Mixer

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Allen & Heath Launches OneMix iPad App For GLD

GLD OneMix iPad app gives musicians wireless control of their personal monitor mix.

Allen & Heath has launched GLD OneMix, an iPad app that gives musicians wireless control of their personal monitor mix.

GLD OneMix locks control to a single Aux mix, providing instant access to a customized easy-to-use monitor mix environment.

Multiple iPads can be set up by an Admin user to give numerous musicians personalized monitor control without affecting each other or the FoH main mix. A musician’s own aux monitor mix is assigned and locked into the ‘My Mix’ layer, and a selection of input splits dedicated to the individual musician can be added.

Similarly, all other instrument send levels can be assigned to any of the three extra layers, allowing unique personal monitoring configuration. The range of accessible settings is defined by custom permissions for each layer.

When in User mode, the musician is presented with simple-to-use access and control of their aux master level and processing, instrument send levels and processing, if enabled. Depending on the application and the performer’s technical knowledge, the layout and level of access can be kept minimal or extended to a more complex musician’s monitor mix involving a high channel count across multiple layers.

Notably, the mix can be tweaked and listened to by both the user on stage and the sound engineer at the desk, enabling easy interaction between the two. Up to 16 iPads running OneMix can be connected to a GLD system.

“Joining GLD Remote, OneMix offers yet more control options for the GLD system. OneMix is a customizable solution for personal monitoring, drilling down the mix into very simple local control for performers without affecting the greater mix environment. OneMix also complements the ME distributed personal monitor system and ideal for wireless In-Ear users who can have a complete wireless system with this app,” comments Nicola Beretta.

Allen & Heath

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Posted by Julie Clark on 07/23 at 10:36 AM
Live SoundNewsProductConcertMixerMonitoringSoftwareSound ReinforcementPermalink

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In The Studio: How EDM Is Changing Mixing And Mastering

There's a different kind of finesse involved in its creation
This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.

 
Both mixing engineers and mastering engineers are tied at the hip, though many don’t realize it.

Yes, it’s true that many mastering engineers are dependent upon a mixer’s business to keep the doors open, but that’s been changing, since many times there’s a shoot-out between mastering engineers to see who gets the gig.

Usually, the one who can provide the loudest master wins (there’s that loudness war again).

But that’s not the real issue, nor where mixing and mastering engineers are mostly tied together. In fact, the concept of a separate specialized mixing engineer and a creative mastering engineer both began at nearly the same time during the late 70s, and continued to grow in prominence from that point until today.

Before then, engineers were somewhat interchangeable and came with the studio that you rented. Usually the same engineer that recorded the project would mix it, since the projects were generally short (as in a few weeks) to begin with.

As for mastering engineers, they were just part of the process of transferring the audio signal from tape to vinyl disc (and later CD). It wasn’t until legends like Bernie Grundman, Doug Sax and Bob Ludwig began to make mixes sound better, and louder, than the mixer could, that the mastering engineer came to be what he is today—the last part of the creative process.

But EDM is changing all of that. Today there’s less perceived need for someone to mix an EDM track. The writer/programmer gets the sound he wants right from the start of the track, and since the kick and bass are already out in front and have a lot of impact, most feel that there’s no reason to hire a specialized mixer for that particular bag of tricks.

The same goes for mastering engineers. Thanks to some great tools from a variety of plug-in companies like Waves, Slate Digital, Universal Audio and iZotope to name a few (the same tools that many mastering engineers use), EDM mixers can pretty much make their mixes as loud as needed, so it’s not surprising when they ask, “Why do I even need a mastering engineer?”

One of the things about EDM is that there’s a different kind of finesse involved in its creation from what a great many of the industry veterans are used to, where manipulation of the sound is encouraged and celebrated, and distortion is viewed as simply a byproduct of that manipulation.

That’s the antithesis of most mix and mastering engineers that don’t deal in EDM, where in their world distortion is something to be avoided. In fact, getting impact from the rhythm section without it is almost revered.

As my buddy (and mixing legend) Dave Pensado recently expressed to me, “We’ve (mixers) been too concerned with sonic quality, and it’s hurt mixers when it comes to EDM as a result.” It should be noted that Dave is one of the few mixers who does a fair amount of EDM, so he can speak with some authority on the subject.

Is this trend going to kill the market for mix and mastering engineers? Probably not. When it comes to music made by real instruments instead of samples and loops, it takes a great deal of expertise that only comes from experience with that type of music. I have a friend who creates fantastic electronic music, but is hopeless when it comes to either recording or mixing real instruments (especially the drums).

In many ways, it’s apples and oranges, but EDM is an ever-growing musical genre that now dominates the music business. As Aaron Ray, a principle in the management company The Collective said last week during a talk that I attended, “EDM has decimated rock. It’s now an entirely different business.”

The point of this post is to open up the eyes of those in our business who may be a little too tied to the past way of doing things, since there’s a whole genre of music that’s mostly ignoring you. In the end, we’re all in a service business and the client is still king.

It’s great to have principles, but if you hold them too tightly, you might find yourself not working as much as a result. If a client wants something that violates your aesthetic sense, in today’s world, you might consider suppressing your arty urges and give them what they want, because there’s a whole group of people right behind you that are more than willing to do just that.

Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/16 at 02:33 PM
RecordingFeatureBlogBusinessDigital Audio WorkstationsEngineerMixerProcessorSoftwareStudioPermalink

It Takes Two: Double-Miking Approaches For Drums & Other Instruments

The technique can provide a whole new palette of tonal colors

If you’ve never experimented with double-miking a musical instrument, you’re in for a treat. Properly utilized, the technique provides a whole new palette of tonal colors, along with surprising ease of control. It’s especially useful when working with an unfamiliar console, one that has limited EQ capability, or when multiple operators are working together on the same control surface.

Further, with two or more microphones on key instruments, there is built-in redundancy. If one mic fails, falls off its stand, or gets whacked by a drum stick, mic number 2 is likely to still be in-service and able to keep the show going along relatively unscathed. For this reason, it’s a good idea to mix condensers with dynamics whenever possible, so that a failure of a phantom supply won’t cause both mics to go down.

Let’s start with kick drum, as it provides the foundational anchor for many modern musical styles. Certain shell materials, heads, and beater combinations can lack definition, sounding big but muddy and indistinct. Or at the other end of the scale, definition might be fine but the desired low-frequency “whoomph” is less than inspiring.

The usual practice of placing a single mic in front of the outer head or the sound hole (if there is one), or inside the shell on a pillow, may not provide the desired sonic quality – though each position will certainly produce different tonalities.

But even if you find a sweet spot with a single mic, you may not want that same tonality for every song, or you might have settled for a tonal compromise to begin with. Traditionally the problem is solved by applying EQ, maybe also a compressor and a gate, or endlessly changing out mic types to try to get closer to the mark. But there’s another way. It’s faster, easier, and comes with collateral benefits that solve other problems at the same time.

One or the other… or how about both? (click to enlarge)

On The Kit
With more than one mic to work with, it’s possible to create a wide range of tonal colors merely by blending the channel faders together proportionally to obtain the sound quality you’re after. In practice the technique is fast and simple. Depending on the sophistication of the console, the relative levels can either be recalled by using presets for different songs, or, on a modest analog mixer, the useful range of relative levels can simply be marked on tape alongside the faders. The only downside is the requirement for additional mics, multi-core channels, and console inputs.

I’ve found that the combination of a “half-cardioid” mic, such as a Shure Beta 91A placed inside the kick drum, coupled with a traditional dynamic cardioid such as an Shure SM7B or a Beta 52A located outside the sound hole or near the center of the front head, are a solid pairing. The 91A inside the shell captures a sharp, well-defined attack, while the SM7B outside the shell provides punch, and with a bit of EQ it can add a good measure of “thunder” when it’s needed.

This Ludwig snare is miked with a Sennheiser 442 on top and a Brüel & Kjær 4007 on the bottom. Its character can be changed in an instant by blending the ratio of the two mics, and also reversing their positions. (click to enlarge)

By blending the two faders together in different ratios, it’s possible to radically alter the timbre without ever touching the EQ, which can be held in reserve for creating additional layers of sonic potentialities.

Other mics can accomplish much the same thing while adding their own particular “flavor.” Good candidates are the AKG D12 or Electro-Voice RE20 used outside the shell, paired with an AKG C547 or Audio-Technica U851R inside the shell. The real value here is making use of the differences in physical placement and the differing types of the mics, rather than adhering to specific models. 

It’s no rarity to see a snare miked from both the top and bottom heads. This is perhaps the most common usage of dual-miking, and again gives the mix engineer a lot to work with. Want a more snappy sound to cut through screaming guitars? Increase the level of the bottom mic. Need to mellow it out some? Take the bottom mic down or out altogether. Try an AKG C451 on the bottom head and an SM7B on the top. Then reverse their positions and see what happens. It can be an ear opener. 

The same concept can be applied to toms, especially if they’re fitted with bottom heads. Depending on how the toms are tuned, there can be significant differences in what each mic picks up, thus creating an opportunity for making the toms sound larger than life on one end of the scale, or providing only mild accents on the other end. All without using EQ.

In situations where time allows, such as preparing for a lengthy tour, installing mics inside the shells will provide tremendous isolation from drum to drum, as well an extremely sharp attack that you can’t get from exterior miking.

However, the mids and lows tend to be very thin, so additional support is likely to be needed from exterior mics. On a big kit this might eat up a lot of channels, but if they’re available, the level of control you’ll experience is astounding.

You can even delay the exterior mics by a few milliseconds relative to the interior mics, producing the effect of a bigger and longer “body” that follows the impact of the initial stick contact. This is highly recommended for complex, demanding music such as fusion and progressive rock.

Spreading The Concept
Other percussion instruments can also benefit from a double-miking approach. Try miking both the top head and the bottom flare of a djembe. Listen to what happens. The depth of LF content from the bottom mic will put to shame many large-diameter kick drums. The modest djembe now becomes a powerhouse!

The same approach can also be applied to congas whenever a “power factor” is desired. (If recording, be sure to allocate two tracks for maximum flexibility when mixing.)

If a system is configured in stereo, there’s nothing like a pair of mics positioned over the tray of percussion “toys.” When a shaker is being moved around the stereo pair, the wide expanse and motion of sound in the loudspeakers can be breathtaking.

A conga miked with a Sennheiser e835 on top and a B&K 4007 on the bottom for a deeper, more defined LF response. (click to enlarge)

If taking this approach, it’s important that the percussionist has stereo stage monitors in order to provide some idea of the effect the movements are having on the spatial localization in the main system.

When a traditional lead instrument is present – one that plays an important role in the music such as a sax, trumpet, clarinet, or flute – miking in two places can capture the essence of the instrument’s voice in a way that no amount of EQ will achieve. A lot of tone emerges from traditional instruments, and it’s not all coming from the bell or the mouthpiece.

On a large baritone sax, for example, the lower part of the instrument often provides a resonant character that’s an important component of the sound the player is hearing and working off of. Fortunately with today’s miniature clip-on mics and readily available wireless transmitters, it’s not as hard as it once was to capture the very best that a given instrument has to offer without cramping the stage movements of the performer. 

Next time I’ll continue the discussion by focusing on bass, guitar, other stringed instruments, and more.

Ken DeLoria is senior technical editor for ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International and has had a diverse career in pro audio over more than 30 years, including being the founder and owner of Apogee Sound.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/16 at 02:06 PM
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Fishman TriplePlay Software Update Adds New Features & Enhancements

Now 64-bit compatible on both Mac and Windows platform, and increased functionality

Fishman has announced a comprehensive new software update for the TriplePlay wireless guitar controller.

The new TriplePlay v1.1 software contains more than 50 new improvements, features and updates.

With software update v1.1, TriplePlay is now 64-bit compatible on both Mac and Windows platforms and provides improved support with Windows 8.

A new Basic Enhanced Mode allows iPad GarageBand users to easily activate Pitch Bend. Factory patches now can use Komplete sounds directly instead of requiring Elements.

The new Import/Export feature allows the transfer of patches from one TriplePlay installation computer to another. Improved hardware support allows the entire patch list to be loaded into the controller for use in the Hardware Mode. The TriplePlay software also now lets users know when new software releases are available.

Other features include improved Encoder/Receiver communications to ensure greater connection stability; new plug-in support to improve scan time and accuracy; new Windows support to improve overall performance, and new support to enhance TriplePlay’s robustness in popular DAWs such as Cubase and Ableton Live 9.

Two new TriplePlay mixer audio options allow the Guitar Channel Level to be adjusted independently of Synth Channels and also allow the final Output Volume to be controlled by assigning CC80 to an external MIDI pedal.

Fishman

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/16 at 12:58 PM
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Monday, July 15, 2013

Church Sound: Seven Steps For Cleaning Up Your Music Mix

You like the mix but think it could be better. Here's how
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

 
Saturday, I was conducting an audio training session and I was given the opportunity to work on their mix with the worship band. The mix was pretty good so instead of re-building their full mix, I focused on cleaning up the mix.

There are seven areas to consider when cleaning up a mix. Mind you, like I said, this assumes you have a pretty good mix to start. 

For the sake of this article, let’s say you’re in the middle of your sound check, you like the mix, but you think it could be better.

This is a great time to focus on cleaning up the mix, and here are seven steps to do it.

1. Check your volume balancing. Go through each channel and use this process; mute the channel, listen to your mix, then un-mute the channel. If the instrument or vocal seems to jump way out in your mix (too far out), then you need to pull the volume back a little. If the muting didn’t make a difference, then you didn’t have it loud enough.

2. Did you cut before boosting? This is an easy mistake to make, especially on an analog mixer. What is that old commercial for BASF?  Something along the lines of, “We don’t make baseball helmets. We make them better.” It’s better to have the best from the beginning. 

Regarding the situation I was in, cleaning up the mix, I thought something with a singer’s vocal didn’t sound right. It was close, but not where I thought it should be. They had a boost in the vocalist’s mid-range. Maybe in the 6 kHz range, I don’t remember. Using the sweeping mid, I moved the sweep frequency way down around the 800 Hz mark and did about a 4 dB cut. This really warmed up their vocals and gave their voice a great tone.

The first part of creating a mix should be cutting out the offending frequencies. Once you do that, then you can consider boosting when it’s necessary.  Remember, boost wide, cut narrow when you have control over the frequency range with a Q control.

3. Review your gating. Gating is often used on drum kit microphones to minimize audio bleed – when one kit piece is played but a different kit microphone picks up the sound. Where else could you use gating?

Consider the vocals a place for gating. A vocal microphone near a drum kit could easily pick up the drums. While that would happen when the vocalist is singing, what about when a different vocalist sings lead for a song, like in the case of a pianist who plays and sings. Why let those other sounds into the microphone? Gate the mic.

4. Hit your high-pass filter. You don’t need low end coming through a lot of your channels, so stop it. I’ll enable the HPF on my vocals and guitars with one exception. If I don’t have a bass guitar on the stage, then I’ll allow an electric guitar to give me some of that low end. In some cases, you can control the point of your high-pass filter. I’ve used an HPF in the 200 Hz mark on vocals to clean up my bottom end.

Tip: when altering any setting like boosting, cutting, gating, compression, or a high-pass filter, go to the extreme so you hear a clear difference in the sound. Once you know how “extreme” it can sound, then back off the setting until it’s to your liking. Don’t turn a knob or press a button just because you think you should. Let your ears make that call.

5. Check your subs. The signal to your low end subs might be one that you can control. Therefore, you have this additional means of altering the mix sound. Don’t be afraid to pull them back or push them louder if that’s what’s needed for the mix. While you’re building your basic mix, you should have your subs at an average level. Once you have set your overall mix, then you should consider the sub volume.

6. Consider microphone polarity. When two microphones pick up the same sound, the combining of those sound waves may or may not cause problems. This is where you get into sounds being out-of-phase. 

For example, if the two incoming sound waves are in phase with each other, this means the sound waves, when compared side-by-side, look identical. As the distance from the sound source to one microphone changes, so does the point in which the sound waves enter the microphone. 

When this happens, the sound waves start to get out-of-phase (compared side-by-side, the wave peaks are at different spots. In the extreme case of being 180-degrees out of phase, the sound waves look like a mirror image of each other. Combine these sound waves and you lose a lot of the audio signal because it’s like math; +10 + -10 = 0 (flat-line)

A simple way for ensuring you are getting the best sound from an instrument, where phase could be an issue, is by switching the polarity button on the channel. If you get more bass response, then you have found a better setting. By switching polarity, you are inverting the sound wave.

7. Re-visit your effects. Once you’ve cleaned up your mix using the above methods, you should re-visit your effects settings.  If your board enables it, turn off all the effects and listen to the difference.

Otherwise, go channel by channel. What worked before might not work now. It might not be needed to the same degree or it might not be needed at all. You might even need MORE of an effect because your cleaner mix enables you to use more of the effect to reach your mixing goal.

The Take Away
The process of cleaning up your mix is best explained with the words of author Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

“…he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.“

You aren’t going for perfection in the traditional sense, but the idea applies just the same.

Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown. To view the original article and to make comments, go here.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/15 at 03:04 PM
Church SoundFeatureBlogStudy HallConsolesEngineerMixerProcessorSound ReinforcementSubwooferTechnicianPermalink

Friday, July 12, 2013

DiGiCo SD10 At The Heart Of Mega Monitor Mixes On Frampton’s “Guitar Circus”

Engineer Matt Fitzgerald kicks off tour with new audio footprint at monitor world to handle ramped-up requirements

Peter Frampton reclaims his guitar throne on the “Frampton’s Guitar Circus” tour, which kicked off at the end of May in Nashville, TN at the Ryman Auditorium.

The guitarist-turned-frontman/singer is sharing the stage with a dizzying array of axemen on the summer outing including Steve Cropper, Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Don Felder (formerly of The Eagles), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Vince Gill, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Davy Knowles, Roger McGuinn (founder/lead guitarist of the Byrds), Richard Thompson, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Vinnie Moore (UFO) and Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), with B.B. King, Steve Lukather, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Sonny Landreth trading off opening the shows.

With Clair Global providing the consoles and full stage package, Frampton engineer Matt Fitzgerald—who has worked with Frampton for the past four years, and with Ringo Starr and Blue Man Group prior—kicked off the tour with a new audio footprint at monitor world to handle all of the ramped-up monitoring requirements.

Fitzgerald chose a DiGiCo SD10 for Frampton’s 5-piece band and the guest guitarists. “This was my first experience using one of the new SD consoles in-depth,” he explains. “I’d had lots of mixing experience on a D5 working with opening acts. But for this summer tour, I opted in favor of a smaller footprint and more flexible solution by trading up two linked digital desks that I was using prior for an SD10.

“Not only was it difficult mixing inputs between the two desks, but it was sluggish also as I had to treat each one as an individual mixing surface.

“Obviously making a big switch was a bit nerve-wracking,” Fitzgerald continues. “Peter’s the kind of guy that wants to be able to walk into rehearsal and just go. I did a lot of research and spent time with DiGiCo’s Ryan Shelton in Nashville and worked with the offline software to build my big session files.

“We had a decent amount of rehearsal time, about two weeks, because the band was learning the other guitar players’ material, so that was of huge benefit to me. I was able to get really comfortable on the desk, storing snapshots, making scene-to-scene files, etc. Literally after the first day, I was shocked and awed at how easy it was to get around on the desk and how small the learning curve was. I felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders and I was able to just concentrate on mixing, not on the new gear.

“I was really blown away by the desk and really liked that everything was laid out so naturally. The buttons were right where I needed them, not to mention that the features are fantastic and you can have the channel strip wherever you want and create the desk to make it the way you want it to be. It’s really comfortable and I really enjoy it.”

With all of the band on Westone ES2 in-ears, Fitzgerald was looking at a lot of variables with the guest guitarists—some would be on ears, some on wedges; some had big stereo rigs and others had simple combo amps, acoustic guitars, etc.

“I wanted to have a lot more flexibility and room to grow,” he says. “With the SD10, I’m able to build a bigger show file as well as have extra wedge and ear mixes built-in. And it’s been awesome as far as changing the layout of the desk from show to show. For instance, we just played with Steve Cropper, who uses wedges, and I was able to move my wedge mixes to my top layer and restructure my file, and it was so cool and easy.”

Fitzgerald makes use of all of the onboard effects from the desk: reverbs for drums, acoustic guitars and keys, slap delays for vocals, plus a bit of multiband compression for vocals and DiGiTuBes on the bass for a little bit of drive.

The only external effects he’s employing is an Eventide H3000 harmonizer for the acoustic guitars.

One of Fitzgerald’s challenges is creating a controlled environment on a day-to-day basis, blending the audience mics and stage sounds in everyone’s in-ears: “The tonality, spaciousness and imaging are really great and big-sounding on this desk. There’s a real clarity to the sound. Any inputs like Peter’s LCR Marshall and stereo Leslies for is his guitar rig, the Hammond organs and keyboards that are hard-panned left and right, sound so clear and natural. The imaging is excellent and sounds like you don’t have ears in at all.

“I’m able to fine tune the EQ of the audience mics to each room, so the audience sounds the same even though you’re in an arena, theater, or event hall… When someone in the audience yells in between songs I want Peter to be able to look into the audience and know where and who is yelling and make eye contact with them. With the SD10’s imaging and clarity I can pan audience mics exactly where I want. It’s as if I’m mixing the audience just as much as I mix the band.

“Peter’s mix is a very full range, dynamic mix of the entire band with his inputs just top,” he adds. “He wants to hear everybody and what they’re playing. If someone solos I ride my programed control groups to give them a nudge in his ears so he hears all important parts of the songs.”

With the tour well underway, the feedback on the new console among band and front man has been unanimously positive. “This band is so great to work with because they respect my input and ideas as we move forward with this new console. I try to open up the spectrum in their ears and create a ceiling for them instead of monaural mixes.

“I want it to sound as natural as possible and at the same time have full control of what’s going on onstage so I’ve created a big open stereo spectrum with Peter in middle and the guitar players panned on each side to create that image of what’s really going on onstage. If you take your ears out, that’s what it’ll sound like. And the fact that I’m able to recreate all of this in the in-ear monitors and have it sound so natural is really cool.

“This DiGiCo desk is amazingly ‘analog’ sounding,” adds Frampton. “It’s very warm and, with its full band width, has incredible smooth high-end response. Matt can run monitors and multi-track record every show with ease. This is due to the foresight of design. It’s like not having ‘ears’ in but instead, listening to a really great pair of studio monitors. But… I’m playing live on stage.”

DiGiCo

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/12 at 10:02 AM
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Church Sound: Understanding Signal Flow & Console Operation

How well do you really know your console? If a problem crops up are you prepared?

Knowing the audio path through a mixing console is absolutely critical to sound tech/engineer success.

Using this information, an engineer can quickly troubleshoot the likely causes of common problems, and can even narrow down the possibilities of unexpected major problems.

It can also prevent mistakes because you know what the audio is doing at each stage of the console, and it instills confidence as you sit behind the console, fulling knowing the the ins and outs (sorry for the pun) of the equipment.

Finally, it provides a foundation of understanding which makes it easy to move from room to room or console to console and not be thrown for a loop.

For instance, you might think “the second red knob on my old console was always set to 12:00, does that mean the second blue knob on this console should be set the same?”

However, after carefully studying a console’s signal path, you’ll know exactly what that knob is and where it is in the audio signal chain (even consulting the owner’s manual if necessary.)

You want to be an excellent all-around driver of vehicles, not a specialist who only knows and drives a Chevy Malibu 2-door with the small V6.

Generalities
In general, the controls that you tend to “set and forget” are at the top of the console, meaning you have to actually reach for them. The controls that need more adjustments along the way are closer to your hands.

The channel strip tends to lay out generally “in order” as it applies to the audio signal flow – Gain, then EQ, then the Fader, for example. But this is a very broad overview. There is much more detail to be examined..

Figure 1: Yamaha DM2000.

So how do you learn the signal flow of your particular console? You break out the manual!

It will contain what is typically called a “block diagram”. Now, block diagrams like Figure 1 for a Yamaha DM2000 can be headache-inducing nightmares.

So I recommend that you take the time to create your own simplified signal flow. Just follow the lines on the block diagram to determine the signal path.

It’s also recommended that you make it in linear, vertical orientation so that it helps you visualize the flow better. You can use any drawing or paint program to make one.

Examples
I’ve created a few signal flows for study. These can be extremely valuable learning tools.

Here is the signal flow of a Mackie 1604 VLZ:

Figure 2. Click to enlarge.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

And here is a larger format Yamaha IM8•40:

Figure 3. Click to enlarge.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Finally, here is an APB Dynasonics Spectra-C/56.

Figure 4. Click to enlarge.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Basic Definitions
Now that’s we’ve taken a look at some different signal flow diagrams, let’s review exactly what the different components you’re likely to see on block diagram are doing.

Gain: A level adjustment designed to optimize each signal coming into the console.

Pad: If you turn the gain all the way to the left and the signal is still too hot, then you should engage the pad, which will reduce the incoming signal by a preset amount (usually 20 dB or so).

HPF: A high-pass filter is a circuit which sharply decreases low frequencies, reducing mike handling noise, stage rumble, and plosives (p-pops).

Polarity: A simple switch which flips the polarity of the input. (Polarity is sometimes incorrectly called “phase”). Useful for eliminating phase-cancellation when using multiple mics on the same source (both the top and bottom of a snare drum, for example).

Insert Loop: A patch point for connecting outboard gear, such as a compressor or effects unit.

Direct Out: An individual channel output after the gain stage, but before EQ or fader involvement. Most often used for feeding multitrack recorders.

Aux Mix: A separate mix of each channel which has its own output, which can be used to feed stage monitors, a recording mix, sends to a reverb unit, or other uses.

Pre/Post: An indication of where the Aux mix splits off from the main signal. If it’s labeled as “Pre” or “PreFade” mix, then its level is completely independent of the channel’s fader. If it’s labeled as a “Post” or “PostFade” mix, then the aux’s level will also be affected by the channel fader as it is adjusted.

PFL: The Pre Fade Listen works as a “solo” button for the engineer’s headphones. You can isolate an individual channel, and hear changes you make with the EQ. Because it is pre-fade, it does not matter where the fader is at the time.

Group/Subgroup: A tool used to help the audio tech during a service or performance. Rather than have to independently mix 32, 40, or even up to 56 channels on a console, you can assign, for example, all of the drums to one fader called a “Subgroup.” The Subgroup does not affect any aux sends, it only affects the main mix. So I can raise or lower the level of all eight drum mics on one fader.

VCAs & VCA Groups: A VCA stands for Voltage Controlled Amplifier and is a common way to “automate” certain things on a mixing console. You can assign multiple channels to a VCA (just like a Group), but the difference is no audio is passed through a VCA.

Instead, the VCA acts like a remote control to channels which are assigned to it. Where it gets really interesting is that channels that are assigned to a VCA Group do not have to share a common audio path at all.  This means you can have the entire band on one VCA fader, even if they all are routed to different mixes and Subgroups!

Something to keep in mind with VCAs that you don’t have to worry about with Groups: a VCA provides the exact same function as adjusting a channel’s fader (including any changes to it’s Post Aux mixes). This is different from a Subgroup, as a sub would only affect the house mix.

Bus: This is an electrical term rather than an audio term. Technically, an aux mix, a Subgroup, a master mix, a mono output, a matrix output, etc. are all buses. The only way this term becomes important to an audio tech is in the possibility that you get some “bus distortion,”  which may not show up on the meters.

Matrix Mix: A completely different kind of output available only on the larger consoles. It’s sole purpose is to create an alternate mix to be used for recording, for routing a different mix to a different room, or for any other specialized purpose. You will not see a Matrix split on the above audio signal flows.

Why? Because they are not made up of individual channels. A Matrix mix is created solely from mixing the Main Outputs and Subgroup Outputs. So a Matrix Out is created downstream from any individual channel functions.

Jeremy Carter is a veteran of the pro audio industry with extensive experience designing and operating church audio, video, and lighting systems.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/11 at 12:35 PM
Church SoundFeatureBlogStudy HallAnalogConsolesDigitalEngineerMixerSignalTechnicianPermalink

RE/P Files: Mixing Stereo Monophonically

Exploring the additive effect of audio information of equal intensity on both stereo channels

From the archives of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, this feature provides an interesting snapshot of recording methods and techniques circa May 1970. (Volume 1, Number 1). The text is presented unaltered.

A short while ago a mild furor was generated when AM radio stations began to receive stereophonic promotion records and discovered to their horror that the soloists were 3 dB or more too loud when the stereo discs were played monophonically.

It was quickly determined by these broadcasters that an instrument or voice which was recorded with equal intensity on both of the channels would encounter the effects of simple addition of the two portions and become at least 50 percent too loud.

To overcome this “oversight,” Howard Holzer, audio engineer, developed a device which is inserted into the disc mastering system and detects information appearing with equal intensity on both of the incoming sources, automatically suppressing it without affecting the other program material.

While this approach is certainly worthwhile, if not mandatory, the fact that the recordists made its advent necessary is inexcusable.

Ten years ago this writer produced, without even the benefit of today’s “mix down,” a two-channel stereo master of a vocalist backed by a 30-piece orchestra. The tape was transferred to stereo disc, but no mention was made of the disc being stereo.

It was sent to many AM radio stations and was bought by the public for play on home stereo and monophonic record players… for it was assumed by the users that the album was available only in monophonic format.

Not a single report was ever received from any user to the effect that the vocalist was too loud under mono listening conditions. The disc played perfectly and no one noticed anything unusual. Why?

Because there was nothing unusual… except in the method of splitting the vocalist between the two channels.

Some, although unfortunately not enough, sound mixers already were aware, way back then, that the additive effect of audio information of equal intensity on both stereo channels could be avoided by splitting the source to both channels in unequal amounts.

To be precise - it was discovered that if you split the soloist in such a way that he is 3 dB (or more) ” hotter” on one channel than on the other, the cumulative effect when the stereo recording is played monophonically is minimized to the point of being unnoticeable.

In fact, with exactly 3 dB difference in levels, and with the level of the louder channel set for proper balance between orchestra and soloist (letting the weaker portion of the split source fall where it may on the other channel) not only is there no noticeable additive effect when listening monophonically to the stereo recording, but when listening in stereo it is impossible for the consumer, and for most experts, to tell that the soloist is not split equally between the channels.

A unique console specified by this writer and designed and built by Charles S. Broneer, provides splitting of any source to any pair of output lines in any ratio except 50-50. The console purposely will not allow the latter; the closest to this that it permits is a split with the 3 dB intensity difference between channels.

It has thus been positively established that with a console capable of providing other than 50-50 splitting, a two-track recording will reproduce perfectly in a stereo or monophonic system, and without the requirement of expensive and critical supplementary devices which should never have been necessary in the first place.

Editor’s Note: This is another in a growing a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.

Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/11 at 09:14 AM
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Preventive Maintenance: Keeping Digital Consoles In Top-Flight Condition

The methods of proper maintenance for digital gear

Ask most audio folks to list their least favorite things about the business, and right up at the top (just behind dealing with cheap promoters and coiling snakes after a three-day beer fest) is PM.

I’m not talking about the hours between noon and midnight, but rather, preventive maintenance, the regularly scheduled servicing of gear.

While most of us check our cables and loudspeakers regularly (right?), we might tend to overlook digital gear, yet it too requires regular PM to make sure it’s ready to deliver top-notch performance at every gig.

In general, PM should be scheduled based on several factors. First, how often does the gear goes out on gigs – the more it’s used, the more frequently it should be serviced.

You can probably get away with a yearly checkup on equipment that doesn’t see much action, but the stuff that’s in heavy rotation should get at least three sessions of PM per year.

Environmental factors that the equipment is exposed to in use and also when in storage is another factor. Climate-controlled venues of course present fewer threats, particularly since smoking isn’t allowed indoors practically anywhere these days, but moving outdoors in general adds a layer of potential problems, and then that goes up by a considerable amount if there’s a lot of dust or you’re located near salt water.

Same with items exposed to cold or heat. Particularly those of you who are presently in the midst of an dusty outdoor festival season, pay heed.

Finally, logic dictates that newer gear can get by with less attention than older gear that’s seen a lot of shows over the years – but don’t push it. A good way for new equipment to age before it’s time is to ignore PM, and that not only jeopardizes performance at shows but overall return on investment.

Similar Process
As noted earlier, just because a console is digital doesn’t mean it’s impervious. So find a clean corner of the shop and gather up some supplies…

The PM process is much like working with an analog console. Begin by giving the surface a good cleaning. Dust and dirt can be removed with a vacuum and a dry cloth. You can also use compressed air in a “duster” can or from a compressor to blow away dust. Make sure if you’re using a compressor that it’s of the oil-free variety so it’s not spraying a light film of oil on the console.

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on cleaning the console screens because some chemicals (even mild glass cleaners) may damage the screen surface. Check all ventilation holes and vacuum out the dust. Remove and clean any air filters as per the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Board tape residue can be removed with a cleaner like Simple Green.

If that doesn’t do the trick, step up to a citrus-based solution like Goo Gone. Make sure to read the directions and warnings on any cleaning chemicals.

As you clean, give the console an overall evaluation, looking for any damage. Be sure that any onboard option cards are installed correctly, and if no cards are used, check that the covers are still securely in place.

Next, check all the connectors to see if they’re loose or broken. A small soft-bristled brush like an artist’s paintbrush combined with a vacuum works well for getting stubborn dirt out.

Electronic connectors can be cleaned with a contact cleaner like Deoxit. Fiber optic connectors should only be cleaned with items made specifically for fiber, such as products from Sticklers, TechSpray and Chemtronics.

Examine the power cord for damage, and don’t overlook external power supplies. Clean out all ventilation ports and check the filters and connectors on the unit. Also check the power supply cables.

Once satisfied that the console and connectors are clean and in working order, plug in the console and turn it on. Check the firmware and software versions and visit the manufacturer’s website and see if there are any updates available.

Don’t overlook PM on connectors.

Now is also a good time to check for updates for ancillary gear like computers or tablets that are used with the console. While at the manufacturer’s website, make up a USB drive for the console that includes a downloaded copy of the manual and any other user guides, as well as any firmware and software.

Finally, connect the console to a powered loudspeaker or a set of headphones, and then provide input via a microphone and/or playback device. Test the onboard connectors as well as the surface knobs and faders.

Go through every function and every channel on the console to insure each is working correctly. Sometimes features are duplicated on knobs and touch screens, so in those cases, verify proper operation both ways.

Moving Along
Not all digital consoles are stand-alone systems; many have relatively few onboard connections and are instead augmented with stage racks and remote input/output boxes.

Clean the racks just as with the console. Remove the dust and dirt with a vacuum and dry cloth, tidy up the connectors, and check the option cards and covers.

Again, don’t forget the power cords. Also be sure to hook up stage boxes to the console to verify that all remote functions are working correctly, and that audio passes cleanly through all inputs and outputs.

Now it’s snake time! Check the outer jacket for cuts and tears, and also slide your hand along the entire length of the cable, feeling for flat spots, twists or other irregularities.

Have a look at the connectors, paying extra attention to the rear of the connector to see if the cable has been subjected to excess strain, and thus has pulled away from the connector body.

For general cleaning of outer cable jackets, I use Simple Green followed by water. For removing sticky tape residue, I turn to Goo Gone.

When that won’t cut it, I switch to a stronger solvent called Goof Off, which contains acetone, so caution is strongly advised. It will eat through many materials, so just use enough to get rid of the gunk in the affected area, and then thoroughly wash the area clean of any remaining solvent.

Check each cable using a tester, looking for intermittent signals by wiggling the connector joints, and also flex the cable at any suspect spots to see if there’s a break. Many times a cable may have a break in one or more of the conductors, but the problem won’t rear its head until the cable is flexed or wiggled.

Clean the electronic connectors with a quality contact cleaner like Deoxit, while for fiber, Chemtronics Fiber Electro-Wash works very well. Use only lint-free cloth because other materials may leave behind particles that can obstruct the light pathway.

If the snake is on a reel, examine it, and then clean and lubricate the reel as needed.

Last but not least, don’t forget the road cases for the console, stage boxes and snakes. Evaluate the outside, looking for any damage, and pay extra attention to the handles, latches and wheels – now would also be a good time to lubricate the latter two. Give the inside a once-over, and check the foam and/or rack rails.

Yes, PM is a chore, but it really pays off in gear reliability, both in the analog and digital worlds.

Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/10 at 01:45 PM
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Renowned New Zealand Band Starboy Touring With Compact Allen & Heath GLD Digital Mixer

Compact consoles enables elimination of racks of outboard gear

Renowned New Zealand theatrical rock act Starboy will be touring Eastern and Central Europe this summer with an Allen & Heath compact GLD-80 digital mixer.

Starboy presents a large show, blending a live heavy rock band with classical orchestration, electronic sounds and movie elements, plus dancers, Maori warriors, and pyros, lights and lasers. Consequently, production demands for the tour are high, made more complex by the logistical complexity of being based in New Zealand.

“For us to tour without a digital console would mean traveling with about 30U of outboard gear, which was totally impractical and very expensive for an independent band. After investigating everything in the market, we settled on the GLD-80 because the convenience of using audio over Ethernet was so much more practical than anything else out there,” explains chief engineer Stu Fu.

The GLD-80 allows Fu to run the entire show with one console, fitted with an A&H Dante expansion card, which runs 64 channels of audio bi-directionally over Cat-5 network cable, enabling playback and recording for duties such as virtual sound check.

“This means we can reliably centre our entire performance around the console and a laptop, whilst also being able to save in-ear monitor auxiliary send settings for each artist.  We can run our show from monitor or FOH position,” he says. “While the band is chilling in Ibiza between shows, if we can pull them off the beach and out of the clubs, we can capture any creative outbursts and develop it into new material to complete when we get back to Middle Earth New Zealand.

“Also, some of the festivals we are booked into advised that there was no opportunity for soundcheck but with the GLD-80 we are confident that the monitor mix will always be exactly as we set it up, so no surprises on stage.”

“The mixer does everything we need it to do, is easily integrated into other digital or analogue systems, and buying it was less than the price of shipping all the other outboard gear,” concludes Fu.

Allen & Heath

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/10 at 11:25 AM
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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Behringer Releases CP6000 Series Wall Controllers For EUROCOM MA6000 Digital Mixer-Amplifiers

CP-series control panels feature auxiliary input selection, mute and power on/off buttons, as well as an ergonomic volume knob and space for labeling auxiliary input sources.

Behringer has added to the utility of the MA6000 series of Digital Mixer-Amplifiers with the release of the CP series of wired remote control panels.

Designed to offer low-cost remote volume control and source selection, the CP6000UL will fit North American electrical boxes while the CP6000EU is sized for European applications.

Available immediately through the EUROCOM distribution network, the CP series offer yet another dimension of application flexibility to an already-rich feature set.

CP-series control panels feature auxiliary input selection, mute and power on/off buttons, as well as an ergonomic volume knob and space for labeling auxiliary input sources.

The volume control can be assigned to the main mix bus or to the four (A, B, C, D) auxiliary sources only, allowing remote control over program or master volume. Remotes connect to the MA6000 over standard Cat5 cable which provides data connections and power, including subtle illumination.

“Elegance, simplicity, and incredible value are the comments we hear from integrators when they see the new CP series wall controllers,” says Steve Young, Music Group’s VP of Installed Sound. “With the addition of this controller we can provide nearly all the functionality of an advanced computer-based control system at a fraction of the price.”

Behringer

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Posted by Julie Clark on 07/09 at 01:41 PM
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CADAC Expands Marketing Team With Appointments Of James Godbehear & Richard Ferriday

Will focus on marketing and developing new CDC digital console range

CADAC has announced an expansion of its marketing team with the creation of dedicated brand marketing and brand development positions, and the appointment of James Godbehear and Richard “Fez” Ferriday, respectively, to these positions.

CADAC managing director David Kan states, “We’re very excited to welcome two marketing professionals of such exceptional experience and calibre to our expanding team here in our Luton HQ.

“James and Richard come to us with industry-wide recognized abilities in their respective roles and their appointments provide us with the extended marketing capabilities we require. They will be especially valuable assets in marketing and developing the new CDC digital console range.”

Godbehear joins CADAC as marketing manager following 15 years with Midas/Klark Teknik, 10 of which he spent as marketing manager for both brands. Ferriday, who brings years of experience in the live sound production industry to the role of CADAC brand development manager, has more than 10 years with Midas/Klark Teknik in the same role.

Speaking on behalf of both, Ferriday says, “CADAC is one of the longest established and most respected brands in our industry. With the superb new digital CDC Four now shipping and the larger CDC Eight digital series consoles shipping imminently, there will be a considerable workload for us in putting in place a gamut of initiatives and objectives, with the aim of achieving for CADAC the industry leading position that these terrific new products potentially afford it.”

Patrick Almond, who was previously responsible for CADAC marketing as Soundking Europe marketing manager, will now serve as general manager for Studiomaster and Carlsbro, focusing on the reestablishment of the UK and Eire sales and distribution of these brands as well as their marketing activities.

CADAC

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/09 at 08:55 AM
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Monday, July 08, 2013

Church Sound: Open The Gates And Let the Good Sound Out

Shaping and controlling the sounds in your mix
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

 
The problem with mixing music is sometimes you get too much sound coming through your system. I’m not talking about volume, I’m talking about unwanted sound—sound that’s not beneficial to your mix. 

But how can you eliminate unwanted sound? This is where gating comes into play. 

Audio gating enables you to control when sound enters your system and when it leaves.

Two Primary Benefits
Benefits in your mix can be gained using gating in two areas:

1) Removing secondary sounds from a microphone. You might think of this as spill or leakage. Break out the hazmat suits, we have a spill on the stage! I’m talking about a microphone that picks up the sounds of another instrument other than the one which is intended. 

For example, when the drum toms aren’t being played, they will likely pick up the sounds of other drum kit pieces. Of course, it wouldn’t be as loud of a sound that’s broadcast but it is an additional sound source adding in an unnecessary sound, a sound that can even negatively affect your mix because of the added volume and frequencies.

2) Reshaping the sounds coming from the microphone. Gating allows you to control the volume level in which sound passes out of the mixing channel. It also allows you to control the point in which the volume stops coming out of the channel. 

Imagine controlling the sound of a snare drum. You could use gating to give it a quick attack (a hard and fast start) but then allow it to decay naturally. Or, you could do the opposite.

With the right amount of gating changes, you could even produce a completely unnatural sound from the snare drum…and it just might be right for the song.

A Problem
Musicians could play their instrument quieter as part of the arrangement. For example, a soft hit of the toms could be part of the first verse. If your gating is set with a low threshold, then your system might be gating out those toms and not broadcasting them. 

It’s times like these where digital mixers with scenes are a great way for setting different gating structures per song.

Gating Controls
The controls (parameters) for controlling gating are very similar to those used in compression.

Threshold. The gate is closed (no sound coming through) when the audio volume is below the threshold. The gate is open when the sound exceeds the threshold.

Don’t think that you can easily set the threshold. Much like mentioned in the problem with gating, musicians play instruments at different volumes, especially instruments where gating is helpful, like drums. 

Therefore, the threshold you set for an instrument, like a snare, might need to allow the drummer a bit of room for natural volume differences in their playing.

Range. Did I mention the gates don’t complete mute the sound? Consider these as “picket-fence” gates. They actually attenuate the sound by the degree specified in the range setting.

The range defines how much the sound is reduced below the threshold. For example, you can set the range to -20 dB for a gate.

WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO COMPLICATED!?!
The problem with completely muting certain sounds is they then lose their natural sound. For example, if you had such muting, it’s possible your mix would sound like a group of instruments and singers abruptly starting and stopping. Unnatural.

Attack. This controls how quickly the gate opens, how quickly it lets the sound through. You use attack to control how quickly the sound enters into your mix after the gate is open. The attack greatly affects how the instrument or vocal sounds entering into the mix.

Release. This controls how quickly the gate closes. Consider it the rate of controllable decay.

Hold. This is where the art and science of mixing really come into play. The hold time controls how long the gate stays closed, once it’s closed. 

For example, you can set the hold so that even if the threshold is reached again, the gate stays closed until a certain amount of time passes. The benefit of the hold parameters is allowing a natural decay to occur before the sound is allowed to come back in again. 

I’m not saying you always want to use a high hold time, but it is yet another control you have over shaping the sounds going out of your system.

You can see all of these in this chart of how gating would affect incoming audio:


image


The Take Away
Gating is another way of shaping and controlling the sounds in your mix, just like reverb, delay, and compression. It’s a great way to get a better sound from your drums and even your vocalists. Try it out and see what it can do for you.

Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown. To view the original article and to make comments, go here.

 

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/08 at 04:22 PM
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Friday, July 05, 2013

Amsterdam’s Melkweg Extends Commitment To Soundcraft Digital Platform

Add new Vi6 console with Vistonics II interface at FOH to join Vi4

When in late 2009 leading Amsterdam music and arts center Melkweg (Milky Way) purchased a multipurpose Soundcraft Vi4 from Dutch distributors Audio XL, it was just the beginning of a relationship with the UK company’s digital platform.

The venue has now doubled inventory by adding a Vi6, using the same operating platform and Vistonics II interface, but packing a greater number of inputs and buses.

The new console has taken up the front of house position in the venue’s 700-capacity Oude Zaal (Old Room), while the Vi4 has been redeployed as a dedicated monitor desk, replacing the previous long-serving console which was becoming increasingly unreliable.

Needing a minimum of 72 channels, the decision was again taken by head of the technical department, Richard Balk (and his team), providing the Melkweg with an intuitive means of mixing the many disciplines it hosts — including music, theatre, dance and cinema.

“We wanted to keep continuity with Soundcraft,” he explains. “We were debating whether to take another Vi4 but we had a demo of the Vi6 — and the extra fader bay won.” Other compelling reasons for buying the desk, he adds, include quality of the sound, the quality of the built-in Lexicon FX and the user-friendly set-up of the desk.

The desk is configured with 72 inputs, 16 outputs, and supplied with two DSP expansion cards. “If necessary we can upgrade the channel count by adding further cards to the Stage Rack,” says Balk.

Another of the venue’s freelance sound engineers, Ard Boot, added that the Melkweg’s pool of technicians had all backed the decision.

“What we like is the flexibility of the desk and its size. The fact that we already owned the Vi4 made it a logical step to buy the Vi6,” Boot states. The venue also has the facility to relocate the console between the Oude Zaal and the venue’s main “Max” room.

Back in 2009, Balk and his team had thoroughly researched the market before voting in favor of Soundcraft, noting that other desks they reviewed at the time had often been too complicated.

He was already familiar with the Soundcraft digital topology and knew that the Vi platform would provide a fast-track learning curve for uninitiated engineers, boosted by the library of Lexicon FX and BSS EQs.

At the same time, the FOH station was specially modified; since Dutch sound engineers tend to be tall, a clever custom feature was to have special brackets made to elevate the mixing desk, which traveled up and down over a distance of 20 cm. This ensured that their hands were always at the right angle to the desk for maximum comfort.

The senior technician confirms that the decision to standardize on Soundcraft has met with the full approval of his team. He also confirms that the Melkweg simultaneously changed the set-up in monitor world, adding a new 72-channel input box and 48-channel broadcast output, along with the rest of the infra-structure.

Soundcraft
Harman Professional

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/05 at 02:15 PM
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Alicia Keys Sets The World On Fire With DiGiCo & Clair Global

Carrying five SD racks and a pair of SD10s

With more than 50 international dates on the horizon in support of her latest outing, Girl on Fire, Grammy-award wining artist Alicia Keys has surrounded herself with an adept team of engineers with support from Clair Global and DiGiCo mixing systems.

With five SD racks (two for FOH, two for monitors, and one for opening artist, Miguel), they’re also carrying a pair of SD10s (one at FOH and monitor world) to handle the eight-member band including the headliner.

Newly positioned at FOH is Tim Colvard, who took over the European leg of the tour. Although Colvard’s employed DiGiCo consoles for many of his clients international tours, this was his first time on an SD10 (as well as his debut outing with both the artist and with Clair Global). He joins Clair FOH tech Randy Weinholtz and monitor mixmaster Antonio Luna for the already-in-progress global tour.

The challenge of a one-day rehearsal prior to his first live show could’ve been stressful. However, Colvard’s extensive previous hands-on experience on an SD7 with Madonna, Usher and others lent itself to getting up and running quickly on the new console and Keys’ eight-piece outfit, comprised of keys, bass, drums, guitar, and a trio of background singers.

“A phone conversation with Alicia convinced me that she really cares about her sound,” says Colvard. “And being intrigued by her music made joining an already-in-progress tour an easy decision. With Alicia having one of the most powerful and dynamic voices in the industry, DiGiCo’s dynamic EQ really came in handy for smoothing everything out, especially when she’s really belting it out in the high-end.

“Also, I’m maximizing all of the dynamic compression available on the SD10 for all of the Pro Tools channels.

“It is also important for me to use snapshots, which I time to run consecutively,” he continues. “This allows me to do certain mutes on the piano, particularly when it goes down the lift in the middle of the song and gets disconnected, as well as for other microphones in different parts at the stage. Using these features gives me more time to mix instead of trying to remember what inputs should be muted or un-muted.”

Colvard’s also carrying a rack of external effects, including a TC Electronic 2290, TC D2, Eventide H3000 ES, a couple of Yamaha 990s and a Lexicon 960L, which gives him “a variety to cover most algorithms needed to do duplicate the album effects.”

“We love the flexibility of the SD10 desk,” adds Weinholtz. “The dynamic EQ is really nice and having the ability to create a fader bank of multiple input/outputs, and whatever your brain can think of, is great.”

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the tour’s audio specs is Antonio Luna’s employment of an Aviom personal monitor mixing system—typically found in church, theatre and studio settings primarily, but not so much in touring. Luna’s using this in tandem with his SD10 to allow the band to customize and control their own individualized monitoring needs.

“The Aviom has been pretty cool,” Luna says. “I didn’t think I’d ever use it again after Aerosmith in 2009, but the musical director wanted to and so we figured out a way to incorporate it and it’s been working well since day one. I’m able to send 16 sends to the primary band members, who are all able to mix themselves, which means I get left alone to mix the three background vocalists and the singer.

“The band doesn’t ask me for anything during the show, so I can concentrate 100 percent on the artist,” adds Luna. “I would assume there are other engineers out there using Aviom, although I just don’t know anyone off-hand who’s doing it.

“It’s definitely made my job easier and I’m still able to deliver quality mixes to the band via that source. The band seems really happy with it, and if they’re happy I’m happy.”

Concentrating on Keys, Luna keeps the effects to a minimum, relying mostly on the internal effects, with the exception of a TC Electronics M4000 plug-in via AES at 96 kHz.

“That reverb sounds really good on her vocal and we really like it. But everything else I’m using with her is internal,” he says. “I find I use a lot of compression on her vocals. She has a lot of dynamic range, so I need to take that down a little bit to make it fit when she’s singing loud or soft. Because she’s primarily a piano player, the mix is very important.

“The piano can easily get lost or washed out if you have too much vocal or too much ambient sound. So the vocal and piano are the important parts of the mix, and the rest follows those two key elements. I make sure I can always hear the vocal and the piano, and if I can always hear the vocal and the piano, with the band fitting in nicely underneath, we’re going to have a great day.”

They’re also tracking 80 inputs on Nuendo at monitor world and FOH and 80 channels of Pro Tools to split off the stage racks.

Another technological advance on the tour is the use of a Signal Hound RF Spectrum Analyzer. “When we were deciding the gear spec, Scott Evans introduced me to the product and we decided to get one for the tour,” says Luna. “We’re getting really good results and the manufacturer has been fantastic. They’re excited for the feedback because apparently no one in our industry is using it, so it’s kinda cool to be breaking new ground like that.”

Both the artist and management have been happy with the production, both onstage and off…. And are verbal about it. “We’re getting a lot of compliments,” Luna offers, “and a couple of shows ago Alicia said it sounded wonderful at soundcheck… I’m not used to getting that kind of positive feedback from artists, so it’s refreshing, especially coming from Alicia, because she’s such an awesome talent.

“Other than that I’m really grateful that I’ve got a good relationship with the vendors, not just with sound company, Clair Global, but with DiGiCo as well,” continues Luna. “It’s a killer combination for service. I feel confident that no matter where I am in the world, if I need something, it’s going to happen. Thanks to both Clair and DiGiCo for helping me out on this tour… it’s very been appreciated.”

DiGiCo
Group One Ltd.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 07/05 at 10:38 AM
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