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Archive by Diane Gershuny

DiGiCo SD10 Will Rock You On Summer Queen Extravaganza Tour

Imagine being plucked from obscurity by a musical hero and hand-selected to be part of a tribute band celebrating the music of the iconic band Queen. That’s just what happened to nine veritably unknown singers and musicians from around the globe, chosen by Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, architects of the band’s sound, for The Queen Extravaganza summer tour band. Taylor, who took on the role of show producer and music director, wanted to create the ultimate Queen concert experience in an electrifying road show designed by a heavyweight production team headed by stage designer Mark Fisher, (known for memorable productions including “The Wall” for Pink Floyd and every Rolling Stones show since 1989) and Rob Sinclair (Adele, Peter Gabriel, Queen, Pet Shop Boys and Vampire Weekend). The tour celebrates Queen’s legacy and music, performed by some of the best new talent they could find.

Launched at the end of May, the tour travels to theatres in cities coast to coast across the United States and Canada through early July. At FOH is engineer James McCullagh, who manages the entire audio production from the helm of a DiGiCo SD10. Going into the tour, McCullagh was adamant about his console choice, having worked with DiGiCo SD desks on previous excursions with artists from Lucinda Williams to Journey. 



“I knew that I wanted to use a DiGiCo,” McCullagh recalls. “I said right up front it was non-negotiable. I’m a big fan of DiGiCo and I like the sound of the consoles. I’m familiar with the layout and it works well for me. There are a few things that I have in my arsenal that I knew would be beneficial in working with this band and the DiGiCo console is one of them. DiGiCo’s layout and functionality proves to be so much easier for me to run a show, and on this one, we’ve got nine singers onstage, 12 different effects channels running at one particular time, maybe seven to eight functional cues per song… There’s a lot going on and I needed a console that could deal with the intricacies of making that happen. For me it was a no-brainer to use a DiGiCo to ensure I would be able to get that huge drum sound and layered mass of vocals that Queen are known for.



“The problem was we had a hard time finding an available SD10 for the start of the rehearsals in Canada because they were all out on hire,” he adds, “but eventually, Clair Brothers was able to locate one. What was interesting was that, for the first week and a half, I was using a competitor’s console and it was the first time that I’d actually ever had a chance to A/B a console—in the same scenario, in the same room, with the same band, with the same mics and the same PA, and under the same conditions. And the difference between the two consoles was like night and day! It was like somebody pulled a blanket off the mix. People who didn’t even know that I’d changed consoles came up to me going, ‘What did you do to the sound? It sounds so much better!’ I’ve used all the digital consoles out there and they all do the job, but I was never really aware of the actual sound difference. All of a sudden it was like there was air over the cymbals and the vocal that was gone on the other console. The low end was just like somebody opened up a floodgate of lows that just extended on the SD10. I think the DiGiCo console is the closest digital console that you’re going to get to an analog sound. They’ve really gotten the conversions right; they’re really good. The way the console sounds is excellent, and a whole lot more functional for me. That was quite a revelation.” 



Going into rehearsals, the Queen Extravaganza touring band—comprised of four vocalists and five musicians—had never played together in the same room. They united in Toronto for a two-week band rehearsal (followed by a two-week production run-through in Montreal) to polish the plethora of material for their two-hour show: roughly 40 of the band’s biggest chart hits, finest heavy-duty rock based anthems, and early-period Queen numbers. Not surprisingly, the band’s input count came to 48 inputs, which included 16 channels of drum, two channels of bass, four channels of guitar (“part of getting Brian May’s guitar sound is miking the front and back of the Vox AC30 and we’ve got two guitarists on each end”), six channels of piano and keyboard, and nine channels of vocals as everyone in the band sings.


”I wanted to track and record all the rehearsals on separate tracks and being able to do that via MADI was one of the big advantages of using the DiGiCo,” said McCullagh. “I know that there are other consoles out there now that can do it as well but my first experience of doing that was with the DiGiCo via an RME MADI card into my MacBook Pro laptop and a separate hard drive. It’s very useful to be able to record and have anyone in the band, or the musical director, or Roger, come back and listen to a particular track.”

McCullagh made use of extensive grouping to organize all the vocals as well as snapshots on most of the songs for vocal routing and vocal balancing. “Obviously, each singer has their own channel, but sometimes the lead singer is the lead singer and sometimes he’s the backing singer,” he explains. “I created a stereo group and called it ‘backing vocals’ and sent all the backing vocals into that group and then I slammed that with a compressor. The Queen songs have very intricate harmonies and each vocalist sings at a different level. It was too much to have nine compressors going across nine channels over a loud rock band with drums and everything. It was easier for me to put one compressor over a group. That way, if someone sings slightly harder, or if I push a level a little bit too hard, that vocal won’t just jump out and sound awkward. It’s all squashed back into the mix and that helps to get that really tight, layered Queen harmony sound. I’m using the Waves LA2A plug-in, which is an awesome-sounding plug-in and very close to the real thing, and it does a real good job in smoothing out all the peaks and lows of the backing vocals. On each vocalist, I’m running an LA2A as well as a C6 multiband compressor, which helps take out any little areas where somebody’s voice might be a little resonant or deficient. With the dynamic range that Freddie Mercury had, each vocalist goes through a lot of changes and the C6 certainly helps to smooth it all out and make the voice sound completely natural.



“In addition, I’m running two TC4000′s and a TC Helicon VoiceLive on the vocals as well as an Eventide H3000 Harmonizer for the flange sounds. I sat down with Roger and we’ve very carefully gone over what they did in the studio and how he wanted to recreate it live. One thing I want to mention adamantly is that I’m not using any tricks or any doublers or harmonizers on any vocals to provide layering. All the layering is strictly from the singers. The massive sound is all them; there’s no artificial recreation or any of that. That’s important to say because we don’t want people to think that it’s all technology that’s making them sound like they do. These guys are sounding that way because they’re that good!”



For the extensive drum kit, McCullagh is running two parallel stereo busses. One is an unprocessed group feeding into another group, which is then compressed. “I’m running a Waves API 2500 plug-in across that, which is super-compressed with a lot of snap and a lot of pop-punch. I then blend those two busses to get the drum sound that I want, because obviously the drum sounds changed from the ‘70s to the ‘80s. In the ‘70s, it was more natural sounding and in the ‘80s, everything became very compressed and over-EQ’d. I didn’t want to be changing my drum sounds on snapshots or re-EQing my drums for every song, so I basically took various different balances of ungated and uncompressed, natural-sounding drum kits and very heavily EQ’d and compressed sounding drum kits, and blended the two together for my drum sound.”



McCullagh routes the toms to both drum busses and then to a third buss, which he calls “fat toms.” “I’ve got some Waves Renaissance Bass and VEq vintage EQs going on there and then I’ve pasted all the sub-harmonics of the toms and a little bit of cut so whenever there’s a big purposeful tom hit, I can fatten up the toms by riding in a little of the extra tom buss. Obviously, if I leave it on permanently when there are some really busy tom fills, then it’ll just sound like a bunch of low end and you don’t want that much low end on the toms. You want it to cut a bit more like a single tom hit, especially on songs like ‘We Will Rock You’ or ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ By doing that I can really push it up and get a really huge tom sound.”

For the rest of the band sound, McCullagh employs minimal onboard effects. “The guitars are pretty much run with a flat EQ,” he says. “There are two Vox AC30s turned up to stun with a mic in front of them and then I just put the fader up. The piano sounds—we have a grand piano and some keyboards—are pretty much just using a bit of EQ and not much compression or anything going on there. My main focus for this band is all about getting huge drum sounds, great guitar sounds, and a massive wall of vocals… that’s pretty much how Queen worked and that’s what I’ve gone for.”



One of the features McCullagh is enjoying the most at the moment is the SD10′s Macro Smart Keys, which helps with myriad cues he’s managing from song to song. “I’m using a bunch of them,” he says. “I might use a delay in one part of a song or a delay on just a guitar just in one part of a song and not the rest, and they enable me to turn a vocal delay on and off without having to do that in my snapshots. I use them for mute buttons, to pull up my snapshots, open my snapshots page, and open my notes page. I’ve created a buss features page, and I have them to turn on reverbs for guitars, and turn on delays for vocals and guitars. I have another button assigned to turn my pink noise on and off, and another to switch between the playback on the computer, the recorded tracks, or the actual mic onstage. So without having to go to a drop-down menu, I can just hit the button and switch. All of my tracks that are recorded are coming back up on the same channels on the console, so we can listen to it in real time and make changes, get compression levels, and dial in EQs. It’s very handy when you’re trying to get a tom EQ or a tom gate set. You can just dupe a section of the toms, press Play, and keep hitting the same tom over and over again and set your gates and EQ and then move on to the next. It’s a very handy process. Another cool thing is you can assign a color to a button and it’s got a dual function. For example, it can be green when it’s on and red when it’s off, which is really handy in the dark.”



With the tour now in full force, McCullagh says he’s not surprised rave reviews are flooding in, given the stellar level of music, lighting and video offered at a time when many show productions are scaling back. “I haven’t seen this level of production for a theatre show,” he marvels. “Not in this day and age when people are dealing with shrinking budgets because of financial constraints. But even with our tight budget, these guys have managed to make it feel like the stadium shows the way Queen used to do it. That’s the level of production that they’ve put together and they’ve done a fantastic job because, whether you’re a Queen fan or not, you’re going to walk out of the show saying, ‘Wow! That was amazing! I definitely got my money’s worth!’

“Another thing: In this era, where tons of bands are using Pro Tools rigs and playing to backing tracks, we don’t have any. Everything that you hear is 100% live. All the harmonies are from the guys singing. There is no miming, no tracks, no help. In fact, I haven’t worked with a band in a long time, except Lucinda Williams, who hasn’t used backing tracks. On this tour, there’s nothing, and I think that’s pretty impressive. The band and singers are awesome and they are going to blow people’s minds. But what do you expect when you’ve got Roger and Brian at the controls, handpicking them?”

SD11 Does Active Duty Aboard the Navy’s USS Stennis ‘Tiger Cruise’

The rugged portability of DiGiCo’s SD11 was never utilized to fuller effect than on its latest voyage aboard the United States Navy’s active-duty USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier from Hawaii to San Diego. In one of its more unusual gigs, Broadcast Support designated the SD11 in tandem with a full dB Technologies PA—to handle all the audio functions for the seven-day Tiger Cruise, open to the aircraft carriers crew family and friends (aka “tigers”) as a reward for excellent service.

The $19,950 road-cased mixer was so ultra-compact that MacWest rep Steve McNeil, who aided Broadcast Support in the production, was able to check it as luggage on his flight from Long Beach, California to the ship, which was docked in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The mixer and PA were both craned aboard the ship and hoisted off again in San Diego when the return cruise ended a week later.

For the event’s myriad productions, a stage was built in an enclosed steel room below deck in the ship’s hangar where planes and helicopters were stored. The SD11 was rolled in and out every night to handle the musical entertainment for the troops provided by the Kelly Bell Band, and presentations which included two air shows, a 26-act talent show performed by service members, a “rap-off” hosted by the band, readings, and an awards ceremony commending top sailors presented by the commanding officer.

“The SD11 was pressed into service handling diverse audio tasks from mixing the front of house PA, monitors and IEM, to the delay speakers from a matrix,” explained McNeil. “Being that this was a working ship, this gig was challenging on so many levels, as we were at the mercy of the ship and the operations crew and therefore our schedule needed to be flexible. Needless to say, the week-long festivities turned out amazing and the console, operated by our engineer Karl Weidman, performed flawlessly. Karl hung out after every performance to play more with the SD11. He had quite a bit of fun mixing on it and was amazed at the big, open sound he was able to get from such a compact mixer. An SD9 is now his next purchase.”

“The SD11 is the perfect mixer where tons of performance is required in a very compact footprint,” offered Broadcast Support’s founder and President Scott Ramsey. “The show simply wouldn’t have happened with a conventional analog console and racks of effects, which the SD11 replaced. We love the console so much that DiGiCo should change the name from the ‘SD11’ to the ‘SD!!’”

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Illinois St Matthew UMC Church Goes Fully Digital With DiGiCo

After years of research, St. Matthew United Methodist Church undertook a major renovation of its technology systems in 2009, including making the leap from analog to digital installing a DiGiCo SD8 as its main audio console. Continuing its digital progression, the house of worship recently added an SD9 with D-Rack (connected to the SD8 via DiGiCo’s Little Red Box), replacing an analog desk at the hub of its video production suite to handle the increased complexity of its productions. Church media consultant Phil Mahder of Training Resources and Ben Shipman, president of AVA Audio Video Associates again assisted in the transition, working with house broadcast engineer DJ Rockwell.

“St. Matthew has been pleased with their SD8 at FOH since they got it 2 years ago,” Mahder conveyed. “The production level for their large dramas has made the mixer a must—even their Sunday services have had so much complexity that they are using the potential of the SD8 routinely. Not only do they have a lot of sources on stage, but they also do a rapid and complete changeover between services as they switch music styles. The church has been on local cable for many years, producing a quality product in both content and production value. Since getting the SD8, they have realized that the analog console in the video control room has been a limitation. Although they have remote control over the SD8 from the video station, there were conflicts at times between the goals of the FOH operators and the video operators. When the SD9 was introduced, we all quickly realized that this would be the perfect replacement for the analog console in the video control room, making FOH and video independent and completely digital. With the SD9′s affordable price tag, everyone was in agreement.”

Ironically, the DiGiCo SD systems were Rockwell’s first foray into the digital mixing realm. Growing up at St. Matthew and actively involved in the media ministry for the past 10 years, he’s a third generation broadcast engineer with a keen interest in trending technology—particularly as it relates to video production. He found the DiGiCo desks to have a well-thought-out design offering an intuitive ease of use and fantastic sound quality.

“When we originally put the system in, back in 2009, we knew that there would be some more upgrades to come—especially for the video mix,” Rockwell said. “We started off mixing for video with an analog console, and then switched to a computer running the SD8 remotely. We were all in agreement that the new SD9 would be ideal for us, and were able to demo one prior to purchase. In fact, I was able to make a demo reel that showed how much it would improve the quality of our videos, which very much helped to convince the committees in charge of granting the funding. The SD9 proved to be the perfect solution for our problem and improved our productions greatly.”

Once the console was installed, Rockwell recalled, it was ready to run within an hour. “It sounded great and the processing was seamless. The snapshots were very smooth and easily customizable. St. Matthew is a house of worship that has been into technology for a long time, and we do our best to stay on the cutting edge. We started airing our services on cable more than 25 years ago, and now also stream live. On Sundays, we have three services back-to-back with no time for rehearsals in between and can be as simple as three mics and as extreme as 75-plus inputs. The SD8 and SD9 made these 15- and 20-minute switchovers—from Traditional to Contemporary to Blended with choir and orchestra—possible. Besides our normal worship services, we also put on two technically intensive productions each year, at Easter and Christmas, with a cast, crew, and orchestra of over 300. Having this kind of digital footprint—with all the bells and whistles it affords—is a must-have for what we do.”

DiGiCo’s Little Red Box (LRB) played an integral role in integrating the SD8 with the SD9. “It allowed us to take the second MADI I/O on the SD8, run it into the LRB—which is then sent to the SD9 over CAT5E. This enables us to send the local inputs on the SD8 to the SD9 using direct outs.”

From the crew to the congregation, everyone at the church has been extremely pleased with the SD9. “It’s really improved the audio quality of our worship services and productions,” Rockwell concluded. “We stream our services live and air them on cable, the quality of which has noticeably improved by our members who watch on line or at home.”

DiGiCo SD5 Debuts at ProLight+Sound

A decade after the launch of the D5 Live, British audio solutions manufacturer DiGiCo launches its new incarnation, the SD5. As you would expect, the SD5 fits directly into the D5’s shoes, but benefits from the advancements made possible by DiGiCo’s proprietary Stealth Digital Processing™.

“We’ve evolved a lot over the past decade, both in terms of the way we use the available technology and our understanding of what our customers really want and need,” says DiGiCo’s managing director, James Gordon. “SD5 is the culmination of that combined knowledge, so we want to make it the next generation D5 Live.”

The SD5’s worksurface is a low noise, heat dissipation worksurface benefiting from Hidden-til-lit (HTL) technology, yet its five digitally driven full colour TFT LCD screens, three of which are touch sensitive, have a new configuration that allows easy access to single or multiple users. There are also two interactive dynamic metering displays (IDM) and quick access buttons are positioned down the left side of the channel screens for fast and easy navigation.

Incorporating the master screen into the worksurface design has allowed for complete user feedback, but maintained a lower profile meter bridge. This still allows clear visibility of those on stage for the user, with everything in close reach to the mix position.

As with all SD range consoles, the SD5’s superior headroom, dynamic range and audio quality are of paramount importance and its feature set surpasses any other console in its class.

As standard, the SD5 comes with a 2Gb fibre optic system, which is capable of running 448 channels of I/O at 96kHz, plus 56 console-to-console tie lines, allowing connection to up to 14 of the SD variant racks. There are three redundant MADI ports and local I/O includes eight microphone inputs, eight line outputs and eight AES I/O (mono).

The SD5 has 124 input channels; 56 configurable busses, plus up to 5.1 master; a 24 x 24 fixed matrix; DiGiTubes on every channel, buss and output; 24 assignable Dynamic EQ; 24 multiband compressors; 24 stereo effects; 32 Graphic EQ; 10 x 4 (40) RGB backlit macro buttons; plus the ability to add a Waves upgrade.

“The SD5 has some DiGiCo added extras as well,” adds Gordon. “The D5 Live was the first ever console to have an integrated light bar, so of course, the SD5 has that as well. We’ve also included keyboard illumination and convenient headphone hooks to save you having to borrow a drumstick to hang up your headphones.

“The D5 was at the forefront of the live world moving over to digital mixing and SD5 is the perfect way of taking that pioneering spirit to the next level.”

Lenny Kravitz Tours With Expanded & Mirrored DiGiCo SD7 & SD11 Audio Rigs

After a nearly five year hiatus—and eight gold and platinum albums of retro soul and rock ’n’ roll—Lenny Kravitz takes to the global highway with an 8-piece backing band in support of his latest and ninth studio album, Black and White America. Taking musical cues from the past while looking forward in true Kravitz style, he pulls together a wide range of musical and cultural influences.

Working with Mike “Spagoo” Sprague of Sound Image, production/FOH engineer Laurie Quigley crafted an elaborate touring rig that would allow them to retain the high audio quality Kravitz demanded, regardless of the venue size. These two mirrored systems are comprised of DiGiCo SD7s at both FOH and Monitors (with engineer Dan Horton, pictured at right) for use on bigger show dates, with a pair of diminutive SD11s for use on the band’s myriad promo gigs and fly dates.

“I’ve been using the SD7,” Quigley states, “because it is the best sounding digital control service available. More to the point, DiGiCo products just sound better. The SD7 has everything I need right under my fingertips. I added the newer SD11s on this tour so that we could maintain the quality that Lenny has become accustomed to, on small press and TV shows. With space issues, the 32 Flexi channels on the SD11 were perfect. We maxed this little baby out, but it did the job very well. In fact, we are now also using the SD11 for our support band, Raphael Saadiq, on this leg of the tour.”

Quigley also carries an external rack of effects to administer on Lenny’s boutique sound and vocal effects—a BSS 901 and Empirical Lab distressors for Lenny’s vocals, Smart compressors for the sound system and also for all the overheads, in addition to Bricasti reverbs, Culture Vulture distortion units, Leslie vocal effects, Lexicon 960, dBx 120x, 3 x SDE 3000 delay units and a H3500, to name but a few.

Quigley offers his no-bull advice to getting the most out of any audio system. “Let’s get back to basics, lets plug a mic in, see what sounds better, and then start from there. Too many people have forgotten their basics. If you present a properly tuned sound system, the right mic in the right place, and let it breath and do its job with a good control console, you won’t need a plug-in on every channel to start off with. My advice? Learn how to properly tune a sound system, get a DiGiCo mixing console and don’t over-think it. Simplicity breeds consistency. If it sounds good, leave it alone.”

“Let’s forget all the b******t and just plug a mic into a channel and let’s see which one of these wonderful digital control consoles sound like a soundboard. DiGiCo products sound like soundboards, like the analog boards, that we who are old enough to remember, were brought up on. The SD7 sounds like a soundboard; like a more convenient version of an XL-4. But better, smaller, lighter, quicker and more adaptable. It’s all there under one console, not 2 or 3 very large and HEAVY soundboards. And, the new DiGiCo SD 96kHz racks rock!”

UK Digital Console Manufacturer DiGiCo Chosen For Live Music Production At 54th Annual GRAMMY® Awards

UK-based digital console manufacturer, DiGiCo, was the live music console of choice at the 54th Annual GRAMMY® Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, as specified by longtime show production partner ATK AudioTek. The 3-1/2 hour music celebration and ceremony garnered the second highest ratings of any GRAMMY airing with approximately 41 million viewers.

A combination of five of DiGiCo’s newer SD10 consoles (two as ‘redundant’ backups for monitors) along with one of its larger format SD7s handled FOH and monitor duties—for a total of 400+ I/O’s and 256 mic preamps distributed between 6 SD Racks—among four engineers in three locations within the Staples Center arena.

The entire PA system was powered by a versatile Optocore fiber optic network, which made it possible for the consoles to tie together seamlessly and also allowing the signal path to stay 100% digital from the mic preamps to amplifiers. Additionally, the Optocore network cut the traditional massive wire clutter down to merely two strands of fiber per console.

“The show’s producers continue to raise the bar in broadcast entertainment year after year and we needed to follow suit with the technology,” said Mikael Stewart, ATK’s production mixer and VP Special Events. “By using the best and most advanced tools, we guarantee the highest fidelity for every performance. The sonic quality of the DiGiCo consoles was one of the biggest assets this year, in addition to the Optocore infrastructure that allowed complete flexibility and accessibility.”

The process to vet the DiGiCo consoles began several years ago, when ATK began to contemplate making a switch from the consoles that had been used for nearly a decade. ATK’s Stewart along with audio consultant Jeff Peterson were instrumental in the decision to bring DiGiCo onboard and into the mix.

Peterson designed the show’s PA and console system and functioned as the systems engineer during the event, with assistance from audio consultant Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher. Ron Reaves was at front-of-house on an SD7 mixing all the musical performances alongside with Mikael Stewart, who handled all the non-music production assets on an SD10. On stage right and left respectively, Tom Pesa and Mike Parker facilitated monitor mixes for the artists on both performance stages on a pair of SD10s (with an additional two serving as ‘redundant’ backups).

“There was a noticeable difference in how the system sounded this year,” recalled Peterson, “and the comments and compliments came from touring and recording engineers alike. It’s not that the sound was bad in previous years by any means, but the overall intelligibility and the quality of the audio was noticeable. There was detail that we had never heard before, which we attributed to the addition of the DiGiCo consoles.”

“Not surprisingly, DiGiCo offers the most flexible, high performance range of digital audio mixing systems available today,” added Group One Ltd president Jack Kelly, DiGiCo’s US distributor. “With the expanding I/O and processing requirements of most of today’s large productions, including the recent GRAMMY awards show, the DiGiCo SD Range of consoles are ideal solutions for today’s engineers.”

Dual DiGiCo SD8 Systems At ZZ Top’s 1st Annual La Grange Fest Blow Away Band’s Live Sound & Satellite Radio Broadcast

ZZ Top pulled off their very first La Grange Fest in late October, pairing the timeless Tejas boogie kings with Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and country singer Jamey Johnson. Set just outside Austin in Bee Cave, the fest—and subsequent live broadcast on Sirius XM radio—was accomplished using DiGiCo‘s SD8 at the hands of the band’s engineer, Jamie “Jamo” Rephann. Both Jamo and monitor engineer Jake Mann have been rockin’ SD8s (Mann on an SD8-24) for several years on the band’s tours with production partner Clair Brothers.



The SD8 was in place when Jamo inherited the gig from engineer buddy Toby Francis. “He’d been raving about the DiGiCo’s and I just decided to go with it,” Jamo recalled. “I had been previously using a Venue Profile for AFI and The Mars Volta, but after hearing the difference between the Avid and DiGiCo, I was sold on the SD8, and don’t want to use anything else from now on.”



But it is the sonic quality of the SD8 that induces raves from the veteran engineer. “The DiGiCo sound is the best I’ve heard on a digital desk of any make or model, and I’ve used all of them from the Yamaha MC7 to the Midas XL8. Side-by-side, the SD8 smokes them both. I didn’t touch anything but a Midas XL 4 for like 10 years, and am a huge Midas fan… but they don’t hold a candle to the DiGiCo’s. The real difference came after mixing on a Venue Profile for 2 years (with a Big Ben as an external word clock). I ran some CD’s and was amazed at the sonic quality I was hearing. Everything was in the 160-500Hz area and the ‘air’ from 8-12k was back, almost like a great analog desk! I couldn’t believe my ears and was already kicking myself for not trying this desk earlier. It has the quality of a smooth analog sounding desk and I couldn’t be happier.”



The console’s I/O section and onboard features have proved versatile for handling the various house systems the 3-piece encounters from gig to gig. “I’m using a total of 38 inputs for ZZ Top, not including the 4 audience mics. I also have as many as 8 outputs a night to drive a variety of house systems—L, R, Sub, Center, Outfill, Delays, Smart, and SMPT for video that we run through my desk to lighting. I really love the delays on the output section, available on every output, and EQ and compression if you want it. But I have to tell you, I cannot live without using the multiband compressors on a few things because of the DiGiCo sound. They’re super-transparent and really do a wonderful job with everything I use them on. I use the multibands on both channels of vocals, kick and snare channel inserts, bass group, synth bass and guitar group. Also, the regular comps and gates sound great as well. They’re very smooth and warm-sounding with no “pumping” as it were. Additionally, I do some channel splitting and panning things on the guitars. I have 3 guitar channels that I make stereo and pan all the way. I’m also using my control groups to do most of my mixing as well as the normal subbing out of kick, snare, bass, vocals, guitars, and etcetera. Then I’ll use the compressors on the subgroups if needed… it kind of melds things together, if you will, a bit better in my opinion.”
 


With space often an issue in venues and on festival dates, the SD8′s compact footprint has paid off. “It’s really comes in handy so many times when space was an issue. I just use the desk and an easy tilt so I roll up with nothing other than a Smart tablet and my desk. It has really helped me get in and out at many festivals with a minimum of space and hassle.”



The band is recorded on every gig, which serves several functions, including virtual soundchecking. “Monitor engineer and resident SD8 guru Jake Mann multitracks each show using an RME MADIface card into a MacBook Pro using Logic,” explained Jamo. “And since the band does not soundcheck at all, virtual soundcheck is KEY to my show every day.”



At the LaGrange Festival, working in tandem with the Sirius and Skynyrd’s audio crews only reinforced Jamo’s love of the DiGiCo desk. “As usual, the console preformed amazing with no issues at all. I do love the uses of delay times on the outputs as I delayed the FOH mix to radio and added Sirius’ 2 audience mics. There was an additional Profile at FOH for Skynyrd and even with the external word clock the SD8 just smoked it. I hear their engineer is now going to try the DiGiCo after hearing our show, which just destroyed his profile sonic-wise and left it sounding limp and weak! There was none of the low-mids or shimmering highs with the Profile. He ran a mic through my desk and was stunned just at the vast improvement to his voice compared to the Avid… ‘Nuff said. Not to mention, the Sirius radio guys said that it was the best sounding live performance to air over Sirius.”

Canadian Indie Music Fest Rifflandia Gets Amped With DiGiCo

Canada’s Rifflandia Festival has been called Victoria’s version of SXSW, featuring some of the best and brightest Canadian and international indie artists. This year’s stellar lineup included 4 days of 110 artists on 9 stages and showcased bands from City and Colour and Cold War Kids to De La Soul and Blackalicious. Doug Lyngard of Victoria’s D.L. Sound & Lighting Productions handled three stages of the audio production for the event, rounding up two DiGiCo SD9s from its inventory, supplemented by an additional SD9 and SD11 provided by Vancouver’s Gerr Audio. The feedback from engineers handling the event—as well as the guest engineers who sat in with their bands—was nothing short of glowing, with all citing the ease of use and stellar sound among their favorite DiGiCo traits.

Lyngard purchased the SD9s back in 2010 and has used them on myriad festivals and events over the last year with great success. “The sonic quality of the console is the main reason why I purchased them,” he explained, “and of course, the DiGiCo name. I also like the fact that once you learn one SD console, you’re good to go on the rest of the series.”

At FOH on the festival Side Stage was Craig Brittain on an SD9. No stranger to DiGiCo, he’s been using DiGiCo consoles handling monitors for the better part of the last four years with Michael Buble. “After falling in love with DiGiCo and a D5 on a European tour with Michael, it became my go-to console of choice for any tour/artist. I am a big fan of the DiGiCo sound and currently am using an SD7 as we tour around the world.

At Rifflandia, having a chance to spend a bit of time on the smaller SD9, I was impressed at how DiGiCo have managed to keep the sonic quality utilizing the Stealth Digital Processing. It’s nice with the DiGiCo to know what you are getting yourself into and how things are going to sound. From the SD9 to the SD7—and now the new additions to the SD line—nothing matches where DiGiCo is at sonically. Having taken the next step in processing using Stealth technology, it’s easy to forget the limits of traditional DSP chip configurations. I have said it before and will repeat it until I am blue in the face, but nothing on the market compares to that of any DiGiCo consoles!”

“When looking at the festival line-up I was responsible for, and knowing I was going to be using an SD9, I simply came up with a template the day/night before the first day of shows that I programmed in to accommodate all of the bands and was good to go for the first soundcheck the following day. I knew that my knowledge of the console would aid the visiting engineers with little or no experience on the desk. Any artist with the luxury of a morning soundcheck, I simply stored the snapshot and carried about the rest of the day!”

Over at the Metro Theatre stage on an SD11, it was FOH engineer Jim Kent’s first time on a DiGiCo. With only a day of preparation prior to the fest, he found the console’s interface and layout extremely intuitive to use. “The graphic interface was fantastic! I found it very helpful that the screen was speaking to me in an analog/graphic way. I really liked the channel layouts and found them very natural for mixing on the fly. I had some guest FOH engineers with a few of the bands and they found it very easy to navigate. We all particularly liked the fact that the controls were right below the compressor graphics, i.e. threshold/ratio/attack. I also found the FX rack to be very easy to manipulate the same way, and was able to pull live echo repeats and reverb effects on the fly. Being a festival setup, we went from 4 channels to 32 in less than 30 minutes… add a vintage guitar pedal as a vocal effect and a video feed, and all was accomplished well within time. The SD9 performed perfectly and did not get in the way of the creative process. The DiGiCo, too, sounded great. I had a solo artist on stage at one point and the console was able to reproduce voice and guitar with all the meat one needs and get the spit in the throat that I like to hear on an intimate vocal.”

Another DiGiCo newbie was engineer Tim Herron, stationed on an SD9 at monitor world at the Alix Goolden Hall. Given the task of operating both lights and monitors for multiple bands an evening—and with no hands-on time prior to the event—Herron found the console allowed him to work quickly and efficiently. “Arriving at 1pm we did the first show at 9pm and that was without even having seen the board before. I was able to learn how to navigate everything I needed and get up to speed relatively easily without having to have a dumbed-down feature set, and the SD9 had a nice combination of great features combined with pure usability. I felt like the board was working for me and not the other way around (which is not always the case with digital consoles). The SD9 had the look and feel of an analog console with its ability to label and save during soundcheck. During the festival, we had some very hardcore analog-console-using FOH engineers. One said that it was the best-sounding digital board he had encountered and another said that it was the most sonically transparent console she had used. My impressions were that the sound quality was superior to the other digitals I have used and that the console certainly was an excellent choice for an event like Rifflandia where sonic quality was the major consideration in intimate event venues. I know that I will be looking forward to using this console again.”

Mixing FOH at the Alix Goolden Hall was Paul Gatien on another SD9. Gatien’s extensive experience mixing on the console for the 2010-2011 summer seasons at Victoria’s Butchart Gardens proved invaluable—with a diverse entertainment schedule showcasing around 64 shows from folk and Jazz to classic rock and the Victoria Symphony. “The SD9 proved handy especially for the store and recall ability when dealing with the repeat and weekly shows, both at Butchart and Rifflandia. The sonic quality of the SD9 was amazing, too; it didn’t have that ‘digital edge’ that I have encountered with other digital consoles.”

Handling up to 32 channels of inputs from the stage at Rifflandia, Gatien opted for a basic festival stage microphone patch as they were missing some of the technical riders from the artists. Fortunately, most bands were able to soundcheck prior to their sets, which helped with changeovers.

“To avoid gain sharing, we used a passive splitter snake and sent a monitor split to a D-Rack located at the monitor mix position and another split to a D-Rack located at the FOH position. At FOH I used 2 line outs from the D-Rack for the Left and Right speaker mains and 1 output for the lip fill speakers. I also used 2 line outputs for the balcony fills. I ran all of these outputs as Matrix outputs off the Master fader. Being able to store the soundcheck and then recall the settings for the show was probably my favorite feature of the SD9. I stored each soundcheck as a session file and then recalled it for the show. In order to be consistent, I made up a session file template and at the end of each soundcheck made sure that I was consistent in what channels I had muted and/or left turned on, such as the music from the laptop. This way as I was loading the next band’s session file all parameters would stay the same and there was no noticeable transition from one bands session file to the next.”

Philadelphia’s Annenberg PAC Celebrates 40th Anniversary With 
Complete Audio Overhaul

The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Pennsylvania celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. As one of the nation’s preeminent urban performing arts centers on a major university campus, the center has a storied history in the performing arts, presenting world-renowned and emerging artists and companies in its four-decade history. Leading up to the anniversary, the goal was to bring one of its main venues, the Zellerbach—a 900-seat proscenium theatre that accommodates a wide array of events, including dance, theatre, music, comedy, lectures, meetings and teleconferences—up to date and revamp its nearly 20-year-old audio system in its entirety. This complete renovation encompassed the upgrade of the FOH console to a DiGiCo SD9, and replacing the archaic PA with a Clair Brothers R2T PA system in a LCR configuration, comprising Clair CS18-II subs, QSC PL series amps and BSS London processing. 



“The Zellerbach Theatre has a rich history in the Philadelphia area and the hopes for the upgrade were to have all the elements in place for the anniversary—as a sort of unveiling,” explained Annenberg sound engineer, Daniel Araco, who ran point on the project and worked with both Clair and the Annenberg’s finance department to secure funding and approve work schedules. “The project was sparked by Madison Cario, Director of Operations and Special Artistic Initiatives at the Center. Replacing the system would have been the most desirable outcome, however that was not in the budget, so renovation was the best option. Since Roy Clair installed the original system, we scheduled Clair Bros. to tackle the project. Clair’s Project Manager/System Designer Timothy Owen Mazur put together a scope of work to replace the speaker and horn components, repower the system and upgrade the amplifiers/DSP, and to purchase a new console. The goal of trying to achieve a lot with a limited budget was the challenge.”

For consideration as a console option, Mazur pointed Araco in the direction of a DiGiCo SD9 as a viable solution and with the capability to handle both FOH and monitor functionalities from its location on the theatre’s right side under the balcony. Taking several consoles for trial runs, Araco knew immediately that the SD9 would fill the bill and more.

“The SD9 had many of the desirable features we were looking for and the price point was right in line with what was budgeted for our space,” Araco added. “However, one function was most important to us when we considered the best choice console for the theatre: for a multi-disciplinary venue like the Annenberg Center—where everyday we serve the needs of theatre, dance, university events, student productions, many different music genres and even televised events—flexibility was a key factor. Being able to quickly and easily serve all of those artists is not just cost-effective it’s what we’ve built our reputation upon. The large full-color 15″ LCD touch screen and scribble strips ensured that all functions of the system were available immediately without having to scroll through multiple menus or having to use a mouse. The automation and ‘snapshot’ capabilities made it easy to store cues for multiple theatrical situations with ease, and the sonic performance/transparency that the SD9 provided to my ear is what sold me on the worksurface immediately. To my ear, the DiGiCo sold itself. Probably the most challenging hurdle in spec’ing the SD9 was the digital divide. I’ve spent my entire career on an analog desk, so for me it was like going from a typewriter to computer. The DiGiCo was the best possible solution to drag me into 21st century and the transition was very smooth with Clair Audio Systems and DiGiCo. We have gone through the DiGiCo training and they have always been available for questions should we need it, and this has really solidified our relationship.”

In addition, and with monies saved, Araco was able to put together an on-stage monitor system with the house analog console and the purchase of a split to add-on to their existing floor monitors a few additional db Technologies speakers.

Now that the theatre’s new system is up and running and the 2011/2012 Season is well underway, everyone involved is thrilled with the outcome. “Everyone is pleased with the sonic performance of the new systems, and other engineers are excited to see the new workspace and eager to check out the interface—even first-time engineers are able to understand the basics of the console with a few short lessons. The venue staff are happy to see the replacement of several large snakes near the aisle with a nearly invisible CAT-5 cable. But perhaps the biggest endorsement is from the stage crews, who no longer have to lug massive, heavy analog rentals up and down two flights of stairs to reach the mix position!”

“The project, which started with discussion and budgets during the summer of 2010,” Araco recalled, “was completed in several stages over the course of the spring and summer of 2011. We are now poised to show off the completed renovation for our 40th anniversary season… just as we had hoped.”

Pro Audio Monitoring System Manufacturer Blue Sky Creates YouTube Video Aimed At Consumers & End-Users

Pro audio monitoring system manufacturer, Blue Sky, has maintained a core philosophy since its inception in 2001: to design and offer products that represent the highest ratio of performance-to-cost as well as a superior sound experience for its customers—from home enthusiasts to entertainment content creation professionals. Taking a cue from its in-depth website “Key Concepts” section, which addresses the company’s philosophy on topics ranging from the “Basics of Bass Management” to the “Truth About Subwoofers”, Blue Sky has created an in-depth video on its own YouTube channel to promote the company, its philosophy and the full line of components and systems it offers for home, personal, and professional studio use. 


Targeted to the end-user and consumer, Blue Sky’s first foray into the world of video was produced by Andrew Wild of Wild Touch Productions. Just over 7 minutes, the video outlines the complete Blue Sky story and showcases the full-range professional monitoring components and lines—from the entry-level 2.1 desktop eXo2 to the mid- and large-scale music/film dubbing systems including MediaDesk, ProDesk, Sky System One and Big Blue. Additionally, you’ll hear raves and reviews from two of Blue Sky’s professional proponents, Chris Unthank, Director of Transfer Operations at Larson Studios and Audio Director/Gaming Sound Designer Greg Allen (formerly of UbiSoft and Electronic Arts).

“Our intention with this new video is essentially to reintroduce the brand to the customer through social media outlets including YouTube and Facebook,” said Blue Sky Vice President Chris Fichera. “Outside of the traditional sales and marketing arena, we want to speak directly to our end-users to reiterate what we are about technically, what makes the Blue Sky brand and products unique—including offering components designed to complement each other and seamless systems built around the bass management concept, and to offer a few raves from some of our hardest-working customers. That’s what we were after and I believe we achieved it.”

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