Following the release of her second studio album, The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change, Scottish singer-songwriter, Nina Nesbitt, has recently completed her headline North American & UK tour, accompanied by an Allen & Heath SQ-5.
With a compact footprint, SQ has rapidly found favor with touring acts, as Curtis McKenna (front of house and monitor engineer) explains: “I was looking for an easily transportable fly-rig and I love the fact that with SQ, I can have my entire show in a case, jump on a flight and then show up anywhere around the world and not only have the same great sounding show as the night before, but have it up and running within 5 minutes. It just works right out of the box.”
Having been an Allen & Heath GLD user for the past four years, McKenna found the decision to purchase his own SQ-5 an easy one.
“I came across the SQ-5 while I was working for a hire company in Blackpool and the first time it was taken out of the box, I was instantly impressed with the workflow and how fast you could put a show together,” he adds. “It made complete sense to me to make the move from GLD to SQ as it meant I needed very little time to learn the board. But I think that also works for anyone too, if this console was in-house, you could just jump on it and have a show in 5 minutes and that’s what makes SQ so great.”
McKenna also puts SQ’s onboard multi-track recording function to great use on the tour, as he explains, “Another brilliant capability of the SQ-5 is that you can multi-track with 32 channels straight into a Mac via USB, which then gives me the ability to run virtual soundcheck. So, for festival runs or shows where Nina or the band are late, I can simply run a soundcheck without them.”
After purchasing the SQ-5, McKenna further invested in the full range of DEEP compressors, “The addition of the DEEP plugins was a no brainer for me, I was a big user of them in the GLD series and having spent time incorporating them into mixes, it made sense to have them as I know just how good they sound.”
McKenna adds, “Nina herself has also noticed a change in the overall sound and I think SQ’s ability to run at 96kHz and the on-board / optional FX, gives her already powerful performances a certain quality that really enhances her dynamic style. For vocals, I use the 16T. It’s one of my favourite compressors as you can really put it on any channel and with Nina’s strong vocal style, the 16T just smooths everything out and really compliments the overall sound.”
“As I have the full package of plugins, I’m using them all individually on channels and on groups too. For my drum group I’m using the Mighty compressor as it simply brings them to life. I also use the 16T for kick and snare, again, it’s a very smooth and natural sounding compressor and really helps glue the mix together,” McKenna adds. “On L-R I use the Opto for a slow attack and recovery, smoothing out the mix further. It helps give it an added punch and doesn’t overly compress. I also use the Peak Limiter 76 on the keys to make them stand out. The keyboard player has a lot of patches and it means I don’t have to keep my finger on the fader the whole team – the Peak Limiter does the job for me!”
Having just completed her Australia and New Zealand tour, Nina is set to head back to the UK in time for festival season (with shows supporting artists such as Jess Glynn and Years and Years); McKenna is looking to handle all the dates with SQ and has recently purchased a second SQ-5 and S-Link card to tackle Monitor duties, “Some of these shows are quite big and this will give flexibility to run front of house without having to think about EQ changes in IEMs.”
“I’ve been up against all the big boards out there while touring and SQ keeps up sonically no problem – it might be small, but it packs a punch.”