Ever since their song “#SELFIE” first lit up the music charts in 2014, the EDM duo of Alex Pall and Drew Taggart—better known as The Chainsmokers—have released a prolific stream of 37 singles, 36 remixes, 15 EPs and three albums that have earned them a Grammy award, two American Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards and nine iHeartRadio Music Awards. With multiple songs on Spotify each registering more than a billion streams, The Chainsmokers dropped their latest record, World War Joy, in December while out on a 41-city North American arena tour sonically reinforced by Rat Sound Systems’ L-Acoustics K1/K2 rig.
“L-Acoustics has always been the preferred system of choice for The Chainsmokers,” says Tristan Nelson-Hauer, who has served as the group’s FOH engineer for the past two years. “For the most recent North American tour, I was fortunate enough to be able to work with Dave and the family at Rat Sound who provided the PA. I have also had a DiGiCo SD5 control package from them for 18 months. The schedule for us over the last year and a half has pretty much been non-stop, and at times we have actually had an A, B and C control package out at one time, all provided by Rat.”
With openers 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella along for the latest road trek, the World War Joy Tour featured a comprehensive L-Acoustics package comprised of 14 K1 plus six K2 downs per side as the mains, with eight K1 over eight K2 for the side arrays. Hangs of eight KS28 subs were flown behind each main array, with LF further anchored by a total of 16 additional KS28, typically ground-stacked in four blocks of four, all in cardioid mode. Up to a dozen Kara frontfills capped the subs in front of the stage lip, and the entire system was driven by eight LA12X and 38 LA8 amplified controllers.
With Rat Sound System Engineer Justin Lenards designing each show’s configuration using L-Acoustics Soundvision software, Nelson-Hauer notes that the new Autosolver tools particularly impressed him. “After shooting the room or pulling up a venue model from the Soundvision archive, Justin would drop our tour PA into the model and very quickly set it up using the new Autosplay and Autofilter tools. Those saved loads of time in the mapping process and were absolutely fantastic. I was initially skeptical of using them, but after the first few tour stops, I’ll never use Soundvision the old way again. They’ve actually helped us achieve a noticeable improvement in our touring sound, particularly in the high end, which is impressive.”
The latest outing also represented the team’s first tour to utilize the new L-Acoustics P1 processor. “With our front-of-house mix position being all the way at the back of the arena, the P1’s Autoclimate feature has taken our PA to the next level,” he continues. “Being able to adjust the system for temperature and humidity changes on the fly has been amazing, especially when we got into some venues where we’d soundcheck at one temperature, then do the show at a very different one.”
The stage design for the World War Joy Tour featured an extensively long thrust, putting nearly all of The Chainsmokers’ high-energy, 90-minute performance in front of the PA. But the FOH engineer says that wasn’t even the biggest challenge: “At one point in the show, Drew would climb up on a catwalk and ride it up to 50 feet, which put him and his vocal mic directly in front of the long throw boxes. Having K1/K2 as the PA was great for getting the vocal on top, even with him in front of the PA, because with the precise horizontal directivity control pattern we were able to shift the high-end energy off the catwalk, which helped immensely. Regardless of the venue size and layout, L-Acoustics has always given us the proper tools to make each performance sound its very best.”
Matt McGuire, The Chainsmokers’ drummer and tour music director, says that everyone was overjoyed with what they heard at each performance. “The comments have been unreal across the board, from the general public to industry heavyweights,” he shares. “We worked very hard to create a show that is presented with full spectrum audio across all types of musical genres. It was incredibly important that the band sections could match the power of the hard electronic moments for multiple reasons, and what we have found—especially with how Tristan has approached the mix with this PA—is that both hit just as hard. Neither element feels weaker sonically, which keeps the energy and dynamics consistent.
“The most common comment we’ve received is that the bass makes you really feel the show, and that allows us to have those moments that seem very immersive. Another comment that personally makes me the happiest is that our show has a sound—from the way it’s mixed and how it hits—that creates a very wide and powerful presence, which also makes the show really intimate and recognizable.”
“This was truly an extremely dynamic tour, but with L-Acoustics, we were able to get the same ‘100’ coverage in just about every seat in the house,” Nelson-Hauer sums. “Justin and I strived daily to provide everyone with the same experience that we heard and felt at FOH, and L-Acoustics was simply the best loudspeaker choice to allow us to deliver consistent and accurate coverage of the entire bandwidth night after night.”