Ninety-nine percent of the time we were mixing on digital consoles and using line arrays, which usually resulted in a very accurate-sounding mix. But with a band as dynamic as this, it can be tricky to keep things under control. I usually set the [XTA DP324 SiDD digital dynamics] compressor at around 1.7:1 and set the threshold so that there is nearly always 1 to 2 dB of gain reduction throughout the louder parts of the show. This helps to absorb big impulses from the vocal and snare drum, neither of which is heavily compressed at the input stage. Then I'll set the limiter threshold 2 to 3 dB above that to fully stop anything from really getting too loud. And I also use the second- and third-harmonics generators to warm things up a bit.
I'll take the preamp sends from the direct outs of the [venue-provided] mixing console and send them to the 24 analog inputs of the three Mobile I/O 2882+DSPs. The main problem is going back and listening to all that material to find the best songs. You can add all the Mobile I/O boxes together through each unit's corresponding digital bus. The first eight analog input tracks can be assigned/connected to the second Mobile I/O as an AES/EBU digital bus input. Then those 16 channels can be assigned to the third unit's digital bus input. I just record the digital bus outputs of the third unit for a rough mixdown.
The effects and dynamics onboard my Yamaha desk are excellent, but there were times in the set when I felt the vocals weren't sitting correctly. I tried Focusrite's Liquid Channel on Heidi [Range's] vocal, set on a combination that I was convinced would work from previous experience in the studio with them, and it worked. The next day, I deployed two more Liquids on Mutya [Buena] and Keisha [Buchanan]. All three were now on the Liquid transformer pre and 1176 emulation. Keisha has a very dynamic style — from a whisper to a phrase of swooping vocal gymnastics, then back to a whisper in the space of a few bars. I settled on the mic pre modeled on the Tube-Tech MEC1A. The three girls sit in the mix in a much more controlled manner without sounding too squashed.
The Eventide H8000A provided me all the effects and processing I needed in a single unit. It essentially replaced four other dual-engine effects units that I used to use with The Perishers. The H8000A allowed me to add input equalizers for all the effect sends routed to the H8000A. I used the H8000A for six reverbs, instruments and vocals, as well as one vocal delay throughout the set. Having that many effects could be a problem. With the H8000A, I was able to easily create my own presets that mixed all effects down to two stereo outputs, streamlining the setup process. Effects and levels for each song were also pre-programmed. When the set started, all I had to do was simply press one preset button and the effects mix was ready. It was much more efficient than selecting presets from four different units.
I've really been taking advantage of the dual-engine structure of the Eventide H8000FW. It gives me extreme quad and octal effects on the first engine. Then I'm feeding that signal into the second engine to create a 5.1 reverb. On one level, you've got a number of interesting things happening in quad; then when you feed it into a reverb with channels being crossfed, it really brings the sound to life. With the H8000FW, I've been able to, in real time, create surround sound textures and atmospheres that are a huge part of our show. For such a computer-centric tour, it's ironic to note that there are some things that can only be done with the H8000FW for gorgeous, live surround sound design. But really, you should have seen BT and Thomas. Their jaws hit the floor about 10 seconds after they heard me using the H8000FW!
This tour is traditional rock 'n' roll-style blues, which needs depth but with clarity and drive. I set the EQ settings through crossovers with the XTAs and it's driving the LCs really well. The 448 gives me the option of sending two feeds to it: one for the flown system and one for the ground-stacked boxes. I can also group it down to a stereo feed and then matrix it from within the 448. Some days I have the option of running two separate EQ systems or one across the entire system. I have my own SiDD providing EQ across the stereo left and right system so I have another level of show EQ there.
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