It’s common for live music clubs to economize with second-hand sound equipment, and some value can be found in older loudspeakers and analog desks which are no longer rider-friendly enough for their original owners.
Used analog consoles cost a fraction of their original price, so it’s not unusual to find club equipment older than the engineer running it.
However, concert sound production is accustomed to the benefits that digital consoles provide. Let’s see what those benefits bring to live music clubs.
1) A multi-band night can be as simple as peeling off stacked backline, swapping drum kits and moving a few mics, which takes longer than recalling the correct console file.
“Charting” consoles to preserve their settings or using separate inputs for each act becomes unnecessary.
When sharing inputs, a 24-channel console is often plenty and the next act’s settings are recalled faster than the previous band’s gear can be carted off the stage.
2) Saving scenes for acts that return regularly, especially when they have to travel from out-of-town, makes it easy to quickly set-up and get sound checked when time is short, perhaps even after the opening act has finished.
Popular acts that return regularly can afford to skip soundcheck, making it possible for them to arrive later in the day, a great benefit when they must travel long distances. Off-line editors allow new acts to email their console settings ahead of time.
3) Custom input libraries for the house microphone inventory speeds and simplifies console programming.
Most clubs have a limited mic inventory, but writing and storing specific settings for the house mics allows sound check to get started in a few minutes by inserting the right files in the corresponding channels.
4) Application-specific settings for dynamics and effects also make it easier to program a digital console.
Meaningful, logical names for library settings – like “Tom Gate,” “Bass Comp” and “Vocal Verb” – can make it simple to find and load a file for a gate, compressor or reverb that is pre-tweaked for a particular application.
5) Output EQ for specific combinations of loudspeakers and vocal mics (and even music style) can make the chore of tuning the mains and monitors much easier. Different vocal mic and wedge combinations require different output EQ settings.
The same vocal mic with a double wedge would require more drastic cuts than a single wedge. Output EQ for the main loudspeakers often need to be adjusted for different types of music, especially for different levels of SPL.
Settings like “Double Wedge 58” or “Reggae Mains.” can save time before every show.
6) Having entire generic “festival” scenes for different types of bands can make it effortless to get a band’s sound check started, rather than starting from scratch with a zeroed console.
Just having the inputs named, initial input gains, EQ’s, dynamics and effects loaded saves time, and the time spent tweaking those settings can result in a better sounding mix.
A simple four-piece of drums, bass, guitar and keyboard setup with a vocal input for each musician could save an hour.
7) Templates for special functions in the room, such as DJ’s, singer-songwriter night, karaoke or wedding receptions can relieve your lead sound engineer from having to be at every function that occurs in the club.
The ability of every club staff member to call up a preset and easily get a couple mics and a playback source to work can help better utilize the venue outside of weekend evening “prime time.”
8) Security features that lock out certain functions can keep a fairly complicated console from being intimidating and dangerous in the hands of novice engineers.
Remote monitoring of console by an outside vendor can help with troubleshooting in the case of an emergency, perhaps saving the trouble and expense of an on-site service call.
Routine backup of the console’s files helps recovery from accidental or malicious catastrophes, such as the entire memory of the console being wiped out.
Mark Frink is editorial director of Live Sound International.