New York, NY—One of the bestselling recording artists of all time, Barbra Streisand has earned 52 Gold, 31 Platinum and 13 Multi-Platinum albums over the years, but her prowess extends far beyond the recording studio. While never one to tour heavily, the artist is still known to hit the road on occasion, and when she does come to town, fans jump at the chance to see her live. That was the case this summer when Streisand played one-off shows in London’s Hyde Park, Chicago’s United Center, and in between them, a stop in her hometown to play New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
Joining the native New Yorker for the shows was a 15-piece orchestra (reduced from the 54-piece ensemble she had toured with previously) and a pro audio team from Clair Global, KM Productions and Carlton Audio Services, led by FOH engineer and sound designer Christopher Carlton. Having worked with Streisand since 1999, Carlton once again took the helm at FOH as he has since 2011, after the death of his predecessor, legendary live engineer Bruce Jackson.
While there are many goals that the house mix on a Streisand show has to achieve, Carlton noted that the primary one is to produce a natural sound that eschews heavy effects. “She’s very involved with her recordings,” he said, “so if we can get close to what she’s done with the studio mix, and the balance between monitors and what she hears coming back off of the house is right, she’s happy and sings effortlessly.”
Related: Sonics Set Palace Apart, May 21, 2006
With that in mind, a considerable challenge came with the downsizing of the orchestra in 2016 to “a rhythm section, three keyboards, a reed, a violin and three background vocalists,” he said. “We wanted to keep the beautiful arrangements, mostly by William Ross and Marvin Hamlisch, but make the feast more mobile. For this mini tour, we have added a small string section to layer in an organic sound and make the dynamics more natural. There’s no song that’s a particular challenge because the musicians are such pros and follow her lead very well. There are some ballads that are just her with a piano and the string section, and it sounds as intimate as your living room. She keeps the audience listening—we just did Hyde Park in London with 65,000 people, and in between songs, you could hear a pin drop when she was talking.”
At the heart of Carlton’s system design were DiGiCo SD10 consoles, used in both FOH and monitorworld. The brand of console was a holdover from previous Streisand tours, said Carlton: “We used to carry a 54-piece orchestra and DiGiCo was able to have four different consoles on the same fiber optic loop, which meant no copper splitters. It totally cleaned up our patch world and the sound became a lot better. When we scaled the orchestra down, we likewise scaled down from two SD7s and two SD10s to just the two SD10s, which are wonderful consoles. And again, both are on a fiber optic loop with the 32-bit SD Racks.”
Over in monitorworld, the mix for Streisand and her backing musicians was handled by monitor engineer Robert “Void” Caprio, who helmed the DiGiCo SD10 desk while using “very minimal effects”—mainly a little bit of a TC Electronic M6000 reverb coming from FOH.
“Most artists are on in-ears these days, but she doesn’t care for them,” noted Carlton. “We have very Hi-Fi, proprietary Clair monitors on stage that were designed for her 20 years ago by Bruce Jackson and the Clair team, and they are a quite a bit different from what you would see on anybody else’s stage. TAD 1601a woofers coupled with ATC soft dome midrange devices and Morrell tweeters are a super smooth combination.”
Related: Audio-Technica Captures Streisand, April 13, 2017
According to Caprio, his mix was straightforward, focusing on “clarity, distinction and musicality. It’s not a loud stage, so there’s not a lot of volume. I’m going more for fullness of her vocal and the orchestra behind her—a good, full mix. The side fills are mainly the orchestra, and her wedges mostly have her vocals.”
Those vocals were captured using Audio-Technica AE5400 cardioid condenser handheld microphones, several of which were in custom colors. Meanwhile, onstage instruments that weren’t DI’d were captured via an array of DPA, Audio-Technica and Sennheiser mics.
Hanging above the stage was a considerable audio assembly based on a d&b audiotechnik GSL System provided by New York-based KM Productions. The system comprised two main hangs, with 14 GSL8 and two GSL12 per side, supported by eight SL-G subs across the front of the stage. Carlton noted, “We wanted to use GSL with Array Processing on this run because it gives us a very full-range sound from front to back without flying subwoofers or delay loudspeakers. The system’s pattern control helped immensely with the stage monitoring as well.”
Carlton Audio provided additional d&b J and V Systems, also utilizing Array Processing, for side hangs, center fill and side fill monitors, fielding 10 J8s and four J12s per side, along with a half-dozen V8s and four V12s per side; meanwhile, the front fills comprised V10p and Y10p cabinets. Powering it all were 45 d&b audiotechnik D80 amplifiers, according to KM Productions president Kevin Mignone.
Related: Streisand Brings DiGiCo to Brooklyn, Dec. 11, 2012
Mignone explained, “We are using the Array Processing with the system, something that’s fairly unique in its science with the way d&b handles it. Allowing one set of amplifier channels per speaker cabinet gives you far more control in the steering and mapping of your sound coverage from the stage to the back of the room. Chris is able, while this room is empty and [Streisand is] in rehearsal, to steer the P.A. down and away from any hard, reflective surfaces that become absorption surfaces once the room is filled with people—so it gives us that ability to almost create angles with the P.A. without physically moving it.”
Their hard work paid off as fans thrilled to Streisand’s performances, and the audio team received kudos from the singer herself. Carlton shared Streisand’s feedback following the New York and Chicago shows, where she summed up the sound with, “I’m so appreciative of the new sound system [Chris] has that allowed me to have an easier time singing and hearing myself and being in tune.”
Clair Global • www.clairglobal.com
Carlton Audio Services • www.carltonaudio.com
d&b audiotechnik • www.dbaudio.com