Kylie Minogue Tours with DiGiCo SD7 Mixing Console
Matt Napier is monitor engineer for Kylie Minogue and has been with her since the summer of 2010. His mixing console of choice is a DiGiCo SD7, chosen because it is a desk that can grow as the tour’s remit expanded.
“We’re at the end of the UK leg of the Aphrodite – Les Folies tour and heading off to America,” says Napier. “The SD7 has done a fantastic job so far. It’s done everything we hoped for.”
The console, part of audio supplier Solotech’s inventory for the tour, is currently running at just 60% of its capability. There are approximately 86 inputs from stage and, with the addition of talkback and effects returns, the channel count runs to around 110. There are 14 stereo and six mono sends for effects subs and thumpers, plus several stereo mic groups, which are used for shout mics around the stage, and a 16×12 matrix, used for backups and spurs.
“The left hand side of the console is for my main input channels,” explains Napier. “The right hand side has all the outputs, plus a custom bank for the vocal inputs and Kylie’s output channels. We’re fully integrated into the show’s comms systems, so the desk is a communications hub as well as mixing the show.”
In terms of mixing, Napier finds things fairly straightforward. “But that’s easy to say after eight weeks of band rehearsals,” he says. “We’re making use of the video display on the desk by having a feed from the CCTV camera footage – we have quad split, one for each of the musicians. I’ve found it incredibly useful because where I’m positioned, I can’t see most of the musicians during the show.”
Napier has the SD7’s top bank of faders layered as the in-ear inputs and the bottom is VCAs. “I’m doing something slightly different and running Kylie’s mix on the left right buss [is this correct?], so she is post fade,” he says. “I’m using the VCAs to mix her on and I also sub group things down into a music mix and a sub group mix, which has dynamic compression. This keeps things nice and tight and also means that when we go from song to song, the volume doesn’t change too much.
“The other advantage to running on groups is that I’m using the macros. The first bank is a delay over the music mix, so as Kylie moves down the catwalk, we delay her music mix sequentially. This means that I’m effectively reducing the acoustic length of the catwalk, which is about 60 feet long, by 30ms. This stops the clatter that she hears in her ears as her microphone picks up the PA as she walks past it. It’s something I’ve experimented with on other tours and it’s always been a bit complicated, but the SD7’s given me the ability to do it really easily.”
Napier has additional macros that control a variety of functions, such as turning the gates off on the drum kit and to switch between Kylie’s microphones. “She has three main Sennheiser mics for the show: silver, gold and black and then a spare,” says Napier. “There’s also an additional mic that is customised for waterproofing – the show involves 11,000 gallons of water during the encore, so the mic does get wet!
“We’re also using the console as an AES switcher for FOH. The digital signal for the mics comes into the console on AES and then I send it direct out to FOH. This means that when I change the mic here, it changes at FOH without having to tell Kevin [Pruce, FOH engineer]. So far it’s worked amazingly well.”
Napier has found the screen set up on the SD7 a big advantage, with the ability to toggle from an individual bank’s inputs to being able to see everything on that layer. “In different parts of the show, I’ll sit with it in this configuration so I can see what’s going on with all the inputs,” he explains. “Then, if I’m doing something specific, I’ll switch back to the individual channels.
“The advantage with the TFT screens is that you can see the gates, dynamic EQ, etc, at a single glance. The fact that the centre section splits means you can get a lot of feedback from the desk. I think the SD7 is the only console out there that gives you this much visual feedback in one hit.”
In terms of sound quality, Napier feels that DiGiCo has always been ahead of the game, but the SD7 has a noticeable difference.
“It’s significantly better,” he concludes. “This is a superbly capable desk and I’d definitely take it out on another tour.”