Tuesday, May 26, 2015
FKA twigs Makes DPA Microphones’ d:facto Her First Choice
U.K. singer FKA twigs prefers the DPA Microphones’ d:facto vocal microphone to deliver her vocals to audiences across the U.S.
After using a competitor brand, FKA twig’s switch to the DPA Microphones d:facto was inspired by her front of house engineer, Andy Carrington, who recommended a wireless version, in conjunction with a Sennheiser 5000 wireless system, to give her maximum flexibility on stage.
“DPA’s U.K. distributor Sound Network introduced me to d:facto and, when I first tried it, I was very impressed with its natural response,” Carrington explains. “It was quite a surprise to A/B the capsule with the model I’ve been using for a number of years and hear how colored the other model actually sounded. I couldn’t believe the difference. I’d been using the other model for so long. I was very happy to make the switch so that I could get FKA twigs’ voice as it is supposed to sound.”
Carrington, who has worked with several of top acts, including The Kills and Super Furry Animals, says DPA’s d:facto is perfect for capturing the essence of FKA twigs and conveying her vocals. “As we are using the sound system from each venue, we are not travelling with a lot of gear,” Carrington adds. “However, what we do carry has been chosen for its ability to deliver great results. The d:facto certainly falls into that category.”
Carrington is no stranger to DPA microphones and has recently been using the company’s d:vote 4099 instrument microphones to amplify the brass section on the Super Furry Animals tour. “I was really pleased with the results of the d:vote,” Carrington continues. “The mics handle a wide dynamic range with ease, picking up lots of subtleties on the quieter parts and coping with the harsher moments, all the while retaining a natural response.”
FKA twigs began singing in clubs as a teenager. After moving to London at the age of 17, she was a backup dancer in videos for various artists, including Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, Taio Cruz, Jessie J and others. Her first EP was released in 2012 and she has also released a number of music videos highlighting her talent as a dancer and a musician. Her rise from obscurity attracted plenty of media attention, along the way—not least because she is Twilight star Robert Pattinson’s fiancé. FKA twigs’ international tour continues over the summer and will take in a number of key festivals, including Glastonbury, Parklife and Bestival in the U.K., Lollapalooza in the U.S. and Fuji Rock in Japan.
Blur Celebrates New Album Release With Two Shows In London
DiGiCo SD10 consoles brought in to help manage shows in acoustically challenging venue.
The end of April saw Blur release The Magic Whip, their first album in 12 years. To celebrate, the band played two secret shows at London’s Mode club, where a pair of DiGiCo SD10 consoles helped tame the acoustically tricky venue.
With both shows - one for friends and family, the other for 300 competition-winners - taking place at the Westbourne Park venue on the same day, monitor engineer Dave Guerin, front of house engineer Matt Butcher and PA tech James ‘Kedge’ Kerridge had a very busy time. But with Guerin and Butcher each mixing on a DiGiCo SD10, supplied by rental company Entec Sound and Light, what could have been a very challenging event ran very smoothly.
“When we tour, there’s a balancing act between what we need and the available budget,” says Guerin. “We decided on the SD10 for these shows because it’s a big enough console to do what we need, it’s physically small enough to fit in venues like this, it sounds really good - especially at 96kHz - and the rental cost isn’t too high. DiGiCo desks are great, I’ve been using them since the D5 V3 and we both like them. They’re user friendly and it all just works.”
Butcher agrees, adding, “I love them. The control surface is fantastic, the SD-Rack sounds great, the mic preamps sound fantastic and, with everything at 96kHz, there’s so much detail in the sound.
“I love the symmetry of the SD10’s central section, and having the right and left hand sections means you can have something going on in one of the bays, leave it while you go and do something else on another bay, then come back to the first bay and it’s still there.”
For the shows at Mode, both engineers shared an SD-Rack, with its 56 inputs all in use. Guerin controlled the gain levels, with Butcher trimming them as required. “Dave was attenuating his outputs because his wedges are so efficient,” says Butcher. “So we ran the gains nice and hot, using all the bits on the input and it worked really well. It kept our footprint very small.”
In addition, Guerin was using all the local inputs on his SD10, with Butcher using a few of his for the shout system and comms.
“I am using quite a few of the AES I/Os on the console,” says Guerin. “I wanted to be able to listen to the sidefills in stereo, to make sure the vocal was balanced in the middle and all the instruments were where they should be. I sent the sidefills out via AES outputs and then back into AES inputs that are then inserted on the PFL buss. There’s a macro to switch the insert in and out. That way I can listen to the two mono sidefills in stereo. I don’t think you can do that on other desks.”
At front of house, Butcher was happy with the SD10 system’s ability to deliver a great mix and also run dual multitrack recordings.
“I was running 12 matrixes, three stereo pairs for the PA and two sets of recording outputs,” he says. “The SD10’s EQ sounds great and the dynamics are fantastic, there’s so much you can do with the multiband compression. The compressor and noise gate works really well, while the DiGiTubes really warm the sound up and give it a bit of grunt.”
“I was using the DiGiTubes on delay returns to do some megaphone-like vocal effects, which sounded really good. The automation is very easy to use and provides a wide palette of things to play with. It is very easy to change things and customise it to your needs.”
For the recording, Butcher had a laptop running Steinberg Nuendo connected to the SD10’s MADI outputs, running at 96kHz. Meanwhile, an RME MADIface routed 48kHz audio direct from the DiGiRack to a second laptop running Apple Logic as a backup.
“Overall, the entire system was simple to set up and it all worked perfectly,” he says. “The fact that the SD10 is an easy desk to use also meant we had more time in a challenging room like Mode to concentrate on distributing the PA to achieve the best sound.
“The stage sound was very clean, thanks to Dave and his SD10, which also made life easier for me. The shows were a complete success for the band and the DiGiCo system played a vital role in that.”
16 MLA enclosures with one MLD per side along with 32 MLX subwoofers and 12 MLA Compact fills managed the 426-foot audience area without any delays.
For two weekends in May, Rock in Rio made its US debut in the City of Rock on the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds at the northern end of the strip.
A significant share of the music came from the Mercedes-Benz Evolution stage, equipped with a Martin Audio MLA loudspeaker system provided by Gabisom Audio Products Brazil, Rock in Rio’s longtime production company. The system itself was supplied by Las Vegas’ own 3G Productions who also assisted with setup, stage gear and production for the event.
Founded in 1985, Rock in Rio has been held in the city of origin as well as Lisbon and Madrid over the years. This year’s US festival marked an important expansion for the company and its founder Roberto Medina.
An eclectic lineup on the Mercedes Evolution stage for both the Rock and Pop weekends featured Foster the People, Gary Clark Jr., Sepultura featuring Steve Vai, Deftones, Coheed and Cambria, Jessi J., Charli XCX, Joss Stone, Magic!, Tove Lo, James Bay, Mikky Ekko and others.
The MLA system consisted of 16 MLA enclosures with one MLD per side along with 32 MLX subwoofers ground-stacked in front of the stage and 12 MLA Compact on top of the subs for additional front and ground fill for the 426-foot audience area without any delays.
Chris Pyne, a Martin Audio engineer who specializes in MLA and worked the Rock weekend, reports, “We were able to cover the audience with more than enough volume and then reduce it dramatically just beyond that for the VIP area near the Hilton. Equally, thanks to the MLA technology and Display, tuning was a breeze, taking less than fifteen minutes. It sounded great, every engineer was very complimentary and they all said it was one of the easiest shows they’d done. Dwayne Baker, front of house engineer for Theophilus London told us, ‘It’s an amazing sounding rig and it was such a pleasure to mix on. Basically, everyone was very happy with MLA.”
Martin Audio research & development director Jason Baird was on hand to answer questions about MLA and engage with front of house engineers, Gabisom, and invited guests for a special system demo held before the Pop weekend shows.
Asked about special challenges presented by Rock in Rio, Jason explains, “The way the system was used in a typical large, flat festival layout, the most problematic aspects were the low night time temperatures and lack of humidity, which are challenging for any PA system. The resulting high frequency attenuation over distance was overcome by programming the correct parameters into Display. The objective was maintaining those crispy, clear highs MLA is known for, but in very low humidity conditions at distances of over 400 feet, and we managed to maintain excellent high frequency extension right to the end of the coverage pattern.”
In terms of the different musical requirements of the various artists, Baird says, “We didn’t have to make any changes from one act to another. James Bay’s front of house engineer Rob Sadler told us, ‘I didn’t have to touch the graphic at all, it’s a very well set up system, and it sounded great.’
“The front fills didn’t have a lot to do,” Baird continues, “because the MLDs at the bottom of the arrays were doing such a great job. They were just needed at the center by the barriers. The MLX subs sounded very even throughout the coverage pattern and we matched the pattern of the sub array to the MLA system. It was pleasing to be standing 400 feet away and have the subs tugging slightly at your clothes, but not giving you a headache. Equally, up on stage, the spill from the MLA and subwoofer array was incredibly quiet, leading some at the demo to think we’d just pulled the faders down, yet only a few feet forward it was producing thunderous lows.”
Concluding, Baird sums up the overall reaction to MLA by audio professionals at the product demo: “The response from our Latin American guests was exceptionally positive. It was nice to see genuine enthusiasm on the faces of people who’ve been in the audio business for years. First and foremost, they were excited because of the sound quality and how it is delivered over such great distances without using any delays. That was the thing they latched onto. If you stand by front of house, you expect it to be loud and sound good, but when you walk 200 ft. away and it still sounds loud and good in a very consistent way, that made them think differently about MLA and the products they’re currently using.”
Mackie DL32R Mixer Shines At Easy Music Center’s Weekly Jams
The DL32R delivers 32 channels of professional I/O and DSP in a compact stage box, with wireless control via an iPad.
Easy Music Center in Honolulu hosts a monthly jam session on the first Thursday of the month between 5 and 6:30 p.m. The store supplies the gear, and records the mixes on the store’s new Mackie DL32R digital mixer.
“We host a variety of clinics and workshops, and the DL32R is a huge advantage,” states Easy Music Center’s Jericho Sombrio. “It’s easy to use and sounds great. The new Mackie preamps are amazing. They’re loud and clear, with lots of low end. And we love the DL32R’s small footprint.”
Different from traditional mixer configurations, the DL32R delivers 32 channels of professional I/O and DSP in a compact (3 RU) stage box, with total comprehensive wireless control via an iPad using Mackie’s free Master Fader app.
“Wireless mixing with an iPad and Master Fader is very convenient, and the ability to do a virtual soundcheck works great for us,” notes Sombrio. “Also, the DL32R has digital gain control, and with that and the iPad, I can easily gain-stage the system without any help.”
The Mackie DL32R incorporates all the advantages of a physical digital console, including subgroups and mute groups, VCAs, and matrix buses. It also features wireless control over multitrack direct-to-disk recording, as well as an option to record to Mac or PC without additional hardware. Multiple iOS devices can be used simultaneously, enabling individual mix stations for any musician with an iPhone.
“The recording functions are very cool,” says Sombrio. “When a singer/songwriter performs at the Thursday jam session, we encourage others to come up and play with them. People who might not have played with other musicians in years get a chance to have fun playing in a band again. We record as much as we can with the DL32R, and as people walk out, we play it back, which adds a coolness factor.”
Using the DL32R for the First Thursday jams has turned out to be great for the Easy Music Center staff’s reputation, as well. “People hear the live mixes and high-quality recordings made with the Mackie DL32R, and they realize that when we discuss gear with them, we know what we’re talking about,” explains Sombrio. “And of course the artists get to hear a live recording of their work immediately after the performance. We’re truly thrilled with this mixer.”
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds On Tour With SSL Live
The band, led by the former Oasis lead guitarist and writer, brings in veteran monitor mixer Nahuel Gutierrez.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ current world tour, in support of the group’s Chasing Yesterday album, has included stops in Asia, the U.K. and across Europe, before beginning its two-month U.S run in early May. The band, led by former Oasis lead guitarist and writer Noel Gallagher, brought along veteran monitor mixer Nahuel Gutierrez, who selected a Solid State Logic Live. L500 console.
An independent engineer, Gutierrez is another Oasis cross over, having joined the crew in 2004 before becoming a mixer on the band’s 2008-2009 farewell tour. Since then, he has worked for The Cure, Jamiroquai, Jake Bugg, The Prodigy and The Vaccines as well as concerts featuring composer Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.
Gutierrez first came on as monitor mixer for High Flying Birds’ inaugural tour in 2011 and has returned again for their latest stretch. Calling on his years of experience in the industry, Gutierrez selected the SSL Live. L500 console, supplied by Britannia Row Productions, to address the band’s evolving monitor needs.
“My favorite feature is the stems.” comments Gutierrez. “I send the individual keyboards to Mike [Rowe], so he gets all the keyboards without going through the keys stem, but, for everyone else, I just use the stem, so it’s just one fader. The same goes for the horn section; the horn players get individual channels, but everyone else just gets the horn stem, just one fader. It has made my life so easy.”
Gutierrez uses three reverbs: one for vocals, one for horns and a third for the acoustic guitars, plus a delay for Gallagher’s vocal. “Live’s effects are beautiful, definitely one of the biggest improvements from the desk that I was using before.” adds Gutierrez. “The overall sound from the SSL is beautiful, the top-end particularly is amazing. It is crisp, round and especially natural. I can personally hear that SSL Live sounds different in my in-ears, which are always my reference.”
The automation features of the SSL Live have proven particularly useful to Gutierrez. “The automation is amazing” he says. “If the bass player wants a little more bass overall you can add 1.5dB on an absolute or relative basis across every scene, or every scene in a group. It’s very intuitive. And having the group, relative, and absolute buttons right there at the touch of your fingers is one of the handiest things I’ve ever had. I made it really easy for myself, to be honest. I made a mix for every single song and after two months now I’m getting to the point where I can fully enjoy the ease-of-operation.”
Gutierrez also mentions that one of his favourite features of the console is the ability to move faders around or even reconfigure the desk by adding channels, sends or stems without losing audio.
“I had to add channels one day while the band was rehearsing and it did it without any problems or stopping the audio,” he continues. “It’s really impressive how stable this desk is. It’s rock solid. Everything has worked flawlessly and I’m really happy I made the change.”
Engineer Brett Orrison Uses Waves Tools For Widespread Panic Tour
MultiRack and SoundGrid DSP to mix, stream and record shows from DiGoCo console and DiGiGrid MGB interface.
Front of house engineer Brett Orrison (Widespread Panic, The Black Angels, Percy Sledge, Nevilles Forever, Dear Jerry/Jerry Garcia Tribute) chooses to use Waves Audio plugins, Waves MultiRack, and Waves SoundGrid technology when touring with Widespread Panic.
The mix is done on a DiGiCo console with integrated Waves MultiRack and Waves SoundGrid DSP servers. The recording is done via a DiGiGrid MGB interface that gets the multichannel 96 kHz MADI stream via Ethernet to the recording PC.
Orrison notes, “Every Widespread Panic concert is streamed live and available for purchase the day after the show – which means that every night I’m mixing a live show, a live stream, and a recording, all at the same time, and both the stream and the mix-for-purchase must be studio-quality.”
“Waves lets me to do all this by bringing studio tools into my live console. I use Waves plugins to get some classic sounds, including tape saturation, stereo imaging and rich compression. I use the Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor to get some nice tones out of the drums and vocals. I really enjoy this compressor a lot. Additionally, the Waves S1 Stereo Imager is a great tool for placing things in the stereo field. This makes it easier to hear all the instruments, all of the time.”
“Widespread Panic is a complex band with a lot going on, so getting the stereo keys such as the properly-mixed Leslie speaker and the piano a little wider goes a long way towards making the mix clearer. The Kramer Master Tape is one of my favorite Waves plugins, and I use it to saturate the keyboard just enough, to rub out that ‘keyboard’ sound. The Waves DeEsser on vocals is a mainstay for me since I can grab unwanted frequencies only when they appear, without having to use an EQ. The lead vocal chain has two DeEssers and the SSL G- Master Buss Compressor.”
Orrison concludes, “Waves has bridged the gap between the studio and the live show. I can now achieve lots of studio tricks and tones in the live environment that were not possible when I first started mixing.”
Rainbow Production Christens New Meyer Sound LYON System On Godsmack Tour
The touring LYON system is part of Rainbow’s new LEO Family inventory, which also includes 24 LEO-M loudspeakers for long-throw applications.
Godsmack’s U.S. tour marks the debut of the Meyer Sound LYON linear sound reinforcement loudspeakers recently purchased by Rainbow Production Services of Atkinson, N.H. The touring LYON system is part of Rainbow’s new LEO Family inventory, which also includes 24 LEO-M loudspeakers for long-throw applications.
“I’ve always liked working with Meyer rigs, but LYON is something special,” says Scott Tkachuk, front of house engineer for Godsmack. “ When the band’s pushing hard and I’m going for it, I’ve still got 30 percent of my headroom still available. I also like the way it tracks every move I make on my Midas PRO9 console. When I pull something out in the mix, it’s all right there. It’s a very responsive box.”
Having supplied Meyer Sound systems for every event genre from rock to comedy, Rainbow looked no further when it came time to expand its inventory. “The touring industry is changing rapidly, and the LEO Family gives me the power and the flexibility I need to easily adapt systems to any venue size,” says C. Michael Martell, president and ceo of Rainbow. “The extraordinary power-to-size ratio of the loudspeakers also means we can send out fewer trucks. I am also impressed by how quickly the system comes down and packs out.”
For Martell, a commitment to the LEO Family was a logical progression in the way he has built his business. “When I bought Rainbow ten years ago, I compared Meyer Sound to another manufacturer’s arrays, and the difference was like night and day. I haven’t bought a single loudspeaker from another company. If you have a Ferrari parked in your garage, why would you even consider something less?”
The touring system on the Godsmack tour comprises front hangs of 14-each LYON linear line array loudspeakers, 18 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements, 20 MICA line array loudspeakers for side hangs, and four JM-1P loudspeakers for front fill. A Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system with one Galileo Callisto 616 AES and three Galileo Callisto 616 AES array processors provides system drive and alignment, while 10 MJF-212A stage monitors, four JM-1P loudspeakers, and two 700-HP subwoofers provide onstage foldback.
For Godsmack’s European tour leg, the band will continue with a LEO Family system through arrangements with U.K.-based Major Tom.
The growing LEO Family will be featured at the Meyer Sound booth during InfoComm 2015 in Orlando, Fla.
AKG Partners With Guitar Center For Video Series (Video)
Guitar Center an AKG come together to give fans and musicians a closer look at new and favorite artists in intimate video series.
AKG by Harman announces a partnership with Guitar Center and their At: Guitar Center video series, giving musicians and fans the best sonic experience as they get an up-close-and-personal look at their favorite artists.
Recorded with a variety of AKG microphones, the At: Guitar Center video series features exclusive interviews and intimate live performances from established and up-and-coming artists such as Iron and Wine, J Mascis, Jimmy Cliff, Alabama Shakes and We Are Scientists.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Guitar Center to showcase these inspiring artists,” said Karam Kaul, director of marketing for AKG. “Of course, music creators and enthusiasts require amazing sound quality, making AKG the perfect partner for capturing these stories and performances, and sharing them with the world.”
AKG products used on the At: Guitar Center video series include: —C414 XLS multi-pattern condenser microphones —C214 large-diaphragm condenser microphones —D112 dynamic bass drum microphones —C518 instrument condenser microphones —C451 small-diaphragm studio condenser microphones —C5 condenser vocal microphones —C535 handheld condenser microphones
Drum Set Session 1 drum microphone set (featuring a P2 dynamic bass microphone, two P17 overhead microphones and four P4 dynamic instrument microphones)
iLive Manages 20th Anniversary Concert Recording In Brazil
Allen & Heath iLive-144 control surface and racks used to record 128 channel mix of Ivete Sangalo live in concert.
Brazilian production company, Mix 2 Go, selected Allen & Heath‘s modular iLive system to record the 20th anniversary concert for renowned singer, Ivete Sangalo.
“I chose iLive simply because it sounds amazing. To mix 128 live channels is not an easy task but the network options of the system are very reliable for live and broadcast work, and iLive has an awesome workflow with the capacity we need for a recording of this magnitude,” explains OB engineer, Beto Neves.
The system captured 128 recording channels and 16 channels from the video recording, including both audio and video feeds. The iLive-144 surface was installed in Mix2Go’s OB truck, whilst an iDR-64 and an iDR10 rack were located in the hall. iLive was complemented by Focusrite units and RTS intercoms, all connected with optical fibre.
The musical director could speak from within the OB Truck directly into the singer’s in-ear monitor. The director was impressed that the recording could be quickly accessed on the control surface to show him the results they were getting.
“iLive integrated and controlled the audio, network, and communication in a single system, accessible inside the OB Truck so that both the recording engineer and the music producer could easily observe and manage the event,” concludes Neves.
JBL VTX V25-II Line Array Loudspeaker Takes Maiden Voyage With Neil Diamond
Touring with JBL VTX and Vertec line arrays, VTX subwoofers and over 100 Crown I-Tech amplifiers for 1.6 million watts of power.
Neil Diamond is back on the road and is the first artist to perform with Harman’s new JBL Professional VTX V25-II line array loudspeakers. Sound Image is providing the live sound reinforcement for the tour, which is scheduled to extend through to the end of 2015. Crown I-Tech HD amplifiers are powering the system, while stage microphones come courtesy of AKG.
While the system configuration sometimes changes for specific venues, the main system typically consists of 16 VTX V25-II line array elements per side in a left-right configuration, along with 12 VTX S28 subwoofers per side and a total of 64 VTX V20 loudspeakers for out fill and side fill. In addition, a total of 24 VERTEC VT4886 loudspeakers provide reinforcement to the seating behind the stage. The system is powered with more than 100 Crown I-Tech 12000HD amplifiers for a total of 1.6 million watts of power. A variety of AKG C414 and D5 microphones are being used, along with AKG wireless systems with D5 heads for vocals. The system is monitored and controlled with JBL HiQnet Performance Manager software.
“After thousands of shows and over more than 45 years on the road as Neil Diamond’s sound designer and front-of-house engineer, you can be sure I’ve used every kind of sound system in every possible configuration,” said Stan Miller, Neil Diamond’s longtime engineer. “We are demanding when it comes to system performance and continually try new approaches to achieve our goals. Hands down, the JBL VTX system we’re currently touring with provides the best sound we’ve ever had.”
“Stan Miller has been a good friend for decades and Sound Image has wanted to work with him on a Neil Diamond tour for many years, so I’m thrilled that this tour has given Stan the best system he has ever heard,” said Dave Shadoan, president of Sound Image.
Miller notes performance consistency as one the main reasons why the VTX has impressed day in and day out. “Over the course of this year-long tour, we’ll be in every kind of venue with every kind of variable. It’s imperative for this show to sound its best in spite of the issues or idiosyncrasies each room may throw our way. There’s no question that arenas have their acoustic challenges—and no matter what we’re up against, this system delivers. Three months into the tour, I can tell you that we now have the most consistent system performance we’ve ever had—every single day for every single show. No other system we’ve ever used has met that demand so gracefully or consistently,” Miller said.
“I push this system hard,” Miller noted. “With more than a million watts of horsepower at the ready, it takes everything we dish out and more. The frequency response is beyond anything I’ve ever heard: clean and crisp highs, a butter-smooth mid-range and punchy, tight low end. And that’s not only at the house mix position: it’s the same throughout the entire venue, which makes it even more impressive.”
Although Miller and his team face different acoustic and physical challenges in each venue, the VTX system provides the ability to accommodate every environment with no change in quality of the system’s performance. “The nuts-and-bolts engineering that has gone into the VTX system makes the physical system configuration easier than ever,” Miller added.
“I’m a tough customer when it comes to sound systems,” Miller concluded. “I’ve seen it all and heard it all. When I say this is the best system I’ve ever used, I mean it. The extraordinary engineering from JBL makes my job a real pleasure and Neil Diamond’s show sounds better than ever.”
Sam Helms, president of Harman regional representative Sigmet Corporation, noted: “In all my years of touring experiences, I have never been more proud to be associated with the incredible performance of these two new systems that we have out on this tour. The new VTX Series of products continue to prove over and over, every night, every venue, that we have come to the next level of performance that we have all been waiting for.”
Diablo Digital’s 128-Track Recording Solution For Fleetwood Mac Tour
Clair Global relies on Avid Pro Tools / Sonnet Echo and RackMac for recording Fleetwood Mac's "On With the Show" tour.
Sonnet Technologies announces that its Echo Express III-R Thunderbolt 2-to-PCI Express (PCIe) card expansion chassis and RackMac mini 1U enclosure for Apple Mac mini are driving an Avid Pro Tools recording workflow for Fleetwood Mac’s current “On With the Show” tour.
Sonnet partner Diablo Digital created the custom sound mixing and recording solution for Clair Global, the sound reinforcement provider serving as Fleetwood Mac’s touring sound contractor.
Occupying only 3RU, Diablo Digital’s custom solution for Clair Global is capable of recording 128 tracks of 32-bit, 96-kHz audio. The Avid Pro Tools audio recording and editing software runs on a Mac mini CPU, housed in the Sonnet RackMac mini enclosure. The Echo Express III-R provides PCIe card expansion for Avid Pro Tools HDX PCIe cards via Thunderbolt 2 connectivity to the CPU, as well as housing the 7,200-rpm hard drives that provide the digital media storage platform.
“When Christine McVie rejoined the band last year, the show grew to become one of the largest productions on the current touring calendar,” said Dave Coyle, Clair Global’s monitor engineer for the tour. “We needed a Pro Tools solution that could reliably record at least 120 audio tracks and up to 12TB of material, with the ability to mix and record at the same time. And, of course, the solution had to be absolutely reliable and able to stand up to daily use and the rigors of touring. With the combination of Pro Tools running on the Mac mini and Sonnet’s Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis, Diablo Digital has provided exactly what we needed. The system not only delivers high sample rates and high track counts in a compact package, but it also provides rock-solid reliability.”
The Diablo Digital mixing and recording system enables the Clair Global team to record and archive all live Fleetwood Mac performances for later album production, as well as tour promotion. For instance, live tracks can be used to produce ring tones and support public relations efforts and promotional appearances by the band.
The Sonnet and Pro Tools system provides another important function for the band, enabling it to perform a “virtual sound check.” Every morning, Coyle is able to recall the previous evening’s Pro Tools mix via the Echo Express III-R and play it back for band members, giving them a chance to adjust levels for the next performance.
“It’s a tremendously active time for live touring music events, and each production is bigger and more dazzling than the last. With Sonnet and Avid as our key technology partners, we were able to respond to huge market demand for a compact, reliable recording solution that could support tours with at least 100 audio tracks,” said Greg Price, who co-founded Diablo Digital along with Brad Madix. “Both separately and together, Brad and I have been working with Sonnet Technologies for many years, and we’re sold on the top-quality craftsmanship and design of the Sonnet systems, which offer us the flexibility we need to provide customized solutions for a wide range of touring artists.”
“The performances on the current Fleetwood Mac tour are the quintessential example of the best of everything you’d hope to find in a live rock show — passion, energy, master-class musicianship, and an excellent sound system,” said Greg LaPorte, vice president of sales and marketing, Sonnet Technologies. “The fact that Diablo Digital and Clair Global rely on our Echo Express III-R and RackMac mini to help provide bulletproof recording and mixing capabilities for such a demanding production, day in and day out, speaks volumes about the ruggedness, flexibility, reliability, and quality of Sonnet Technologies solutions.”
Innovative Laptop Battle With Mackie Sound System Thrills Seattle
The event features 16 contestants with three minutes to do their magic on a laptop and one MIDI controller, and try to advance to the next level of competition
Seattle’s annual Laptop Battle provides an opportunity to compete with their fellow artists in a single-elimination tournament in front of a loud, appreciative crowd. The battle, which lasts about four hours, features 16 contestants, each of whom gets three minutes to do their magic using a laptop and one MIDI controller, and try to advance to the next level of competition. Originality in musical performance, technical ability and crowd interaction are all factors in judging.
Mackie has long been a major sponsor of these events, providing the PA system and prizes.
Producer and DJ Andrew Luck produced his first laptop battle event in Salt Lake City in 2005, then moved to Seattle and began participating in laptop battles there. Held at the Fred Wildlife Refuge - a two-story art facility that is a refuge for artists, not animals - the 2015 Laptop Battle was hosted by Seattle dancehall legend and emcee Mista Chatman, with Luck producing.
The space is outfitted with an all-Mackie system, including a 1604VLZ analog mixer, five SRM450 portable powered loudspeakers, and a pair of SWA2801 subwoofers. “We use it for a variety of events every weekend, and it has been very reliable and treated us well,” says Luck. “We’re fans of Mackie PA gear. So when we needed an additional stage mixer and speakers for the laptop battle, naturally, we turned to Mackie.”
The stage mixer had to be easy to use and offer tactile controls because the artists would use it to mix live, and they would have no time to learn a complicated interface. In addition, since all of the DJ gear had ¼-inch line-level outputs, Luck needed a mixer that could handle that many line-level signals.
“We’ve used a Mackie mixer for the past several laptop battles, and we really love them. The Mackie has been the core of our system,” Luck recalls. “This year, we went with the new ProFX12v2, which was just what we needed. It has the tactile faders and knobs we want and plenty of line-level inputs, and it’s very easy to use. It sounded great with the SRM speakers.”
Gallery 1 of the Fred Wildlife Refuge accommodates up to 199 people, and the Laptop Battle fills the space to capacity. To supplement the room’s regular sound system, Mackie supplied a pair of SRM650 high-definition powered loudspeakers, which feature a 15-inch, high-output, low-frequency driver and a 1.4-inch titanium dome compression tweeter, driven by a 1,600W amplifier.
“The SRM650s were the right choice,” notes Luck. “They blended very well with our Mackie subwoofers. They filled the room beautifully, with power to spare.”
Mackie provided prizes for the battle. “This year, Mackie donated a pair of their CR4 4-inch multimedia monitors, which are very cool,” Luck says. “A lot of the contestants live in the city, and they want quality sound but can’t use bigger speakers. Mackie is known for studio monitors, so the contestants were excited about the chance to win the compact CR4s.”
Going forward, Luck points to the next incarnation of Laptop Battle, laptopbattle.com. “The new online site allows users to download sound packs each month, and test their production and performance skills against other producers by uploading videos of their performances,” he explains. “The site will enable us to help solidify our global community of computer musicians, interact with each other, and discover new artists. Our biggest goal is to continue to improve computer music performance, and provide a space where competitors can learn. Mackie has helped us raise the stakes, both with great gear and by providing awesome prizes. They’ve been truly supportive.”
Bryan Adams’ Reckless Anniversary Tours With d&b audiotechnik
Gearforce selects d&b loudspeakers for monitors and mains on Bryan Adams tour of Canada and Europe.
Monitor engineer Rob Nevalainen, owner of Gearforce, has been working with singer Bryan Adams for more than ten years. When his company needed to upgrade to a full PA system, d&b audiotechnik provided exactly what he was looking for.
“A little over a year ago my company Gearforce needed to invest in a good medium size PA system. What were the choices? There weren’t too many large US audio companies close to the Canadian border, so the field was open. We first looked at the d&b audiotechnik V-Series not long after it came out. We liked it immediately for its natural sound and its great power to weight ratio,” says Nevalainen.
Nevalainen has been Adams’ monitor man for over a decade, while Jody Perpick has mixed front of house for thirty two years: quite a partnership. “We’re just entering our seventeenth year working together,” he said. “I started Gearforce in 2000. I had been working with other acts besides Bryan Adams and had noticed that across Canada there was a lack of high end large frame consoles, top grade IEM systems, and associated processing; so there was an opportunity. It wasn’t that these things were unavailable, but you’d need to subhire from several different vendors to assemble a good package; so that’s exactly the niche I established Gearforce to fill. At that time I wasn’t looking at PA systems at all; what Gearforce did was fill that control and monitor hole.”
Based in Coquitlam, Vancouver, Nevalainen ran a tight ship and his company prospered. “Many of our clients provide service to the corporate market. That sector grew rapidly, and we grew with them. Eventually they began to look to us for more equipment, initially small point source self-powered loudspeakers, but we soon found we needed something bigger. That’s when we first looked at d&b.”
Trevor Nash from d&b audiotechnik Canada presented the V-Series system. “Trevor was very patient with us, and working with V-Series we soon found you didn’t have to do a lot for what came out of it to sound good,” was Nevalainen’s reaction. “Plus you could fly the V-SUBs; and the network and processing attributes of the D80 amplifier ticked a lot of boxes for us too. So there were many elements that made the V-Series a sensible package for us, but at that time we weren’t ready for that size of loudspeaker system. Then a competitor went under just as one of our main clients in the Vancouver area wanted a midsize line array system.”
Gearforce took delivery in May 2014. “We used it almost immediately on a Bryan Adams solo tour. The V system brought many benefits, in particular better coverage with the use of V8 and V12 combinations, and the weight issue was also a key factor: we could fly it virtually anywhere.”
Come 2015 and the Gearforce V-Series system is out with a full size arena production for Adams, travelling across Canada before moving on to Europe in the early Spring. “Our first full band tour, we have d&b J-Series for left/right mains which I’ve subhired from EDS, and our own V-Series for the side hangs, with Y-Series for the rears in the bigger venues where we play 270° or 360°. All driven by D80s: it sounds great.”
Nevalainen is just as pleased with his monitor rig. “Although all the band are on IEMs I have side fills composed rather unconventionally of J-INFRA with Y10 on top. The lower octave reach of the INFRAs is ideal for building the kick drum sound on the stage apron; it’s big, loud and rich, and all the band feel it. The Y-TOPs enable me to feed guitars to stage left, and vocals to both sides with remarkable clarity and power for such a small cabinet. The vocals in particular are very useful for the many guest artists we have turn up on Bryan’s shows; the tightness of the dispersion putting sound right where I want it.”
As the Canadian leg draws to a close Nevalainen is already contemplating more work for his latest investment. “Jody Perpick has been mixing front of house since day one of Bryan’s career and he is really enjoying the switch to d&b. In fact we’ve been getting more positive feedback from the audiences about the sound on this tour than we have in ages. Jody has never allowed himself to become complacent; we have embraced new consoles over the years, and were early adopters of digital signal transport. The positive response we’ve had to the new d&b V-Series is part of that continual effort towards improvement.”
Bel Digital Makes Monitoring Simple For Celebrating Jon Lord Tribute Recording
The 2u rackmount BM-A2-64MADI audio/status monitor auditions MADI channels without the need for external routers or audio consoles.
Engineer David Loudoun and his company DMZ Live have an impressive list of recording credits to their names, including Coldplay, Depeche Mode, Spotify, One Direction and EMI Records, to name but a few. One of the company’s latest projects was the recording of Celebrating Jon Lord at the Royal Albert Hall at the beginning of April, where a Bel Digital MADI monitor was deployed.
Held in memory of ex-Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord, Celebrating Jon Lord at the Royal Albert Hall featured performances from many of his friends and band mates. The resulting album, for which DMZ Live recorded and mixed all versions, has subsequently reached number one in the Music Video charts in four countries.
DMZ Live’s high spec digital recording mobile was used for the recording stage at the Royal Albert Hall, with the premix done at the company’s North London studio, and the final mix performed at Abbey Road.
The RAH was where David deployed the Bel Digital BM-A2-64MADI monitor, a 2u rackmount audio/status monitor which enables auditioning of MADI channels without the need to connect to external routers or audio consoles. Providing engineers with the diagnostic tools necessary to interrogate MADI streams and view the status of embedded channels, it accepts both optical and co-axial MADI feeds and features audible and visual monitoring of each channel. The monitor is compatible with 96kHz, 88.2kHz, 48kHz and 44.1kHz sample rates, and is also compatible with both the legacy SMUX and High Speed MADI protocols.
“We took multiple incoming MADI streams from the venue,” Loudoun explains. “There were a total of four feeds: two to pick up the band audio; one to pick up the orchestra microphones; and one was our stage box for all additional microphones.”
Loudoun and his team used a Nova 29 MADI router as the hub of their audio in the recording mobile, with four Pyramix DAW recording machines to double head record everything.
“The Bel Digital MADI monitor was perfect for us, as we could quickly look across any of the MADI feeds for a confidence check and it also allowed us to have another position for monitoring,” Loudoun concludes. “It was simple and effective.”
Purposeful Evolution: Refined Monitoring For Lionel Richie
Over Dan Housel’s two-year stint as monitor engineer for Lionel Richie, he’s sought constant improvement in presenting the iconic singer’s classic, distinctive vocal signature. We spoke recently, just prior to the final show at London’s O2 arena on the European leg of Richie’s latest tour, about what he’s been up to lately in that regard.
“I mix on digital consoles – I’m an Avid Profile user – but having learned on analog gear and having spent time working in the studio, there are certain things I miss about analog, a certain ‘flavor’ lacking on digital preamps that analog pres have,” he notes.
It’s something the LA-based engineer says that he’s come to notice while running monitors for other acts in his 15-plus years in the business, including work with blues guitarist Keb’ Mo’, Filter, Pitbull and Maynard James Keenan’s bands Puscifer and A Perfect Circle. During Richie’s gigs, particularly on fly dates, Housel continues, he started considering how to add that same type of flavor, not only to better the overall sound for Richie and his band, but to allow him to compensate at times when Richie’s approach to performance and sonic considerations collide.
“We sometimes have struggles,” he says, explaining that at times Richie experiences difficulty finding himself in the mix the way he wants, which is a function of his desire to connect with the audience. “He’s a Shure SM58 user, which is – for lack of a better description – a very active microphone on stage,” Housel continues. “He moves the mic around a lot, from in front of his face to down by his chest. But when I asked him about it, he looked at me and said, ‘Baby boy, they don’t want to see the microphone, they want to see my face’.”
Dan Housel at his Avid VENUE Profile console on the recent European leg of Lionel Richie’s latest tour.
Housel mitigated the problem by backing off on reverb and turning on downstage wedges to provide additional presence to compliment Richie’s in-ear monitors, and he also began looking for other ways to add more definition. Over time, he’s floated a variety of other solutions with fellow engineers, including Avalon 737 mic preamps that he uses on Keenan’s vocals during A Perfect Circle gigs while mixing on an Avid Venue SC48.
“The 737s are fairly commonplace, but I needed two channels because Lionel uses two microphones during performances, a hard-wired 58 at the piano and a wireless 58,” he says, noting that carrying two of the units wasn’t a compact enough solution and adding, “They’re a bit sensitive for travel.”
The search also included BAE 1073 and Midas XL42 preamps. “I’ve seen the XL42 used for the same application, but they’re discontinued now and the few people who are willing to part with them are asking a handsome price, so I did more research. The name Radial came up during a discussion with one of the Puscifer guys, who suggested the company’s 500 series preamps.”
Already a long-time user of Radial Engineering direct boxes, Housel reached out to company president Peter Janis, who he’d met during his own time as a manufacturer’s representative.
“I tested out a Radial PowerPre along with a Q4 four-band EQ and Komit compressor/limiter during pre-production for the European leg,” he says. “I could definitely hear that there was more separation compared to the console preamps, but I was still considering the more sensitive tube gear. I was sitting in my hotel with the PowerPre chassis in hand, researching the PowerTube and thinking that, if they’re built the same as the PowerPre, they’re going to be all right.”
Depth & Detail
As it’s name implies, the PowerTube incorporates a 12AX7 tube drive and a Jensen Transformer input. “To me it sounded like the first time I listened to a hi-def audio recording,” he states. “It was just next-level separation, depth and detail. I also added the Q4, but I don’t use EQ within Lionel’s vocal signal chain, so that’s bypassed. Again, he moves the microphone around a lot, so if I EQ for one mic position – at the chest or higher up – when it’s in the opposite position, I’m down the river.”
Left to right, Radial PowerTube, Q4 and Komit 500 series modules in Workhorse racks.
The 500 series rack form factor was another plus in addition to the sonic characteristics and durability, and as a result, dual sets of PowerTube preamp, Q4 EQ and Komit comp/limiter modules have achieved the desired result in Radial Workhouse 500 series racks that occupy just 2RU.
Richie noticed a difference immediately, Housel notes. “He pulled his in ears out, stopped the band, got on the mic and asked me what I’d done differently. I told him we spent a little money to make his vocals sound better and he started singing alone, then stopped and said, ‘I’m gonna sue your ass for not having these before’.”
Housel details the overall vocal chain for Richie: “We go out of the 58 and hit the split. Then rather than running into the stage rack for my Profile, we hit a cross patch that’s also carrying all 10 channels of our Pro Tools rig.” That, he adds, varies from song to song, mostly providing syncopated and rhythmic support – “shaker and tambourine, ear candy” – and goes directly into the front of house rack on line level inputs.
After the cross patch, the signal goes to a PowerTube, the bypassed Q4 and then to a Komit. “I set the compression at 3:1 on a slow attack cycle for the vocal so it really only grabs the latter portion of the vocal, but the compressor’s output circuit is giving us another 6 dB,” he explains. “With Lionel, the mic pre isn’t necessarily your best friend, especially with that 58 – it’s a bit of a fire hose, and there’s a risk of more ambient than direct sound at times – so I try to get as much output gain in as many places as possible.
“I don’t EQ his voice within the console either, with the exception of the high pass filter set at 160,” he continues. “It’s boomy at times, but I started inserting a McDSP MC2000 multiband compressor plug-in about a year after I started. Each compression band also provides some output level, so it does work like an equalizer in the respect that you can give it more or less gain within the signal chain, which helps make up for when Lionel holds the mic at his chest.”
Serving The Ethic
In addition to Richie, four of the members of Richie’s five-piece band sing backup vocals, all using SM58s with the exception of Dino Soldo, who’s on a Crown CM311 headworn mic.
“He plays all the wind and utility instruments so he uses the CM311 with a Shure RF system, which makes it easier for him as some of his vocal passages come up just after saxophone sections. But the MC2000 is applied to everyone’s vocal chain,” Housel says. “That’s all I use. Previously, I was using a Fairchild 660 plug-in stacked with an 1176 to ‘peg’ the final output for the vocals.”
Housel had employed a similar setup with Keenan’s bands previously, but the band noticed a bit of latency so he switched to the MC2000. “I didn’t hear it, but it’s the job of an engineer to work harder to produce a better product for people because we have such great tools available. It’s a musician thing,” he says, referencing his work as a guitar player in the past. “You want to keep learning and get better.”
He’s also made a variety of mic changes for the band in service of that ethic, including Sennheiser 904s on drummer Oscar Seaton’s toms. “To me, it sounds like a Sennheiser 421,” Housel notes. “It’s got the boom and the transient attack, but unlike a 421 I can put it within a very small, confined area.”
Kick in and out are handled with a Shure BETA 91A and beyerdynamic M88, respectively. Snare is captured with SM57 on top and a BETA 57 on bottom, with a second snare covered by an additional SM57. Neumann KM 184s are applied for hi-hat and ride, with AKG C414 XLS multi-pattern condensers for overheads.
A screenshot of the McDSP MC2000 compressor plug-in on Housel’s console that’s applied to everyone’s vocal chain..
Housel has moved from a combination of ribbon and condenser mics to a pair of dynamics – SM57 and beyerdynamic M201 – for guitarist Ben Mauro. “I like those for their frequency response, to my ear, in terms of what a guitar should sound like,” he explains. “On the console EQ I use a lot of high-pass and low-pass to narrow in on what the actual guitar sound is without having to go in and boost, say, somewhere in the mid band from 600 Hz to 1 kHz. Low end isn’t necessarily a guitar player’s friend, but if there’s too much high end you’re going to have an endless battle between hi-hat, kick, snare and guitar, which is what many guitarists have blazing in their mixes.”
There’s also a good deal of direct (box) action on stage, the domain of more Radial gear. J48s handle acoustic guitar and bassist Ethan Farmer’s rig, with JDI Duplex passive boxes for keyboardist/MD Chuckii Booker, keyboardist/sax player Dino Soldo and Richie’s piano, a Nord Stage in a slim grand chassis.
“On bass I’m also using a Radial SGI re-amp module because we’re a long distance from the receiver of the wireless to the stage, and he’s got an octave pedal and a local tuner I’ve got to catch,” Housel adds. “The RF receivers for his bass are all the way stage right. When I first came on, the tech had a long 1/4-inch cable that he was putting in a loom.”
Audio-Technica ATM35 cardioid condensers are utilized with Soldo’s alto and tenor saxes, with another SM57 for his soprano sax and an SM58 for his harmonica. The mic package is completed with four Sennheiser MKH 50s deployed in L/R and L/R/C to capture audience ambiance.
All performers wear Ultimate Ears in-ear monitors, ranging from UE 11s to UE 18s, with signal delivered via Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring systems. “I also carry six Clair 12AM active stage monitors for emergencies, all downstage and on a single mix,” he says, noting that Clair Brothers is serving as the tour’s sound company. “But in two years, I’ve turned them on maybe twice.”
The stage is also outfitted with two Clair “bowtie” dual-18 subs, one per side, and eight CO8s, four per side, as side fills, receiving a mono mix of kick, snare, toms and bass. “I try to use as few sources as possible that might interface with Lionel’s microphone when he wanders the stage,” he says, “and I want to stay out of the way of our house engineer’s mix, but while I’m mixing for a smaller audience, if they don’t have a good show, he’s not going to have a good show.”
Housel still considers the monitor rig a work in progress and is mulling over other possible changes, including a potential switch to a DiGiCo console. The overall mantra is achieving a balance between what the performers are comfortable with while trying to make things better for them in the long term.
“I got lucky with Lionel and the band,” he concludes. “My first gig was a fly date and I’d never met our tour manager, Glen Matthews, or the band. Then, our input list was mostly Shure products, which are known commodities to me, and their gain structure was a known thing to me. So we got the band on stage, I put up a quick mix, we went through a few songs, made a few changes, and the band came off after sound check and said, ‘Sounds great. Are you a musician? Because it’s really musical sounding.’ And that’s one of the biggest compliments I could ask for as an engineer.”
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.
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