A recent sonic upgrade at Metro, a popular live venue in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood that’s celebrating its 40th anniversary, incorporates two Allen & Heath dLive mix systems to head up both its new front of house and monitor systems.
“In 2021, we had changed everything about the PA – except the actual audio consoles,” explains John Wagner of Chicago-based Ayre Productions, which handled the project. The staff at the club eventually told Wagner that they wanted to explore changing out the front of house and monitor consoles as well, eventually setting up a demo of the dLive platform.
Local sales rep Shawn McLoughlin soon brought in two dLive S5000 surfaces for the team to try out, and it proved to be the right match. “dLive was leaps and bounds better than what they were using previously,” Wagner notes. “They really liked the sound and the workflow.”
“We’re a small venue that hosts a lot of big acts,” explains Ben Gordon, the venue’s monitor engineer. “So we’re always trying to minimize our footprint without sacrificing functionality. dLive hit all the marks for us.” Justin Yates, who runs front of house, adds, “We get a lot of guest engineers, some of whom aren’t familiar with digital consoles. With dLive, it’s easy to get them up to speed and mixing a show in a couple of minutes.”
The team eventually decided to purchase two dual-screen dLive C3500 surfaces along with a pair of CDM48 MixRacks. “Guest engineers are really excited to see the dLive consoles,” Yates says. “Even the folks who bring in their own console are curious and want to play around with a dLive.”
The front of house and monitor dLive systems are each equipped with AES output cards that allow them to feed the venue’s amplifiers using digital AES/EBU signals. “That’s been a long goal of ours, to be digital as much as possible,” Gordon notes.
“It’s the first time on a digital desk that the compressors actually sound different,” he continues. “On other digital consoles, you can switch through compressors without really being able to tell the difference. With dLive compressor models, you can actually hear the different characteristics. It’s been fun using them to blend sources into the mix.”
Following a lull during the pandemic, Metro has re-emerged as an A-list venue with an intimate feel – recently hosting artists that include Metallica, Green Day, and Fallout Boy. “Front of house is about 30 feet from the stage,” Yates concludes. “It feels like you’re right up there with the acts. I think that’s what makes it such a unique experience at Metro.”