Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: May 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

The Spectrum of Time, or How To Fit All That Stuff Into The Mix

My friend Dave says one of the most important things we can do as audio engineers is to listen to music. Lots of music. Many different styles of music. And don’t just listen, break it down. How is it mixed? How is it arranged? Where did they put things, and how did they make it sound good (or fail at making it sound good)?

I subscribe to this practice, though not as much as I would like. The other day, I was watching a Classic Albums show on Netflix. The subject of that episode was Phil Collin’s early solo project, Face Value. While watching, I was reminded that I listened to that over and over as a high school student. Honestly, I had forgotten how good of a record that was. So I broke it out on Spotify and listened to it a few times. After 30 years, it still sounds fantastic. 

As I listened, I realized they spent just as much effort placing sounds in time as in space. Let that sink in for a second and I’ll explain. We’ve talked a lot about the frequency spectrum and how we need to have all the instruments occupying their own little corner of real estate in said spectrum. And that’s very true. 

It’s also an especially difficult proposition in many churches because in order to be inclusive, we often find ourselves with a lot of musicians on stage. And often, their skill level is, well, less than optimal, and as such they tend to all play the same thing. I’ve mixed worship bands that have three guitars, keys and piano, and they’re all playing the same line of cords. If you just turn it all up, it sounds like mush because all that energy is concentrated into a very narrow slice of audible spectrum—which is typically also occupied by vocals. 

Now to be fair, this is as much an arranging problem (ie. a musical director problem) as it is a mixing problem. In fact, it’s really more of an arranging issue. But as most churches don’t really want to deal with the lack of musicianship, it falls on us to fix it. And that’s where Phil Collins comes in (see, there was a point to that paragraph).

One of the things that stood out to me is that there were many, many instruments playing any given song. But they didn’t all play at once. In fact, there were a few things that hit a few notes and that was the last you heard of them. Take the remake of the classic Genesis song, Behind the Lines. Listen to the horns in that mix; they don’t play continually, instead they stab some notes than go away for a while. During the chorus, the horns play quite a lot, but notice that the other instrumentation lays back.

A few weeks ago, we had a pretty full band, so I had some opportunities to put this theory into practice. Instead of trying to make the B3 fit into the mix for the entire song, I pushed it up between phrases of the lyrics, then ducked it back down. I went back and forth between the electric and acoustic depending on the part in the song. Sometimes I pushed the bass up to fill the bottom, other times, I let the kick do it.

The result of all this is a cleaner mix, and better overall sound. Instead of trying to make everything fit, just turn some of it down. Each instrument will still contribute to the overall texture of the song, but some will carry more weight at different times. 

Ideally, the musicians would figure some of this out on their own and start playing segments instead of the whole thing; and it’s something our bands are generally really good at, actually. In fact, it’s our band that really has driven this point home for me. In most other church settings, I’ve dealt with the “everyone plays everything all the time” syndrome. But here, I actually have musicians playing around each other, and it makes my job so much easier. 

But if you find yourself in an environment where everyone is playing the same line, try spreading them out over time. It may just help clean up your mix.  

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Lessons Learned From Easter

It’s hard to believe that Easter was over month ago already. But indeed it was. And if you haven’t taken the time to de-brief that week and discover what went well and what needed improvement, it may already be too late. Our memories fade pretty quickly, and we often forget things we need to fix until, well, the next time it comes around and we remember why we wanted to do it differently.

I know that I forget things after a big event, so I’ve taken to keeping a journal of any large event in Evernote. I like to use Evernote because it works on my phone, my iPad and my laptop. I keep jotting thoughts in there throughout the week, then go back and organize them later. Here are a few key thoughts from my notebook.

Don’t Start from Last Year’s Baseline

As we were prepping for Easter, my new ATD was just coming on board. As he was still learning our process, I thought it would be easier to just call up last year’s input sheet and work from that. Turns out that wasn’t a great idea. I forgot how many small changes we made to our setup over the year. We changed some channel orders, added a few things, removed a few things. So when we started to plug it all in and make it work, I ended up re-patching the rack, and re-assigning a lot of inputs on the M-48s. It wasn’t a big deal, but It took more time than it should have.

Lesson Learned: Start from the current baseline and adapt last year’s input list to that. Next year, we’ll use current baselines and input sheets when we build everything, even if it does look “mostly the same.”

Pre-Build More

Some times you just have to build stuff during the week of a big event. Maybe you can’t set the stage until that week, or there is something else going on. In my case, I wish I had spent more time building my show files and getting my M-48’s patched. We did have the foresight to hang the necessary pipe in the truss a few weeks earlier, but looking back, I wish I had pre-cabled more of the truss, made sure all my M-48 labels were printed and cut, all my power was run and my choir mics cabled.

Lesson Learned: In the weeks leading up to a big event, do as much work as you can to prepare for it. Pre-wire, pre-run, pre-plan and organize as much stuff as possible. That will make the week run smoother.

Plan For More Time Than You Think You Need

This was actually a win for us. On the “official” schedule for the week, it showed Monday as being a day off. I knew there was no way we’d be ready for Tuesday night’s rehearsal if we didn’t start until that morning so we came in and spent a full day on Monday (OK, it was a “full” 13.5 hour day). We got the set built, all the lights hung and cabled and all the stage platforms in place. Tuesday was all audio. And while we did end up running a little bit behind, it was only about 15 minutes, not 15 hours.

Lesson Learned: Forget the “official” schedule. Work harder earlier in the week and taper it off if you can. Or keep pressing on; you’ll probably need the time.

Enlist More Help

A while back I wrote, “Many hands don’t make light work; many skilled hands make light work.” I still think that’s true. However, I wish I would have had more of my team on hand. Even if that means planning more of the work to happen in the evening when I can get my volunteers there. It might mean working from 11 AM-9 PM instead of 9 AM-11 PM. Having a few extra people who know what they’re doing (or can at least create the illusion) would be a huge help. And if we can pre-cable as much as possible even people who don’t know what they’re doing can be helpful. Next year, my goal is to figure out how to get more people involved.

Lesson Learned: While what we do is highly specialized, there are ways we can enlist the help of others to help carry the load. It takes more planning and effort of front, but might get us home earlier.

So that’s my list. What did you learn from Easter?

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Equipment Review: DPA 2011C Reference Standard Microphones

During my thee years at Coast Hills, we’ve never had a choir—or anything approaching one. But for Easter this year, it was decided we had enough interest to put together a small choir. And indeed it was small, only 19 people. I have a couple of DPA 4098HB hanging choir mic’s in stock, but I was thinking this might be the excuse I was looking for to test out the newer 2000 series mic’s that were introduced at NAB last year. 

 

The 2000 series is roughly based on the 4000 Reference Standard series that has made DPA the go-to mic for all kinds of high-end recording. My friend Van (who is no stranger to mic’ing choirs) calls the 4011 the greatest choir mic ever. So I called my friend Jarrod at DPA and asked if I could try out a couple of 2011s. 

He sent me two MMC2011 Twin Diaphragm capsules along with two MMP-C pre-amps. One of the first things you need to know about the 2000 and 4000 series is that they are modular. There is a good selection of capsules and a few preamps that they thread into. Each capsule and preamp has slightly different characteristics so you can put together the combination that suits your situation. I find this approach brilliant. You can also start out with 2000 series capsules then later fit the pre-amps with 4000 capsules series as money become available.

The MMC2011 is diminutive at just 3/4 inch in diameter and 2 inches long. The MMP-C is just over 1.5 inches long, making the entire assembly less than 4 inches in length. DPA makes a very cool thin cable with a XLR connector on it that looks more like an XLR cover than a connector, which keeps the overall size down. Combined with the suspension mount which will allow you to hang the mic from the cable and give you plenty of horizontal positioning options, it’s a pretty complete system.

I hung the mic’s from overhead (sadly, we didn’t get the thin cables, so we had to use our regular mic cables) at the 1/3 and 2/3 points in the choir, about 2 feet in front of the risers. The mic’s were positioned so they were just about head height of the third row, pointing slightly down. I also hung my 4098s right next to the 2011s to give me some reference.

During a break in the build schedule, I set up my choir mic channel. Since I was mixing on the SD10 and I had the Waves SoundGrid server, I decided to use a Q8 parametric EQ for ringing out the mic’s, and a C6 to help shape the vocal sound. I started turning up gain and finding feedback frequencies. I was quite amazed that even though the mic’s were only about 15 feet behind the PA cluster, I use only 3 narrow bands of EQ, and even then my maximum cut was about 6 dB. Clearly these mic’s have decent pattern control (check out the frequency response graph; it’s 20 dB down at 180°). 

 

I put the C6 on board for two reasons; first, to tame the harshness you get from 15 alto and soprano women singing together into choir mic’s. A fairly wide band covering the 1.5K-4K range was set up to drop some compression in as the volume came up. That let me push the choir up without them sounding harsh.

The second reason turned out to be a happy accident. We do rock ’n roll style music most of the time, and Easter was no exception. While we have gone away from wedges and guitar amps on stage, we do still have a live drum kit. And a lively drummer. The biggest issue I had with the Easter choir was bleed from the drums. In fact, the 2011s did a great job at being a set of drum overheads, with the biggest offender being the snare. So on the C6, I used one of the floating bands to create a narrow cut at 1K that compressed fairly hard on snare hits. That kept the snare under control.

So how did it sound? Not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, it sounded quite good. I was able to get the choir to 94 dB SPL without any feedback (keep in mind, they were about 10 feet back and 20 feet down from the PA cluster, that was pretty amazing). The clarity of the mic’s was excellent, and compared to the 4098s, the 2011s had much better low end performance, and a smoother midrange. 

When I played the tracks back in the studio, the results were somewhat surprising. If I had nothing to compare to, the 4098s would have been very acceptable. But when A/B’d with the 2011s, the Reference Standard mic’s demonstrate why they earned that title. There was both more body and more air in the sound, something very apparent in the quieter portions where the choir was the only thing on the track. As I said, the mid-range was smoother than the 4098; not that the 4098 is harsh, but the 2011 is smoother. 

While we did get a bunch of drum spill into the 2011s—the drums were between 60° and 90° off-axis—there was almost nothing else there but the voices. And keeping in mind that 19 people is a pretty small choir, and it was their fist time out, I was pretty happy. 

Price-wise, the 2011C falls in between the 4011C (around $1600) and the 4098 ($500). Some quick internet searching turned up pricing on a 2011C in the $800 range. At $300 more than the 4098, it’s not outrageous; then again, you’d probably buy 2 of them, which makes it $600 more. Then again, it’s almost buy-one-get-one compared to the 4011s, so it could be a steal.

What you buy comes down to what you value and what the budget is. The 4098s are almost invisible, sound great and are affordable. The 2011s are a little bigger, cost a bit more but definitely sound better. The 4011s will sound better still, are are more expensive. So we have options; which is good. And honestly I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these mic’s.

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Equipment Review: Shure ULX-D

I first ran across Shure’s new ULX-D line at NAMM in January. Initially, I was indifferent, but as the rep started explaining the feature set, I became more intrigued. When I heard the price point, coupled with the facts that you can coordinate 14 or so channels in a single TV channel plus networking, I was hooked. I knew I had to try it.

The ULXD4 Receiver

We needed a few channels of wireless for a women’s retreat, so I called my Shure rep and asked for a handheld and body pack system to review. One of the systems seemed to have some issues with IR sync and networking, but the other one worked fine. I never did sort the networking thing out, but I will take Shure at their word for it that it does work. The other unit sync’d over IR perfectly (and quickly). My rep was going to send the other unit back for service, and as we talked he did tell me that he’s had his demo unit jump right onto networks without issue, so most likely we had one that needed some love from service.

Initially, the ULX-D looks a lot like the ULX-P. If I had to guess, I’d say the case for the receiver is the same. The transmitter looks familiar, but has been re-designed to use either AA batteries (finally—no more 9v’s!) or Shure’s new LiOn rechargeable system. The transmitters have a decent heft to them and feel well made. The ULXD1

The very clever dual-bay charger accepts either handhelds or bodypacks.

The -D designation stands for digital. The signal gets converted from analog to digital in the transmitter and is sent digitally to the receiver with no companding. Companding is a big reason that some don’t go wireless; the signal gets compressed in the transmitter and expanded at the receiver. This process can lead to various artifacts, some of which can be audible. No companding will be a big boon to guitar and bass players who want to go wireless. Even the UHF-R isn’t always good enough for discriminating players; but the ULX-D should be.

The handheld uses standard Shure threads, so any mic that works on the UHF-R will work on the ULX-D. I did exactly as you would expect me to do and unscrewed the SM58 and installed an RC-35. After the retreat, I tried it out on our worship leader. He normally sings through a UR-2 with an RC-35 on it, and I’m very used to the way that sounds. The ULX-D sounded even better. It’s a bit more open with no hint of compression. The high end sounded cleaner, but not at all harsh. It was really quite good. We happened to have three engineers in the room that weekend and all of us agreed that the ULX-D was some of the best wireless we’ve heard.

The body pack worked great as well and we had no issues with any dropouts at either the retreat or during the weekend. Battery life was excellent as well. I was given the new drop-in chargers (which are most excellent) and the LiOn batteries to try. After seven hours of run time on Saturday, the LiOns showed 4 bars (out of 5). I loved the fact that to charge them, you simply drop the pack or the handheld into the charger and walk away. Though they would take up more shelf space than AA chargers, the fact that you simply drop them in the charger is a fantastic benefit. 

With a price point coming in well under $1500 per channel (depending on handheld/bodypack/mic combo), this is a very compelling option. In fact, if I were spec’ing a system today, I don’t think I would go UHF-R; ULX-D would be half the cost and it sounds better. UHF-R may be a little more road-ready with it’s beefier cases and built-in antenna and network cascading, but for a church install, ULX-D would be hard to beat.

As you may recall from my review of the Axient system, when I priced out 16 channels of UHF-R versus 12 channels of ULX-D plus 4 channels of frequency diversity Axient, the later came out cheaper. Had we not gone through the 700 MHz transition just a few years ago, I would certainly be looking at replacing my wireless with ULX-D. 

In fact, anyone looking for a deal on a 12-channel UHF-R system in the U4 band?

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No More Waves Envy

Last time, I talked about my first impressions of the Waves SoundGrid/DiGiCo integration on the SD10. While it was overall very good, my conclusion is that I don’t really need Waves. See, I’ve spent a fair amount of time getting my drums, bass and vocals sounding really good using the built-in EQ, Dynamic-EQ, Compressors and Multi-band Compressors in my SD8. When the SoundGrid crashed one weekend, I simply turned off the inserts, and went back to my normal processing, and I was honestly hard pressed to tell a big difference.

With Waves, you can have an SSL channel strip whenever you want it.

Yes, there were some subtle character shifts in the sound, but they were different not better or worse. I like what the CLA-76 did on my snare, but I also like what I can do with the built-in processing. The CLA-3A sounded great on the bass, but so does the SD8 (or 10’s) built-in multi-band.

The final tipping point for me happened one weekend when I couldn’t getting the toms sounding good. I was playing with the EQs, comps and all kinds of stuff trying to make them work. Finally, I asked my ATD, Jon, to go look at the mic positioning. He moved them by a few degrees (literally!) and the sound completely changed for the better. I disabled all the plug-ins and went back to mixing. 

And thus ended my plug-in envy. Yes, the Waves plug-ins are fantastic. If you want to buy them and use them, by all means do so. They are great products, and they keep running super pricing specials on them. But before you do, make sure you have all your mic’s properly selected and placed. We dramatically improved the sound of our B3 earlier this year by buying two PR-30s for it. The toms sounded better because the mic placement changed. Get that stuff right first. 

Sometimes I feel like we tech guys can obsess too much with details. Now, if you’re making a record that will be listened to over and over, yes, obsess over the choice of compressor and all the settings. But in a church service, the song is there and then it’s gone. Most of us get one or two passes through the song in rehearsal to get our mix dialed in. We don’t have time to choose between 12 different compressors. Of course we should make it sound as good as we can, but I can promise you that no one will be going to lunch after a Sunday service and wonder why you used the built-in compressor on your console instead of a CLA-3A on the snare. 

Now, if you’re mixing on a console that doesn’t sound good, Waves plug-ins might be a great way to improve it. But on a DiGiCo, it’s just not a big need—unless you’re going for a specific effect. For example, the SD8 has nothing like R-Bass that I could have used to make the earthquake effect sound as big as it did on Good Friday. And if you need some guitar cabinet modeling, well, Waves are a great way to go. But my worship leaders sends me some amazing sounds in stereo from his Fractal Designs Axe-FX II, so I don’t really need those either.

Before you start composing that angry comment, remember, I like the Waves plug-ins. I just don’t need them. As a technical director of a medium sized church (2500-ish), I have a rather limited budget, and high expectations. We also have a lot (and I mean a lot) of outdated equipment that needs to be replaced. I would much rather save some money for a new PA than spend it on a SoundGrid server. I also need a new video switcher, and all new video wiring. And then there is the stage re-design we want to work on… 

I have to keep the big picture in mind—as much as I would love to geek out on audio all the time and fight for some cool toys. At the same time, I’m not going to begrudge anyone who wants to buy a SoundGrid system and upgrade their sound. I’ve been told by several people that an M7 with an external clock and Waves sounds like a whole new console. That might be worth it. 

But to all my fellow DiGiCo jockeys out there—and DiGiCo may not be happy with me saying this—don’t fret if the SoundGrid upgrade doesn’t fit in the budget. You’re doing just fine without it. The SD series sounds really, really good out of the box, and I would argue that we’re better off getting the right mic in the right place. 

At the end of the day, my conclusion is simple: Waves=Great, and for me unnecessary. What has been your experience (if any) with Waves? Do you suffer from Waves envy?

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Equipment Review: Waves on the SD10

In the last post, I discussed my experiences mixing for a few weekends (including Easter and Good Friday) on the SD10. I didn’t ask for it, but when the SD10 arrived, I found a Waves SoundGrid sever installed in the case, along with an iLok that unlocked quite a few of the installed Waves plugins. 

I don’t care who you are, this just looks cool.

Now, before I go any further I want to go on the record stating that I really liked the Waves plug-ins I used while I had the desk. They sound really, really good and I love, love, love the user interfaces they’ve come up with (actually, much of the time, they’re simply graphical representations of classic gear).

I didn’t have time to test out every single Waves plug-in that was installed; it was mostly Easter week after all. But I did talk to my friend Dave Stagl to get some recommendation on starting points. Mostly I played around with the Chris Lord-Alge compressors (CLA-2, CLA-3A, CLA-76), along with some of the EQs (API 550, SSL G-Channel) along with the H-Comp and C4 and C6 multi-band compressor/EQs. We also played around with some effects, like R-Bass. 

R-Bass is great for toms, kick and earthquakes.

Entire articles can be written on any one plug-in, so I won’t try to do justice to any or all of them in this post. Rather, I want to give you my general impressions of them as a group. I’m choosing this approach, because I suspect many of you—like me—have suffered plug-in envy. You know, if you don’t mix on an Avid console, and you hang out with those that do for any length of time, you will soon be inundated with tales of the latest plug-in they’re playing with that sounds amazing! 

I’ve been there too; two of my good friends are avid Venue users (see what I did there?), and are all over plug-ins. After playing around with some of them for a few weeks, I can see why they like the Waves stuff so much. They sound great! And they’re super-cool. But I’m not going to run out and submit a PO for a SoundGrid any time soon. Not because I don’t like it, but because I don’t feel I need it. More on that later.

Though it looks daunting, the graphic display is actually incredibly helpful and easy to grasp.

The SoundGrid server integrates into the DiGiCo consoles via a card that communicates directly to the FPGA. A simple network connection handles UI and administrative tasks. To access the Waves Rack, you go to the Master screen, and hit the Waves button. The 16-space rack appears and you can start adding plug ins as you desire.

I used most of them on inserts, but you can patch them like any other source/destination. Latency was very low, but because the DiGiCo doesn’t have any delay compensation built in, if you want do do any parallel compression stuff (like I did on my drum spank/drum groups), you’ll need to route both groups through the SoundGrid to keep things in time. 

Overall, the integration is very easy and you can change effect parameters via snapshots in the console. The software manages that in the background so you don’t have to do much with it. As I was doing mostly comps, I didn’t worry about it. We encountered a few bugs with the integration, and crashed the server a few times. After speaking with my friends at DiGiCo, I’ve been assured that there is a software update that fixes the issues we encountered. To it’s credit, we never lost audio. 

 

One of my favorite UIs ever.Editing the effects is easy on the DiGiCo if you have the Solo Displays Insert option checked. Pressing the solo button will bring up the Waves rack associated with that channel and you can edit away. Touching any control assigns it to the Touch ’n Turn knob, and I found it very quick to use. 

All the plug-ins I tried come pre-loaded with built-in starting points to get you running quickly. I almost always started with a preset, then modified it to suit my tastes. That was a good way to go, because there were so many choices. To some extent, having a bunch of Waves plug-ins around can put you into decision paralysis; there are simply too many choices. Then again, you can probably get the sound you want.

One thing to be aware of if you’re looking at putting a SoundGrid on a DiGiCo. There is apparently an issue when you enter Virtual Soundcheck mode (Listen to Copied Audio) that adds a good 20-30 ms of delay to the SoundGrid routing. That can cause all kinds of phasing issues, especially with drums. My work-around was to simply patch the output of my RME MadiFace into the MADI 1 port input (after disconnecting my DigiRack) and not changing any input settings. This tricked the SD10 into thinking the audio was coming from the rack and thus, we could play with effect settings without any timing issues.

This seems to be an RME, DiGiCo, Waves interaction kind of thing, and I’m not sure if/when a fix will be found. If I were going to purchase a SoundGrid server for our place, I would probably route all my MADI I/O into a patch bay to make this easier to work with. 

As much as I liked playing around with the Waves plug-ins, I’m not going to be buying it anytime soon. LIke I said, I really like them, but I don’t feel I need them. And I will elaborate on that thought in the next post.

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Equipment Review: DiGiCo SD10

NAB 2011 was the first time I saw the Digico SD10. At that time, we had owned our SD8 for about a year and were quite pleased with it. At first, I was a little envious of the SD10; it’s much cooler color scheme of black and silver looks nicer than the rather garish black & gold of the SD8. But once I got past that and looked at the specs, I learned there was not a huge difference—at least for me—between the 10 and the 8. 

As a review, the SD8 can mix 60 channels, any or all of which can be mono or stereo. It also has 25 mix busses, any or all of which can be mono or stereo. For some reason, lot of people were confused by that. They couldn’t wrap their head around channels or mix busses that could be mono or stereo without any corresponding decrease in count. In fact, I still have people asking me, “So, the SD8 can only do 12 stereo mixes, right?” No. It’s 25. Mono or Stereo. Doesn’t matter. Anyway…

DiGiCo had a hard time explaining it as well. Thus, the SD10 can mix 96 channels, twelve of which can be stereo sources. If you do the math, that’s 120 possible sources (sound familiar?). It also has 48 mix busses, and you can choose to use them as 48 mono mixes, or combine any or all of them into stereo mixes—only this time with a corresponding decrease in count. Put another way, if you want to do all stereo mix busses, you can do 24. Or you could do 30 mono mixes and 9 stereo mixes. Or 20 stereo mixes and 8 mono mixes. Or…well, you get the idea. 

At the end of the day, the 8 and the 10 have the same number of processing paths, they are simply packaged differently. For some people, that’s a big deal. For others, not so much. Like the rest of the DiGiCo line, the surface is dominated by the 15” touch screen display. Physically, the 10 is a little bigger than the 8, with a little more room above the faders, and in the raked upper portion (mainly to accommodate my favorite feature, the SmartKeys). 

The fader section has polycarbonate overlays to protect the surface from errant spills or flying beer bottles (more common on tours than in church…). The body is made from anodized aluminum rather than steel for lighter weight. Many of the physical modifications are more for the touring world than the installed world.

Other than the channel count and appearance differences, one of the biggest real differentiators between the 8 and the 10 are the addition of 10 SmartKeys—actually, there are 4 banks of those SmartKeys, so you could effectively have 40 of them. And you still get the 8 user-defined keys. So if you enjoy digging into the extensive macro language built into the SD series (as I do), you have plenty of ways to fire those macros.

Magic Trackpad not included…

What could you use those keys for? All kinds of things. First, you should know that you can assign different colors to their on and off states. So how about a SmartKey that is yellow when off, but red when you turn on both talkback channels? Or red when off but green when you fire the macro that re-patches some of the auxes to the MADI 2 bus (which I used for folding stuff back to the M-48s). 

Utilizing the power of the assignable actions in Reaper, I created an entire bank of SmartKeys for use with Virtual Soundcheck. I had previously recorded the rehearsal, and dropped markers (using a SmartKey) at the beginning of each song. I created more SmartKeys to jump to previous and next markers in Reaper, and for playback and stop, which made it very easy to go back and try the song again without having to touch the computer.

I also had 4 different vocalists leading songs for Good Friday. Because of the way I process my lead vocals as compared to BGVs, and to accommodate some of the foldback routing, I wrote macros that would make all the necessary adjustments to a person’s vocal channel—turn off Hall reverb, turn on Plate and Delay, remove from BGV foldback, add to lead vocal foldback, assign to lead vocal smash group—and assigned those to four SmartKeys. Then during rehearsal, when it was Angela’s song to lead, it simply hit her SmartKey (which changed color from Blue to Pink to remind me) and wrote the snapshot. At the end of the song, I turned her key off and her channel went back to normal. 

Yes, it took me about 15 minutes ahead of time writing all the macros and assigning them to the keys. But it saved me at least 30 minutes during rehearsal, and kept things moving along while I had 20+ people on stage. So to say I really liked the SmartKeys would be an understatement.

Other than that, there isn’t much to sway me away from the SD8. To be sure, the SD10 is a great console. And if you routinely run more than 60 channels, than the 10 is an obvious choice. For us, a normal weekend is around 40 inputs, and big events will run close to 60, but I’ve never been out of channels. 

The SD10 also includes a 16×16 matrix (as compared to the 16×12 of the SD8) and can be used with the new SD Rack for 96KHz processing. Since we used it with our DigiRack, it sounded pretty much the same as the SD8—which is to say great. The touchscreen is responsive and the console is very easy to get around on. 

Ultimately, the SD10 is essentially more of what we’ve come to love about the SD8. If I were buying the console today instead of 2 years ago, I honestly don’t know if I would push for the SD10 or stick with the SD8. I suppose if I could have squeezed the budget out, the 10 would be a better long-term choice. However, I don’t feel handicapped with the 8, either. Yes, I would love to have the SmartKeys, but aside from that the SD8 fits our needs very well. 

Thus my conclusion is a dichotomy; I was a little sad to see the SD10 get loaded back on the truck, but it was good to have the SD8 back. Perhaps that’s the best endorsement of the entire DiGiCo line. The SD10 I had also came with the Waves SoundGrid server; but we’ll tackle that in the next post.

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