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An interview with Joe O’Herlihy, U2’s Sound Engineer

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Photo © Dara Munnis

U2’s The Joshua Tree tour began in 2017 and has since played to over 2.5 million fans. After a bit of a hiatus, when they slipped in a totally different tour, the tour was resurrected for Australia and New Zealand.

Sound engineer Joe O’Herlihy has been with the band for decades and Cat Strom travelled to Brisbane for a chat. The PA is a Clair CO12 out of our Sydney office, all the crew and control gear was supplied by Clair Global.

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Sound engineer Joe O’Herlihy

After the first two shows in Auckland where Joe had to deal with 43 kilometres an hour winds gusting from the stage, Brisbane’s still and balmy 34°C was a blessed relief.

I was looking all night long for my wind knob to dial it down but I couldn’t find it,” said Joe tongue in cheek. “It would be a sound engineer’s dream if someone could invent one!

The sound system hasn’t changed dramatically since 2017 although there has been plenty of software updates that obviously improve the efficiency of all the technology.

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Digico SD7

We now have the DiGiCo SD7 Quantum consoles and I believe we have the biggest selection of DiGiCo SD7s on any tour,” added Joe. “We’ve got eight of them if you include the rehearsal room at the moment. With the software update to use the Quantum engines, they sound very transparent and very much more efficient with this upgrade than on previous occasions. It’s nice to have gear that is improving all the time like the SD7.

Although the onboard selection has been improved enormously on the SD7, Joe still uses units that he has relied on for the past forty years with the band. For guitars, he has eight Summit Audio DCL-200 tube compressors for each of the eight different amplifiers that The Edge uses in a combination of what is affectionately known as The Edge Orchestra.

For Bono’s main vocal, Joe uses a Manley Voxbox, three so there’s one for each of the three different vocal mics he uses. A couple of Sweet compressors are used on Edge’s vocal and he uses a headset for maneuverability.

The treatments and effects are standard Lexicon 480L as the reverb of choice for all of the vocals and believe it or not, PCM70s dating back to prehistoric times,” said Joe. “They’re classic drum verbs and are really, really good selection plus I’ve also got a couple of harmonizers. They’re all uniquely part of their songs now and I have tried out all of the various plugins but the older, vintage products have such a unique sound. However, you have to cross your fingers that they’ll work every time the back of the truck opens!


The band has been a Clair Global client for 36 years so it was no surprise to see a Cohesion CO-12 system consisting of four sets of line arrays suspended from cantilever cranes and trimmed at 30 metres, carefully positioned so as not to obstruct the giant screen.

The curvature of the system is designed and configured to get right up into the stands and areas that physically are very difficult to reach. Behind the mix position which is 36m away from the stage, are four delay positions placed in an arc shape to ensure sound reaches the back of the stadium.


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