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Restless Itinerary: Sonically Dialing It In For Chris Young’s Losing Sleep Tour

Going behind the scenes of a major arena tour with Sound Image Nashville's audio production crew.


By Greg DeTogne May 8, 2018

System tech Chris Demonbreun (left) and engineer Gary Lewis with the Yamaha RIVAGE PM10 at front of house. (Credit all images: Jeff Johnson)

A combination of an Avalon DI and a Sennheiser MD 421-II cabinet microphone are dispatched for bass, with the cabinet mic being added for “the air of it” as Lewis says, and the DI kept at hand for its punch; the two are blended to taste as needed in the mix.

On electric guitar stage right, another Telefunken M81 is assigned to one cabinet and an SM57 to the other. Both are once again blended into the mix at the engineer’s discretion.

For the band’s stage left electric guitar, SM57’s are applied to a pair of cabinets. Shure ULX wireless collects signals from Young’s acoustic guitars – his electric utilizes a Sennheiser e 609 on a single cabinet. Steel guitar is an entirely DI affair.

Huge Sound

“Chris (Young) is a baritone singer, and his voice is exceptionally full-bodied,” systems engineer Chris Demonbreun notes. “He takes up a lot of spectrum too, with a range running all the way from 200 Hz to 8K. One of the many reasons our L-Acoustics PA works so well for us is that these boxes are full-range, making them ideal for the sheer power and dynamics of our star vocals.”

Within his PA corral, Demonbreun rides herd over a total of 24 K1 and 32 K2 L-Acoustics line array cabinets. A majority of the time, the main hangs are comprised of a dozen K1s with four K2 underhangs, bringing the grand total of boxes per side up to 16.

Generally, side hangs include a dozen K2s. Sixteen subwoofers on the ground and four KARA front fills are added to the fray, with the subs deployed in cardioid pairs of four to help minimize low-end energy on the stage.

“One of the things about Gary that I like the most is that he creates this huge sound, but it’s not super loud,” Demonbreun notes in a nod to his colleague out in the house. “We run at around 100 dB SPL. That’s big and full, but we’re not blowing people’s ears out. Once during a show, I noticed the subs weren’t even on and I immediately let Gary know about it. He shot right back, ‘I know, we don’t need ‘em,’ and he was absolutely right. We had plenty of horsepower at the bottom and all the way through the rest of the spectrum with just our full-range boxes.”

Demonbreun keeping tabs on the system, with tools that include Rational Acoustics Smaart.

Demonbreun does all of the system EQ and tuning with the DSP built into the system’s L-Acoustics LA8 amplified controllers, with 18 rack-mounted units per side.

“I’m running everything at AES3 96 kHz with analog backup,” he relates. “There’s a pair of Lake LM 44 processors out at front of house, and they’re basically input mixers for Gary as well as an access point for the opening acts that need to get into the system.

“The LM 44’s split out to AES3 96 kHz, then down at the stage there’s an ATI distribution amplifier that re-clocks all of the AES so that the amps still receive an optimized signal that’s free from the loss you’d normally get after 300 feet.”

One Loop

Both Young and the band receive their monitor mixes via Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring systems. Young is also provided with four Sound Image floor monitors, two of them residing in the center of the stage, and one each at stage right and left.

With approximately 55 channels arriving at his RIVAGE PM10 console for monitors, Briles is a confirmed SILK advocate as well, noting “I feel like it adds a third dimension, or puts things deeper in the mix, and I’m actually using it on Chris’ vocals twice. I kind of cheat a bit to pull that off, in that I have to leave the desk and come back again via a preamp I borrowed to double his SILK channel, but it works just fine. Having one on Red and one on Blue really makes his vocal sit up front without having to push the fader as hard.”

Monitor engineer Travis Briles plying his trade at a RIVAGE PM10.

He describes the tour’s overall signal flow as an “abnormal” configuration. “We just may be the only ones doing this right now,” he clarifies, “but we’ve put everything on one loop, so that either Gary or I can see any of the inputs anywhere. We’re also running our inputs through a splitter into a pair of Yamaha’s RPio622 racks, so if we want, we can see each input twice.

“Working this way, Gary and I share local inputs from the house and monitor world over our network without the need to run analog lines back and forth. We also ran the split so we wouldn’t be sharing amps or SILK features. Bottom line, there are some channels Gary is pulling off of my RPio622 rack, and there are some I am pulling off of his. Everything is in one loop, but almost everything shows up twice so either of us can take something without having an impact on the other.”

Following the break in March, the crew packed its bags and returned to the road in early April. “It’s been a great year with a number one album behind us, a couple of number one songs, and perhaps a couple more coming before Christmas,” Lewis says as we concluded our conversation, taking stock of where they’ve been and the road yet to come.

“The best thing about my role is I get to take people away from the world for 90 minutes and let them experience this music heart and soul to the point of almost becoming a part of it. If I can do that every night, I’ve done my job. In the end, that’s the best any of us can do, or should ever want to do.”

 

A rig in full, deployed prior to a recent show, with main hangs usually utilizing L-Acoustics K1s above K2s, more K2s for side hangs, and ground-based subs in cardioid pairs. (Credit: Chris Demonbreun)

 

 


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About Greg

Greg DeTogne
Greg DeTogne

Gregory is a writer and editor who has served the pro audio industry for the past 32 years.
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