This summer, London-based sound engineer Harry Bishop has provided live audio systems for a variety of festivals in England, including the One Taste festival in Hyde Park and several festivals in association with Chai Wallahs, an organization dedicated to providing an eclectic blend of high-quality musical acts.
Bishop is utilizing Soundcraft Vi6 consoles, which have helped him make the conversion from analog to digital during the hectic festival season.
At the One Taste festival, Bishop deployed Soundcraft Vi6 consoles at the front of house and monitor positions. “We decided to use them in part to compare them to their analogue counterparts in terms of operation and sound quality,” he says.
Bishop used the board as he would have an analogue system and worked off a generic ‘festival patch.’
“My usual complaint with digital systems is a lack of transient dynamics, sharp and uncomfortable high/mids and unresponsive EQ,” Bishop explains. “With the Vi6 I immediately felt that the sound it was producing was pleasing to the ear, accurate and musical in the warm and typically analogue way that other digital boards have been unable to emulate.”
Christian Bailey, monitor engineer at the One Taste festival, concurs: “It was a pleasure to use the Vi6 for monitors at the One Taste festival in Hyde Park,” he says. “The board was simple to set up and although we were very pushed for time, with a quick line check for each band all the mixes were dialed in fast and musicians were soon smiling. The sound quality was excellent and the vocals sounded smooth and natural.
“The whole console is very intuitive and great to use in a time-pressured situation,” Bailey adds. “I would confidently recommend it to any monitor engineer who is thinking of taking out a digital board.”
For the Chai Wallahs events, Bishop relies on a touring marquee with full in-house production. Chai Wallahs attends a minimum of six festivals a year including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Green Man and Electric Picnic. With at least 10 bands a day for four days with no sound checks, providing live audio is no easy task.
“Four monitor mixes are mixed from front of house with up to six extra zones, three analog external effects units (for a visiting dub band), with eight record output groups, talk-to-stage and shout boxes between me and the stage,” Bishop says. ”I use a 30-channel festival patch which covers a massive diversity of acts ranging from singer/songwriters to African drumming bands to 10-piece funk bands and the odd beat-boxer.”
Bishop has used a variety of consoles for Chai Wallahs in the past, but has found an ideal solution in the Vi6. “The analog solutions sounded great, but lacked the recall ability that I required given the number of repeat artists,” Bishop notes.
“Finally I was able to get my hands on a Vi6 and instantly it was apparent that it ticked all the boxes I needed. I think I have found the desk most fit for my purpose. There is nothing in the market that comes close without doubling your budget.”
Bishop has a multitude of reasons for the Vi6’s superiority, not the least of which is the console’s user interface. “The user interface is impressively simple and intuitive,” Bishop says. “The multiple touchscreens add much-needed benefits to quick navigation and control of functions and their parameters. Plus, spread over one bank of faders, the 1/3rd octave graphic is just as grab-able as its analogue counterpart. In combination with the changing fader colours depending on their designated function, the interface makes for a quick and intuitive experience with a drastically decreased ‘digital panic’ factor.”
Moreover, the Vi6’s ‘de-esser’ function has proven to be a lifesaver for Bishop. “The de-esser function strikes me as a much more versatile tool than the name suggests; its centre frequency can be tuned to any frequency in the audible spectrum and can be applied to a signal in much the same way as dynamic EQ,” he says. “It is a very powerful tool for perfecting tweaks to wayward or slightly harsh source sounds.”
Bishop also cites the Vi6’s zoning capabilities as a high point in a long list of beneficial features. “With 32 output busses with parametric and graphic EQ on every one, I have an endless ability to zone different areas, set delay times, assign record groups and monitor sends,” Bishop says. “The two stages of EQ allow for a much more precise and musical approach to monitor and FOH mix EQ. There is a tremendous amount of processing power available, all processing is available on every channel and buss at all times.”