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Sonic Quality & Efficiency In A Minimal Footprint For Chicago 2012 Concert Tour

Behind the scenes with the mix engineers and a look at the touring system

By PSW Staff June 7, 2012

A perspective of the Chicago rig prior to a show at Massey Hall in Toronto. (A larger version of this image appears later in the text of this article.)

Chicago, the self-described “rock n’ roll band with horns,” is easily one of the longest running and most successful popular music groups of all time.

And they keep on keeping on, currently out on a North American tour featuring a playlist encompassing more than four decades of material.

Camarillo, CA-based Delicate Productions, with a console cross-rent from Burlingame, CA-based Hi-Tech Audio, is supplying the system and support for the tour, which runs through the summer. (Delicate is also providing lighting for the tour.)

The house mix is being handled by Nathan Lettus, who’s worked with the group for eight years, with the monitor mix supplied by Scott Koopman supported by audio stage tech Paul Pence and PA tech Pete Umlauf. Both mix engineers are utilizing DiGiCo SD10 digital consoles for their work, heard through Martin Audio W8LC main line arrays.

“The guys have come up with a very compact and manageable system,” says Smoother Smyth of Delicate Productions. “We love working with Nate and Scott, and feel that the audio package they have on the road speaks volumes about Chicago’s production values.”

The venerable band that keeps on going, entertaining hundreds of thousands annually. Photo by Steve Jennings. (click to enlarge)

Two In One

Lettus selected the SD10 console as a replacement for his DiGiCo D5, which he’d been using since 2004. “Louis Adamo of Hi-Tech, who owns the consoles, started talking to me about moving up to an SD10,” Lettus explains.

“We used them on the Latin Grammys with a fiber optic loop, and it impressed me enough that I thought we could use it for Chicago. It would make everything newer, and better sonically, and would also decrease the footprint.

“It was a natural progression from one console to the next,” he adds. “The nice thing about these consoles is you can really customize them however you want. You can move inputs – there are no set input or output banks – or channels to wherever you want layout-wise. I haven’t found anything that I wanted to do that the console couldn’t do. It feels more like home to me.”

Nathan Lettus with the SD10 house console. (click to enlarge)

For monitors, Koopmann notes that the SD10 is almost two consoles in one because of the layers. “We work on one layer, but you can get down to the next layer and have twice as many layers,” he explains. “That’s one of the nice things about the console because there’s so much connectivity, and you can add to it through multiple racks leading to many inputs.

“I’m looking forward to using this console for a very long time. It’s not going to become obsolete any time soon. It’s updatable, expandable, and I think they did a great job with the layout. I think they did an even better job with the offline software because absolutely anything you can do on the console, you can do on your computer at home.”

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