The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, an institution of American music that has presented countless top artists for almost 90 years, recently switched to a Harman’s Studer Vista 9 digital console for broadcast services and a Studer Vista 5 M2 as its new front of house console.
With shows on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House (including occasional back-to-back shows on Fridays and Saturdays), the Opry’s technical staff operates at a hectic pace. For its broadcast and post-production work, the Opry chose a Studer Vista 9 digital console.
“We have been digital for a long time on the broadcast side, but we went with the Vista 9 because it was purpose-built for live broadcast and post,” says King Williams, broadcast engineer, who mixes the live radio broadcasts and handles the post-production work, while also remixing performances for the Opry’s marketing department to utilize. “Having the automation capability for both broadcast and post is important.”
The new Studer Vista 5 M2 at front of console provides a TFT metering system capable of displaying signal levels from mono through to 5.1 channels on each input, with a configurable lower area which can be used to display bus assignments, surround images or the unique History Mode.
Metering for “layer 2” signals can also be viewed, while the Control Bay screen can be used to provide configurable user pages with up to 40 meters.
“We’re working with 96 inputs and the Vista 5 M2 is set up on four banks of 10 on the top and six layers deep,” notes Tommy Hensley, front of house engineer for the Opry. “I use three of those banks for inputs and a VCA in the middle. The console is very easy for me to navigate and I love the meter board. Being able to see the history right in front of me is a huge advantage. It’s a great console and easy to operate.”
Until the Opry upgraded to the Vista 5 M2, the front of house console was the last piece of analog audio equipment remaining. However, the new board has provided all the benefits of digital technology while retaining the warm sound and tactile operation of an analog desk. “The recall on the analog board was just faders and soft keys—none of the mic pres, EQs, or limiters were recallable,” Hensley says. “Needless to say, the Vista 5 M2 has made my life way, way easier.”
“I love the comps and gates on the M2 as well,” he adds. “The Lexicon reverbs sound great, and we have that feature on both Vista consoles here.”
For the in-house and broadcast elements, built-in cue lists were priorities when deciding on both Vista consoles.
“Considering the number of artists we work with every week, we have tons of snapshots that we need to save to be able to recall the settings for each artist,” says Kevin McGinty, audio engineer at the Grand Ole Opry. “Lots of consoles are not able to handle the cue lists that we require. We have several hundred snapshots for both consoles, and the Vista boards are able to store the tons of information we have in a very efficient way.”
“The Vista 9 is set up to where I run down the cue list, recall the snapshots and fire away,” Williams adds. “It’s important that I take a full snapshot of every artist, including mic preamp settings, because I am responsible for the multitrack recordings.”