Monitor wedges are an essential part of most shows that feature musicians on stage. Some musicians love them big and loud, some like them unobtrusive and quiet, and a rare few don't care for them at all. Ray Charles did not always feel the need for wedges. Francis Elers, sound operator on Spring Awakening, toured with Charles and says that Charles told him monitors were not allowed on stage. “I remember him saying, ‘The band should listen to me,’ but the musicians were complaining that they really needed wedges, so they could hear the singer. So I told them I would fly some speakers for them. I would get a nice tight pattern just on them, and I wouldn't turn them up very much. And Charles was not to know.” It worked for most of the tour, until they reached Munich. “We were playing a small TV studio, and there was nowhere to hang the speakers, so I had to put them on the floor, and before the show, Ray tripped on one of the speakers. That was the end of the wedges,” says Elers.
For those who actually want those wedges on stage, here is a closer look at some options.
The Clair Brothers 12AM is a portable, low-profile, high output stage monitoring speaker that delivers a maximum 153dB SPL and a pretty impressive low frequency from a small enclosure. Designed for bi-amplification and custom processing utilizing Clair Brothers amplification and processing, the high frequency compression driver features a 2" throat with a 4" titanium diaphragm and neodymium magnet assembly. The driver is joined to a proprietary asymmetrical horn for a high level of intelligibility. A custom 300W 12" cone transducer provides mid-bass and low frequency reproduction. Dual rear-mounted EP4 connectors allow the use of multiple cabinets from a single amplifier. All 12AMs are finished with a rugged exterior black epoxy mastic finish to withstand whatever demanding conditions you come across.
Clair Brothers also makes The Wedge, a monitor that shares most of the characteristics of the 12AM — from size to components — except with slightly less power handling in the HF (150W for the 12AM and 130W for The Wedge). Clair Brothers monitors are used by such names as U2, The Police, Roger Waters, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, and Martina McBride.
The Meyer Sound UM-1P and UM-100P, designed for high-level, full-bandwidth monitoring of mixes with vocals and instruments, yield responses down to 60Hz. The compact enclosures house 12" cone drivers and a 3" diaphragm compression drivers. The combination of high-performance drivers and matched drive electronics provides flat amplitude and phase response, as well as near-perfect impulse response across bandwidth, with benefits including lower susceptibility to feedback. Maximum SPL is 133dB at 1m, with low distortion. These models are used by The Montreux Jazz Festival and Medeski, Martin, & Wood.
The USM-1P and USM-100P are self-powered stage monitors for high-level, full-bandwidth monitoring for reproduction of low-frequency information — such as mixes with bass and drums — providing response down to 30Hz. Maximum SPL is 132dB at 1m with low distortion. These are used by The Montreux Jazz Festival, Berlin Loveparade, Moroccan World Music Festival, and Royal Caribbean's Freedom Of The Seas.
Meyer Sound also makes the MJF-212A, a self-powered monitor with flat amplitude and phase responses, full-range bandwidth, and known for its impulse response. MJF-212As are used by Steely Dan, Metallica, Marilyn Manson, Kanye West, and Dane Cook.
Martin Audio manufactures the LE Series, the lineup of which includes models LE1200, LE1500, and LE2100. At the top of the line is the LE2100, a three-way bi-amp only, differential dispersion unit that offers a low profile and high level of power. Designed for applications that require maximum SPL, the LE2100 features twin 12" low-frequency drivers, a 6.5" midrange device, and a 1" exit compression driver mounted on a differential dispersion horn. Differential dispersion increases the area over which a constant SPL and consistent frequency response is maintained at ear height.
The LE1500 combines high output and controlled dispersion, along with a 15" low-frequency drive unit and a 1.4" exit compression driver mounted on a differential dispersion horn. And moving across the range, the LE1200 is ultra-compact, combining maximum enclosure volume with an optimum presentation angle. It features a 12" low-frequency drive unit and a 1.4" (35mm) exit compression driver mounted on a differential dispersion horn.
EAW has a brand new wedge, MicroWedge MW12, the result of a collaboration between Rat Sound Systems owner Dave “Rat” Levine, the original MicroWedge Series inventor, and the engineers at EAW. The wedge pairs a 12" woofer with a 2" HF compression driver on a horn that provides a 90° horizontal dispersion. All frequencies emanate from the exact same point, eliminating crossover region problems and time/phase irregularities, as well as optimizing coherency. The coaxial approach also contributes to a compact and low-profile footprint.
The new monitors are processor-enhanced, as opposed to processor-dependant, and user-selectable passive or active modes are provided. The large port on the front of the cabinet enhances LF response in coupling with the floor, and this port houses both the carrying handle and the passive/active mode switch. The port also contains dual input connectors, keeping them concealed and protected, and allowing wedges to be placed close together.
Danley Sound Labs
Danley Sound Labs' SH-LPM is compact, low-profile, and full-range, with a wide dispersion and horn-loaded system. The large horn mouth offers substantial directivity through 110° of conical dispersion with excellent front-to-back rejection and greater gain before feedback. The unit provides a maximum SPL of 120dB continuous or 123dB program, with a sensitivity of 95dB SPL (-1dB 70Hz to 20kHz, measured as 28.3V input free space at 10m). Power handling is 400W continuous, 800W program. The monitor houses an 8" coaxial transducer and operates across a frequency range of 65Hz to 20kHz (+/- 3dB; 50Hz to 24kHz +/-10dB), with smooth high frequency coverage throughout the dispersion pattern.
The M4 is a two-way high performance stage monitor employing an integrated 15"/1.3" exit coaxial driver, with a CD horn and passive crossover network. Its power is in its midrange presence and a dry and deep low end. Combined with feedback stability, high sensitivity, and its discreet design, it pairs well with d&b's M2 monitor. In its 50°×70° dispersion configuration, it provides an accurately defined coverage area on stage, and when used upright, it can do time as a PA. It can operate in two-way active mode by changing the D12 amp configuration without any modifications to the loudspeaker. It produces 134/138dB SPL when driven passively with a D6 or D12 amp, respectively, or 140dB SPL when driven actively with the D12.
Another from d&b, the M2, features a bass-reflex enclosure optimized for minimal air compression and houses two 12" LF drivers powered by a D12 amp using SenseDrive technology. The 1.4" exit HF compression driver operates into a very low distortion horn with a wave-guide oriented design. This cabinet achieves a constant directivity of 45°×60° above the low frequency of 600Hz, for a good level of feedback stability and a direct voice reproduction. The peak sound pressure level is 143dB at 1m.