GRATEFUL DEAD WALL OF SOUND SYSTEM
The Dead were well ahead of the rock 'n' roll curve when it came to their sound, but none of the systems they employed could top the Wall of Sound, which to my ears produced the best live concert sound evah both indoors and out.
The Wall of Sound actually was eleven separate systems. Vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and piano each had their own channel and set of speakers. Phil Lesh's bass sent signals from each of the four strings to a separate channel and set of speakers for each string. Another channel amplified the bass drum, and two more channels carried the snares, tom-toms and cymbals. Because each speaker carried just one instrument or vocalist, the sound was exceptionally clear and free of distortion.
The Wall of Sound consisted of 89 300-watt solid-state and three 350-watt vacuum McIntosh tube amplifiers generating a total of 26,400 watts of audio power through 586 JBL loudspeakers. The system projected high quality playback at 600 feet with an acceptable sound projected for a quarter mile, at which point wind interference degraded it. Four semi-trailers and 21 crew members were required to haul and set up the two 75-ton systems, one of which would go ahead to the next city on a tour while the other one was being used. The other would then "leapfrog" to the next show.
The first Wall of Sound shows were in February 1973 and the last in October 1974 during the legendary closing week at Winterland memorialized in The Grateful Dead Movie.
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