studios. So again, the scalability of the systems is important.
Beard: With the next leg of the One Direction tour coming up, and after talking to Mark, we decided it was an opportune moment to define the next few years for Wigwam. We thought it through and determined that the LEO Family constitutes a great package for what we do, from stadiums and arenas down through theaters. The Meyer Sound company profile is a good match to sit alongside our own, in terms of its reputation for quality.Hill: Ultimately, from my point of view, the core decisions were made on the basis of audio quality. We're audio enthusiasts. That's why we're in this business, to provide the best quality sound to our clients and their audiences. And from what we've heard, the LEO Family is the best option for doing that today.