When FOH engineer Darwin Tillery goes out on a fly date for clients like Sheila E, New Edition, or Brian McKnight, he doesn’t worry about what console he might encounter at the gig.
“I literally just carry mine with me,” he says. “I have the Allen & Heath R72 rack-mount console with the iDR48 MixRack. They both qualify as carry-ons, so I’m basically carrying a 48-channel digital console onto the plane.”
The compact iLive R72 is a work surface designed as a rack-mountable solution in Allen & Heath’s digital mix platform. It houses 12 full-size, motorized faders and the full functionality of the iLive system when paired with any MixRack. All processing control is handled on a backlit TouchScreen, with a bank of eight SoftKeys available for user-defined control functions.
“The thing I love about this set-up is that I don’t give up a thing,” says Darwin Tillery. “It sounds way better than most digital consoles, but it’s small, it’s fast, and it’s easy to set up and use, with nice sounding preamps and plenty of headroom. It’s got all the processing power of a full iLive, so there’s no outboard gear to worry about. Plus, I’ve got a Dante card in the iDR48, which lets me use my laptop as a 48-track recorder at the same time. It’s killer.”
Tillery first encountered the iLive-R72 at the 2012 Winter NAMM show. “I went to the show looking for a small console, but the T80 was the smallest iLive I was aware of,” he recalls. “When I checked out the R72, I was surprised to find out it’s been out a couple years now. I knew right away this was just what I wanted - tiny and full featured.”
Once Tillery acquired the iLive-R72, his next project was learning how to use it. “I practiced by setting it up next to my drum kit, playing with one hand while mixing with the other,” he says. “It’s actually really quick to get around on, especially if you take the time to group your channels logically. Twelve faders, a rotary control for each one of them, and a touchscreen covers pretty much everything I need to do, and nothing is more than two touches away.”
Tillery’s first major show with the iLive-R72 was for New Edition. “They can be tough to mix, because the whole band is constantly trading microphones, so you really need to pay attention mixing them. The band’s manager kind of freaked out when he saw me setting up my little console. He said, ‘how are you going to mix this band on that little thing?’ But once I walked him through it and he heard the sound, he was sold. As a businessman, he understands the benefits. With such a tiny footprint, we can sell more seats, plus the band gets a more consistent mix and lower rental costs.”
To meet airline carry-on requirements, Darwin Tillery installed both the R72 surface and the iDR48 MixRack in rolling plastic cases. “That helps a lot carrying it through airports,” he says. “The SBK-style cases keep the weight down, and they’re actually smaller than a lot of suitcases you see people bringing on board. I still have my moments with TSA, of course, but that’s just part of the game. It’s not every day they see a full digital mixing console coming through security. The payoff is at the venue, where I can literally walk in with a full 48-channel digital console in two hands.”
While the Allen & Heath iLive-R72 has the power to handle pro touring gigs, Tillery has found that it’s equally useful when he’s off the road. “When I’m home in Sacramento, I run Company D Productions, my little sound company,” he says. “Having the R72 allows me to take gigs I would normally pass up. Not because my other gear couldn’t handle it, but because the cost of crew and transport would be too much. Having something this tiny and still so powerful, I can walk in with my R72 and iDR48 and be ready to go in one trip from the sidewalk to the front of house position. And with my laptop, I can do a full multitrack recording - again, without carrying all that extra gear, like splitters and snakes. It’s killer.”
Allen & Heath