Taking a bunch of IEM mixes to the console du jour tour
Inspired by Evan's blog posting about some of the stuff he's been doing on the road, I thought I'd do the same and write a bit about a console-du-jour tour I just did.
I've been touring a little while now doing monitors for an increasingly popular R&B act. In the states we can pull between 2500 and 6000 per night and typically tour in 3 trucks. We just finished a tour of the UK and Europe in one bus and trailer, only carrying backline, mics, and IEMs. It's quite a different setup than what we're used to, but that's what you need to do to grow an artist in a new market. We saw venues as small as 750 people and as large as selling out two nights in one market at 5500/night.
We decided to bring mics because we've spent a decent amount of time trying to find the perfect fit for each of our inputs. That way we at least had a good baseline to start with each day. Drums are mostly Sennheiser 900 series mics with 908s on toms and AKG 214s for overheads. Guitars are also AKG 214s. Lead vocal is an AKG D7 wireless system.
But this post really isn't about mics, it's about taking a tour that was previously 50 inputs and 30 outputs and doing it on whatever console we'd get that day. We saw quite the assortment of consoles and with top-market IEMs shoved in everyone's ears, you really hear the differences between consoles day-to-day.
The most popular digital console we saw was a Profile… partially dictated by our rider and partially dictated by availability. To me the Profile is a good standard. Its results are reliable and it sounds decent. The show has outgrown this desk though, as I've gone beyond 24 outputs. I also find that I can't write small enough to label the aux buttons properly with all the things they do. Hopefully in the next piece of hardware they'll put some LED displays by these buttons so I'm not getting the tape out.
The most popular analog console we saw was the Midas Siena and to be honest, it really is not a bad sounding console. Both the FOH guy (who on Siena days usually had a Verona) and I agreed that we wanted this desk to have a parametric high and low EQ band instead of the shelf, and I often found the Q to be a bit broad on the mid bands.
The best sounding desk was the Heritage 3000. Just about every bandmember came up to me and asked why it was so different. If my input list and output list wasn't growing, I'd probably try and talk the band into getting rid of automation for the sound of the Heritage. It didn't hurt that day that I also had a great outboard rack and the D&B sidefills I prefer to use.
The biggest surprise was not how bad the couple M7s we saw sounded - we were prepared for that - it was how bad the Soundcraft MH4 sounded. We soundchecked for longer than usual and I spent most of the show tweaking. Nothing I did made this console sound good.
The wild card was the Innovason Eclipse. While it didn't sound bad by any means, it was nothing special. When asked by the house crew what I thought at the end of the night, I said "I'm not gonna go out and rent one tomorrow, but it was fine." I never felt like the EQ was doing what it said it was and the single DB gain divisions and similarly blocky Q steps just didn't work for me. Additionally, I never felt I could get the gate to do what I wanted and it took me until almost the middle of the show to get the lead vocal compressor to a good spot.
The tour ended with me back on my preferred console, a Digico, and everything really came together for us. Being able to fully customize each fader bank with inputs and outputs got this complicated show to finally have my important inputs and outputs live on the top layer and optimized my workflow. Additionally, I make extensive use of macros, filling up each available button on the desk. Depending on how we grow over the summer, I'm looking to be on an SD10 or SD7 in the fall.