Andy Grammer Travels Light with Digico

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LOS ANGELES, California - December 2016 - With his upbeat lyrics and catchy pop hooks, Andy Grammer makes you just want to snap your fingers and dance. That’s given him sales and airplay hits like “Honey, I’m Good,” “Keep Your Head Up” and the new chart-climbing “Fresh Eyes,” which have gotten him exposure on TV shows like Dancing With The Stars and at multiple sporting events, including a very recent halftime performance during the Detroit Lions’ 2016 Thanksgiving game.

It’s also made Grammer a welcome addition on a range of tours, and this past year saw him out on a co-headlined trek with Gavin DeGraw as well as opening up for Train. What has additionally made Grammer and the four members of his band welcome on those tours was how little space his touring sound complement is, carrying the compact-but-powerful DiGiCo SD10 for FOH and ultra-compact SD9 for monitors.

Both consoles have been upgraded with DiGiCo’s acclaimed Stealth Core 2, which has introduced massive new functionality to the entire SD range of desks. This upgraded engine also added to the channel count of the SD9, enabling it to accommodate 96 channels at monitors, giving monitor mixer William Valentine enormous power in an ultra-compact footprint.

“The SD9 with the Stealth Core 2 upgrade is a total space saver in an already great-sounding console,” observes Valentine. “We could not have done this tour on an SD9 before SC2 and had an SD8 on hold just in case. Thankfully, the software came out exactly when we needed it and we were able to be one of the first tours out with it. Opening up capacity from 48 flexi-channels to 96 total channels on this desk meant that we could fit everything we needed to and still have additional capacity to add things while on tour, if necessary. Having that many channels in such a small form factor is truly a game changer.”

Meanwhile, FOH mixer Adam Robinson has used his DiGiCo SD10 to great effect, setting up macros to do instant effects inserts on the fly as it also let him keep the entire show at his fingertips. Both consoles, which were supplied by Clair Global, share a single SD-Rack.

“Adam and I share eight channels over fiber with the SD-Rack, which is great because there’s no copper to run,” adds Valentine. “We have complete connectivity between the desks. And the gain tracking on the SD9 is second to none.”

Robinson says the SD9 lets Grammer’s team stay small without giving up any functionality or power. “It lets us play nice with everyone we’re on tour with,” he says. “We’re a perfect fit on the road, and that has an economic impact in terms of transportation costs.”

But Robinson is equally pleased with the performance of the SD10 he’s been piloting all summer and into the fall. “Andy’s show has a lot of moving parts, and the SD10 lets me keep total control over them,” he says, citing examples like a momentary shot of distortion on a vocal needed often at a moment’s notice, and inserting a high-pass filter at a critical point in a song. “I just set these up as one of the ten macro buttons I have on the SD10, and when I need these effects, I can just hit the button—a single move and it’s perfect every time.”

Both engineers are also on the same page when it comes to the SD consoles’ sound. “The band is very happy with the sound of the monitors, and I’m happy with the flexibility the SD9 gives me,” says Valentine.

His colleague agrees. “The sound has always been great; I guess I take that as ‘a given’ now, but it’s what first drew me to the SD,” says Robinson, who regularly used DiGiCo’s classic D Series desks a decade ago. “That sound plus the console’s flexibility that lets me put any input anywhere I need it makes for an unbeatable combination. Then the Stealth Core 2 upgrade came along and took the SD, which was already a beautiful piece of hardware, to another level. They took the power of the SD and extended it, instead of going on to launch a completely new line of products. I think that tells you everything you need to know.”

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Between The Sheets - Digico Pleases Everyone

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Co-headliner musical tours often bring challenges of delicately balancing two sets of talented egos used to doing things their own way, right down to how their live sound is mixed and presented. But in the case of Chris Brown and Trey Songz’ shared 24-date North American “Between The Sheets Tour,” artists and crews from both camps have unanimously agreed on one thing: DiGiCo mixing consoles in monitor world.

Brown’s monitor engineer, William “Chainey” Harpe, and Songz’ monitor engineer, Adam Robinson, have been on each other’s professional radar for years, but this is the first tour that they have worked on together. Both dyed-in-the-wool DiGiCo fans who learned their craft on the manufacturer’s boards since being live sound novices, Harpe and Robinson were more than pleased to find DiGiCo SD7 consoles for monitors on Eighth Day Sound’s rig list for the trek.

Before hitting the road, it was decided that Songz would open the show for approximately 25 minutes, and then Brown would take over for the same duration. The two headliners would then share the stage for a set of songs back and forth, followed by a song together. To end the show, each artist would do another set on his own.

“The biggest challenge was coming up with a comprehensive plan that would address two bands on stage at the exact same time and the need to have continuous mixes back and forth,” notes Robinson, who’s been mixing for Songz and his band for a little more than four years.

Initially, each act’s crew ran through its own rehearsals for about a week. The engineers then combined their desks and for a day-and-a-half ran through the possibilities, ultimately combining rehearsals with the artists and bands for another three days. “Once we brought our systems together,” he adds, “we were off and running really well in what could potentially be a really, really complicated operation.”

Robinson started music rehearsals with the Songz band on a DiGiCo SD5 nearly a month before merging his rig with Harpe’s. “With the conversion software, I took those mixes I had built for the band and converted up to SD7,” Robinson explains. “When we started the full band and production, I was ready to go for all the new stuff we were going to do.”

Regarding how the preparation paid off, Harpe notes: “Adam and I had some brief conversations on how it was going to lay out, and he had it all thought out in his head and on paper. I guess I was a little skeptical at first; it looked like either a walk in the park or a complete nightmare because it sounded too simple. But we basically set up, fired it up, started running some tests and never looked back.”

Harpe, who has a decade of experience handling Brown’s monitors since the singer was 15 years old, credits Robinson with doing the “heavy lifting” in figuring out what product to use and how to manage it. “His thinking was ‘you’ll have everything I have and I’ll have everything you have,’” Harpe adds.

While the FOH engineers on this tour share a handful of inputs by way of some very intricate cross-patching, things are much different in monitor world thanks to both SD7 consoles and all racks—two SD Racks and two SD Mini Racks—being on one Optocore loop. A total of 136 inputs run between the racks on the network, and both engineers also have four local inputs in use. Harpe’s rig has 45 outputs while Robinson’s setup has 38 outputs.

By sharing sidefill arrays, the engineers utilize Optocore send/receive lines to receive sidefill outputs to each desk, also enabling back and forth talkback mics on those tie lines.

Robinson’s pre-tour maps and channel layouts were helpful. “Everything lined up perfectly,” comments Robinson, who has been using DiGiCo since the mid-2000s. “The first desk I ever took out on tour was a D1, and then a D5. DiGiCo is usually the first thing on my list of requests.” At one time or another, the engineer notes that he has used “pretty much every console that DiGiCo has made” on the road.

“Sometimes, in what we do, you gotta take what you gotta take,” Robinson continues. “But DiGiCo, for me, is still home, the desk I’m most comfortable on. In monitor world, the way I like to mix, there’s nothing as flexible. In this gig especially, I can’t think of any other desk that could have handled the number of inputs and outputs. The console makes it so effortless. And the ergonomics make it so easy for us both to access and utilize everything so well.”

Their familiarity with each other’s work also ensured a smooth ride. “I’ve had Adam cover for me, and vice versa, and we’ve been on radio shows where I have an act I’m taking care of and so does he. But it’s never been in this capacity [working the same tour the same time],” says Harpe, admitting that he never before tried fiber-optic connections between two consoles. “I always knew Adam’s skillset and what he brought to the table. I was more than eager to give it a shot and it’s really worked great.”

Lady Antebellum Tour Profile

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COUNTRY ROCKERS BUILD ONSTAGE PRESENCE



Front-of-house engineer Brett “Scoop” Blanden has seen Lady Antebellum, the three-piece also known as Lady A, skyrocket from the debut of their self-titled album in 2008 to last year’s release of Need You Now (which garnered the band Vocal Group of the Year and Single of the Year for “Need You Now” at the 44th Annual CMA Awards, as well as Grammy nominations for Record, Song and Album of the Year). Along the way, Blanden has helped to create the tour’s “audio family” and sculpt his mix so that the band really shines, as they recently did at the Fox Theater (Oakland, Calif.)

“I think that the show has really developed itself,” Blanden says of the band’s evolution onstage. “In the first place, Lady A has been really aggressive in the way that they push their music and their desire to present that experience to the fans. Have my mixes changed? I hope they have. I hope that I’m increasingly a better engineer day to day. When we started out, it was a three-piece band, so I experimented and used stereo-miking guitar concepts just to provide a richer guitar experience. Now that we have three guitar players onstage, some of those things have become minimal.”

What hasn’t changed for Blanden is the way he attacks his mix. Having grown up in the recording studio side of the industry (he’s a former manager of Ocean Way Nashville), he tends to mix for a flatter sound, paying closer attention to mic placements and things of that nature rather than diving straight for the EQ. “Part of it is natural, and part of it is because I love lyrics,” he explains. “I tend to put vocals on top just so that everybody can understand what’s being sung without having to listen too hard. I think that Lady A runs the gamut in terms of the spectrum of the music: They do everything from a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’ to up-tempos to power ballads.”

THE TOOLS AT FOH



With such a diverse range of musical styles to contend with every night, Blanden relies on the Studer Vista 5 board and Lexicon 960 effects processor to create a wide palette of “colors.” Sound company Maryland Sound brought Blanden to its headquarters to listen to five different consoles on five different types of P.A.—all interchangeable in one setting—so that he could choose the right gear for the job. “I don’t know how many people get the opportunity to do that, but it was really informative. It allowed me to choose the components that I thought would work best for my artists. The Studer seemed to fit my style of mixing best, and I thought it was going to give me the best representation of my artists in a live environment.”

In addition to the 960, an Eventide Eclipse (vocal doubler) and TC Electronic D-Two delay all run AES out of the console, with Blanden working with the console’s onboard comps and gates. He’s using the Studer-branded PC to interface with the board to manage his Waves C6 multiband compressor VST plug-ins, which are used on vocals. “It’s really worked out well for Hillary [Scott, vocals] and Charles [Kelley, vocals]. It’s also a viable de-esser; anyone looking to choose a de-esser in their live mixing environment should check this out. The latency is so low that we don’t really notice it at all. I have that on my five vocal channels. I have the 960 set up to recall custom programs I made for each song when I go down the cue list in the Studer.”

Blanden can make tweaks to the cue list, most specifically in response to the type of crowd the band is performing for that night: “Do we have a younger crowd or an older, seasoned ticketholder? Things like that definitely dictate many things, from how predominant the lows are in the room or how much sub I’m going to use, how loud the show’s going to be, what types of instruments we choose to be more noticeable; if it’s a more rockin’ crowd, I’m going to put more guitars on top,” Blanden explains.

“We soundcheck almost every day, so the band’s comfortable with the FOH mix and the way the room’s responding,” he continues. “How much 200 [Hz] is coming out of the guitar amp and out of the P.A. definitely affects how [Dave Haywood, backing vocals/multi-instrumentalist] is going to play. But so far, our ability to have a pretty regular soundcheck lets the musicians participate in the same types of custom fit [that I’m doing with my FOH mix] for the audience.”

Monitor engineer Kurt Springer mans a 96-channel Avid Profile. “I’m a chameleon when it comes to which desks I use,” he says. “When I use a Studer, I’m happy with just a 960 and a few nice vintage effects pieces such as AMS reverbs. On the [Avid] platform, I have a tendency to utilize plug-ins until I run out of DSP. I like to use different plug-in compressors, on keyboards especially. Instead of making a typical stereo pair, I use left and right—a la George Martin—to give left and right a different textural dynamic.

“My musical theme for the band is to create as big of a universe as possible. First, I want everybody to hear what everyone else is thinking. I want enough space in all of the mixes to make it easy for the players to hear each other even when only a hint of an instrument is asked for by the player. In other words, I try to give them full content even if they have an agenda to minimize it.”

Lady Antebellum is all in-ears, using a combination of UE9s and Westone models.

The MSI-provided P.A. comprises JBL VerTec 4888DP boxes with the new DP-DA processing card, as well as VerTec 4880A subs powered by Crown iTech HDs. According to system tech Adam Robinson, the signal flow is completely digital from the moment the mic hits the preamp all the way to the speaker box. “We also carry eight Outline Mini Compass boxes for fills,” Robinson adds. “We’ve found that their output and adjustable horizontal dispersion is quite helpful, along with sounding pretty damn good!”

Robinson tunes the system with a couple Earthworks M30 mics and Smaart 7 to get a pretty decent flat response in the room. From there, he throws on some tunes and listens to the system. “We’re doing venues from medium-sized theaters to small arenas, and we even threw in a large club gig in there,” Robinson says. “Along with having a rig that has been able to scale easily to all of these places, the ability to control individual boxes when needed has made our job easy and slick. We have the ability to do four hangs—mains and sides, typically—and even place a couple of boxes on the deck when needed, all without worrying how we’re going to divide up amp channels or processing paths.”

Lady A is a Sennheiser endorser, so many of the mics found onstage are from this manufacturer, including a Neumann KK 105 S capsule atop a Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld transmitter for Kelley; a SKM 5200/MD 5235 handheld RF for Scott; and an e 935 hardwired for Haywood. He’s making extensive use of mics from the evolution 900 Series on drums, while bass sees Beyerdynamic M88s. For guitar amps, Blanden places two mics on each amp: a Sennheiser 421 and a varying flavor of ribbon. “I have just tried that out this year and have gotten pretty good results,” Blanden says of the double-miking amp strategy. “I’m currently using the Cascade Fat Head II ribbons as my secondary mics to the 421s. I believe ribbon mics afford you more leeway in the phase-relationship department, especially if you are using more than one microphone. It’s just a different flavor and having more colors available for my palette is always welcome. I try to use all passive DIs, if possible, especially on acoustic instruments: guitars, Dobros.”

From Mix Magazine, January 2011. Photos by Steve Jennings.


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Desert Island Mixing Tools

Touring Engineers Reveal Their Must-Have Gear



Whether it’s because of the state of the economy in general or a struggling music industry in particular, more tours are carrying less gear. Reduced trucking and airline baggage expenses are just a few of the reasons why touring engineers are relying on house-provided equipment. Factor in the success and popularity of festival circuits for both the bands and the concertgoers, and it’s easy to see why this has become a rising trend in the concert industry.

What would you do if you were about to embark on this type of tour and could only carry one audio toy with you? What item would make your mixing duties easy if you had it, or difficult if you did not? Mix asked several live sound engineers for their answer to the “Desert Island Gear” question.

Essential Mics



Engineer Noel Ford, whose duties include mixing front of house for Dinosaur Jr., says that when he is out with that particular band, he is typically working in good venues and is “comfortable with the processing that the house has to offer. I do like to have certain mics though,” he says. “J Mascis [singer/guitarist] uses a lot of vintage gear, including Marshall and Hiwatt heads, and lots of old effect pedals. This can result in J getting shocks from his microphone, but with a Shure SM57 he won’t ever get a shock, so I always make sure to have a Shure SM57 for him [laughs]. We have tried wireless systems as well as some other solutions, but the SM57 has proven to be the workhorse. Sometimes the simplest things are exactly what you need.

“After a lot of experimentation,” he continues, “I have found that I can get a nice warm sound from J’s guitar rig using a combination of Sennheiser e906s and e609s. I have tried many vocal microphones for Lou [Barlow, bassist], but the Beyer M88 suits his voice and I get more clarity from that mic than any other. It works for Lou in his monitors, as well. I carry a Sennheiser e901 for inside kick—the e901 is awesome when you have a closed front head—and an Audix D6 for outside kick. I am a big fan of the D6 because I can get that little bit of top that helps it cut through the mix, as well as a solid low end. I’m just not happy if I don’t have a D6!”

Ford is also using the SM57 on hi-hat, saying that the band’s stage setup is very tight and he can get a lot of bleed from the bass amp into the hi-hat mic. “The bleed is less ferocious with the 57 than it would be with a condenser microphone. Using the same mics in different rooms provides a nice basic reference point.”

Over a period of more than 35 years, Bob “Nitebob” Czaykowski has worked with artists ranging from Aerosmith, KISS, Ted Nugent and Ace Frehley to Hanoi Rocks and most recently Madeleine Peyroux, New York Dolls and Steely Dan. Nitebob agrees that having the right mic for the lead vocalist is paramount: “I consider that to be the most important element of a live show,” says Czaykowski. “Be it a Neumann, Sennheiser, Shure or something else, I want a mic that has not been overused or damaged. I find more damaged vocal mics than anything else; kick drum mics come a close second. Madeleine prefers the [Neumann] KMS 104 because she feels it suits her voice, and it works for me. David Johansen [ formerly of New York Dolls] uses the Beta 58 because it complements his voice and works well when he plays harmonica.”

While Czaykowski is particular in his mic selections, he’s not as picky about certain pieces of outboard gear, noting that most modern digital desks have the comps, gates and effects he requires. “Though if I am in a situation where I can spec the tour, I’d like a mixing desk that suits the needs of the act—maybe a Digidesign with a Waves [plug-in] package or a well-maintained Midas, etc.”

Frank Marchand III, whose credits include Calexico and Bob Mould, says, “The thing that single-handedly has solved more problems for me than anything else has been showing up with my own microphones. I have a bag of 15 or 20 mics that I drag out, mics that I know that will generally work in all situations and aren’t horribly expensive, so if the bag gets stolen or some- thing breaks, I am not heartbroken. Having a few SM58s that are in good shape that I know work all the time helps me evaluate the monitor response relative to what I expect from the sound of those microphones. I have been in some clubs where you look at the microphone and it has rust on the grille. Why would I put someone in a position that they need to have a tetanus shot just to go sing on that thing? If all of a sudden you lose a channel or something goes wrong with a line, you can eliminate one variable in the chain. Even if we are on a festival circuit, I’ll replace the vocal mics with mine because the artist will know that they are singing on the same mic every night— which brings consistency to the monitor mix.”

When I ask Jacob Feinberg (currently on tour mixing FOH with Monsters of Folk) about his “go-to” gear, he laughs and quips, “There are a lot of one things I’d like to have. If I could only carry one thing, it’d be the vocal mic, probably a Sennheiser e 935. I have a long-standing history with many of the artists I work with, and I’ve been able to introduce that mic to them early on so they are familiar with it. If they don’t like it, then I’ll use whatever they want, because ultimately they have to be comfortable onstage with the sound they are getting back. Having said that, most of the artists I work with have embraced the e 935 because the mic speaks for itself when Iget it in front of them. It has a ton of gain and a lot of presence and articulation, which is important when you are working with a singer/songwriter. It’s also very tight in the low-mids so I don’t need much EQ.

“When I work with Gillian Welch,” he continues, “we have five microphone inputs. They have been using 58s and 57s for a decade now, and I’ve never recommended anything else. We carry the mics, they are comfortable with them and that’s their sound. It is a different scenario from other artists I mix. On this tour, Jim James from My Morning Jacket has gone through a lot of vocal mics. He is not someone I normally mix and he had been using other mics. I put up the e935 and asked im to give it a shot. If everyone is consistent [i.e., if all the vocal mics are the same], I think it’s easier to dial in the monitors. He loved it and it has not been an issue since.”

Working With House Racks and Stacks



All of the engineers we spoke with agree that their choices of prime-time gear depend upon the type of tour. Feinberg says that if he has a “bit of luxury, if I am carrying a console—which I try to do as often as possible—I like to have a Dolby Lake Processor to drive the system and a tablet PC with a wireless router to run it. If I have that, I can walk the room and make adjustments. Even if I am using it only for the EQ and not crossover, I can go into any room and no matter what the P.A., I have the flexibility to turn anything I get into being usable. If the venue has a faulty crossover or a noisy house EQ, I can take it out of line and go straight into the Dolby Processor, adjust EQ and create crossover points if needed. If I am not carrying a console, having a DLP doesn’t make much sense because I can’t take advantage, and the consistency doesn’t matter as much. If I’m working on the house console, I’m pulling my mix out of nowhere anyway, so to a certain degree the [house] zero is equivalent to anything I might create. Most of the time, I’ll go from the Dolby Lake Processor right into the house crossover and I’ll run subs off an aux. If the house system is not set up to drive a sub from an aux [send from the console], I might have to create that crossover and that output, and go directly to their amps.”

Adam Robinson (whose recent tours include They Might Be Giants, Plain White T’s, Duncan Sheik and Miike Snow) concurs with Feinberg, adding, “I’ve used all of the Lake processors: the Dolby Lake, Lake Contour, Lake Mesa. If I’m on a tour and I don’t need all the I/O, the Lake Mesa is a great EQ unit. I’ve come across a lot of ailing systems, and having powerful EQ has always been helpful. On tours where I’ve had a 4x12 DLP, I’ve used it as a full system crossover in place of older or analog units [where venues have agreed to let us] and not just using the EQ functions.

“At times, I’d go into places that have no idea what the processor truly is and they’d put up a bit of a challenge when I asked to hook it up to their system,” Robinson continues. “A bit of talking usually convinced them and then I’d show them why with my show. For instance, Duncan Sheik’s tour melded his pop catalog with his successful Broadway catalog. It wasn’t your typical rock show where you just put up a band and go. I had nine musicians onstage including a mini-orchestra. Having some powerful EQ was necessary not only to tame less-than-stellar systems, but also to keep feedback in check.

“I even would run a loop from the stage to FOH and EQ Duncan’s wedge mix [run by house-provided engineers] from the Lake. The combination of the Neumann [KMS 104] vocal mic—along with him liking wedges that can really get loud when he does—gave us a very unique challenge. Ninety-nine percent of the systems we came across have traditional 31-band graphic EQs. I find that more often than not, EQ problems do not exist exactly on 1/3-octave divisions. Additionally, when needing to make a single cut that might be an octave wide, the Lake—like any parametric EQ—makes only one cut, where your run-of-the-mill graphic requires cutting multiple frequencies, messing further with the phase response and rarely resulting in an even octave- wide curve. EQ’ing out feedback points on a standard graphic resulted in us just completely killing his mix. With the Lake, we were able to zero in on problem areas and not affect anything that wasn’t a problem in the first place.”

The Festival Circuit



Marchand has found that sometimes traveling with gear does not necessarily mean that one is able to use that gear: “When you’re on the festival or summertime circuit, you don’t have a lot of time for setup. Your priorities shift due to the time allotted and it becomes forensic audio: more about what you are correcting, not what you are connecting. It’d be nice to have a rack full of processing, but you need the time to be able to connect it.

“What I do travel with,” he continues, “is a Phonic PAA3 handheld analyzer. The PAA3’s mic is attached so it gives me the ability to take it into the crowd. I’ll put it into spectrum analysis mode and walk the venue. Most venues have weird room modes or comb filtering, and even 20 feet away from the mix position you might have no idea what people are hearing. I’ll look at the screen and see if there’s a bump or notch in the frequency response. I also use it as an SPL meter because I want to see what the bottom octave is doing. I want a big presence but I am not going to wipe out the crowd and walk away with my ears ringing. I am very conscious of watching the crowd during the show to see how people are reacting. That’s my indication that I am getting it right. I always mix a little different where I stand relative to the crowd because they have expectations of how the artist should sound and I try to hit that mark.”

Ford’s go-to gear “depends upon the band I am mixing. I also work for a Japanese heavy psych band called Boris. We always take a Korg KP2 KAOSS pad because they have some very specific vocal effects that they use during the show. We use the KAOSS for vocoder, reverse delay and the reverbs. The reverbs are gritty-sounding and are very cool. I use them on all of the singers at some point or another during the show. There’s also a nice dub echo preset that I’ll use on the drums on a couple of songs. I run an aux send out of the console into the KAOSS, return the KAOSS output to a channel and then dial it in. I have one and the band has one in Japan, so between us we always have a KAOSS pad. It really makes a huge difference in their sound and it’s fun to work with.”

Marchand adds one final comment of which all touring engineers are painfully aware: “After doing this for so long, the less I have to schlep to the airport, the less baggage I have to pay for, the less money flies out of my pocket! Oh, yeah, and I always bring Sharpies and marking tape!” Amen.

From Mix Magazine, January 2010. By Steve LaCerra


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All Access: Snow Patrol and Plain White T's

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Pop-rockers Snow Patrol and openers the Plain White T’s warmed up the San Francisco Bay Area in early November to the delight of their increasing fan bases. Playing favorites from recently released Up to Now (Snow Patrol) and Big Bad World (Plain White T’s), the two bands rocked the house at Oakland, Calif.’s Fox Theatre; all gear except P.A. is provided by Eighth Day Sound.

Snow Patrol FOH engineer Suneil Pusari is mixing on a Digidesign Profile for a number of reasons, including joining the band mid-tour. He says the Profile “offered the solution of running a Pro Tools recording of their set through the board. This allowed me to sit in a studio in Lon- don with a small P.A. and have my own vir- tual rehearsal. I could put a show together from this, storing snapshots, building FX and getting comfortable with the songs. Also, this board is very intuitive: Both the layout and screen display are very important to me when mixing on-the-fly; changes must be immediate and fluid.

“Although I have a digital board, I’m a big fan of valves, so in my rack I have some Summits to warm things up, a Tube-Tech to keep the bottom end tight yet warm, a Focusrite Producer Pack [that] helps with the main vocals and dbx 160SLs for things that need to shine without being toppy or thin. I love Distressor EL8s—they are brilliant for vocals and on drums.”

Plain White T’s FOH engineer Adam Robinson is sharing a Digidesign Profile board with Snow Patrol FOH engineer Suneil Pusari. The system is running five DSP cards and they are currently using the FWx card to record board mixes every once in while.

Robinson uses such onboard plug-ins as Smack! comps, a few Focusrite EQs, McDSP mul-tiband comps (“my ‘never mix on a VENUE system without’ plug-in,” Robinson describes) and the reverbs ported from a TC 6000 system. “I have an Eventide Eclipse I use for some special FX and spend the rest of the time drooling at the rack of top-notch outboard gear Suneil spec’d for his show,” Robinson adds. “Suneil and I have a computer set up next to the console running Smaart, which we use to tune the [house-provided] system and do time alignments with. Typically, each day we start by listening to the systems ‘as-is’ and then do the time alignment. Suneil will then walk the room with the Lake tablet, tuning the system. I then add an overlay to his EQ and make the few modifications to get my mix to where I want it.

“For our changeovers, we were completely offstage in an average of six minutes, leaving the Snow Patrol crew the remainder of the 30-minute changeover to get ready.”

Gino Scarim, Plain White T’s monitor engineer, mixes on a DiGiCo SD8, touting the board’s great sound and user-friendliness. The band recently upgraded to the Sennheiser Evolution Wireless G3 300 IEM Series. “The Sync function was a great new feature. Tom, Tim, Dave, Mike and I are using Ultimate Ears UE7 ears, with De’Mar using Ultimate Ears UE7, UE10 and UE11. We’re not using any wedges, though we are talking about adding a pair for Mike Retondo in the future. We both really like the d&b [M2] wedges Snow Patrol is using.”

From Mix Magazine, January 2010. Text and Photos by Steve Jennings.


Duncan Sheik Tour Profile

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Duncan Sheik's shows are always about vocals, and Sheik's singing style ranges from whisper-quiet songs such as "For You" or "Touch Me" (from his Broadway Musical Spring Awakening), to powerhouse tracks like "Barely Breathing" or "We Don't Believe In You" from his latest album, Whisper House. Complementing Sheik onstage is a stellar eight-piece ensemble that helps take this sound beyond typical signer/songwriter fare. The responsibility of delivering Sheik's production to the audience belongs to front-of-house mixer/tour manager Adam Robinson, who often mixes monitors as well, as the tour does not have a monitor engineer.

The tour is hitting medium-sized venues, so Robinson is relying on house gear (including PA) at each stop, although he carries at FOH effects rack and a pair of EAW MicroWedges for Sheik's mix. "Typically we're 25 inputs with our opener taking up another six inputs and then sharing some inputs from our list," Robinson says of the house boards. "As for outboard gear, I bring a few pieces but try to keep it to a minimum as I'm also tour and production managing. I have a BSS DPR404 quad compressor because it's really the nicest compressor I could get a hold of that fits in one backspace. I'musing them on my three vocal channels and my cello channel. They're also a great choice of compressor because of the build in de-esser on each channel. [Vocalist] Holly Brook's singing style is light, pure and angelic, but leads to pronounced sibilance, so it works great for her. [Vocalist] Lauren Pritchard has a very strong voice, but also has a pronounced peak around 2k that's really hard to EQ out; the de-esser works great here. I'll use house compression on a few extra inputs, when available.

Also in Robinson's outboard rack is a TC Electronic M3000, which he uses as a dual send/stereo return unit for two different effects. "It's excellent-sounding, clean reverbs allow me to create a little more atmosphere for the Whisper House ghost-story songs without crowding the mix," he says. "Even when using a digital console at FOH, I'll use the TC for my reverbs." Added to his rack is a Lake Mesa EQ that sits between the board and as many outputs as he can manage to connect it to. "In several years of touring with the Lake, I've found that it's my 'Swiss army knife" when it comes to bringing life back into an ailing house rig or making a spectacular system sound even better.

Invisible Monitor Engineer



According to Robinson, most of the venues supply a monitor console and engineer, although there were times when he had to take the reins. The nine musicians on stage require eight wedge mixes, one of which is the EAW MicroWedge (developed with Dave Rat of Rat Sound), which Robinson calls his "ace in the hole. Any engineer who has worked with the Neumann [KM 104] in front of stage monitors will tell you that it really lends itself more to the artist using in-ears. The focused sound of the MicroWedge, along with its small form factor, really allowed me to tuck it tightly inside the null of the mic, helping to minimize feedback.

"We also did a big of work on the input size of the processor, EQ'ing out the typical frequencies that would feed back. Having this gear each night saved me a lot of time in setting up Duncan's vocal mix as I didn't have to spend extra time notching out feedback. Typically, each day I'd just EQ out and room/stage anomalies and just turn the mix way up! Duncan likes to have a ton of gain-before-feedback, as he'll go from almost whispering to strong, loud vocals. The MicroWedge guaranteed that each night he would get what he needed out of his floor mix."

Mic It Up



The tour is carrying an assortment of Sennheiser and Neumann mics, including the KMS104 for Sheik's vocals. "He's got a great ear and really knows how to work the mic well," Robinson says. "We both agree that the Neumann is probably the best sounding vocal mics you can put onstage. Lauren sings into the new Sennheiser e965 switchable-pattern condenser. It exhibits a similarly flat response to the Neumann but is a bit tamer in stage monitors. We have been through so many different mics with Lauren trying to find the right sounder her. The moment I got my hands on the 965, I know it was the right fit and she took to it quite well." Brook sings through an e945 while drummer Kevin Garcia's kit takes mostly Sennheiser 900 series. Gerry Leonard's guitar amp is mic'ed with a Sennheiser e906.

"I'm using a Helpinstill system on the piano combined with a Neumann KM184 to bring some 'wood' back into the sound," Robinson adds. "The orchestral instruments—clarinet, bass clarinet, French horn—are also Sennheisers. The cello uses a pickup."

As most of Sheik's songs tell a story, the mic selections are an essential consideration in Robinson's overall mix style—everything must remain clean so the vocals are intelligible. "Really which it comes down to it, though," he says, "I just bring my usual style of mixing clean, clear and punchy to this show and it translates well. As he's proven over and over again, Duncan can write a hit song, but beyond that, every single one of the musicians playing with him is amazing, so it's a true pleasure to have such great source material to mix."

From Mix Magazine, May 2009. Written by Sarah Benzuly. Photos by Ben Laing.

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They Might Be Giants But They Are Definitely DiGiCo

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Alternative indie-rock duo They Might Be Giants (TMBG) has been beguiling audiences since 1982. Now in its 25th year, it is still going strong and is currently on tour in the USA with a three-piece backing band. Mixing at the gigs is being done with a DiGiCo D5 and D1 package, supplied by New York-based audio company SK Systems.

The tour is playing a variety of venue sizes, from clubs to theatres, ranging in capacity from 500 to 3000. Equipment is kept to a minimum with the DiGiCo consoles, a Lake Mesa system controller and four JBL VP7210/95DP powered speakers - two for use as side fills and two as front fill. “Other than that, we use whatever is provided at the venue. I cross my fingers every day for something really nice,” laughs Front of House engineer Adam Robinson.

Adam started working with TMBG earlier this year, which introduced him to DiGiCo consoles for the first time. “The D5 is one of those ‘conceive it and it can be done’ digital desks,” he says. “Its flexibility is truly amazing and it's also quite easy to use. The intuitive layout has even made a fan of our support act's engineer, who was previously not into digital desks at all.

“With virtually everything I need in front of me, I can access channels and aux sends quickly for audio cues. I also like how I can take my show files back and forth from D5s to D1s with ease - something that several other competitors can't do.”
Adam is currently running with up to 72 inputs - 12 for the support act, the rest (including FX returns) for the headliners. These include eight channels of D-Tube preamps. “They’re a feature that no one else offers,” notes Adam, who is using the D5’s onboard effects for basic effects, with a TC Electronic Fireworx for specials.
He is also recording the show every night, the band then selling the recording of each gig via TMBG’s web site. This shows the sheer versatility of the D5’s recording options - a very high-tech approach can be taken, but it can accommodate a much lower-tech approach just as well - it depends entirely on the user’s requirements.
“Our recording methods are pretty primitive compared to what's possible with the desk,” Adam laughs. “We use eight analogue outs at FOH that feed a MOTU 828 digital audio/MIDI interface, which feeds a MacBook Pro running Digital Performer 5. The outputs are a mixture of two Neumann audience mics plus the four mono and two stereo stems which allow our lead guitarist to mix shows down quickly, so we can get them put up on the website as soon as possible.

“We've looked into other methods of recording, but a system that is a full multi-track would take us longer to prepare than is possible with our schedule. We'd still really like to find a mobile solution that would allow us to take these eight tracks via MADI, but it seems all the MADI solutions aren't quite as portable as the one we're using.

“As far as sonic quality goes, DiGiCo is really at the top of the game in the market,” Adam continues. “In fairness, I did have preconceived notions about the roadworthiness but, once I got on one, those were completely banished. I've never had a major issue with our consoles.

“I must say that SK Systems has been awesome in taking care of all of the band's needs. But any time I have a question I can’t figure it out with the guys at SK, I contact DiGiCo’s tech support, who are always very helpful.”

At the monitor position, Neil McDonald is mixing on a D1 Live and has all five band members on IEMs, plus the JBL sidefills, providing eight separate mixes. This increases to 11 with the three-piece horn section that is added for some shows. Two of the horn players are using wedges and one on in-ears. Neil also has a pair of wedges at downstage centre for when the horn section moves position during certain parts of the show.

Although Neil has used the D1 Live in a FoH capacity before, this year was the first time he’d used one on monitors. “I could write a book on the question of what are its best features,” he laughs.

“To be honest, everything is equally as valuable. Some things, like the benefits of the small footprint, vary with the size of the venues, but the snapshots have been a life saver. The band has several songs where the musicians switch instruments and there are obvious mix changes with that. Using snapshots has made the transition between those parts effortless.

“I find the audio quality second to none. I very much like the D-Tube card option and everyone at DiGiCo has been great. They’re genuinely enthusiastic about getting feedback from engineers ‘in the trenches’.”

The D5 and D1 combination is also proving that, whatever the touring situation, a high quality console speaks for itself at each venue.

“To be honest, we have been to a few venues that are pretty rough,” Neil smiles. “An inexperienced crew might roll their eyes when they see our little truck arrive, but the house sound guys take us seriously when they see us roll out and un-cap these desks.”

“Venues are always quite in awe when we bring our consoles in. They get us a lot of attention!” adds Adam Robinson.“The tour has been wonderful. We have a great crew and, because of the consistency of the DiGiCos, the band hasn’t worried about soundchecking on occasion,” says Neil.

Adam agrees, saying, “The band is extremely happy with the way the shows have been going. They Might Be Giants are sticklers for quality and really appreciate the superior results given by DiGiCo products.

“The D5 sounds great, is easy to use, it sets up and tears down quickly... what's not to like? It truly is the highlight of the tour for me. We're very excited about Version 4 coming out and adding more great features to an already feature packed system."