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Mixing Black Sabbath’s ‘The End’ Tour with VENUE | S6L

When it comes to heavy metal bands, Black Sabbath needs no introduction—they practically invented the genre.

For the band’s final world tour, veteran FOH engineer Greg Price and monitor engineer Myles Hale turned to dual VENUE | S6L systems to mix the legendary band. In our new three-part video series, you’ll learn how S6L has changed the way they mix the band and discover the mixing workflows that help to deliver stunning sound for these historic performances.

  • Learn about Price’s approach to mixing drums, Ozzy’s vocal, and more
  • Discover how he recreates the sound of classic Black Sabbath albums live
  • Find out how S6L’s modern touchscreen workflows help Price and Hale mix faster and more intuitively
  • See how S6L and Clair Global’s Cohesion Series help them deliver consistent sound in any venue

Black Sabbath 'The End' Tour Overview Video

Mixing FOH for Black Sabbath with Greg Price

VENUE | S6L and the Cohesion Series on Black Sabbath's 'The End' Tour

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Avid Showcases Breakthrough VENUE and MADI innovations at PLASA 2016

PLASA 2013 London

At the upcoming PLASA Show, running from 18-20 September at London’s Olympia, Avid’s arsenal of award-winning live sound innovations for audio professionals will be out in force. Joining Avid reseller SSE Audio Group on stand J20, visitors will have the opportunity to get hands on with our latest live sound audio consoles and software.

Taking centre stage is the live sound powerhouse, Avid VENUE | S6L. The fully modular, scalable live sound mixing system delivers best-in-class functionality for a range of live sound mixing applications, including front-of-house, monitor, broadcast, theatre, and more.

With two VENUE | S6L consoles on display loaded with the brand new version of VENUE software, VENUE 5.3, live sound professionals can learn about the new features the update has to offer. These include the ability to record and playback up to 128 tracks to and from Pro Tools over Ethernet AVB with no separate interface required and new multiple layouts, allowing the engineer to instantly recall any mixture of input and output faders either by snapshots or 24 manually triggered soft keys.

These provide live sound engineers with the most powerful and streamlined way to record and playback performances for archiving and performing Virtual Soundchecks.

Also on show is the MADI-192 Option Card which brings industry-standard, high-channel MADI connectivity to VENUE | S6L systems. With this easy-to-install audio interface card, engineers can easily add high-channel, high-quality MADI connectivity to VENUE | S6L. They can also send and receive up to 64 channels of 96 kHz audio per card between S6L and any MADI audio device, such as an external audio mixer, recorder, or processor, including Waves SoundGrid systems.

The MADI Option Card makes it easy to support the largest live audio productions. Each card can provide up to 64 channels of bi-directional audio channels at 96 kHz. Install up to four MADI cards in the E6L-144 or E6L-192 engine for up to 256 channels of bi-directional audio.

Additionally, VENUE 5.3 delivers the much anticipated Multiple Fader Layouts functionality and range of control surface workflow enhancements empowering live sound engineers to navigate more efficiently and mix faster.

For those who need some expert advice, leading FOH engineer and Avid live sound specialist, Robb Allan will be on hand at PLASA discussing the latest innovations and current industry trends. After spending the past summer back on the road again with Massive Attack, Robb will showcase how Avid’s technology continues to deliver new and exciting dimensions to touring and live sound.

 

 

REGISTER FOR PLASA 2016

 

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Avid VENUE | S6L Romps it in at “Splendour in the Grass”

Last month saw approximately 30,000 diverse and hyped music fans roll into one of Australia’s most-loved beach towns, Byron Bay, for the 16th annual Splendour in the Grass music festival.

Despite being the country’s largest winter festival, the 27 degree temperature, blue skies, and zero rain made it pretty hard to believe it was winter.

The vibe was buzzing from day one. Picture tee pees, tents, campervans, and combi vans created a pop-up tent city. For three full days, the crowds were rocking out to the finest international and home grown acts, including The Cure, Flume, The Strokes, The Avalanches, Sigur Rós, James Blake, and loads more. With close to 100 bands and five main stages sprawled across North Byron Parklands, there was plenty to see and hear.

Amongst the companies in charge of audio solutions was no other than JPJ Audio – one of Australia’s premier live touring production companies – who delivered FOH equipment across the entire festival. I had the enviable task of visiting the event and work alongside Bruce Johnston and his team. Armed with an S6L, I was able to offer sound engineers the chance to get hands-on with the console and test drive their own VENUE software show files.

The Strokes used the console on the first night and it sounded amazing! JPJ left the board set up at main stage with a split from stage for the rest of the festival so anyone could monitor lines off-stage on the S6L.

Backstage we had a room with another S6L and a lot of people popped their heads in to take a look. For many, this was their first chance to get eyes on the console and even the seasoned engineers were impressed.

Courtney Barnett’s FOH mixer, Dylan Hughes, gave it a run as part of a complete demo. Dylan loaded his show file, we ran through it and he was ready to go. One thing that impressed Dylan was the custom layout for the knob modules. He could organize a channel strip any way he wished and after mixing on the S6L for only 20 minutes backstage (just prior to Barnett’s performance), Dylan used the S6L live on the main stage and it sounded great!

Bruce Johnston agreed with the rest of the JPJ tech team that Dylan’s mix was one of the top three of the day. He thought it sounded really different to the Profile and much more analog.

The overall reaction was great and every person who tried the S6L said the console was intuitive and very snappy to use, with the touch screens reacting quickly.

It was rewarding to me for the engineers to hear the sonic difference between S6L compared to Profile and appreciate how intuitive the surface is, and we can’t wait for them to  start spec’ing the console for the coming Australian summer festival season.

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Can’t Attend IBC 2016? Follow the Avid Updates on Social Media.

The 2016 IBC Show is just around the corner and the Avid team is busy gearing up for a memorable experience. We’ve got lots of announcements and updates in store:

 

  • Reinvent the newsroom with new MediaCentral and iNEWS innovations,
  • Optimize production workflows with Avid NEXIS
  • Change the game in sports with Ultra HD/4K solutions
  • Redefine on-air graphics to captivate your audience
  • Discover new innovations for mixing and recording workflows
  • Get unprecedented access and choice with the Avid MediaCentral Platform

We can hardly wait to bring you the latest news from Avid, so make sure you check out avid.com/ibc and keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feed.

If you’re attending IBC Show this week, pay us a visit in Hall 7 at Stand J20 to see it all in action. If you’re not able to make it in person, but want to follow along, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to follow the action.

Live Coverage on Twitter

Don’t miss a single update. Follow us on Twitter for an insider’s view of our team covering the 2016 IBC Show.

FOLLOW AVID ON TWITTER

Follow Along on Facebook Live

On Facebook, we’ll provide you with tons of inside scoops, announcements, photos and — for the first time — live video interviews from the IBC show floor. Like our page, and the updates will appear automatically in your Facebook news feed.

AVID ON FACEBOOK

We’ll Capture the Moment on Instagram

Our Instagram account will capture and share the most engaging moments of IBC. If you’re at our events, tag your messages with #Avid and #IBCShow so we can like your pictures!

AVID ON INSTAGRAM

Go Behind-The-Scenes on Snapchat

Want to see more? Follow us on Snapchat, where we’ll be sharing ‘uncensored’ photos and videos of the Avid team working behind the scenes.

You can search for us directly (we’re avidtechnology) or just take a Snapchat of the handy QR code image on the left.

Go In-Depth on Avid Blogs

Dig deeper into stories, announcements, and updates by following our team of IBC correspondents on Avid Blogs. Our blog articles will cover product launch announcements, updates, and general commentary on what’s new.

IBC SHOW 2016

The Avid Social Media team will be your IBC Show Digital Correspondents in Amsterdam, capturing the excitement and energy happening on the floor. Experience the show’s buzz online with our special coverage of booth activities, video interviews on Twitter, live interviews on Facebook, and exclusive photos for Avid Blogs, Snapchat and Instagram.

 

See you on-site or online!

Avid at the 2016 IBC Show

Join Avid at IBC 2016 in Amsterdam from September 9-13 or follow the action online! We’ll be sharing several exciting platform innovations and new products to help you address your most pressing business challenges and stay ahead of the competition.

#AVID AT #IBCSHOW




Features and Familiarity Make Avid VENUE | S6L a Hit at Union Scene

Avid’s VENUE has long been one of the most requested live mixing systems in the world, with the combination of an extensive feature-set and intuitive operational style making it a favourite of FOH and monitor engineers. The Avid VENUE | S6L console is one of the latest additions to the VENUE family, and its popularity among live music practitioners is one of the factors that led acclaimed Norwegian music venue Union Scene to purchase not one, but two, of the highly-specified systems.

Situated in the city of Drammen, 25 miles from Oslo, Union Scene has been a staple of the country’s music scene it opened its doors for the first time 20 years ago. Following a hiatus in operations between 2002 and 2006, the venue has gone from strength to strength, hosting rock, jazz, folk and many other genres of live music. It also has a close association with another regional cultural institution, Drammens Teater, which is located nearby.

Petter Grimstad is lead technician at Union Scene and has observed the centre’s expanding use of Avid Technology since its renaissance began nearly ten years ago. “I like the ease of use of the Avid systems – the way they are set up and the ability they offer to employ a wide variety of third-party plug-ins. We had been using VENUE | Profile Systems for a number of years, so it was a logical next step that we would begin to think about investing in the S6L,” he says.

An FOH engineer favourite

The VENUE | S6L offers a feature set that is truly extensive, with the headline capabilities including 300-plus processing channels, an advanced engine design, modern touchscreen workflows, and the ability to work with more plug-ins and Pro Tools track counts than ever before.

Several of these elements loomed large in the decision-making process when Union Scene decided it was time to upgrade its console infrastructure with two S6Ls. “It had come to our attention that the S6L is a real favourite of touring engineers, particularly on the international circuit – and we do get a lot of international acts performing here. The comfort and familiarity that many feel with the console was definitely part of our reason for investing,” says Grimstad.

The fact that “even more plug-ins” can be used with the S6L, yielding “greater freedom of creativity in the mixes” was another important factor. Then there was the sound quality. Grimstad comments, “Everyone that I know who has come into contact with the S6Ls since we acquired them has commented on the quality of the audio that is achievable with this system.”

“These systems are very versatile and easy to use, and we have been getting great feedback from both regular and visiting engineers about their performance. They are a real boost to our flexibility.”

—Petter Grimstad, lead technician at Union Scene

A boost for flexibility

The ability to configure and reconfigure the system through an array of network and I/O options also means that the S6L lends itself to Union Scene’s increasingly diverse workload. Whilst live music remains its core activity, the venue also hosts corporate events, conferences, meetings and more.

Underlining the versatility of the S6L, Grimstad confirms that the two consoles – which were purchased and delivered towards the end of 2015 – are used for both FOH and monitor duties across the venue’s three primary performance areas: a 1350-capacity main stage, a 250-capacity secondary room, and a compact 100-capacity space.

“These systems are very versatile and easy to use, and we have been getting great feedback from both regular and visiting engineers about their performance. They are a real boost to our flexibility,” adds Grimstad.

Love the workflow

In time, Grimstad hopes that it might be possible to add a smaller S3L console to the Union Scene inventory. But for now he is more than happy to continue his own long history of using Avid – a brand with which he is clearly entirely comfortable.

“I have been using the Avid systems for more than ten years,” he says. “I particularly love the workflow and the option to use a great variety of party plug-ins. With some other mixing systems, you are a bit stuck with the straight EQ and compressors, but Avid really gives you a lot of choice – and that’s something you need when the types of event are so diverse. I am glad to report that the S6L continues in this tradition, so we are very happy to have it here at Union Scene.”

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




SNL Pro Leads the Indian Market With the Next Generation of Mixing Consoles

Sound and Light Professionals (SNL Pro) has become the first rental company in Asia to add Avid’s VENUE | S6L console to its inventory, investing in two units. The purchase was made as the rental company looks to future-proof its sound reinforcement offerings and cater toward live events of any size and scale. It was facilitated by Ansata Computer Systems, Avid’s distribution partner in India. The manufacturer describes the S6L as a comprehensive live mixing system.

 

“Technology is a key part of our industry, and I believe this is one aspect that can really get you to be future-ready, which will ensure that you always stay a few steps ahead of the rest,” explained Manish Mavani, director of SNL Pro. “This is why our purchase decisions have always been focused on technologies that are radical and ahead of their time. If you look at our loudspeaker rigs, we’ve always purchased world-class brands whose product lines were revolutionary.”

When it came to purchasing new consoles, it was this mindset that led Mr. Mavani to Avid.

“One can’t deny that Avid has always come out with great technology in their products – especially the VENUE series of consoles. With festivals across the country all demanding monitor and front-of-house mixes, it was time for a plan to eliminate the passive splitter and use the gain tracking that was on offer with the S6L. We have used consoles from other manufacturers in the past but were not satisfied with the features they delivered. But with the S6L, that’s another story altogether.”

—Mr. Manish Mavani, Director of SNL Pro

“The gain tracking features are mind-blowing, and with the amount of DSP the console comes with, you know it’s absolutely future-ready,” Mr. Mavani continued. “The large number of inputs on one console is an amazing bonus, and the fact that the console comes with software that we’re all familiar with makes it an absolute breeze to navigate around.”

“With the purchase of two full-blown Avid VENUE | S6L systems, SNL Pro is poised to set a new benchmark in the live sound rental market in India,” said Leslie Lean from Ansata. “This purchase will help Manish and his team meet the challenges of the most demanding live sound productions and deliver the best possible sound quality while enjoying the familiar VENUE workflows with total show file compatibility.”

“Our relationship with Ansata goes way back, and with the prompt service that we have always experienced, it was a no-brainer for us to know that we were doing business with the right company and the right people,” added Mr. Mavani. “The presales and sales experience and the training support that Ansata provided were absolutely amazing. The sessions at the warehouse and on site were extremely educational, which assured the engineers of all of the board’s new features. And credit goes to Neil and Mahesh of team Ansata. I think it’s absolutely important for a brand to be represented by good people who are passionate, and I think Ansata has been exactly that for Avid.”

 

A special thank you to Simon Luckhurst from ProAudio Asia who conducted the interview.

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Using McDSP Plug-ins for the Duran Duran “Paper Gods” Tour with Snake Newton

Hi, my name is Snake Newton and I’m currently mixing Duran Duran’s ‘Paper Gods’ World Tour in support of their album of the same name. My previous clients include Pet Shop Boy, Supertramp, Robbie Williams, Jessie J, Girls Aloud, Snow Patrol, and many more top live acts. I’ve also got a long studio history, which includes mastering, album mixes, and post mix for TV and Radio. In 2014 I was honoured to win the Total Production International Award for Front of House Engineer. Recently I made the transition from Avid’s 1st generation of VENUE systems, which were TDM-based. I had used a Profile system since 2007 and was very comfortable on it, and being a ‘Hybrid’ engineer, I was very reliant on the tools I had become accustomed to in the studio while mixing live. The arrival of the new Avid S6L mix system, which is based around a 96 kHz, floating point mix engine and Avid’s very powerful AAX-DSP plug-in processing cards, was impossible to resist.

Duran Duran performing 'Wild Boys'

However, it was a difficult decision for me to abandon a very mature VENUE show file which I had been refining over three previous Duran Duran tours, as there were certain plug-ins that I was using which had not been ported to the new AAX DSP format. But the dramatically improved sound quality of the S6L left me in no doubt that I would benefit in the long term, so I set about looking for replacements some of the most central plug-ins to my working method. In the original Profile session, I used a lot of noise reduction on open mics and a fair amount of dynamic EQ. I also employed a substantial amount of multiband compression on sub groups, and was a big fan of a certain kind of well known limiter. A few years ago a producer friend of mine, Fraser T. Smith, mentioned McDSP to me. I had dabbled with them, but at the time, they had no VST versions and a lot of my studio mixes were VST-based, so I didn’t follow the path at the time. My monitor engineer on Duran, Charlie ‘Chopper’ Bradley, whose credits include Shakira and Annie Lennox, also suggested that McDSP would offer both the power and flexibility that I was used to.

Snake at FOH for the 'Paper Gods' tour

Initially I tried two plug-ins; the ML4000 ML4 limiter and multiband dynamics processor and the AE400 Active EQ. I found that by using a combination of these two plug-ins, I could replace up to five plug-ins that I was using previously. Firstly, I’m a big fan of multiband de-noising to remove spill from the stage on open mics. I had previously used a plug-in with 5 bands and an overall trigger threshold. I found that the ML4000 multiband expander handled this sort of task with ease. It was initially a little more complex to set up, but with this complexity came more flexibility. My previous setup sometimes involved two instances of noise reduction in a chain, because the threshold was global so the trigger didn’t always work well if the ratio between mids and highs wasn’t what the machine was expecting. With the ML4000, you have a Ratio and Threshold for EACH band. This gives me a great deal of flexibility that I didn’t have before. And with the Master and Slave setup available for parameters between bands, you can actually adjust up to four thresholds/ratios/etc. together if you wish, for easy overall control. Below you can see the ML4000 on Simon LeBon’s vocal. In a state of low or no input the bands shut down. Each band opens only to let through the sound the singer is making at the moment he is sustaining a vowel sound. He cannot be making a sibilant or fricative sound, so anything the mic picks up at this moment in the hi or hi mid area is essentially unwanted stage noise. Repeating this process across all your open vocal mics not only makes your vocals sound clearer, but it reduces drum spill, which robs you of punchy, crisp drums and controllable cymbals.

McDSP ML4000 on Simon LeBon's vocal

So that took care of my noise reduction problem. The ML4000 also gives me a great multiband compressor/maximizer setup that works seamlessly across masters and submasters. What I didn’t expect was that I totally fell in love with the Limiter, which is available on the back end of the ML4000 ML4 or as a standalone limiter as the ML4000 ML1. So much character where you need colour. Or for transparent work, no character at all, just invisible! The single channel version makes drums super tough, mixes sounding classically ‘pressed against the ceiling’—loud but still dynamic sounding. Choosing the algorithms couldn’t be easier. So this replaced my previous favourite limiter, surpassing it in so many respects, one of these aspects being the ‘knee’.

Duran Duran at the Festival d’été de Québec

My last hurdle was to find a dynamic EQ, and the AE400 gave me all I needed. Four bands of super flexible EQ which work both statically and dynamically at once. I found that it was incredibly easy to set maximum gain change so as not to overcook or ‘suck out too much’.   A favourite trick with this is to add a small amount of static EQ, in say the upper mid of a group with a set of instruments. Then set the same filter to start cutting gently above a certain level. This increases the clarity of the instruments when played quietly or individually, while at the same time reducing the classically strident area of the mix when the level in that area builds, leaving room for the all-important vocal clarity and bite without making the instruments sound muffled when played gently together or loudly individually. The picture below shows this with an additional filter set to gently cut the area between 250–300 Hz, which can lead to a ‘muddy’ or ‘indistinct’ sound when it reaches a certain point. Fat guitar and keyboard sounds summed together will do this; a Les Paul and a big Jupiter 8 sound taken alone will sound great individually, but when mixed together, the very thing that makes them sound big—the low mid warmth—can overtake the clarity

AE400 Active EQ set to tame summed guitars and synths

Below you can see what looks like a rather aggressive solution, which works very well on John Taylor’s bass guitar on certain songs. In this case, for the song “Planet Earth”, the bass needs a lot of bite. However, in the breakdown JT really digs in and is essentially on his own, and the green band is set to cut the more strident part of the signal when he digs in. The yellow band is set to increase the bite when static, while the Dynamic side of the same filter is set to temper this boost down to ‘flat’ when the strings are hit more positively.

Summing up, I have been surprised how much power and flexibility are available in these plug-ins. They just sound great and I’m excited to explore more of the McDSP options available on the S6L. And even better news for me came with the arrival of McDSP v6, which now supports my beloved VST format too, making McDSP one of the only software companies to code for ALL formats.

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Avid VENUE | S6L at the Warsaw Summer Jazz Days Festival

The Warsaw Summer Jazz Days festival was created in the early 90’s out of the need to compete with the Jazz Jamboree Festival. The main idea was to create a platform that promotes contemporary jazz, and over the years the festival has grown to earn worldwide success and is highly regarded in the world of jazz. Every year in late June, Warsaw attracts world-renowned international and local talent, and this year’s festival featured the VENUE | S6L as one of the main consoles that was used throughout the festival.

Avid’s Polish partner Konsbud Audio caught up with Thomas Dudar, the FOH engineer from Craftman rental company that worked on the console to hear what he had to say about the festival and his experience working with the new console.

How do you like working on the S6L compared to what you’ve worked on in the past?

TD: I was really impressed with the console and can easily say that it is now one of my top desks. I was very comfortable working on it and it gave a steady, great performance throughout the festival. During these shows, you need a reliable desk that won’t fail. There is no room to compromise on top quality when you are live; console reliability is of utmost importance. The S6L did it for me. I liked its huge processing power, the large number of available input and output channels, the ability to simultaneously use a lot of plug-ins, the extremely convenient and intuitive user interface, and its outstandingly pristine and clear sound.

 

Have you previously worked on other Avid consoles? What are the most noticeable similarities / differences? 

TD: The S6L has a lot of similar functionalities and features compared to the other VENUE consoles. Engineers that are familiar with the Profile and S3L-X, for instance, won’t have a lot of problems adapting to the S6L, because all of the Avid consoles run on the VENUE software which you would already be familiar with. The only thing that is changing is the desk. Having the VENUE Software be a constant element in all the desks is a great benefit, because it allows you to freely move files between the different consoles so you aren’t limited to sticking to one board and having to worry about exporting and importing [show] files.

On the S6L specifically, I was really excited to see the new interface with high quality touch screens (finally!) and a multitude of configurable encoders and buttons—it makes my life so much easier and my work so much more effective and simpler. Almost any desired function can be performed in many different ways, and you are free to do it the way that works best for you. This is quite a rare thing with most desks, because that means that the board can now adapt to your style and preferences versus the way its always been where you as an artist need to adapt to how the board can function. It just makes your life that much easier when the tool you are using facilitates the outcome you want to achieve—it gives you more room to get creative with your work instead of putting a lot of focus and effort on getting the basic things done correctly.

 

 

Did you use the onboard plug-ins?

TD: Yes, they are quite useful during the performance, although I must say, I didn’t find them to be much different from the standard set found in the previous [VENUE] boards. A few plug-ins are new and some have been slightly revised (like the Reverb), but for the most part, I feel like they remained unchanged. But in any case with such excellent sounding preamps, you really don’t need to use many plug-ins, especially “vintage warmers” to improve the sound.

 

How did the console perform overall in the festival?

TD: Throughout the entire festival, the desk was great in terms of the speed of the console and the ease of work on it. For this festival, the main emphasis was on the final sound and clarity of the acoustics. The S6L has a very pristine and accurate sound, which definitely made my job that much easier out there.

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Video Blog Series: Robert Scovill on Tour with Mudcrutch and S6L

 

Join live sound veteran and Avid® senior market specialist Robert Scovill for this special video blog series as he takes you behind the scenes to explore the inner workings of Tom Petty’s recent 21-date Mudcrutch tour. Robert shares everything from show logistics and mixing on the new S6L system to discussing the challenges presented by each venue and even how the crew spend their days off between shows. Click the videos below to hit the road with Robert and Mudcrutch.

May 26: Ogden Theater, Denver, CO

May 27: Chicago travel day

May 28: Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL

May 29: Summer Camp Festival, Chillicothe, IL

May 30: Day off in Nashville

May 31: Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN

June 1: Atlanta day off

June 2: The Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA

June 3: Bunbury Festival, Cincinnati, OH

June 4-5: Days off in Washington, D.C.

June 6: 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.

June 7: The Fillmore Philly, Philadelphia, PA

June 10: Webster Hall, New York City, NY

June 11: Webster Hall, New York City, NY

June 14: Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY

June 15: House of Blues, Boston, MA

June 19-20: The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

June 22: Fox Theater, Oakland, CA

June 25-26: Fonda Theatre, Hollywood, CA

June 28: The Observatory, Santa Ana, CA

June 30: Humphreys, San Diego, CA

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Tour Blog: On the Road with Massive Attack and S6L

Hello chums, been a while. If you happen to have read any of my earlier roadie blogs (rogs? bloadies??), then you’ll know this will probably not be a dialectical treatise on the proto-social relevance of minor Shakespearean characters in the History plays. The last blog series was about my colleague Chris Lambrechts and I driving two Prototype Avid S6L’s 10,000km around Europe, asking everyone we knew and a few people we met for the first time what they thought about it and how we could make it better. My first ‘bloadie’ was about the 2014 Massive Attack World tour that I mixed on the small but exquisitely formed Avid S3L. If this is your first perusal, you’ll soon catch up. As you’ll see its mainly old back lounge stories and a sprinkling of my thoughts on mixing live sound. I wear two related, but different, hats in my work life. I’m part of a team that designs consoles for Avid and I also mix FOH for various bands, or as my oldest boy said when asked by his teacher, I “make bands louder for a job.” I don’t think there’s a better one.

On the road again

This effort aims to pull the last two set’s themes together: a trilogy of rogs if you like. I’m currently on tour with Massive Attack mixing on the new and fabulous S6L. As previously stated I am biased. I sat in a room a few years ago surrounded by white boards, felt pens in hand, with my old mucker and superstar roadie Robert Scovill, and the large brains of Sheldon Radford and Al McKinna. We bandied the fanciful, the unlikely, and the Platonic ideal of a desk around. Late last year, the fruit of that brain splurge, and a huge team effort involving several hundred people in the US and Europe, became a reality. I can safely say that if you are involved in the Live Sound industry in any way you will have probably heard about this. In the hectic days since launch we’ve been run off our feet, zipping about to trade shows and the like, making sure early adopters were good to go and dealing with the overwhelming demand and interest our community has had in this desk. The desk has won awards and plaudits everywhere.

Now though, I’m having a cheeky break from my Avid gig to go and use the bad-boy in anger, mixing the extraordinary Massive Attack. I’m so excited to be to mixing my favorite band using a desk I’ve seen grow from scribbles on a whiteboard to its fully realized wonderfulness. All our research and testing have suggested that the desk sounds amazing, but until the crowd roars, the band walks on stage and the first vocal line sits just so in the mix, it’s only words and diagrams on a bit of paper. On the last tour I used the S3L for its compact size and weight but awesome sound. I could fly it everywhere and I stretched it to the max, using every physical input and output on the system. I used every last ounce of calculating power in every DSP chip as well, as M.A. is not a simple show. On this tour I can luxuriate in the amazing environment that is the S6L. I am barely tickling its enormous power. Although I’m using eighty or ninety input channels, the S6L has 192. There are 96 busses and 24 Matrix. I think I’m using 17 and 9, respectively. It can have up to four HDX DSP cards for processing the 200 plug-in slots available; I have two in my engine and I’m currently running about 50 or 60 plug-ins on the show. I still have space on the first HDX card even with all the reverbs and delays, Eleven Racks, etc. I really can’t imagine needing four cards ever. There you go, a challenge for some of my plug-in obsessive mates—you know who you are. I want photographic evidence though, at a show, running four full cards for a prize. BTW, I’m loving the new versions of the Sonnox plugins running at 96K (more on this later).

New preamps

It’s my first chance to record the band using our new 96K preamps and work on my show. I’d already loaded my old S3L show file straight onto the S6L without any issues. I up-sampled my old S3L recordings to use as a “virtual soundcheck” with the S6L at home to have a start position. I just saved myself at least a day of programming at least versus starting again from scratch. Thank the Universe for show file compatibility! However the difference to the quality of my recordings with the S6L preamps was startling. The sound was somehow more three dimensional, with stunning clarity. I had a foolish smile on my face all day I was so happy.

 

Serious bizniz

So we loaded out and headed off to the production rehearsals. It’s a lovely space and I brought in a little PA to mix on. Horace Andy, who is an absolute legend and lovely guy wandered up to my desk and started taking some photos of it. He pointed at it and said, “Serious bizniz” in his fabulous Jamaican reggae legend voice. I asked him why he was taking photos of the desk. “So the people at home see I’m about some serious bizniz.” Later, when I let the hardware designer Matthaeus know that the last of the Studio One greats liked his industrial design he was pretty chuffed. Production rehearsals were a blast; we had a great time and used the LTC workflow I described in an earlier blog to do our “virtual production rehearsal”. Basically the band can sit at front of house to see and hear the whole production. Because I record the LTC to a Pro Tools track as part of my virtual soundcheck, I can feed that code from a direct out on my desk to the visual department who run their show from the same code.

I have to say that hearing the band mixed on S6L through a PA for the first time was an extraordinary feeling. I’d been very happy with the way the S3L had sounded a year or so earlier, but this was a whole different level. As an engineer I was delighted and as a designer I was proud as hell. Happy days.

EQ’s, dynamics, and plug-ins

So what did I change in my show? The first thing I did was to flatten all the EQ’s and start again. I’m a firm believer in getting out of the way of the signal flow. If you have a good source, the right microphone in the correct position, a good preamp and convertor feeding a good PA system, it should be really close to perfect without having to “mess” with the sound. Oh my days did it sound good just flat all the way from mic to PA. Of course a little HPF here and LPF there are always needed, but without using any EQ or dynamics I could get a really solid starting mix. I then started to process individual channels a little. For the kick drum mics, I boosted the low end and scooped a little low mid out, added a little top end shelf boost on hats and overheads, but most of the channels were pretty flat—definitely flatter than I’d ever had them before. I used only the onboard gates; they are so clear and responsive I didn’t even think about using an external device or plug-in. I also used the channel compressors for the drums—again lightning-fast and transparent. Using a little gate and comp and EQ, all from the desk’s channel processing, the kick drum was thumping me in the chest in a way I haven’t felt since analogue desks through point source speakers. Welcome back old friend, I’ve missed you—pity you didn’t bring back all the thick dark hair I had in those days as well.

I then started to add a few plug-ins. I’m not a huge fan of the trend to put multiband compressors on everything. It seems that some people use them to give singers speech impediments. “Wad id somedin dey ‘(s)aid?” However, I did use the new Avid Pro Multiband on the two bass channels (Pre and post effects), and was really pleased with the result. I split the bands so that they crossed over where the PA split between the subs and the flown lows, then again at around 300Hz, and finally at 800. The bottom end in MA is very important and needs to be strong and forceful but under control. With the Pro Multiband inserted I could gently control the way the bass was being sent to different parts of the PA allowing it to be musical and deep without ever overloading any part of the system. There are also a couple of vintage synths delivering venue shaking sub tones at certain points in the set. I use the channel comp with a high ratio to keep those hounds on the leash. Analogue is said to be warm, original, and real, or alternatively, never sounds the same twice, open to pilot error, disaster waiting to happen. You choose.

We have a lot of other synths and sampled keyboard lines. I use the Sonnox Oxford Dynamics plug-in to keep those tidy and sitting comfortably in the mix. I also often use the “warm” option just to analogue them up a bit depending on the sound and the song. All the settings are stored with my snapshots and change on a per song or even part of song basis. For reverbs I use the Revibe that comes with the desk and the Sonnox Oxford verb. I love the difference in detail in the new version of these plug-ins. The Oxford reverb tails fade out so naturally. It places the instrument or voice in a natural, three-dimensional space. I love that there’s a fader to balance the early reflections against the reverb. Try messing around until you have only the ER. It’s a great tool. I’ve always used the Revibe on vocals: from The Manics to Coldplay to Alt J and everyone in between. Now it sounds even grander and more detailed. Studio A is the preset I start from if you’re curious. I’ve had the same headphones for the last twenty years as well. I’m a great believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

First shows

We had a couple of warm up shows in Dublin at the lovely Olympia Theatre. If you’ve never mixed there, it has the worst mix position in the world, under a balcony that curves down in front of you. I seemed to be surrounded by hundreds of very chatty people who couldn’t wait to tell each other all the gossip at the top of their voices even during the quiet bits. So I didn’t really get to enjoy the subtleties of the band/mix/desk until the first proper shows in the UK. We had a K2 rig from Ad Lib Audio on the tour with my good friend Tony Szabo designing and tuning the system every day. It’s a great feeling knowing that the rig will sound as good as it possibly can each day with someone you trust making it sing and fill every corner of the room. It freed me up to get on with the job of mixing the band. I’d set up my desk and get out of the way, making catering look untidy, whilst Tony worked his voodoo with pink noise and lasers. When I got the nod that all was ready I’d play “Paradise Circus” on the PT rig in virtual soundcheck mode and have a walk around with Tony. Sometimes we’d make little adjustments here and there but usually I didn’t have much to add. I would send LR and sub to Tony from my Matrixes and a further mix or two of infills and outfills depending on the shape of the room. There are five mic positions across the front of the MA stage used by nine different vocalists during the show. One of the challenges is to make sure that none of the PA or infills are behind or in line with any of those mics. Some of our vocalists are pretty quiet and to get them above the sometimes loud and challenging music I have to have them pretty open. Some of the hang points in some of the venues meant we had to move the front line a little further upstage than originally planned. Hunter the LD was very relaxed about front line position as most of the show is backlit. The only issue would be if the overhead lights were actually in front of the vocalist so you could see their faces. The design was to be all light from behind with strong silhouettes in front of a huge video wall that moved and changed throughout the show. The odd occasion I looked up from my desk the visuals were spectacular.

Brixton Academy

I don’t know if you’ve ever worked at Brixton Academy, but its one of my favourite gigs anywhere. It was built as a cinema in the 1920’s and became a gig in the seventies. It has a crazy Italian village Proscenium Arch surrounding the stage as if it’s a set for Romeo and Juliet—nobody’s ever explained to me why. Some legendary shows have happened there; the Clash and the Pistols played there, Madonna, Iron Maiden, The Police, Clapton, Dire Straits, and some Reggae giants too. I remember seeing Peter Tosh there when I was a teenager. My favourite gigs there have been mixing The Manics, but also I’ve had awesome shows with The Vines, Findlay Quaye, The Thrills, and many others. In fact I found out my wife was pregnant with our first boy when I was standing on that stage! (He’s at University now). I’m not sure how many artists I’ve mixed there, let alone shows, but it feels like a home from home to me. It holds five thousand people standing, and because of the sloping floor and high stage, everyone can see really well. It’s not the greatest sounding room, but when it rocks it really ROCKS! A lovely little quirk of the place which I always love to show to people new to the venue is that, just in front of the stage, there is a hidden cupola above the false ceiling. If you stand in just the right spot you can get an amazing flutter echo that’s lasts for five or six seconds. It’s in triplets, so when you clap you get “Didudu Didudu Didudu” over and over and the pitch modulates. Awesome. We were there for three nights and had the best time.

We’d upgraded to K1 for the biggest gig of the UK leg of the tour and had enough sub-bass to rattle the old rock and roll ghosts. It was the first time I’d mixed there for maybe a decade, and my goodness technology has moved on. I remember stacking up huge S4 cabs at the side of the stage back in the day until we had a huge wall of sound. It was deafening at the front and had run out of steam half way up the room. Now with my S6L and Tony’s modern line array the sound was right in my face. I had to check my local monitors were switched off, the sound was so close to me. The S6L in combination with a great line array seems to give a really three-dimensional sound. We have a really wide and accurate stereo, but also a sense of depth in the other plain—the top end seems to fly around the top of your head and the sub in your guts and the bass thumping your chest. I’ve even had people ask me if we had speakers at the back of the room. There’s a kind of psycho acoustic surround sound going on. I haven’t ever had so much fun spinning in delays and losing myself in the mix. I love mixing and never felt so confident that the sound I was hearing in my head and wanted to communicate to the audience was what they are hearing. The genius thing is that I can get it from the desk with such ease and simplicity. I’m having pure adventures in audio not fighting my way through some torturous workflow. Time of my life.

 

This summer I’ll be touring with Massive Attack at loads of Euro festivals. Pass by and say hello if we’re on the same bill. I’ll be happy to spend some time with you showing off my pride and joy if you have a few minutes to spare. If not, check out some of videos I’ve made with my colleague Chris Lambrechts, including an S6L system overview, instructions of how to install and activate S6L’s VENUE software, and how to create a system restore key. You can also check out a video interview that I did with EventElevator from the MA tour here.

 

All the best audio chums

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