Kimbra is quickly becoming somebody that you ought to know. With a slew of SXSW showcase gigs, nationwide tours in support of Gotyé and Foster The People, tens of millions of views on YouTube, and a cover of the hit Gotyé song she lends her powerful vocals to, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” performed on Fox’s hit show Glee, Kimbra is bringing her music to the masses, one powerful performance at a time.
And Earthworks is there to capture that sound all along the way thanks to Kimbra’s FOH Engineer Angus Davidson. Covering every instrument on stage, Earthworks microphones have brought Kimbra’s lively and moving performances to the masses as the intensely talented musical force tours the globe.
Angus Davidson, FOH engineer for Kimbra and Crowded House, is no stranger when it comes to using all Earthworks microphones on stage. “Previously, with Crowded House, we also enjoyed tremendous success using 29 Earthworks mics, which we used on vocals, drums and instruments,” Davidson noted. “Everything was miked with Earthworks microphones.”
For Kimbra’s performances, Davidson went the all Earthworks route once again. The new SR40Vs are being used on both Kimbra’s and her band’s vocals. On drums Davidson uses a pair of SR40s for overheads, 2 DP30s on snare (top and bottom), DP30s on toms, SR30 on high-hat and SR30 with KickPad on kick drum. SR30s are used on the guitar amps, as well as for audience mics, and some things are fed direct. “An integral part of sound for Kimbra and her band is the exclusive use of Earthworks microphones,” Davidson remarked.
Monitor Engineer for Kimbra’s tour is Rod Matheson, who worked with Kylie Minogue for 18 years, did a world tour last year with Bristish trip hop duo Massive Attack and has done monitors for countless other artists throughout the world. “In my opinion, Rod is one of the finest monitor engineers on the planet,” Davidson said. “He has an exceptional set of ears and is a very particular and fastidious engineer who gets great results. Rod was a little dubious at first, about using all Earthworks microphones, but after using them the first time, he agreed that these mics were in a league of their own.”
The newest addition to the Earthworks lineup, the SR40V, has found a welcome home on stage with Kimbra. “The Earthworks SR40V is an incredibly flat microphone. The benefit to me is that I can make it sound any way I want, depending on the application. Because of the super fast rise time of the small diaphragm, I can add and subtract EQ without it ever sounding ‘tubby or flabby.’ Its natural presence and tightness is quite unique,” noted Davidson. “Kimbra has an incredible vocal range from a whisper to a huge full voice. Regardless of how she sings, I can always place her vocal exactly where it needs to be in the soundscape. No other vocal microphone I have used can compete with the SR40V. For me it is simply the best vocal microphone ever.”
With a background that spans three and a half decades of live and studio work, Davidson has a unique perspective on microphone technologies over that time.
“When I was starting in this industry 35 years ago there was an enormous focus on the “rise time” and “transient response” of microphones,” Davidson noted. “Somehow over the past 30 years that function of microphone audio physics seems to have been lost. David Blackmer’s unique microphone technologies have allowed all of this to work really well for the first time.
“Earthworks microphones very clearly illustrate how important rise time, transient response, fast diaphragm settling time and extended frequency response truly are. These microphone characteristics provide an enormous depth of field, with incredible detail over the audio spectrum, not to mention their incredible phase coherency, particularly when we use these mics on every drum.”
Davidson remarked on his experiences with the technologies found in Earthworks mics specifically on a drum kit, “I’ve listened very closely to recordings where we’ve used Earthworks mics on every element of the drum kit. The detail, separation, and accuracy of the stereo sound stage is unbelievable. The drums are crisp, detailed and really natural sounding.”
“In contrast, you could select a number of other ‘Specialty’ mics to use on a kick drum and get that huge round fat bottom end with the click of the beater, but it is a very one-dimensional sound,” Davidson continued. “There are all sorts of microphones out there that do a great job, specifically on one thing, but there are very few microphones that I have ever used that do “everything” equally well, like the Earthworks do. I don’t use two microphones on kick drum; instead, I use a single Earthworks SR30 with a KickPad. This combination with the addition of a little EQ makes the kick drum really beautiful and natural sounding, with no B.S. to the sound.”
Davidson continues with this natural sounding approach beyond drums to each instrument on stage. “I also don’t want to be pulling ridiculous monster sounds for every instrument that’s on stage,” said Davidson. “Instead, I feel that we should be balancing what is there, and not trying to reinvent the wheel. I like the idea of creating a sound stage that makes you feel a certain way; by the way you mix it, and not having to make every instrument and vocal sound bigger than everything else. There seems to be a trend to create thunderous bass, but at the expense of everything else. Why would you keep applying EQ, compression and all types of signal processing and not treat the signal with the respect it deserves? I want to be able to look on stage, and be able to clearly hear everything I can see. The essence of this is to pick a microphone that will do that effectively, and then place it perfectly to best reproduce the source it is hearing.”
Before turning his attention back to the demands of the tour, Davidson offered these final thoughts. “Earthworks microphones look at the sound and give it an enormous amount of respect at the start, and that makes our job ten times easier. So, when I see someone playing something, I want to be able to hear it clearly and distinctly. The Earthworks mics make that job easier than it has ever been. They are so detailed and so clear. It’s like an artist walking around all the time with dark glasses on, and then one day taking them off and discovering that it’s ‘light out there’.”