DiGiCo SD Lineup of Consoles Help Facilitate Concert Audio for Live Music Venues

DiGiCo SD lineup of consoles was critical in securing smooth sounding audio for multiple concerts around the world.

Stone Temple Pilots Travel First Class With DiGiCo’s SD12
From the very first product that bore the DiGiCo moniker, there is one thing that no one has argued about, no matter their console loyalties: the team in the UK pack a tremendous amount of power into a relatively small amount of space. And space was a consideration as alt-rock pioneers Stone Temple Pilots (STP), Bush, and The Cult teamed up for their summer-long, triple-headline Revolution 3 Touracross North America.

Speaking from the bus on a day off, Monitor Engineer and Crew Chief Sean Herman, FOH Engineer James “Hootsie” Huth, and System Engineer Chris Demonbreun held forth on the joys of the road and why they chose the DiGiCo SD12s that are at FOH and monitor world for the STP portions of each show.

“When we started this tour, everything had to fit into a trailer,” says Hootsie. “We started before this three-band run doing large clubs and small theaters. This being Stone Temple Pilots, it’s a rock band, we need maybe 24 inputs max. The traveling plans meant we had to go with the smallest frame size possible and it looked like the SD12 had all the inputs and horsepower we would need. So we decided it was time to see what they could do, and they’ve been fantastic. With the same audio quality as the bigger SD consoles and all the inputs we would need for gigs of many sizes and types, we just couldn’t pass up the chance to take out the SD12.”

Demonbreun concurs: “It’s just so simple. By the time I get the PA up in the air [the tour is out with an L-Acoustics K1/K2 package provided by Sound Image] and make my way to front of house, it’s usually already set up and ready to go.”

“One of the reasons we went with this package was because we could loop everything together via the DiGiCo 192k SD-Rack through the Optocore loop and share mic preamps and use the gain tracking feature which we’ve really enjoyed,” Hootsie continues. “The system is simple and the footprint is great for those times — we did a fair number of festivals — where there are seven other consoles at front of house and you need to shoehorn your way in there.”

The “who’s in charge” designation when it comes to gain tracking goes to Herman who says he had never used the feature before this tour. “It should probably be harder. But it’s just so simple that’s it’s just a part of the normal workflow now. If I need to goose a mic pre to get what I need on what can be a loud stage, I make the change and Hootsie’s console just takes care of it on his end. He never even knows I made a change.”

“Our guys [STP] have been together a long time and they are really stable sonically,” Hootsie explains. They’re also a really dynamic band so I’ve always had to leave plenty of headroom on each input. So, for me, preamp levels have stayed the same for years. But I’m doing a cumulative mix of all the channels into a left/right mix, and what Sean is doing on monitors is a very different deal. So when he first set things up, the gain settings of many of the inputs were hotter than I would have liked. But I just engaged the gain tracking and brought everything down 6-8 dB and it’s stayed the same ever since.”

Keeping signals in the digital domain was another big draw, says Demonbreun: “Everything you hear is coming to me from Hootsie’s console over AES at 96K and feeding the LA-RAKs for the K1/K2 system. Everything is digital from the time it leaves the mic pre until the time it hits the speakers.” AES distribution is handled by a Reidel RockNet system.

While both Hootsie and Herman use some Waves plug-ins, the bulk of the processing is handled on the console. “I’m not really big on outboard stuff,” says Hootsie. “I use some compression plug-ins occasionally, but in the heat of the moment, if I need to tweak something, I’m going to do it with what’s native on the console.”

With Revolution 3 being a three-band tour, a variety of desks are being used, so what sets the SD12s apart? “It really just keeps coming back to the size thing,” says Herman. “At least at monitor world, the SD12 is the smallest console out there. And I never have to feel like I’m missing anything or there is something I wish the console could do. When it comes to power versus size, the SD12 punches way above its weight.”

DiGiCo’s S21 delivers powerful, compact solution for rocking live music venue in Phuket
New York Bar is one of the most successful entertainment venues on the famous Bangla Road on the stunning island of Phuket, Thailand. Packed every night, this small venue packs a big punch and needed a compact mixing console that could match the club’s high energy output. The solution was a DiGiCo S21, supplied by Fuzion Far East, the British manufacturer’s Thailand distributor.

Success was not always synonymous with this particular venue, as Fuzion’s Joshua Oates explains: “The bar seemed to be in one of those spots that just didn’t work. It had been taken over and over again but failed each time. That is until its current owners came along and transformed it into one of the area’s best-loved night spots. To make absolutely sure success was guaranteed, they got in contact with us to supply them with the hottest audio gear in town that would suit their predominantly rock-based live show needs.”

New York Bar’s owner opted for the S21 as he knew it would give him all the DiGiCo power and audio quality in a cost-effective, compact format that would fit in the club’s extremely small control room.

Installed and commissioned along with a Nexo PA by Mr Team, one of Thailand’s largest audio production and installation companies, the S21 has been set up for ultimate ease of use for visiting sound engineers, who are enjoying both its simplicity and the ability to control it remotely from the iPad app.

“After a quick install and easy setup the S21 was hard at work running our live music venue,” says the bar’s owner. “It’s been an easy transition to DiGiCo and the S21 has helped New York Bar to be another great venue on the beautiful Pukhet Island, delivering great bands and great service. I’m looking forward to many more great sounding nights here. It really is a venue you must hear to believe.”

DiGiCo makes life easy at Pukkelpop
Pukkelpop, held over four days at the end of August, showcases an incredible variety of musical genres, from rock, to pop, to house and metal. It also hosts theatre, street entertainment and food from around the world. A major part of the audio production for this eclectic mixture of entertainment that has elevated Pukkelpop to being Belgium’s biggest and best alternative festival, is handled by production company PRG. DiGiCo was its choice of console for three of the festival’s stages including the Main stage, which hosted some of music’s biggest acts, including Dua Lipa, N.E.R.D, Arcade Fire and Kendrick Lamar.

The DiGiCo line up was SD10s on the Main and Marquee stages at both Front of House and monitor positions, and SD7s at both spots in the Dance Hall. Most bands took advantage of the house consoles, but if they did not, it was because they had brought their own DiGiCos with them.

“In the first two days of the festival, we saw eight SD12 brought in as guest consoles,” says DiGiCo’s Jaap Pronk who, along with the company’s Mark Saunders, was on site for the duration of the festival to provide the engineers with support. “One of these was Frank Voet, who came to Pukkelpop straight from the Lowlands festival. He mixed Warhola on the Marquee stage, then moved to Main stage where he mixed Oscar and the Wolf, which sounded fabulous. The following day he also mixed Bazart. All of this was made easy through his pre-programming of the console.”

PRG’s Patrick Demoustier was in charge of the engineers’ prep room, which housed both an SD7 and SD10, where he and Jaap ran PCs with offline software and session converters.

“In this way we could easily convert a session from any SD file to an SD10 or SD7 and implement all the festival settings in the consoles,” explains Pronk. “For those engineers that didn’t have pre-prepared session files, there were standard festival sessions already loaded as templates on the consoles, so the guest engineers only had to implement their track lists. If needed Patrick, the crew from our Belgium distributor Amptec or I could give them ‘speed training’ on the fly.”

With a session ready, the files were uploaded to a festival Dropbox. All FOH and monitor positions were continuously online, so before the guest engineer reached the stage, the file was loaded and working on the console.

Running in parallel with Pukkelpop was the Lowlands festival in the Netherlands. DiGiCo’s Dutch distributor, Ampco Flashlight Rentals & Sales provided Lowlands with an equivalent DiGiCo prep room, which was in direct contact with the Pukkelpop prep room. With many of the acts playing both festivals, having access to both Dropboxes meant that files were already on site and converted before the acts reached one or other festival.

“Having this facility made life much easier for me,” says Andy Egerton, monitor engineer for The Wombats. “I converted my SD5 session from Lowlands to the SD10 for Pukklepop and having the DiGiCo prep room allowed me to check my file through on the console with the support team whilst applying the festival patch. They even gave me some rack conversion and multichannel preset training whilst I was there. This made the change over a breeze when I loaded my file as the racks and patch were perfectly configured. What a service!”

DiGiCo also used the prep room to demonstrate Quantum 7, which gave engineers a chance to experience the new SD7 engine.

“When I’m mixing IEMs, a lot of the time I have to double up on channels, especially on vocals and brass sections,” says Duncan Wild, monitor engineer for Jess Glynne, following his Quantum 7 session. “This is because you need to give each band member their original dynamics and other band members may want them, too, but a compressed version. With Quantum 7, you don’t have to double up on channels when there are special requests for colour and dynamics in a particular part of the mix.”

“All the guest engineers were happy using the prep room, even if they’d never used a DiGiCo before,” says Jaap. “We were very lucky to have Patrick Demoustier with us. He has a long-term relationship with DiGiCo, having used the consoles since the very beginnings of the company.”

“Back in 2002, I made the step with EML to choose DiGiCo, I was convinced that one day the brand would become a world standard,” smiles Patrick. “I was right!”

“Patrick’s master view, years of DiGiCo experience and knowledge, which now spreads throughout PRG, made life really easy on a festival like this,” Pronk concludes. “With our Belgium distributor Amptec also supplying specialists for the prep room – David Liebens (DiGiCo product specialist) and Christophe Malpas (DiGiCo product service specialist) – made the whole thing incredibly easy.”

DiGiCo SD7 Unites the Sounds of Ed Sheeran’s ÷ Tour
Four-time Grammy Award winner Ed Sheeran learned his craft busking on the streets of London, Dublin, and elsewhere. As a result, he can, like few other performers, create an intimacy with an audience even in the massive stadiums he’s playing in on his current global ÷ (Divide) Tour, his third world trek, named for his latest studio album, and which has taken him from Turin, Italy in March 2017 to Cape Town, where the tour concludes in March 2019.

At every stop along the way, a DiGiCo SD7 console, supplied through the tour’s SR provider, UK-based Major Tom Ltd, is the link between Sheeran onstage and thousands of fans in huge venues, such as PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Rogers Centre in Toronto, and the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. The SD7 and its single SD-Rack are piloted by Chris Marsh, who’s been Sheeran’s production manager and FOH engineer since Sheeran’s + Tour in 2011.

Remarkably, Marsh is simultaneously mixing the singer’s vocals and his guitar — the latter fed through a dynamic capsule expressly for vocal loop building — as well as his wedge and IEM monitors all on the SD7. The console is also used as the matrix for the Clear-Com FreeSpeak II wireless intercom the crew utilizes during the show. It is, says Marsh, “the only console that I could use for a tour and show like this. It does it all.”

Mixing a solo artist in front of tens of thousands of concertgoers is more complex than it might seem. As March explains, “Unlike with a band, every little imperfection is immediately apparent, any little irregularity in the sound or what might happen on stage is magnified. If the fourth violin in an orchestra falls out for some reason, no one would notice. But for a solo performer, there’s nowhere to hide.”

Thus, Marsh says the ability to put virtually everything he needs on one surface makes managing a show like this much easier and more predictable. “I have to listen carefully as Ed builds loops on stage to keep the sound consistent, and I have to be ready when he changes guitars between songs, or if he should break a string. On the SD7, all of the controls I need are completely accessible all the time, and I can keep an eye on everything using the meterbridge while still keeping my attention fixed on the stage. The dynamic EQ is also a huge help, especially on his guitar, because his playing level can vary quite a bit and quite often. And the Audio Enhancer feature on the desk really helps me shape the low end on the guitar.”

But, Marsh, an SD Series user for years, starting with an SD11 eight years ago, is quick to point out that the sound of the SD7 is where it all starts. “I was brought up as an analog person and the SD7 just has so many of those qualities,” he says. “The EQ has great functionality, but at the end of the day it’s also so natural and musical sounding. There’s a lot of nuance to the sound of Ed’s show, and with the SD7, I can find it and enhance it. Nothing else even comes close.”

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