The current tour by Barry Manilow—his first U.S. tour of the decade—has front of house engineer Ken Newman providing the mix with a Soundcraft Vi6 digital console.
“In mixing this show, I have to make it sound exactly the way Barry wants it to,” explains Newman, who is also owner of Newman Audio, Inc. “While some artists leave the sound to their engineers, Barry is very involved in rehearsal and sound check and will sit right next to me and tell me exactly how he wants to hear something.
“He is very particular about what should be heard because he put together many of the arrangements and wants the audience to feel the music the way it is intended to be felt.
“We’re using a trimmed-down band setup, but we want it to sound like we have 30 to 40 musicians,” continues Newman, who worked with Manilow from 1992 through 2002 as his front of house mixer. “As a result, the biggest challenge of mixing this show is keeping up with the changes of a very active mix. There’s always something that needs attention. The logical layout and five illuminated touchscreens of the Vi6 make this part of the job much easier.
“Another key aspect is that the reverb has to be right,” Newman adds. “It’s critically important to him and has to sound good no matter what the venue. If I turn on the console and I don’t have the reverb up, Barry will say it sounds wrong. If the reverb is up and it sounds right, he is happy.”
Newman had to get ready for rehearsals quickly—and use a digital live console for the first time. “The last time I toured with Barry the console was analog, and from 2002 to 2011 when I was working for a corporate events firm I spent most of my time working on analog and smaller digital consoles,” Newman notes. “When I got the call for the tour, I wondered how I was going to be able to do it.”
The console selection process was quite involved, Newman points out. “I knew it would be totally impractical to use an analog console for the tour, and I looked at a number of digital consoles and what other music shows were using,” Newman said. “I didn’t feel confident that I’d be able to get the sound I was looking for with some of the consoles, as their internal effects and processing were marginal at best. With others, the control surfaces just weren’t going to cut it for an old analog guy like me. Some consoles seemed too complicated to learn in the short time I had, or were just not the right ‘fit’ for me.”
Newman asked the advice of Dave Lawler of Docktrdave Audio Inc. of Burbank, California. “My friend Dave Lawler suggested the Soundcraft Vi6. I could immediately see how operator-friendly it was with its five display screens, three user-configurable input fader configurations and other features. For me it was like the time I got my first Macintosh computer in 1984 after having used DOS-based computers.”
“I need to see what is going on one channel at a time, and the Vi6 offers great access to everything and not limiting me when I’m mixing, in a console that’s so nicely sized,” Newman added. “The Vi6 is also intuitive enough where if I don’t know exactly how to do something at first, I can figure it out easily enough.”
“I’m using all 64 inputs from the stage, as well as the majority of the local rack inputs and outputs,” Newman pointed out. “I’m using the board’s internal processing for most of the inputs, and I have two external tube audio compressors for the main and spare vocal mics. I’m using some other external effects because they’re the exact same units I had for the 2002 Manilow tour and I’m familiar with them. Given time and rehearsals, I might be able to eliminate some of those effects because the Vi6’s built-in Lexicon effects, compressors and gates sound so great.”
“This tour is the first time I’ve used the Soundcraft Vi6 for anything! Talk about putting something to the test – but I feel like I’ve found a new friend in the Vi6, and I look forward to using it for many years to come.”