The Department of Theater and Dance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIU-E) recently upgraded to a Harman Professional Soundcraft Si Expression 3 digital console for both production and education purposes.
“At SIUE, performances and education are intertwined,” explains SIU-E department chair Jim Wulfsong, who teaches a number of courses, including live sound engineering. “My students start by taking courses in theatrical audio production and live sound—and then they soon move up to doing the front of house mixing of an actual performance.”
Productions are held at university’s main theater, where the Si Expression 3 is installed, because it can accommodate the requirements of professional theatrical production while also standing up to the rigors of constant use.
The students learn on the console daily during the academic year, and activity gets particularly intense during Tech Week, the week before a show debuts when the technical staff finalizes the show’s mic requirements, live and pre-recorded audio cues and other audio needs.
“The console is primarily used by students, who, while eager and talented, aren’t pros yet,” Wulfsong says. “The Si Expression 3 lets them work out in advance and store almost everything that’s needed before the show—cues, levels, EQ and so on—which greatly reduces theur stress level once the curtain goes up.”
One of the main uses for the console is to play back cues and sound effects for musicals using QLab multimedia playback software. There can be hundreds of cues in a show and Wulfsong finds the Si Expression 3 makes moving from one cue to the next easy. “The Next button on the console responds really fast, which is critical when you have almost no time to kill a cue or mute and unmute different combinations of every single onstage mic.”
He also finds the ability to apply EQ on every channel to be “a major feature.” Every input-processing channel on the Si Expression 3 has dedicated processing for 4-band EQ as well as high-pass filter, input delay, gate and compressor, enabling fine-tuning of every input. Another plus is the console’s smaller size. Wulfsong thought that moving to a more advanced console would require more space in the control room, but the Si Expression 3 is actually smaller than the previous console and gave room to install a bigger computer monitor.
In fact, Wulfsong originally was looking for a console to replace the board in SIUE’s smaller theater, and wound up using the Si Expression 3 in the big room. “I was stunned by the price point and value the Si Expression 3 offered, and once we got it in-house, we realized we were going to be using it as our main console in the theater.”