Desert Island Mixing Tools

Jan 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Steve La Cerra

TOURING ENGINEERS REVEAL THEIR MUST-HAVE GEAR

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Adam Robinson:

Adam Robinson: "If I'm on a tour and I don't need all the I/O, the Lake Mesa is a great EQ unit."

“At times, I'd go into places that have no idea what the processor truly is and they'd put up a bit of a challenge when I asked to hook it up to their system,” Robinson continues. “A bit of talking usually convinced them and then I'd show them why with my show. For instance, Duncan Sheik's tour melded his pop catalog with his successful Broadway catalog. It wasn't your typical rock show where you just put up a band and go. I had nine musicians onstage including a mini-orchestra. Having some powerful EQ was necessary not only to tame less-than-stellar systems, but also to keep feedback in check.

“I even would run a loop from the stage to FOH and EQ Duncan's wedge mix [run by house-provided engineers] from the Lake. The combination of the Neumann [KMS 104] vocal mic — along with him liking wedges that can really get loud when he does — gave us a very unique challenge. Ninety-nine percent of the systems we came across have traditional 31-band graphic EQs. I find that more often than not, EQ problems do not exist exactly on 1/3-octave divisions. Additionally, when needing to make a single cut that might be an octave wide, the Lake — like any parametric EQ — makes only one cut, where your run-of-the-mill graphic requires cutting multiple frequencies, messing further with the phase response and rarely resulting in an even octave-wide curve. EQ'ing out feedback points on a standard graphic resulted in us just completely killing his mix. With the Lake, we were able to zero in on problem areas and not affect anything that wasn't a problem in the first place.”

The Festival Circuit

Marchand has found that sometimes traveling with gear does not necessarily mean that one is able to use that gear: “When you're on the festival or summertime circuit, you don't have a lot of time for setup. Your priorities shift due to the time allotted and it becomes forensic audio: more about what you are correcting, not what you are connecting. It'd be nice to have a rack full of processing, but you need the time to be able to connect it.

“What I do travel with,” he continues, “is a Phonic PAA3 handheld analyzer. The PAA3's mic is attached so it gives me the ability to take it into the crowd. I'll put it into spectrum analysis mode and walk the venue. Most venues have weird room modes or comb filtering, and even 20 feet away from the mix position you might have no idea what people are hearing. I'll look at the screen and see if there's a bump or notch in the frequency response. I also use it as an SPL meter because I want to see what the bottom octave is doing. I want a big presence but I am not going to wipe out the crowd and walk away with my ears ringing. I am very conscious of watching the crowd during the show to see how people are reacting. That's my indication that I am getting it right. I always mix a little different where I stand relative to the crowd because they have expectations of how the artist should sound and I try to hit that mark.”

Ford's go-to gear “depends upon the band I am mixing. I also work for a Japanese heavy psych band called Boris. We always take a Korg KP2 KAOSS pad because they have some very specific vocal effects that they use during the show. We use the KAOSS for vocoder, reverse delay and the reverbs. The reverbs are gritty-sounding and are very cool. I use them on all of the singers at some point or another during the show. There's also a nice dub echo preset that I'll use on the drums on a couple of songs. I run an aux send out of the console into the KAOSS, return the KAOSS output to a channel and then dial it in. I have one and the band has one in Japan, so between us we always have a KAOSS pad. It really makes a huge difference in their sound and it's fun to work with.”

Marchand adds one final comment of which all touring engineers are painfully aware: “After doing this for so long, the less I have to schlep to the airport, the less baggage I have to pay for, the less money flies out of my pocket! Oh, yeah, and I always bring Sharpies and marking tape!” Amen.


In addition to being Mix's sound reinforcement editor, Steve “Woody” La Cerra is the tour manager and front-of-house engineer for Blue Öyster Cult.






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