… or I’m a better tool user than you.

A resurrected thread over at PSW’s Live Audio Board Classic Forum® More on rider madness: How many people would ask for refunds if…. brings up the “current reality” of an earlier discussion about how much our coveted “Big Iron Analog” and “Upper Crusty Digitale” mixers have to do with creating a sonic outcome acceptable to the punters.

I placed my vote in the “nobody would want a refund” category.

Why? As a system guy I get to hear the same rigs in the same rooms with a rotation of consoles, analog and digital, expensive and less so, foreign and domestic… When I hear audio coming from our systems instead of music, blaming the console is the last thing on my list. I’ve heard stunning musicality with MixWiz and “musical” noise with Pro 6; garbage and greatness from a PM4000; genius and mediocrity mixed with VENUE. Sometimes I heard each end of the spectrum with the same console, rig, room, and *mixerperson*, on the same night.

On a recent show we provided a VENUE Profile/Mixrack for local and “30 minute” touring support, the headline artist carried a DiGiCo, and the “45 minute” touring support had an X32 with a pair of S16. We did a hard-wire patch for each desk directly into the PA. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t find anything I disliked that could be attributed to the desk. All in all, the 45 Minute act’s BE did a good job for them (I think he did mons from FOH w/ipad). The headliner’s BE had a nice mix, and I tried to not damage the local or 30 Minute act’s sets. 😉

For the title of this post, I have to ‘fes up and admit to having a little problem with Plug Ins. I like them. I really like the Pultec EQ and the Fairchild compressors and Waves C6 and Serrato EQ… Could I mix shows without those? Sure. Would they sound the same? NO. Would they be acceptable to the punters? Almost certainly. Would the band notice? Maybe. Would I notice? Absolutely.

So, kids, I have a little different question than Doug Fowler… we know the punters won’t hear a qualitative difference in the audio itself. At what point, by what criteria, do you justify going from the “value” models to the various echelons of mixer stratus?

7 COMMENTS

  1. Not caring and not noticing are two very different things…

    In reality I think there are a couple of factors here:

    1) How much the audio matters to punter enjoyment depends on the rest of the production. If there is a crazy video package, great lighting and cool effects/automation/pyro everywhere, then people are drawn into the spectacle and you can get away with a lot in audio world. On the other hand, put a simple band in a simple production setup, and all of a sudden people notice the audio more.

    2) Punters notice more than we give them credit for, its just that their perspective on a concert is different. They might have saved for a month for the tickets, they might have been waiting a year to see their favorite band, etc… They often come into a show with a lower threshold for enjoyment. Provided the artist shows up and does a half decent set, they’ll have a great night out. On the other hand, we work with it every day for months, and so we are much more prone to notice the small things.

    So, my point is this. Punters notice a lot more than we give them credit for, it just often doesn’t affect their enjoyment. They’ve come for an experience, not just a mix. The mix affects that experience, but not in as overt a way as it does us.

    In that sense, this just becomes about cost:benefit like everything else. The higher you go up the gear ladder, the higher the cost for each incremental benefit. If you can justify that, great. If not, stick with the M7. Simple.

  2. Chris, I’m not debating whether or not the punters will be able to define a console difference. They won’t, and even if they could, would the console choice alone change their perception of the show? No.

    Lets keep this to how WE, as mixerpersons as engineers, justify increasing expenses that result in diminishing public returns.

  3. OK fair enough, but as a mix engineer, I put a proposal to production for the gear i’d like. This is based on a combination of what the band need, what the venue(s) need, and my personal preferences. If production are happy with the total spend versus artist profit, then everyone is a winner. It is literally no more complicated than that.

    I have literally never been in a situation where going over budget has come down to my console. And in situations where I’m speccing SD7s, its for good reason.

    So in short, I don’t really have to make that justification, because console costs are not getting crazy (they’re actually getting cheaper…).
    Even if I did, its easy. I’ll have what I feel I need to do my job. Its not making tickets more expensive, and its not hurting production. If they thought I was too expensive or asked for too much, they’d hire one of the myriad of other capable people in our industry.

    I agree with you, that console changes don’t equal refunds, I guess I just don’t see that as a good reason to only use the lowest common denominator of kit…

  4. I use what was provided.

    This weekend I did shows on a SL16.4.2, a GL3800, a Verona, and a Profile. If I include last weekend, you can add an X32 and a LS9 to the list. I like to think that I am flexible enough that I could mix the way I wanted and was appropriate to the rest of the rig on all four consoles. In none of these cases was the console the weak link in the rig. So if the console is matched to the rig, that seems justification enough. However, my comfort level varies from console to console depending on how often I have used one recently, and even how the provider has chosen to patch things.

    I wonder how much of the insistence on a particular console comes from familiarity rather than sonic reasons. I see a Profile maybe twice a year, I see SC48’s quite a bit more. Every time I step up to a Profile there is a moment of confusion because everything is familiar but not quite the same. I find myself double checking everything I am doing until I get back into a workflow.

  5. [QUOTE=Jay Barracato;bt839]I use what was provided.

    This weekend I did shows on a SL16.4.2, a GL3800, a Verona, and a Profile. If I include last weekend, you can add an X32 and a LS9 to the list. I like to think that I am flexible enough that I could mix the way I wanted and was appropriate to the rest of the rig on all four consoles. In none of these cases was the console the weak link in the rig. So if the console is matched to the rig, that seems justification enough. However, my comfort level varies from console to console depending on how often I have used one recently, and even how the provider has chosen to patch things.

    I wonder how much of the insistence on a particular console comes from familiarity rather than sonic reasons. I see a Profile maybe twice a year, I see SC48’s quite a bit more. Every time I step up to a Profile there is a moment of confusion because everything is familiar but not quite the same. I find myself double checking everything I am doing until I get back into a workflow.[/QUOTE]

    You are such a push over, Jay. Come do a gig with our production and I’ll force you to use whatever you want from our inventory! That’ll teach you a lesson!

    /witty repartee

    My point for this blog post was to find out how a BE or PM can justify to accountants the increased budget for using the higher priced spreads instead of the of 37% corn oil, or even getting butter!

    In my mind, familiarity is a big reason; so is conformity to workflow. At some point, though, I foresee the sharp pencil folks saying, “okay, what is it about Mixer Z @ $1000 a week and Mixer K @ $300 a week, why can’t you use Mixer K?” How do we “sell” the needed capabilities? How do we explain these things to folks who are connected to the biz, but are not technicians or artists?

    And I agree about the Profile/SC48. I learned the Venue ways on the SC48, a year later we added a Profile/MixRack rig. I still reach in the wrong places so I’ve taken to using the screen and mouse more often that I ever thought I would.

  6. Honestly, at some point I think it is going to come down to time: i.e. rent me a more expensive board that takes me a shorter time to prepare, or pay me longer time to use the cheaper board. However; the reality has to be a compromise between function and cost. After all, not everyone drives the cheapest cars possible even though they serve the same basic transportation function as the most expensive.

    My fundamental justification is always to match the FOH to the system and the revenue of the show. A $10000 or less board seems appropriate to a $50000 system. If the system is worth $200000, then a $40000 doesn’t seem out of line. As a percent, the higher the level of the system, the less the console is of the total.

    And if that doesn’t work, ask the pencil pusher to see a picture of their 10 year old Hyundai, because anything else is just extravagence.

  7. [QUOTE=Jay Barracato;bt855]Honestly, at some point I think it is going to come down to time: i.e. rent me a more expensive board that takes me a shorter time to prepare, or pay me longer time to use the cheaper board. However; the reality has to be a compromise between function and cost. After all, not everyone drives the cheapest cars possible even though they serve the same basic transportation function as the most expensive.

    My fundamental justification is always to match the FOH to the system and the revenue of the show. A $10000 or less board seems appropriate to a $50000 system. If the system is worth $200000, then a $40000 doesn’t seem out of line. As a percent, the higher the level of the system, the less the console is of the total.

    And if that doesn’t work, ask the pencil pusher to see a picture of their 10 year old Hyundai, because anything else is just extravagence.[/QUOTE]

    I just want to say: a Hyundai from 10 years ago is probably one of the worst cars you could own.

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