Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Personal Mixing 2.0

Look Ma. no wedges! OK, there are two for vocals, but that’s it!This past weekend marked our third with Roland’s M-48’s on stage, and our first with the entire band using them. Monitor world has been decommissioned and the only two wedges for vocals were mixed from FOH. I was pretty confident in my decision to go this route, but I’m excited to report that the response from the musicians has been better than expected, and the improvement to the mix in the house is also welcome.

To be sure, we had a few glitches as we rolled the system out. It took us a little bit to get used to the new workflow, and get all our settings correct. However, we had those worked out in two weekends–which isn’t bad. This past weekend (week three, remember) went very smoothly, despite the fact we had three musicians using them for the first time. We had sound check done in under 10 minutes, and the band had plenty of time to get their sounds right. The only request I had come up from stage was from our worship leader. He thought the kick drum sounded a bit too dull in their ears. I thought for a second, and responded with, “Well, you have EQ on your mixers…” He immediately said,“Right. Never mind.”

And that is one of the best features of the M-48 (and why I call it Personal Mixing 2.0). When Aviom came out, it was revolutionary. But that was 10 years ago, and the world moves on. It’s 2010 and to me, perfectly reasonable to expect we can send 40 channels of digital audio into a personal mixer, and have it custom mixed for that artist without affecting the others on stage. They should have control over EQ, reverb and panning. And we even have control over the relative balance of individual channels of group mixes if they need that. As I said, no change made for one mixer affects any other. But I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.

The best part is a feature I requested while at InfoComm (actually, it was me and another guy who brainstormed it together during the demo…never did get his name). Since we’re using the S-MADI Bridge to get audio from our DIGiCo system into the M-48 network, we have a REAC port at FOH. We set an M-48 up there for the engineer to listen to. In the latest version of the software, it’s now possible to drag that mixer into the “Engineer’s Monitor” slot. From that point on, when you select a mixer from the list, the Engineer’s monitor is a mirror of that artist’s mixer. That means I can plug my ears into my M-48 and instantly and exactly hear what my worship leader is hearing and tweak his mix for him if he needs it! Any change I make is made on his surface as well.

Now granted, this feature has been available on the Avid PQ system for some time. However, PQ is pretty limited when it comes to what you can send it; and it’s proprietary. With the S-MADI Bridge, the M-48 is open to just about everyone.

The entire system has been thought out very well, including a great library system that makes set up go very quickly each week. My ATD, Isaiah, has developed a standard set of presets for the various band positions each week. He spent several hours setting that up, but last Thursday, it took him 10 minutes to load the appropriate presets and get the system ready for the weekend. I like that.

Finally, musician acceptance has been great, even among those who were pretty opposed to personal mixing systems in general and Avioms in particular (we were originally slated to go Aviom until I saw the S-MADI in June). The doubters have come around, and while they still may prefer a monitor engineer, they’re perfectly happy with the new system. The guys who were neutral to enthusiastic about the change are really jazzed about it. This weekend they were sharing mixing tips with each other, and one even said, “It’s like Christmas with new toys!”

If you can’t guess by now, I strongly endorse the system. It sounds great, has been rock-solid reliable (even with a pre-production S-MADI Bridge and beta software), and it’s easy to use. It also makes for a cleaner stage (and the M-48 is a lot lighter than an SM-12!).

Next time, I’ll address some of the frequently asked questions I get about how we’re using everything.

14 Comments

  1. chris@behindthemixer.com

    Now you have to find something to do with your monitor engineer. Ya done put him out of a job!

    πŸ™‚

  2. chris@behindthemixer.com

    Now you have to find something to do with your monitor engineer. Ya done put him out of a job!

    πŸ™‚

  3. steve@powersaudioinc.com

    My question has always been with personal monitoring systems is we are asking the band to do more then play we are asking them to do sound. What happens if you were asked to do lights and sound something is going to suffer. I know there is always budget stuff to consider. It just seems odd that we are asking the band to do sound . Do they ask us to help play there instruments. Just my humble opinion.

  4. steve@powersaudioinc.com

    My question has always been with personal monitoring systems is we are asking the band to do more then play we are asking them to do sound. What happens if you were asked to do lights and sound something is going to suffer. I know there is always budget stuff to consider. It just seems odd that we are asking the band to do sound . Do they ask us to help play there instruments. Just my humble opinion.

  5. justin.langman@gmail.com

    For some musos, yes, it will be too much for them. But, I’ve found most musos accept whatever monitor mix you give them – some will ask for changes, others will just put up with it so they don’t bother the mixer.

    So, by giving them some control, they can mix it up how they like, and are much happier on stage, thus they may be more relaxed, play better and enjoy it more. Once it’s set up to their taste in sound check, they won’t need to adjust much anyway throughout the event.

    And with the M48 system, it’s so easy and simple to listen to, and mix, any M48 on your system if a muso is having some trouble.

  6. justin.langman@gmail.com

    For some musos, yes, it will be too much for them. But, I’ve found most musos accept whatever monitor mix you give them – some will ask for changes, others will just put up with it so they don’t bother the mixer.

    So, by giving them some control, they can mix it up how they like, and are much happier on stage, thus they may be more relaxed, play better and enjoy it more. Once it’s set up to their taste in sound check, they won’t need to adjust much anyway throughout the event.

    And with the M48 system, it’s so easy and simple to listen to, and mix, any M48 on your system if a muso is having some trouble.

  7. madmoe@gmail.com

    We have been using the M-48’s with our M-400 digital console since March of this year. Once the mix is setup for each band member, they really love it. I need to make minor tweeks every once in awhile, but it is working great for us. The thing to be careful of is for each M-48, you have the 40 channels to use, and you can set the ‘max input level’ for each channel that the M-48 can use. If you turn up a channel’s input level, but don’t assign it to a group control on the M-48, that channel will be heard in their monitor, and they won’t be able to control the volume of it (outside of master level). This is great for setting up a Talkback (so they can’t turn me off πŸ˜‰ ), but can cause troubles in other cases.

  8. madmoe@gmail.com

    We have been using the M-48’s with our M-400 digital console since March of this year. Once the mix is setup for each band member, they really love it. I need to make minor tweeks every once in awhile, but it is working great for us. The thing to be careful of is for each M-48, you have the 40 channels to use, and you can set the ‘max input level’ for each channel that the M-48 can use. If you turn up a channel’s input level, but don’t assign it to a group control on the M-48, that channel will be heard in their monitor, and they won’t be able to control the volume of it (outside of master level). This is great for setting up a Talkback (so they can’t turn me off πŸ˜‰ ), but can cause troubles in other cases.

  9. justin.langman@gmail.com

    Yep that one threw me the first time we used them. Could not work out why every group was turned down, yet the house mix was still coming through!

  10. justin.langman@gmail.com

    Yep that one threw me the first time we used them. Could not work out why every group was turned down, yet the house mix was still coming through!

  11. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Steve,
    To some extent, you are correct. However, my experience has always been the opposite. As sound guys, we think the band wants a perfect mix in their ears. What I’ve found they really want to hear is what they want to hear. It may not be perfect, but it’s what they want. Giving them a great system that’s easy to use and quick to get them dialed in to exactly what they want almost alway makes them happier, and thus more effective as musicians.

    More often than not, the sound check process is frustrating for musicians as they spend a lot of time waiting for us to get stuff dialed in to our standards, meanwhile they really never get exactly what they need. Putting them back in control of their mix alleviates that. And, as Michael points out, we can always grab their mix and tweak it if needed. So far, we have done very little of that. The musicians are very happy with the system and the overall sound quality in the house has improved as well. The fact that we’re saving a lot of money annually by not paying a monitor engineer is a great bonus.

    mike

  12. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Steve,
    To some extent, you are correct. However, my experience has always been the opposite. As sound guys, we think the band wants a perfect mix in their ears. What I’ve found they really want to hear is what they want to hear. It may not be perfect, but it’s what they want. Giving them a great system that’s easy to use and quick to get them dialed in to exactly what they want almost alway makes them happier, and thus more effective as musicians.

    More often than not, the sound check process is frustrating for musicians as they spend a lot of time waiting for us to get stuff dialed in to our standards, meanwhile they really never get exactly what they need. Putting them back in control of their mix alleviates that. And, as Michael points out, we can always grab their mix and tweak it if needed. So far, we have done very little of that. The musicians are very happy with the system and the overall sound quality in the house has improved as well. The fact that we’re saving a lot of money annually by not paying a monitor engineer is a great bonus.

    mike

  13. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Michael,
    Thanks for pointing that out; I forgot to mention that. In the current version of the software, if an input is not assigned to a group, it just shows up in the final mix with no control for the musician. In an upcoming version, that will be changed (so I’m told). The new default will be for an unassigned input to not exist in the final mix. There will be an option to put it in the mix (sans encoder), but the new default will be to have it turned off. I don’t know the timeline on that yet, but that’s what I’m told.

    mike

  14. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Michael,
    Thanks for pointing that out; I forgot to mention that. In the current version of the software, if an input is not assigned to a group, it just shows up in the final mix with no control for the musician. In an upcoming version, that will be changed (so I’m told). The new default will be for an unassigned input to not exist in the final mix. There will be an option to put it in the mix (sans encoder), but the new default will be to have it turned off. I don’t know the timeline on that yet, but that’s what I’m told.

    mike

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