Live Sound

BSS FDS-366 OmniDrive Compact Plus

I carry my Technomad ProRack to every one-off. It contains three key pieces of audio gear that I don't feel comfortable without: The Midas XL-42 (reviewed in Mix, March '02) is a piece of the rock &# 8/01/2003 8:00 AM Eastern

I carry my Technomad ProRack to every one-off. It contains three key pieces of audio gear that I don't feel comfortable without: The Midas XL-42 (reviewed in Mix, March '02) is a piece of the rock — a chip off of the old block — that gives me the same great mic pre and EQ found on an XL4 console; the new TC Electronic Reverb 4000 (reviewed in this issue, see page 104), which replaces my trusty old M5000; and the BSS FDS-366 OmniDrive Compact Plus. The FDS-366 offers a wealth of functions beyond its ability to drive a true stereo, three-way system — or three bi-amped outputs for monitors — or MIDI link to slave multiple units for creating stereo four/five/six-way systems. Other useful features include a mono sum of all three outputs for feeding a subwoofer; zoning to six discrete areas using fullrange or band-restricted outputs; a built-in mic input to measure driver delay requirements; and even a stereo AES/EBU digital output for studio monitoring applications. Although the FDS-366 was basically designed as a loudspeaker-management system, I've found it to be a surprisingly handy multipurpose tool, ideal for a variety of audio applications beyond its main purpose.

The FDS-366 OmniDrive Compact Plus is a 3-in, 6-out processor that gives me three channels of processing with up to 60 filters of parametric EQ and, if needed, delay. Listening tests have convinced me that it is the sweetest-sounding digital parametric. Its 24-bit, 96kHz converters provide an open sound and dynamic range that rival the best analog equalizers.

My favorite singer insists on using an AKG C535, which, as many of you know, is not very flat for a condenser mic. I've spent much time analyzing its frequency response and found that it benefits from having a dozen very specific filters inserted, all very minor cuts of just a few dB but at just the right frequencies to smooth it out. I used to simply insert a VariCurve, but the Compact Plus offers more options in a single rackspace. Because these filters are for the mic, they're placed on that input.

On the output, I use another set of filters to tune the sidefills. I use Meyer CQ-2 or MSL-4 self-powered speakers. Their quality is consistent enough from one to the next that when I put the sidefills in the right place and use the correct preset from before, I pretty much just have to turn them on and confirm their response. In this way, I have a high-quality insert that's always tweaked from my previous gig. If I don't get a soundcheck, it's no big deal. Though I'd never use compression in the monitors for a singer, adding a little dynamic EQ notch nips the nastiness in the horns for the loudest notes.

I route a second output directly to the dedicated vocal reverb in my rack without having to go to the console, using EQ on that output to tweak the reverb. A third output routed from the vocal is returned to the console for use in the band's mixes. Again, I can use a different EQ to give the band the sound they'd like, which may be different from how the vocalist likes to hear it. A very wide dynamic EQ plus a little light limiting keeps me from killing them with the big notes.

Sometimes, I need to even out the slight anomalies where the sidefills meet onstage: I sometimes use a fourth output of the vocal to send directly to a small speaker, usually an EAW JF80, which is perfectly fine because it's only used for vocals. The speaker fills in the place where the two sidefills meet downstage-center, where there's always a bit of audio confusion. By delaying the small speaker to synchronize with the sidefills, it reinforces the direct sound to create a sweet spot. Again, the filters placed on this output are used to tweak the sound of this speaker.

With two more ins and two more outs, I still have two entire channels of processing left. This year, I've been inserting them as mix EQ for two musicians in the band: David Piltch and Greg Leisz. Both of these world-class musicians rely heavily on their mix, so precise tuning is critical. Piltch plays string bass without the benefit of an amp, so it's important that he has a reasonably flat wedge as a starting point for the EQ gymnastics required to get the mic and pickup on his upright to work together. Leisz plays acoustic, electric and steel guitars and needs a flat, smooth response to hear the music he delicately solos over.

The Compact OmniDrive Plus' output EQs can be adjusted from within Smaart Live, which I use daily to confirm the response of the monitors. Programs can be backed up on a PCMCIA card, but I also store its settings on my laptop with SoundBench. I guess I could just ask the local sound company for a Compact Plus, but they're often being used (as intended) as speaker processors.

Mark Frink is Mix's sound reinforcement editor. He is currently on the road mixing monitors for k.d. lang. He's logged lots of hours on the FDS-366.

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