Celine Dion's Search for Monitoring Perfection

Jan 1, 2013 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson


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photo of Francois Lalonde

If you read Mix’s December 2012 cover story on recording Celine Dion, you know that the pop chanteuse is quite particular and demanding when it comes to being able to hear herself in the studio. The same is true in concert, and it has taken a lot of trial and error, spearheaded by Dion’s monitor engineer, Francois Lalonde (pictured)—who also happens to be her vocal recording engineer—to perfect their current live monitoring setup.

The key element, Lalonde says, was getting Dion a custom pair of Ultimate Ears 7 in-ear monitors “that are like a hybrid between molds and comply foam. With a normal shell, when a singer opens and closes her mouth, that changes the canal a bit and that changes sound. With Celine’s UE7s, the actual tip that’s going into the ear canal is foam; the rest is a mold, so it brings down the noise, but it can expand when it’s in there, so the feel is always the same and the sound is always the same.” Lalonde says that it took about a year to perfect the system, working in coordination with Ultimate Ears’ Chuck Reynolds and designer Boone Chanthavong, along with David Gutierrez and Jeanette Smith-Coffey.

Dion sings into a wireless Sennheiser mic with a Neumann capsule, transmitted to a Sennheiser EM 3732 receiver. Lalonde’s monitor rig also includes Pro Tools 10 HDX (at 192 kHz “to get the latency down to 0.4 ms,” he notes); BSS Varicurve EQ; Sound Performance Labs TwinTube De-esser; Alan Smart C1 compressor; Neve 33609 compressor; TC 4000 reverb; a Digidesign mic preamp for wired mics; and a Shure PSM1000 transmitter.

Besides Lalonde, Dion’s live sound team also includes FOH and Tour Manager Denis Savage, sound system specialist Francois Desjardins, wireless and audio specialist Marc Theriault, and monitor engineer Charles Ethier. “We really work closely together to always improve the monitoring system,” Lalonde says.

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