Plug-Ins Live | The Digital Roadcase

Jan 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly



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Pete Keppler

Pete Keppler

It was only a few years ago when we began to see live sound engineers carrying less outboard and relying more on onboard plug-ins. Today, an engineer not mixing with these onboard gems would be a rare find; this change may be the result of the gradual acceptance of digital consoles, which are now more of a mainstay on any tour. We checked in with a few FOH engineers to find out what’s in their “digital rack.”

Tom Young

Tom Young

Pete Keppler is currently mixing Katy Perry’s promo tour, working on whatever the venue puts in front of him—Mackie, Midas, Avid or Yamaha. “I’m using the SPL Transient Designer and EQ Rangers, Crane Song Phoenix and Avid Time Adjusters on guitars and drums, as well as the Aphex Big Bottom Pro and WavesLive R Bass [Renaissance Bass],” Keppler says, “the Serato comps and parametric EQ mostly on vocals, and the McDSP MC2000 on keys. The [McDSP FilterBank, other WavesLive and Avid plugs] get used on aux sends/effects returns and on desk outputs. I’m not carrying any outboard as this has been primarily a seven-month promo run, and with the flight/travel schedule, carrying anything outside of a USB stick, CF card and an iLok has been difficult logistically.” Keppler opted for these plugs primarily for sound quality, with ease of use and latency running a close second. In addition, he’s used all of these plugs in the studio and has been able to hear their colorations and impact on the signal in that environment. “I also use SoundToys plug-ins extensively in the studio. They make killer-sounding stuff, and I’ve been bugging them to get their software up and running on the major live console formats, but so far, no luck.”

Longtime Tony Bennett FOH engineer Tom Young mixes on a Yamaha PM5D-RH1, using a Waves Y96K card plugged into the fourth slot of the board. He employs Waves’ Renaissance package (which he’s also used for years on recording projects) for upright bass, guitar and vocals. “My show with Tony is very dynamic in nature, so I sometimes use the L2 limiter on the main P.A. and across the recording outputs,” Young adds.

Out mixing on a Midas Pro-6 with Rob Zombie is FOH engineer Joel Lonky, using such onboard plug-ins as Klark Teknik DN780 on vocals, DNS 780 on guitars and portions of the kit, dynamic compression on main vocals, and two long delays on the frontman. His thought process on choosing these plug-ins is pretty straightforward: “If it sounds good and does what I need it to do, I will use it,” he says.

Monitor engineer Richard “Dickie” Chappell mixes on an Avid Profile for Peter Gabriel and orchestra’s “The New Blood” tour in Europe and the States. “He spends the first-half of the show covering a bunch of artists, then he comes back on and sings a lot of his songs with orchestral arrangements,” he says. “There are no drums or guitars; it’s a new way for him to work.” As for plug-ins, “We have a long history working with the Sony Oxford team, which is now Sonnox. We still have an Oxford console, so the concern Peter has touring is that he really wants to be able to use the Sonnox plug-ins on the road. I particularly use the EQ for its amazing sound and analog feel. It’s very musical. Also, the Inflator and the Compressor got a lot of use; they are all pretty much essential.”

Are you using any interesting techniques with certain plug-ins?
[Line 6] Echo Farm has a couple of patches with some modulation and saturation controls. When you set the delay time to “0” and fool with those controls, it’s great fun on vocals. Waves Imager and Shuffler can be really cool on some stereo inputs and delay returns, and I swear by the Renaissance De-Esser on bass, especially for thumb-slaps and super-saturated tones.

Lonky: I’m doing some side-chaining and effects-sending to other effects internally.

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